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in describing a great lady who escaped from Turks to fall into the hands of domestic robbers, likens the case to falling from Scylla to Charybdis. A similar illus
tration drops from La Fontaine :
"La vieille, au lieu du coq, les fit tomber par là
De Charybde en Scylla." 2
Thomson shows that it was a common illustration, when he describes Dunkirk as
"the Scylla since
And fell Charybdis of the British seas."8
Mr. Webster, in an argument before the Supreme Court of the United States, quotes and applies the words of Virgil describing these opposite perils, and warns against Charybdis. The great orator of ancient Rome, in his second Philippic, where Mark Antony is assailed with all his splendid ability, after picturing the culprit as seizing and squandering an enormous property, exclaims: "What Charybdis was ever so voracious? Charybdis do I say?—who, if she existed at all, was a single animal." Antony is worse than Charybdis, but there is no allusion to the sister peril. The proverb had no existence at that time.
The history of this verse seemed for a while forgotten. Like the Wandering Jew, it was a vagrant, unknown in origin, but having perpetual life. Erasmus, with learn
1 "Mais le malheur de la dame fut que, tumbant de Scylle en Carybde," etc.-Vies des Dames Illustres, Discours VI. art. 2: Œuvres (Paris, 182223), Tom. V. p. 201.
2 La Vieille et les Deux Servantes: Fables, Liv. V. 6.
8 Liberty, Part IV. 1075, 1076.
4 Argument in the Rhode Island Case, January 27, 1848: Works, Vol.
VI. p. 242.
546 Quæ Charybdis tam vorax? Charybdin dico? quæ, si fuit, fuit animal unum." — - Philippica II. c. 27. See, also, In Verrem Act. II. Lib. V. c. 56; De Oratore, Lib. III. c. 41.
ing so vast, quotes it, with the variation Incidit, for Incidis, in his great work on Proverbs, and owns that he does not remember its author. Here is the confession: "Celebratur apud Latinos hic versiculus, quocunque natus auctore, nam in præsentia non occurrit": "This little verse is a commonplace among Latin writers, whoever the author, for he does not at present occur to me." But, though unable to recall its origin, it is clear that the idea it embodies found much favor with this representative of moderation. He dwells on it with particular sympathy, and reproduces it in various forms. This is the equivalent on which he hangs his commentary: "Evitata Charybdi, in Scyllam incidi."2 It is easy to see how inferior. in form is this to the much quoted verse. It seems to be a rendering of some Greek iambics, also of uncertain origin, preserved by Apostolius,3 one of the learned Greeks scattered over Europe by the fall of Constantinople. Erasmus quotes also another proverb with the same signification: "Fumum fugiens, in ignem incidi," which warns against running into the fire to avoid the smoke; and yet another, rendered from the Greek of Lucian: "Ignoraveram autem quod, juxta proverbium, ex fumo in ipsum ignem compellerer": “But I did n't know, that, according to the proverb, I should be driven from the smoke into the fire itself."5 Horace teaches that fools shunning vices run upon the opposite:
"Dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt";
1 Adagia, Chil. I. Cent. V. Prov. 4: Opera (Lugd. Batav., 1703), Tom. II. col. 184.
2 Ibid., col. 183.
3 Cent. XVI. Prov. 49: Leutsch, Paromiographi Græci (Gottinga, 1851). Tom. II. p. 672.
4 Adagia, Chil. I. Cent. V. Prov. 5: Opera, Tom. II. col. 184.
5 Ibid. Lucian, Necyomant., 4.
and then he describes one man as smelling of pastils, and another of the goat:
"Pastillos Rufillus olet, Gorgonius hircum." 1
Erasmus quotes words of kindred sentiment from the Phormio" of Terence: "Ita fugias, ne præter casam": which he tells us means that we should not so fly from any vice as to be incautiously carried into a greater.2 In his letters the ancient fable recurs more than once. On one occasion he warns against the dangers of youth, and says, "Instead of the ears with wax, as in the Homeric story, the mind must be carefully sealed by the precepts of Philosophy." 3 Again he avows fear, lest, shunning Scylla,' he fall on a much worse Charybdis: "Nunc vereor ne sic vitemus hanc Scyllam, ut incidamus in Charybdim multo perniciosiorem." And the same fear appears yet again, where he describes his straits: "In has angustias protrusus sum, ut mihi, si Scyllam fugero, in Charybdim sit incidendum.” 5 On another occasion he pictures himself as exposed in his expenses to the most voracious Charybdises: "Ex his conjecturam facias licebit, quemadmodum hic dilabantur nummi, ubi nihil non meo sumptu geritur, et est mihi res cum duabus Charybdibus voracissimis." 6 The following is cited by Jortin from another letter of Erasmus: "Some say slanderously that I keep a mediI confess it is a very impious thing to keep a
1 Satiræ, I. ii. 24, 27.
2 Adagia, Chil. I. Cent. V. Prov. 3: Opera, Tom. II. col. 182. Terent., Phormio, 767.
3 Epist. MCCLXI., Joanni Vergara, Nov. 19, 1533: Opera, Tom. III. col.
4 Epist DLXXIV., Gulielmo Waramo, Archiepiscopo Cantuariensi, Maii 24, 1521: Ibid., col. 645.
5 Epist. XIII., Joanni Sixtino Frisio, Oxoniæ, Oct. 28, 1497: Ibid., col. 11. 6 Epist. CLXV., Rogerio Wentfordo, 1514: Ibid., col. 141.
medium between Christ and Belial; but I think it prudential to keep a medium between Scylla and Charybdis." Thus did his instinctive prudence find expression in this favorite illustration.
If Erasmus were less illustrious for learning, perhaps if his countenance were less interesting, as we look upon it in the immortal portraits by two great artists, Hans Holbein and Albert Dürer, I should not be tempted to dwell on this confession of ignorance. And yet it belongs to the history of this verse, which has had strange ups and downs. The poem from which it is taken, after enjoying early renown, was forgotten, and then again, after a revival, was forgotten, again to enjoy another revival. The last time it was revived through this solitary verse, without which, I cannot doubt, it would have expired forever.
Even before the days of Erasmus, who died in 1536, this verse had been lost and found. It was circulated as a proverb of unknown origin, when Galeotto Marzioan Italian of infinite wit and learning2 who flourished in the latter half of the fifteenth century, and was for some time instructor of the children of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary - pointed out its author. In a work of Ana, amusing and instructive, entitled "De Doctrina Promiscua," which first saw the light in Latin, and was afterwards translated into Italian, the learned author says: "Hoc carmen est Gualteri Galli de Gestis Alexandri, et non vagum proverbium, ut quidam non omnino indocti meminerunt.” It was not a vague proverb, as some persons not altogether unlearned have
1 Jortin's Life of Erasmus (London, 1808), Vol. II.
2 For a glimpse of this interesting character, see Tiraboschi, Storia della Letteratura Italiana (Modena, 1787-94), Tom. VI. pp. 384-393; Michaud, Biographie Universelle, nom. GALEOTTO (MARZIO).
supposed, but a verse of the "Alexandreïs." And yet shortly afterwards the great master of proverbs, whose learning seemed to know no bounds, could not fix its origin. At a later day, Pasquier, in his "Recherches de la France," made substantially the same remark as Marzio. After alluding to the early fame of its author, he says: "C'est luy dans les œuvres duquel nous trouvons un vers souvent par nous allegué, sans que plusieurs sçachent qui en fut l'auteur." In quoting the verse, the French author uses Decidit instead of Incidis. discovery by Marzio, and the repetition of this discovery by Pasquier, are chronicled at a later day in the Conversations of Ménage,2 who found a French Boswell before that of Dr. Johnson was born. Jortin, in the elaborate notes to his Life of Erasmus, borrows from Ménage, and gives the same history.3
When Galeotto Marzio made his discovery, the poem was still in manuscript; but there were printed editions before the "Adagia" of Erasmus. An eminent authority the "Histoire Littéraire de la France," that great work, commenced by the Benedictines, and continued by the French Academy - says that it was printed for the first time at Strasbourg, in 1513.4 This is a mistake which has been repeated by Warton.5 Brunet, in his "Manuel du Libraire," mentions an edition, without place or date, with the cipher of Guillaume Le Talleur, a printer at Rouen in 1487.6 Panzer, in his "Annales Typographici," describes another edition, with the mon
1 Liv. III. ch. 29: Œuvres (Amsterdam, 1723), Tom. I. col. 276.
2 Menagiana (Paris, 1715), Tom. I. p. 174.
8 Vol. II. p. 285.
4 Tom. XV. p. 117.
5 History of English Poetry (London, 1824), Vol. I. p. clxvii, note.
6 Tom. II. col. 1470, 5me édit.