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Commentary on Emblem 34

The comic image of the bull yearning for the cows impresses the emblematic conflict in the reader's mind. The symbol of the restrained bull comes from Horapollo's Hieroglyphics, where it signifies man's unstable temperament being subdued. "Bear and forbear" is an ancient proverb (Erasmus Adages 2.7.13, quoting Epictetus and Aulus Gellius) and also comes into English (Tilley B 135). It was a famous motto, one of the ones Montaigne had carved onto his library wall; perhaps he follows the suggestion in Erasmus, who says such a proverb deserves "to be inscribed on walls and columns everywhere, and to be engraved on every ring."

The emblem first appeared in the edition of 1546. We give the illustration, which appeared on folio 29v.

Last modified 25 November 1997