Adages, Volume 1. Front Cover. Desiderius Erasmus. University of Toronto Press , Volume 31 of Collected Works of Erasmus · Works, Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus was fascinated by proverbs and prepared a collection of more than of them, accompanying each with his comments, sometimes in a few lines and. Full text of “Proverbs, chiefly taken from the Adagia of Erasmus, with explanations ; and further illustrated by corresponding examples from the Spanish, Italian.

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Quod supra nos, nihll ad nos. Before we employ our minds on objects that do not concern us, or in studies from which no profit can be ob- tained, we should see that all is well at home, that there are no disorders to be corrected, which neglected may occasion mischief.

The ass has fallen into the company of apes, was erasnus when a man of mild and easy manners, and of weak understanding, was een associating with petulant and illnatured persons, “9 persons, who insulted, and turned him to ridicule.

His massive compendium, characterized by eramus wit, his elegance, his bursts of satire alternating with serious views, Among the Persians, and perhaps generally in the east, the beard is held in great reverence, and to speak of it slightingly or disrespectfully, would be resented, and for a stranger to vio- late it, by touching it, would probably be avenged by instant death.

Talents that are concealed, are of no use. And quenched is with Cupid’s greater flame ; But faithful friendship doth them both suppress, And them with mastering discipline doth tame, Through thoughts aspiring to eternal fame.

They are dull, heavy, stupid, void of ingenuity or sagacity.

But what makes Erasmus’s Adages special are the digressions. Alexander and Caesar had no descendants. The greatest clerks, or scholars, are not the wisest men ; that is, they eramus not the greatest share of that wisdom which is necessary for conducting their worldly concerns. Whither, O unfortunate prince, do you bend your unavailing flight? It may not be amiss, once for all, to observe, that I have not confined myself to the sense given by Erasmus to many of the eraxmus.

In Egypt persons were appointed, we are told, whose office it was, to examine into the conduct of their deceased sovereigns; if it had been such as had been beneficial to the kingdom, the warmest tribute of praise was paid to their memories; if bad, their conduct was censured and their memory reprobated, to serve as a warning to their successors.

This may be said of persons of versatile and easy dispositions, who can accommodate them- selves to all circumstances, whether of festivity or of trouble ; who with the grave can be seri- ous, with the gay cheerful ; and who are equally fit to conduct matters of business or of pleasure: But though they have by this means been introduced into this, and other countries, and many of them so incorporated, as to be in as frequent use, as those that arfe natives, yet they are no where, as far as I know, ac- companied with commentaries, or explanations, similar to those given by Erasmus, although such explanations seem necessary to make them generally understood.


AS this Work is indebted to your revisal for much of its correctness, permit me to present to you, in its amended form, what you have so indulgently supported when its imperfec- tions were more numerous. Listen to him who has four ears. Persons related to each other by the nearest ties of consanguinity ; nursed and educated under the same auspices ; en- joying the same advantages, stimulated to action by the same difficulties, have been, found as dissimilar, as if their characters had been formed in climates and regions, and under circumstances the most remote.

They have no nose, or they would have smelt it out. Fenestram, vel Januam aperire, May be said when any one has incautiously given information which may be turned to the disadvantage of themselves or their friends. Considering that he had plenty of examples to choose from, some of them uncomfortably close to home, this was brave and principled. Erasmus thought he could not begin his Collection better than with this apo- thegm, which is of great antiquity, and much celebrated, and for the same reason it is here placed first.

Inter Malleum et Incudem.

To deceive with false pretences, or to mis- represent any matter, and make it appear different to what it is, was called painting or discolouring the subject; and as a species of fucus was anciently used as a dye, persons so disguising what they treated of, were said ” fucum facere,” to give a false colour to it. By this enigmatical expression, that the forehead in which the eyes are placed, pre- cedes the hind-head ; the ancients meant to shew, that all business may be expected to be best performed, if attended to by the persons who are to be benefited by it.

As the furnace proveth the potter’s vessel, so doth trouble and vexation try men’s thoughts. Such wanton erasus is well re- proved by the following: Mandrabuli more Res succedit, Was used to be said of any business not going on according to expectation ; or from persons indulging hopes of erasjus from ill- concerted or ill- matured projects, not likely to be successful; but rather ” ad morem Man- drabuli,” to become every day worse. As the philosophers rarely sought after, and therefore seldom acquired wealth, they were frequent in admonishing the great men of the world of this truth, ” that death levels all distinctions,” and that ” Pobreza no es vileza,” poverty is no disgrace.

Death to the eagle

Most men are aware of the danger of being security, but they have not sufficient confidence to withstand solicitation, they yield therefore often against their better judgment. Those who did not do so, were said ” redire ad nuces,” or ” nuces repe- tere,” to return to their playthings, to be- come children again. I am Davus, not CEdipus; that is, I am a man of plain understanding and no conjuror, or wizard, may be said to persons speaking enigmatically or more finely than the subject requires: It was ” vellere barbam leoni mortuo,” taking a dead lion by the beard.


To meet a weasel was considered by the ancients as ominous, and portending some misfortune about to hap- pen. This is more than just a superb bedside book.

Review: Adages of Erasmus selected by William Barker | Books | The Guardian

Weaving of cobwebs, which persons are said to do, who waste their time and money in frivolous pursuits ; in procuring what will be of no use when obtained: You have been fortunate in getting out of that difficulty, or that you did erasus engage in a business, which, however promising it might appear, could not but have involved you in much trouble. Of such stuff, are some of our old proverbs made. It is not the fortune of every man to be able to go to Corinth.

This drawing the attention of the congregation, he reproved them for their inconsistency in lis- tening 74 tening to him when reading a language they did not understand, and neglecting or refus- ing to hear him, when explaining to them in their own language, doctrines, which they were materially interested to know and un- derstand.

The Adages of Erasmus – Érasme, Desiderius Erasmus, William Watson Barker – Google Books

Giving wine to young persons, whose blood is ordinarily too arages, is “adding fuel to the fire. Affecting to explain things that are of themselves abundantly clear and intelligible, or to instruct persons in matters in which they are well informed, is like holding a light to the sun ” Holding,” Shakespeare says, “thy far- thing candle to the sun.

The Italians, French, and Spaniards, as well as ourselves, have adopted the answer given by the philo- sopher, among their proverbs, viz. The term was afterwards applied me- taphorically to the language, in which sense it is now used. The raven, on the 30 the contrary, was considered as a bird of ill omen, and its appearance was supposed to predict evil. The adage was also applied generally to persons who, restrained by fear, or from motives of prudence, avoided giving their opinion on any subject.

Cadogan, who lived to a great age, is said to have approved, and to have followed this regimen. Satius est Initiis mederi quam F’mi.