Monday, November 28, 2011

Venus Improba

Here is today's emblem by Joachim Camerarius, 4:90. The poem sets up a sic...ut comparison between the person who consorts with a prostitute and the legendary viper, who supposedly engaged in a fatal sex act. According to a belief widely reported in ancient natural history writers, when copulating, the female viper would bite off the head of the male viper; see the emblematic embracing as illustrated below. This dire form of mating was paired with a dire form of giving birth: the young vipers supposedly killed their mother by chewing their way out of the belly. Thus, in the process of reproducing, both the viper father and the viper mother died - the viper father killed by the viper mother, and the viper mother killed by the viper children. Improbitas indeed! Camerarius is a bit hampered by the fact that viper is a feminine noun in Latin, vipera, but it was definitely the male who died in the sex act, a warning to reckless males of the human species!

Venus Improba
Sic pereat quisquis meretrici turpiter haeret,
Per Venerem ut nimiam vipera morsa perit.


Here is the vocabulary:

Venus - Venus, goddess of love, love
improbus - wicked, shameless
sic - thus, in this way
pereo - perish
quisquis - any person, whoever
meretrix - prostitute, harlot
turpiter - foully, shamefully
haereo - cling to, stick to
per - through, by means of
ut - as, just as
nimius - excessive, too much
vipera - viper
mordeo - bite

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