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Commentary on Emblem 44

The poem, an original by Alciato, is in style nevertheless a close imitation of the typical "speaking statue" poem from the Greek Anthology (compare Emblem 122 and its source). The "Rhamnusian avenger" in this poem is Nemesis.

Dora and Erwin Panofsky, Pandora's Box: The Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol (New York: Harper Torchbooks 1965) [1st ed 1956, 2nd ed 1962; both Bollingen Foundation] chapter 3 "Pandora and Hope: Andrea Alciati" discuss this and no 46. They show that the figure of Hope who stays at home sitting on the cover of a vat (dolium) is Hesiod's Hope, who remained behind after all the evils fluttered about into the world (the Ascraean sage is Hesiod). In Erasmus the "pithos" (lat dolium or vat) became a "pyxis" or small box and is the basis of our catchphrase "Pandora's box."

The words of the crow come from a distich in Suetonius Domitian 23.2 "Nuper Tarpeio qui sedit culmine cornix / 'Est bene' non potuit dicere, dixit: 'erit'" (Migneault's commentary) and from Tibullus Carmina 2.6.20 "... credula vitam / spes fovet et melius cras fore semper" (Panofsky 29). The crow was taken as an augur of good things to come; whereas earlier it was a predictor of evil things: in Tory's Book of Hours there is a woodcut in which the crow cries "cras, cras" over the victims of Death and Durer's illustration to the Narrenschiff shows a fool given to procrastination over which are three crows crying "crasz" (Panofsky 29).

This emblem first appeared in the unauthorized edition of 1531. We give the illustration which first appeared on sig D8v. In the first authorized edition of 1534 the illustration appeared on page 82.

There is a French translation of this emblem by Lefevre, conventionally numbered 78 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 25 November 1997