miércoles, 13 de diciembre de 2023

The Whole World Plays the Fool

A passage from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy which alludes to the motto for Shakespeare's Globe—without mentioning the Globe itself, only the classical locus. From the introduction, "Democritus to the Reader" (52-53):

Thus Democritus esteemed of the world in his time, and this was the cause of his laughter: and good cause he had.

Olim jure quidem, nunc plus, Democrite, ride;

   Quin rides? vita haec nunc mage ridicula est.   (2) 

 

Democritus did well to laugh of old,

    Good cause he had, but now much more;

This life of ours is more ridiculous

    Than that of his, or long before.

(2) E Graec. epig.

Never so much cause of laughter as now, never so many fools and madmen. 'Tis not one Democritus will serve turn to laugh in these days; we have now need of a "Democritus to laugh at Democritus" (3); one jester to flout at another, one fool to fleer at another: a great stentorian Democritus, as bit as that Rhodian Colossus. For now, as Sariburiensis said in his time (4), totus mundus histrionem agit, the whole world plays the fool; we have a new theatre, a new scene, a new Comedy of Errors, a new company of personate actors; Volupiae sacra  [the rites of the goddess of pleasure] (as Calcagninus willingly feigns in his Apologues) are celebrated the world over, where all the actors were madmen and fools, and every hour changed habits, or took that which came next (5). He that was a mariner to-day is an apothecary to-morrow; a smith one while, a philosopher another, in his Volupiae ludis [in these fêtes of the goddess of pleasure]; a king now with his crown, robes, ceptre, attendants, by and by drove a loaded ass before him like a carter, etc. If Democritus were alive now, he should see strange alterations, a new company of counterfeit vizards, whigglers, Cuman asses, maskers, mummers, painted puppets, outsides, fantastic shadows, gulls, monsters, giddy-heads, butterflies. And so many of them are indeed (if all be true that I have read) (6). For when Jupiter and juno's wedding was solemnized of old, the gods were all invited to the feast, and many noble men besides. Amongst the rest came Chrysalus, a Persian prince, bravely attended, rich in golden attires, in gay robes, with a majestical presence, but otherwise an ass. The gods, seeing him come in such pomp and state, rose up to give him place, ex habitu hominem metientes [measuring the man by his garb]; but Jupiter, perceiving what he was, a light, fantastic, idle fellow, turned him and his proud followers into butterflies (1): and so they continue still (for aught I know to the contrary) roving about in pied coats, and are called chrysalides by the wiser sort of men: that is, golden outsides, drones, flies, and things of no worth. Multitudes of such, etc.        

            ubique invenies

Stultos avaros, sycophantas prodigos.

[You will find everywhere miserly fools and spendthrift sycophants.]

Many additions, much increase of madness, folly, vanity, should Democritus observe, were he now to travel, or could get leave of Pluto to come see fashions, as Charon did in Lucian, to visit our cieties of Moronia Pia and Moronia Felix (2): sure I think he would break the rim of his belly with laughing. Si foret in terris rideret Democritus [were Democritus alive, how would he laugh!], seu (3), etc.

(3) Plures Democriti nunc non sufficiunt, opus Democrito qui Democritum rideat. —Era. Moria.

(4) Polycrat. lib. 3, cap. 8, e Petron.

(5) Ubi omnes delirabant, omnes insani, etc., hodie nauta, cras philosophus; hodie faber, cras pharmadopola; hic modo regem agebat multo satellitio, tiara, et sceptro ornatus, nunc vili amictus centiculo, asinum clitellarium impellit.

(6) Calcagninus, Apol. Chrysalus e caeteris auro dives, manicato peplo et tiara conspicuus, levis alioquin et nullius consilii, etc. Magno fastu ingredienti assurgunt dii, etc.

(1) Sed hominis levitatem Jupiter perspiciens, At tu (inquit) esto bombillo, etc., protinusque vestis illa manicata in alas versa est, et mortales inde Chrysalides vocant hujusmodi homines.

(2) [Provinces of Moron ia, or Foolsland, in Joseph Hall's Mundus Alter et Idem.]

(3) Hor.

A satirical Roman in his time thought all vice, folly, and madness were all at full sea, Omne in praecipiti vitium stetit (4) [every vice was in headlong career]. 

(4) Juven.

Josephus the historian taxeth his countrymen Jews for bragging of their vices, publishing their follies, and that they did contend amongst themselves who should be most notorious in villainies (5); but we flow higher in madness, far beyond them, 

Mox daturi progeniem vitiosiorem, (6)

[And yet with crimes to us unknown, 

Our sons shall mark the coming age their own,]

and the latter end (you know whose oracle it is) is like to be worst. 'Tis not to be denied, the word alters every day; Ruunt urbes, regna transferuntur [cities fall, kingdoms are transferred], etc., variantur habitus, leges innovantur [fashions change, laws are altered], as Petrarch observes (7), we change language, habits, laws, customs, manners, but not vices, not diseases, not the symptoms of folly and madness, they are still the same. And as a river, we see, keeps the like name and place, but not water, and yet ever runs, Labitur et labetur in omne volubilis aevum (8); our times and persons alter, vices are the same, and ever will be; look how nightingales sang of old, cocks crowed, kine lowed, sheep bleated, sparrows chirped, dogs barked, so they do still; we keep our madness still, play the fools still, nec dum finitus Orestes [and the play is not yet finished]; we are of the same humours and inclinations as our predecessors were; you shall find us all alike, much at one, we and our sons, Et nati natorum, et qui nascuntur ab illis, and so shall our posterity continue to the last. But to speak of times present.


(5) De bello Jud. l. 8, capt. 11. Iniquitates vestrae neminem latent, inque dies singulos certamen habetis quis pejor sit.

(6) Hor.

(7) Lib. 5, epist. 8

(8) Hor.


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