The Mathematicall Praeface
The Castle of Knowledge
Marcellus Palingenius Stellatus
The Zodiake of Life
A Perfect Description of the Celestial Orbs
The Ash Wednesday Supper
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems
The Zodiake of Life
By Marcellus Palingenius
Translated by Bamaby Googe.
Excerpted from Book 11, "Aquarius:"
Now let us touch the rest that doth remaine, in speedy wise, But fyrst we must Urania call, my verses here unto, That she may ayde and succour sende, such secrets to undo. Urania, thou that knowest the things, aloft that hidden lye, That walkest oft by seates of Gods, and starry temples hye: Urania beautiful, draw nere, and open unto me, The secret seates of Gods above, and things that hidden be, And helpe thy Poet, that in song, thy Scepters; seekes to shewe, And graunt the whirling Skies above, in minde that I may knowe. And first good Lady shewe to me, if that the Skies above, Consist of matter hard and thicke, or soft and apt to move: None otherwise than is the Ayre, which well we may divide: This tolde thou shalt declare to me, straunge matters more beside. Two springs of nature chiefe there be, Materia and Forma namde: Of these same twaine all kinde of things, that here we see, are framde, Of these the earth, the Seas, the ayre, and flaming fyre springs: Wherefore they lye, that matter none, admit in Heavenly things. For contraries should then in them, be found (thus they do say) And by this means corrupted quite, they should in time decay. But as me seemes, this reason here, doth from the truth decline, For neither matter is in fault, if that in tract of time, The bodies fade: nor contraries, themselves will thus undo, If that their forces equall be, and stronger none of two: For when the strength and power is like, then equall is the fight, And victory on neither part, and neither syde doth light. Therefore God seldng in his minde, the heavens hye to make, The chiefe and purest fined partes, of matter first, did take, And tempred them in such a sorte, that harme in them should cease, And that the things contrary thus, should still remaine in peace: So lastes the skye continually, and never doth decay. But for bicause the harder things, last longer farre alway, And take lesse hurte: therefore the skye, of all the hardest seemes, More than the Diamonde, that forme and fire it light estemes, And every force, save onely Gods, of whom it first toke grounde. An other reason proves this same, for fyrst that moveth rounde, The Spheres beneath him tume about, & Westward then doth drive, And roules them daily moving round, though they contrary strive: Which could not be if that they were, not hard assuredly. Take there withal that parte of Moone, the likest is to sky, Which Sunne doth not behold, nor touche, with beames of brothers eyes. So Starres at noone are thought to be, in colour like to Skyes, Which Moone and Starres themselves be harde, and dark they also be: The experience of the Eclipse doth this declare apparentlie, For Moone betwixt doth hide the beames, that from the Sunne do flowe, And suffers not the shining light, upon the earth to showe. Why should not this same hardness here, unto the Skies agree? For never should it else holde fast the Starres that fixed bee, But wander farre abroade they would, nor one place them should holde, Yet darke is not the firmament, as of the Starres we tolde, For placed here upon the earth, the hiest Starres we see: And well our sight discernes the signes, that farthest from us be. Sith hardest are celestiall shapes, and purest eke are such. Perchance they give a sound besides: and sith they roule and touch, They make some heavenly melodies: as some that long agoe, Both leamde and sobre written have: My Muse this doubt undoe. Though hard and many be the kindes, of Heavenly bodies hie, And though they subiect are to sight, of earthly humaine eye, Yet noise for truth they none do make. For nothing them doth beate: Nor beaten would they more resound, that are most thicke and greate. And sith no aire is there, without, the which no sound is made, And therefore void of noyse they runne in round and rouling trade. Beside, the inferiour Circles eyght, gainward the mornings seate, And turned about one self same way, nor on themselves they beate With meeting course, but passe one way, with easy rouling round, As daunce in order compassing, about do softely drive: The Mover first against them all, in course doth onely strive, Yet noise doth it never make, ne soundeth it at all, For aire there lackes, & outward partes of Spheres are smoth alway: Whereby they swiftly passe about, no roughness them doth stay, And easly thus with gentle touche their neighbours next are kyst, Wherefore their motion they do make al silently and whyst. Therefore the Fathers olde did erre, that earnestly beleeved Spheres moving to make Harmony, but not to be perceived, Bycause it past the eares of man: as is not heard at all The rush of Nilus streames, where from the mountaines they do fall, But farther off the sound doth roare. They trifle thus to teache, And fond and vaine the reason is, that herein they do preache. For if suche things were never heard, why should they then devise, A sound amid the Skyes to be: Tis nought to enterprise Of things to talke that never can be shewed or proved plaine, That iustly may denyed be: no newe things must we fayne, Except a trueth in them be proved. Where reason is away, No faith nor credit must we give, to words that men do say. But is the Heaven round my Muse, as fame of olde hath spide, For compassed forme seemes perfecter than all the rest beside, Bicause it hath beginning none nor end in it doth lye, Bicause it aye containeth moste more fine and faire to the eye, And apter is it to be moved, chiefly the middest aboute: As Heaven tumd about the Earthe, that hath her standing stoute In midst of all the world. This forine so worthy doth agree To Heaven, to the Sunne and Moone, and all the Starres we see: Though folly fond of Painters doth them otherwise descrye. But are the Starres as some do say the thicker part of Skye? Not so: for every one of them unlike to heaven be. Among themselves they differ eke, as Elme fioni Servise tree, As Peare from Cherrie differeth, in fashion and in fruite. Their divers vertue this declares, and eke their sundrie suite. A power alone hath every Starre, and nature eke at hand. The Heaven therefore is but seate, and place where Starres do stand, No Substance thoe, or matter of them. What vertue hath the Skye? All force and vertues in the Starres and glistering planets lye. The Starres do guide the compast world, and every chaunge doth bring The Starres create all things on earth and governe every thing: Thus teache the Astronomers, and thus the common fame doth flye. Ne must we thinke in thicke and thinne the substance of the Skye To differ from the Starres, but eke their natures divers be. And sundry is their shape and force, and fashion that we see. The bignesse of the Starres, and if their turning never stay, And in what place they fixed be, (as Plato once did say), And if they voide of dwellers be, or any there doth dwell, My Muse I would be glad to knowe, wherefore I pray thee tell. All Starres are not of bignes like, foir many lesse there bee, And in suche sort, as comprehend no man may them we see: Some are againe of larger sise, in number fewe and fine, That in cleare nightes amyd the skyes with gorgeous light do shine: Of which th' Astronomers have framde, fair shapes and figures bright, And pictured have the Heavens brave with signes of sundrie sight. Thus of this greater sorte of Starres, (as we learnd in starres do tel, And as the Sunnes eclipse doth showe: wherein appeareth well Howe great the Moone in body is while under him she glides, And darkning all with shadowes blacke, hir brothers beames she hides,) Some do in compasse farre exceede both seas, and earth, and all, And bigger are their shining globes, though they do seeme so small: Bycause so farre from us they be. For every thing beside, The farther it is from our eies, the less in sight is spide, And doth deceive the lookers on. The starres that fixed be (As Plato greatest Clerice doth say) are eache in their degree, About their Centres roulled round, and tunde continually, And by this reason are they thought to twinckle in the eye: And not as certaine fayned have, bycause farre off they bee, Therefore they yealde a trembling light, to suche as them do see. This reason surely is but vaine, and childishe for to write, For nothing seemes to twinckle tho, bycause tis farre from sight: But dimmer then and lesse it seemes, nor twinckling can they be Without a motion sure. Wherefore the Starres that fixt we see, Do move togeath er with the Sunne, as we declared late: But Saturne Iupiter and Mars, do move in no suche rate, No more doth Moone, nor Mercurie, nor Venus pleasant Starre: But move in lide circles that to them annexed are. Why sparckles not Saturnus, love, and Mars, as doth the Sunne? Syth farther farrefrom us in Spheres aloft more hye they runne: Nor differ they in difference great from fixed starres above? Bycause they do not asthe Sunne about the Centres move, But in their Epicicles roulle their bodies round about, Some man (perchance if) so the Sunne doth sparckle, standes in doubt. But if he shalf the same behoulde when first it doth appeare, Or when in Winter time it falles, and settes in waters cleare, When as his eye may best endure his sight thereon to cast, He shall perceive it plaine to turne, and eke to sparckle fast. Let no man thinke this thing to be so great and strange to minde, If all the gorgeous starres do move in suche a sort and kinde: Seemes it not farre niore wonderfull that Heavens compasse wide, Wyth suche a motion swift about the world doth alwaies glide, That byrdes, and wyndes, and lightnings flash, in swiftness it doth passe? Thus now the almighty Lord, by whome the world created was, All things he made, divided in these two, Moving and Rest. But in the Centre, rest upon the earth hir place possest: In all the others motion dwelles. The streames doe swiftly flye, The ayre and fyrie flames on Earth do move continually. But chiefly in the firmament hath moving greatest spright, And every spheare the higher it is doth move with greater might, And swifter runnes about the world. Wherefore that Heaven hye, That called is the Mover first, with motion moste doth flye. But that the greatest motion is, that in time most small, Doth soonest runne his course aboute, the greates space of all. Thus would it runne about the world in twinckling of an eye, But that the other Spheares do let that under him do lye, Restraining it of course so swift, least that in tourning round, The Seas with it, it should convey, and all the earthly ground: For then no kinde of creature could leade here this life in them. O matter to be wondred at, who is not mazed? When He wayeth with himselfe in minde so great a quantitie, So farre to passe in so short time? and backe againe to flie, Arid never for to ceasse his course, and labour none to feele? Hereby do some beleeve that Gods the world about do wheele. Of them to every circle is a mover strong assignde, Who like as they that are condemnd in bakehouse for to grinde, May never cease from turning round the skyes both day and night, Nor though he would can once have time to rest his weary spright. Now surely happy is that God, that serveth in the same. But these are toies, and fancies fond of such as seeke for fame. What store of fond Foolosophers, and suche as hunt for praise, The earth brings forth it is not good: to credit al he sayes, TIough great his estimation be in the mouthes of many men, Though many Rearnes of Paper he hath scribled with his pen, For famous men do oftentimes make great and famous lies. And often men do misse the truth, though they be never so wise: Tlierefore must reason first be sought. For in such doubtfull things, More credit Reas o*n ought to have, then mennes Imaginings: For such are often proved false. What thing doth Reason say? The Skies or Starres are mouch of, Gods or of their proper sway? What honour great, what kinde of ioy, what pleasure can there be, Unto these Gods that turne about the Skies continuallie? That they for life of foolish man, may needefull things provide, And that the Birdes and savage beasts and Fishes they maye guide. Becomes it Lordes in such a sorte their Servants here to serve? And Gods for ever to be thrall, that they may beasts preserve, That they may foster Foles & Knaves? is it not rather meete For Gods to enioy their libertie, and pleasant freedome sweete? That they may where they list go walke least as in fetters tyed, Thay can not passe from place to place, but still at home abide? Or as the Potters plying still the wheele and lumpe of clay, Can have no time of quiet rest, nor steppe from place away? Seemes it so sweete a sporte to them the compasse round to move, Or can this laboure never grieve the Gods that sit above? 0 sentence, worthy to be markte, of grave and witty men: But reason barres them this, and cries contrary quite to them. For nothing is etemall here but only God alone, And after him continuall. be, the Natures everychone Of things that he of nothing made. But yet by sure decree, That otherwise they cannot shewe than they appointed bee, By him when first he framd the world, so still continuall shall The Waters soft, the fier hote, the Earth a stedfast ball, So shall the Aire for ever moove: So of necessity, The Circles of the Heavens round shall turne continually, So force and fashion every Herbe delivered doth retaine, And every tree, and every beast that never time can staine. As long as unremoving state of nature doth endure, As long as chaungeth not the will of God divine and pure. Wherefore, if thus Continuall be the course of Heavens bright, It must be Naturall as shewes, in weighty things and light. For what of nature proper is, doth never feele decaye. But if another move the same, in time it falles away. For no such state of violence, doth last continuallie. Have Heavy things & light more foice, than state of Starres & Skie? That they can move of proper strength, and these can not do so? Except of Gods they caused be, about in course to go? Then is the earth and fier farre, more noble than the Skie, At least for this, bicause they neede, no help of mover by: But of themselves from Centre they, or can to Centre flie. Wherefore we must beleve that these, celestiall states above, Of proper force and of their formes, as fire and earth do move. For Nature is of greater might, than mover any one: This Nature onely God excelles: and him except alone, No better thing than Nature is, nor in the worlde more hie. I Nature call the fixed law, of him that guides the Skie, Which from the worldes foundation first, to all things be assured, And willde that it should stand in force, while age of worlde endured, For this same lawe hath God unto, the formes of things assignde, That when from thence do things procede, formes wel fulfil Gods minde, Ne can they once this order breake. For of their formes do spring Such things he commanded hath, who framde eche formed thing. This true and proper Nature is, of higher state againe, The Matter or Forme as some have taught, for certainly these twaine, Are rather springs of every thing, or causes first above, Or framers first, not nature sure, if truest names we love: Except we have a better will, false names to give such things. But of this same enough we have. Now strike we other strings. And whether that the stately roomes, of Heaven empty be, Or whether any dwellers there, have place and sovereigntie: The present time doth me persuade, in woonted verse to sing, Sith Heaven is so vast and wide, and such a gorgeous thing. All garnisht round with-glistring Starres so bright and faire to the eye, Shall only voidand empty it, and unreplenishe lye? And earth and seas such dwellers have? Or is the seas or ground, A place more pleasant, faire and good, or more in compasse, found? Than all the Side, by which they more, than Skies deserve to holde, Such store of creatures faire and shapes, and fashions sundry folde? It is a parte of prudent Prince, to build a palace wide, With golde and Marble beatified, throughout on every syde And not (save stable) to permit, there any man to lie, And fdrnish out such goodly roomes, and sumptuous buildings hie? For earth is stable to all the worlde, wherein all filth doth hide, Dust, dyrt, dung, bones and carion, and lothsome things beside. Who can at any time rehearse, the heapes of things uncleene, That on the seas and earth appeare, and ever shall be seene? Who knoweth not the showrs, the mists, the cloudes and flakes of snowe, The force of windes and rage of stormes, that on the seas do blow, That shakes the earth andmoves the ayre? Yet playnly may we see, The Seas and earth with sundry sorts, of creatures full to bee. Shall then the Heavens cleare be thought, as as void and empty made? O, rather void and empty mindes, that thus yourselves persuade. For creatures doth the Sides containe, and every Starre beside Be heavenly townes -and seates of saincts, where Kings & Commons bide, But perfect Kings and people eke, all things are perfect there: Not shapes and shadowes vaine of things, (as we have present her,) Which death soone takes, and time destroyes, defiles, and drives away, There, wise and happy folkes, and such as never do decay Do live, here misers dwell and men that certamie are to die, And doltish fooles. There peace & light, and pleasure chiefe doth lye: Here daily warres, and darknesse blind, and every kinde of paine. Go now, and praise this world, and take delight in life so vaine, Presume thou foole, than Heavens faire, the earth to set more by. But some may doubt if that more strong than Diamond be the sky, And empty place is none therein, how Gods there dwelling bee, And moving there? this semeth sure, with reason not t'agree. Besdies, since that the Heavens bright, can not with ploughe be torne, Nor digd with spade, how ther shall vines, and needfull graine be borne? These are but toyes & laughing stocks: for though the sides be harde, Yet passage have the dwellers there, nothing their course hath barde. For unto these celestiall states the Maiestie divine, Appointed slendrest bodies hath, of substance light and fine, So that no neede -of dores they have, nor yet of windowes wide, For through the thickest walles they run, and through the Marbles slide, So pure and fine their nature is, and of so strong a might. Who, (if so be they never had bene subiect to his sight? Would thincke that fish in flouds shuld bee? Frogs in slime to breede? And Salamander live by fire: of ayre Cliamelions feede, And Greshops [grasshoppers] nourished with dewe? yet true this same we see, And we confesse them wonderfull. For many things there be, Which though we thinke can not be done, yet can, and oft are done: Why could not God then creatures make, that through the earth shuld run And of no meate nor drinke have neede: if he so could he did: Fond were it such a space to builde, and leave unfurnishid. But Heaveners have no neede, with plow and spade for foode to strive, Since that their bodies are not such, as foode doth keep alive, For Gods do never suffer thirst, nor gaincts an hungered be, In fine they never greeved are, with lack of povertie. Bicause beyond the Moone there dwells, no kinde of dolefull case: For every kinde of mischefe, God upon the earth did place, And in the midst did them inclose, forbidding them the Skie: O happy such as leade their lives, thus in those places hie, That Nectar drinke, still fed with foode, of sweet Ambrosia greene, Whereof in those Celestiall meades, abundence great is seene. More happy and better is the life, of such as dwell above, The higher they in Heaven have, their place to rest and move, For places such as in the Skies, are hierin degree, More blessed are, and better farre, than those that lower bee.
Copyright 1999, MATC
Last updated 1 September 1999