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Alciato's Book of Emblems

Emblem 114

On a statue of Love

Who Amor is many poets have sung in times past, celebrating his deeds under his various names.

It is agreed that he is unclothed, and is small of stature; and though he has weapons and wings, he has no sight in his eyes.

This face, this appearance are those of a god. But if I may pronounce judgment on poets of such stature, I think falsehoods lie concealed.

Why does he go naked? Is it as if a god lacks mantles, though he possesses all the wealth of the world he has subdued;

or, though naked, I ask you, could he have escaped the snows, and Alpine Boreas, and meadows in the tight grasp of cold?

If he is a boy, do you call him a boy who conquers Nestor? Or don't you know the learned poetry of the old Ascraean?

This capricious boy, hardens hearts which once he has passed through, he cannot of his own accord forsake again.

But he carries a quiver and arrows - why the needless weight, or is the child strong enough to bend the fearful bow?

He bears his wings in a curve, but knows not how to raise them into the heavens? He has not the skill to dispatch his arrows into the hearts of flying things.

He creeps on the ground, always wounds the mortal hearts of men, and like a stone, he moves not his wings from there.

If he is blind and wears a garland, why is such a headband useful to a blind god? Surely he will not see less on account of it?

Or who would believe in a sightless arrow-bearer? Though they are the random darts of a blind archer, the arrows this boy sets in motion are inescapable.

He is fiery, they say, and he fans flames in his heart. Come now, why does he still live? Flame devours all.

Why is it not extinguished even by the swelling waves of the Naiads as often as he steals into their gentle hearts?

But lest you fall prey to such gross errors, listen: my verses will tell you what true Love is:

it is delightful labour in lascivious dalliance, and its symbol is a Punic acorn on a black shield.