11 November 2012

"Thus are all things confused among the Poets"

From the Folger Shakespeare Library.
[H]e took out a Box out of his pocket, wherein was that picture enclosed, which he ever carried about him, though it were of a pretty bigness. ... Methinks, saies he to Lysis, that where before the breast was represented by two balls of snow, there are now two Globes, where may be seen the Aequator, with the Tropicks, and other circles. You are in the right, replyes Lysis, Anselme hath reform'd it since you saw it, having sent for colours to Colommiers; but this last thing is of my own invention, and as time makes us wiser: I have left the snow for Charite's neck, and some places adjacent; and as for her breasts, I thought fit they should be represented as two worlds, for to render the picture more delightful by the variety. It is certain your Masters the Poets do ordinarily compare the breasts of their Mistresses to worlds, saies Clarimond, but very impertinently. You are mistaken, replies Lysis; and I assure you, that if I possess'd Charite's breast, I should think my self happier then any Emperor; for I should be master of two worlds, whereas the greatest Emperor that ever was, could never enjoy one. An excellent fancy indeed! says Clarimond; because the breasts are round, therefore they are worlds, Apples and plums, and all things that are round are worlds too. 'Tis a very slender resemblance of a thing, to have nothing of it but the simple figure; but yet in this case you cannot make good all you say, The breast of a woman hath but two half bowls, they must be put together to make one whole one; so that you are still short of your reckning; for you can finde but one world, which is divided into two, as the Cosmographers represent it in their universal Maps: And I must tell you, that it was a far neater invention of those who say, That Venus having obtained of Paris the Apple, which was to be given the fairest of the Goddesses, she was so taken with it, that having cut it in two, she plac'd it on her breast, and wore it for an eternal sign of her victory, and will'd all those of her sex should do the like. However, if you desire that Charite's breast have two Globes, I grant it you; and I will in that sense too teach you an imagination which you never knew; and that is to say, that half of each Globe is sunk into the body, and that there is only what remains apparent; and as for the nibbles, it must be believ'd they are the Poles. Moreover, to render the picture more judicious and rational, it should be my advice to feign that one is a Terrestrial Globe, and the other the Celestial; but though we should grant all that, yet will there be still somewhat to be reprehended; for if they be worlds, they must necessarily have Suns to enlighten them, and it cannot be perceiv'd they have any, if we do not suppose the eyes; but they are at too great a distance: But if you would take them for two Suns, how can you imagine it, since you call Charite a Sun, that carries them about? One great star therefore carries two little ones, and that also contains two worlds. Thus are all things confused among the Poets; and to hope any satisfaction from their impertinent imaginations were the vainest thing in the world. 
// Charles Sorel, The extravagant shepherd, or, The history of the shepherd Lysis translated out of the French (1653)

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