Page images

perfection of the world, that he begets no issue; for the world doth generate in respect of its parts; but in respect of the whole, how can it generate, seeing without it there is no body? Notwithstanding all this, the tale of that tattling girl faltered upon Pan, may in very deed, with great reason, be added to this fable; for by her are represented those vain and idle paradoxes concerning the nature of things which have been frequent in all ages, and have filled the world with novelties; fruitless, if you respect the matter; changelings, if you respect the kind; sometimes creating pleasure, sometimes tediousness, with their overmuch prattling.

PERSEUS, OR WAR. Perseus is said to have been employed by Pallas for the destroying of Medusa, who was very infestuous to the western parts of the world, and especially about the utmost coasts of Hiberia; a monster so dire and horrid, that by her only aspect she turned men into stones. This Medusa alone of all the Gorgons was mortal, the rest not subject to death. Perseus, therefore, preparing himself for this noble enterprise, had arms and gifts bestowed on him by three of the gods; Mercury gave him wings annexed to his heels, Pluto a helmet, Pallas a shield and a looking-glass. Notwithstanding, although he were thus furnished, he went not directly to Medusa, but first to the Greæ, which, by the mother's side, were sisters to the Gorgons. These Greæ from their birth were hoarheaded, resembling old women; they had but one only eye and one tooth among them all, both which, she that had occasion to go abroad, was wont to take with her, and at her return to lay them down again. This eye and tooth they lent to Perseus; and so finding himself thoroughly furnished for the effecting of his design, hastens towards Medusa. Her he found sleeping, and yet durst not present himself with his face towards her lest she should awake; but turning his head aside beheld her in Pallas's glass, and, by this means directing his blow, cut off her head; from whose blood gushing out, instantly came Pegasus, the flying-horse. Her head thus smote off, Perseus bestows on Pallas's shield, which yet retained this virtue, that whatsoever looked upon it should become as stupid as a stone, or like one planet-strucken.

This fable seems to direct the preparation and order that is to be used in making of war; for the more apt and considerate undertaking whereof, three grave and wholesome precepts, savouring of the wisdom of Pallas, are to be observed.

First, That men do not much trouble themselves about the conquest of neighbour nations, seeing that private possessions and empires are enlarged by different means; for in the augmentation of private revenues, the vicinity of men's territories is to be considered; but in the propagation of public dominions, the occasion and facility of making war, and the fruit to be expected ought to be instead of vicinity. Certainly the Romans, what time their conquests towards the west scarce reached beyond Liguria, did yet in the east bring all the provinces as far as the mountain Taurus within the compass of their arms and command ; and therefore Perseus, although he were bred and born in the east, did not yet refuse to undertake an expedition even to the uttermost bounds of the west.

Secondly, There must be a care had, that the motives of war be just and honourable ; for that begets an alacrity as well in the soldiers that fight as in the people that pay; it draws on and procures aids, and brings many other commodities besides. But there is no pretence to take up arms more pious, than the suppressing of tyranny ; under which yoke the people lose their courage, and are cast down without heart and vigour as in the sight of Medusa.

Thirdly, It is wisely added, that seeing there were three Gorgons, by which wars are represented, Perseus undertook her only that was mortal ; that is, he made choice of such a kind of war as was likely to be effected and brought to a period, not pursuing vast and endless hopes.

The furnishing of Perseus with necessaries was that which only advanced his attempt, and drew fortune to be of his side ; for he had speed from Mercury, concealing of his counsels from Orcus, and Providence from Pallas.

Neither is it without an allegory, and that full of matter too, that those wings of celerity were fastened to Perseus' heels and not to his ancles, to his feet and not to his shoulders ; because speed and celerity are required, not so much in the first preparations for war, as in those things which second and yield aid to

the first ; for there is no errour in war more frequent, than that prosecutions and subsidiary forces do fail to answer the alacrity of the first onsets.

Now for that helinet which Pluto gave him, powerful to make men invisible, the moral is plain; but that twofold gift of Providence, to wit, the shield and looking-glass, is full of morality; for that kind of Providence, which like a shield avoids the force of blows, is not alone needful, but that also by which the strength and motions and counsels of the enemy are descried, as in the looking-glass of Pallas.

But Perseus, albeit he were sufficiently furnished with aid and courage, yet was he to do one thing of special importance before he entered the lists with this monster, and that was to have some intelligence with the Greæ. These Greæ are treasons which may be termed the sisters of war not descended of the same stock, but far unlike in nobility of birth ; for wars are generous and heroical, but treasons are base and ignoble. Their description is elegant, for they are said to be gray-headed, and like old women from their birth, by reason that traitors are continually vexed with cares and trepidations. But all their strength, before they break out into open rebellions, consists either in an eye or in a tooth; for every

faction alienated from any state, contemplates and bites. Besides, this eye and tooth is as it were common; for whatsoever they can learn and know is delivered and carried from one to another by the hands of faction. And as concerning the tooth, they do all bite alike, and sing the same song; so that

VOL. 3.


hear one and you hear all. Perseus therefore was to deal with these Greæ for the love of their eye and tooth ; their eye to discover, their tooth to sow rumours and stir up envy, and to molest and trouble the minds of men. These things therefore being thus disposed and prepared, he addresses himself to the action of war, and sets upon Medusa as she slept; for a wise captain will ever assault his enemy when he is unprepared and most secure, and then is there good use of Pallas's glass ; for most men, before it come to the push, can acutely pry into and discern their enemies' estate; but the best use of this glass is in the very point of danger, that the manner of it may be so considered that the terrour may not discourage, which is signified by that looking into this glass with the face turned from Medusa.

The monster's head being cut off, there follow two effects. The first was the procreation and raising of Pegasus, by which may be evidently understood Fame, that, flying through the world, proclaims victory. The second is the bearing of Medusa's head in his shield; to which there is no kind of defence for excellency comparable: for the one famous and memorable act prosperously effected and brought to pass, doth restrain the motions and insolencies of enemies, and makes Envy herself silent and amazed.

ENDYMION, OR A FAVOURITE. It is said that Luna was in love with the shepherd Endymion, and in a strange and unwonted manner bewrayed her affection; for he lying in a cave framed by nature under the mountain Latmus,

« PreviousContinue »