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by a great start, and leaves her behind him: but she by her own natural swiftness, recovers þer lost time and gets before him again. But Hippomenes still continues his sleight, and both the second and third times cast out his balls, those enticing delays; and so by craft, and not by his activity, wins the race and victory
This fable seems allegorically to demonstrate a notable conflict between art and nature; for art, signified by Atalanta, in its work, if it be not letted and hindered, is far more swift than nature, more speedy in pace, and sooner attains the end it aims at, which is manifest almost in every effect; as you may see in fruit-trees, whereof those that grow of a kernel are long ere they bear, but such as are grafted on a stock a great deal sooner. You may see it in clay, which in the generation of stones, is long ere it become hard, but in the burning of bricks is very quickly effected. Also in moral passages you may observe, that it is a long time ere, by the benefit of nature, sorrow can be assuaged, and comfort attained; whereas philosophy, which is, as it were, art of living, tarries not the leisure of time, but doth it instantly and out of hand ; and yet this prerogative and singular agility of art is hindered by certain golden apples, to the infinite prejudice of human proceedings: for there is not any one art or science which constantly perseveres in a true and lawful course, till it come to the proposed end or mark, but ever and anon makes stops after good beginnings, leaves the race, and turns aside to profit and commodity, like Atalanta.
“ Declinat cursus, aurumque volubile tollit.”
And therefore it is no wonder that art hath not the power to conquer nature; and by pact or law of conquest to kill and destroy her; but on the contrary, it falls out that art becomes subject to nature, and yields the obedience as of a wife to her husband.
PROMETHEUS, OR THE STATE OF MAN.
The ancients deliver that Prometheus made a man of clay, mixed with certain parcels taken from divers animals, who, studying to maintain this his work by art, that he might not be accounted a founder only but a propagator of human kind, stole up to heaven with a bundle of twigs, which he kindled at the chariot of the sun, came down again, and communicated it with men; and yet they say that notwithstanding this excellent work of his, he was requited with ingratitude in a treacherous conspiracy; for they accused both him and his invention to Jupiter, which was not so taken as was meet it should, for the information was pleasing to Jupiter and all the gods : and therefore in a merry mood granted unto men, not only the use of fire but
perpetual youth also, a boon most acceptable and desirable. They being as it were overjoyed, did foolishly lay this gift of the gods upon the back of an ass, who being wonderfully oppressed with thirst and near a fountain, was told by a serpent which had the custody thereof, that he should not drink unless he would promise to give him the burthen that was on his back. The silly ass accepted the condition, and so the restoration of youth, sold for a draught of water, passed from men to serpents. But Prometheus, full of malice, being reconciled unto men, after they were frustrated of their gift, but in a chafe yet with Jupiter, feared not to use deceit in sacrifice ; for having killed two bulls, and in one of their hides wrapt up the flesh and fat of them both, and in the other only the bones, with a great shew of religious devotion gave Jupiter his choice, who detesting his fraud and hypocrisy, but taking an occasion of revenge, chose that which was stopped with bones, and so turning to revenge, when he saw that the insolency of Prometheus would not be repressed but by laying some grievous affliction upon mankind, in the forming of which he so much bragged and boasted, commanded Vulcan to frame a goodly beautiful woman, which being done, every one of the gods bestowed a gift on her ; whereupon she was called Pandora. To this woman they gave in her hand a goodly box full of all miseries and calamities, only in the bottom of it they put Hope; with this box she comes first to Prometheus, thinking to catch him, if peradventure he should accept it at her hands, and so open it; which he nevertheless, with good providence and foresight refused : where
upon she goes to Epimetheus, who, though brother to Prometheus, yet was of a much differing disposition, and offers this box unto him, who without delay took it, and rashly opened it; but when he saw that all kind of miseries came fluttering about his ears, being wise too late, with great speed and earnest endeavour clapped on the cover, and so with much ado retained Hope sitting alone in the bottom; at last Jupiter laying many and grievous crimes to Prometheus' charge, as that he had stolen fire from heaven, that in contempt of his majesty he sacrificed a bull's hide stuffed with bones, that he scornfully rejected his gift, and besides all this, that he offered violence to Pallas, cast him into chains, and doomed him to perpetual torment; and by Jupiter's command was brought to the mountain Caucasus, and there bound fast to a pillar that he could not stir; there came an eagle also, that every day sat tiring upon his liver and wasted it; but as much as was eaten in the day grew again in the night, that matter for torment to work upon might never decay. But yet they say there was an end of this punishment; for Hercules crossing the ocean in a cup, which the sun gave him, came to Caucasus, and set Prometheus at liberty by shooting the eagle with an arrow. Moreover, in some nations there were instituted in the honour of Prometheus, certain games of lampbearers, in which they that strived for the prize were wont to carry torches lighted, which whoso suffered to go out, yielded the place and victory to those that followed, and so cast back themselves, so that who
soever came first to the mark with his torch burning got the prize.
This fable demonstrates and presseth many true and grave speculations, wherein some things have been heretofore well noted, others not so much as touched.
Prometheus doth clearly and elegantly signify Providence: for in the universality of nature, the fabric and constitution of man only was by the ancients picked out and chosen, and attributed unto Providence as a peculiar work. The reason of it seems to be, not only in that the nature of man is capable of a mind and understanding, which is the seat of providence, and therefore it would seem strange and incredible, that the reason and mind should so proceed and flow from dumb and deaf principles, as that it should necessarily be concluded, the soul of man to be endued with providence, not without the example, intention, and stamp of a greater providence. But this also is chiefly propounded, that man is as it were the centre of the world in respect of final causes; so that if man were not in nature, all things would seem to stray and wander without purpose, and like scattered branches, as they say, without inclination to their end; for all things attend on man; and he makes use of, and gathers fruit from all creatures; for the revolutions and periods of stars make both for the distinctions of times and the distribution of the world's light. Meteors also are referred to presages of tempests; and winds are ordained as well for navigation, as for