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Commentary on Emblem 192

This bizarre poem on love and marriage comes directly from, and is explained by, a passage in a homily by St Basil (Hexaemeron 7.5-6):
"Husbands, love your wives," even though external to each other, you came together into the union of marriage. May the bond of nature, may the yoke imposed by the blessing make as one those who were divided. A viper, the cruelest of reptiles, comes for marriage with the sea lamprey and, having announced its presence by hissing, summons it forth from the depths for the nuptial embrace. And the lamprey hearkens and is united with the venemous animal. What do my words mean? That, even if the husband is rough, even if he is fierce in his manners, the wife must endure and for no cause whatsoever permit herself to break the union. Is he a brawler? Nevertheless, he is your husband. Is he a drunkard? Nevertheless, he is united to you by nature. Is he savage and ill-tempered? Nevertheless, he is your member and the most honoured of your members.

[6] But let the husband also listen to proper advice for himself. The viper, through respect for his marriage, disgorges his venom. Will you not put aside the roughness and cruelty of your soul through the reverence for the union? Or, perhaps, the example of the viper will be useful for us in other ways also, because the union of viper and the sea lamprey is an adulterous violation of nature. Therefore, let those who are plotting against other men's marriages learn what sort of reptile they resemble. The edification of the Church is in every way my one aim. Let the passions of the incontinent be restrained and trained by these examples from the land and sea.

Saint Basil, Exegetic Homilies, trans Agnes Clare Way, CDP (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1963), 114-15
This emblem first appeared in the unauthorized edition of 1531. We give the illustration which first appeared on sig A5v. In the first authorized edition of 1534 the illustration appeared on page 14.

There is a French translation of this emblem by Lefevre, conventionally numbered 10 in the unpaged edition of Paris: Wechel, 1536 at the Glasgow University emblem site. You may compare the Latin and French in frames.

Last modified 3 February 1998