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Dutch proverbs and ancient sources in Erasmus's 'Praise of Folly.'

CLARENCE NULER, the learned editor and commentator of Erasmus's Praise of Folly, made a challenging remark in a recent issue of Renaissance Quarterly. In discussing a collection of essays on the Moria and the Colloquies, he observes in conclusion that it is "very difficult to say much that is both new and true" about Erasmus's satire.(1) With a view to the flood of secondary literature on the subject, his observation seems quite to the point.

I shall illustrate a number of basic textual ingredients in the Moria whose origin has escaped the attention of Erasmus specialists, namely, Dutch proverbs and expressions. More than once it is Folly herself that suggests she is going to quote from the vernacular. In some cases a passage in other works of Erasmus provides a clue. The proverbs concerned can be easily identified through Harrebomee's dictionary of Dutch proverbs. Besides supplementing Miller's commentary, this essay aims at drawing attention to a neglected aspect of Erasmus's writings, namely the impact of his native language. The first part of this study is followed by an intermezzo, showing that one passage in the Moria is reminiscent of a poem by Poliziano. The final part deals with a number of passages where a classical source has not been recognized.


In her prologue, Folly reacts against the criticism that it is stupid to extol oneself In doing so, she refers to "that common vernacular proverb |He is right in praising himself who has no one else to praise him.' " (2) Gerard Lister (Listrius), Folly's earliest commentator, remarks here: "Sic enim iocantur vulgo, cum quis de se praedicat arrogantius, vt dicant: Malos habet vicinos et ob id cogitur se laudare." In other words, Lister has translated the Dutch proverb "Hij' moet geene goede buren hebben, want hij prijst zich zelven" ("He has no good neighbors, obviously, for he praises himself").(3) However, the actual proverb quoted by Folly is slightly different, namely, "Hij prijst zich zelven te regt, die anders geen' prijzer heeft" ("He is right in praising himself, who has no one else that praises him").(4) Accordingly, the earliest Dutch translation of the Moria (produced by the Fleming Geillyaert in 1560) reads, "dat gemeyn spreekwoort, waermede men seyt dat die hemseluen met rechte prijst, die anders gheenen prijser en heeft."(5) Folly twists the meaning of the proverb by ignoring that it was meant to mock those who (wrongly) praise themselves.

Folly also deploys an array of arguments to demonstrate the blessing of her omnipresence. One paragraph must be quoted in full:

These arguments are also confirmed by the authority (not to be taken

lightly) of the common proverb which asserts that only foolishness preserves

youth, otherwise so evanescent, and keeps harsh old age at bay. Not

without reason do people bandy about the vernacular saying that, whereas

other men usually grow wiser with age, the Brabanters grow more and

more foolish the older they get. But in fact, there is no people so jolly in

social life or so little affected by the gloom of old age. Close to the Brabanters

not only in geographical location but also in their way of life are

those Dutchmen of mine -- and why shouldn't I call them mine, since they

promote my cult so eagerly that they have earned thereby a widely used

epithet. And so far are they from being ashamed of their label that they

boast of it as their chief claim to fame.(6) This section is a montage of the following elements: two Dutch proverbs, an adage of ancient origin, and a stereotype concerning the Hollanders. First, Folly quotes and expands "De zotheid is het eenige ding dat de jongheid vertraagt en de oudheid verjaagt" ("Folly is the only thing that delays youth and dispels old age").(7) To confirm this truth, she then advances and elaborates a second proverb, namely "Hoe ouder, hoe zotter Brabander" ("The older a Brabanter gets, the more foolish he is").(8) In contrasting the Brabanters with the rest of the human race, she adapts Erasmus's adage "Aetate prudentiores reddimur" ("Wisdom comes with age," no. 2857)--a truth which does not apply to the Brabanters, who become more foolish with age. This people, she recalls, is indeed particularly jolly and jovial (the reference is to the Brabantine gezelligheid) as well as insensitive to the gloom of old age. The Brabanters, she goes on to say, share these characteristics with the Dutch.(9) This association may be inspired by the proverb "Hoe ouder, hoe botter Hollander" ("The older a Dutchman gets, the more obtuse he is"). At any rate, when Folly refers affectionately to "her" Hollanders, she alludes to the ethnic epithet bot. This adjective, which covers the entire semantic range of "blunt, dull-witted, stupid, silly, gullible," was in fact commonly applied to the Dutch. When Folly boasts that her Hollanders themselves take pride in their nickname, she is ironical, of course. The Dutch used to be mocked as "bot" by their neighbors, the Brabanters, who despised them for their lack of culture and elegance. On the other hand, even Dutch authors such as Visscher, Hooft, and Bredero used the epithet, though from the perspective of Brabanters.(10) Alaard of Amsterdam, a friend and correspondent of Erasmus, refers to it in a letter of 1516: "We Batavians may be |bot' (obtusa); however, what Nature has lavished on other peoples has not been entirely denied to us."(11) Erasmus himself, frustrated through the cultural backwardness of his countrymen, repeatedly called them crass and dull.(12) His feelings of contempt may well have prompted his idea about the etymology of the adjective "bot," which he seriously suspected to descend directly from the Greek form Boiotos, a name notoriously connected with stupidity.(13) Another Dutchman, the historiographer Hadrianus Junius, earnestly blamed the thick and foggy air of Holland for the proverbial stupidity of his countrymen.(14)

In short, this section of Folly's speech is largely based on vernacular lore. Despite this, her commentators have recorded only the proverb on the Brabanters and that on the Dutch. Lister, a close collaborator of Erasmus, seeks to appease those readers who might feel offended by Folly's remarks.(15) On this point, it is worth considering the earliest German translation of the Moria, which was made by Sebastian Franck (1534). This translation includes Lister's commentary, or at least parts of it. Lister's notes concerning the Brabanters and the Dutch are summarized in the following way 25-26): "Brabander seindt alle zeit frolich, daher ein sprichwort von in kompt: Brabander ihe alter ihe narreter" ("The Brabanters are always cheerful. Hence the proverb |The older a Brabanter gets, the more foolish he is' "). "Hollander ein fein einhellig volk, von wegen der ungeferbten sitten |narren' genennt schimpflich weiss" "The Hollanders are a fine and united people. On account of their unfeigned manners they are mockingly called |fools' "). In addition to this, Franck notes: "Holland, dolland" ("Holland, country of fools."). He suggests, apparently, that "dolland" is the epithet regarding the Dutch that Folly (and Lister) had in mind.

And what about the earliest Dutch translation of the Moria? Interestingly, in adapting Lister's commentary Geillyaert follows closely the model of Franck.(16) Geillyaert's marginal note on the Brabanters (fol. 22) is nearly identical to that of Franck: "De Brabanters, dat alder vriendelicste volc, zijn altijts vrolick. Waer uut dat ghemeyn spreeckwoort coemt: De Brabander hoe ouder hoe sotter." Les note on the Dutch depends rather on Lister's original: "Hollanders worden om hare eenvoudicheyt ende ongeveynsde manieren mal ghenoemt op schimpsche wijse" ("The Hollanders are mockingly called foolish on account of their simplicity and unfeigned manners"). To this he adds the expression given by Franck, namely, "Hollant dollant."

While the early translations of the Moria and of Lister's commentary are valuable documents in terms of Erasmus's reception during the sixteenth century, they also bear directly upon our interpretation of his intentions. In the case under discussion, Franck's suggestion--adopted by Geillyaert--that "dolland" is the epithet of the Dutch which Folly and Lister allude to is at variance with the view which I presented above, namely that the reference is to the nickname "bot." Unable to find other early sources quoting "Holland dolland," I assume that the expression was hardly in use. I am therefore inclined to reject the suggestion advanced by the early translators on this point.

A final observation remains to be made regarding the section at hand. I have observed above (353) that the clause "other people usually grow wiser with age" represents Erasmus's adage "Aetate prudentiores reddimur." In Adagiorum chiliades (no. 2857, ASD 2, 6), he had prefixed this as a motto to a passage in the Odyssey which he recommended for proverbial use, namely the words that Odysseus's son addresses to the suitors of his mother: "But now that I am grown, I gain knowledge by hearing the words of others."(17)

Folly claims for herself not only the Brabanters and the Dutch but also women in general. Celebrating the innate foolishness of womankind in a virtuoso display of borrowings from biblical and, above all, classical literature, Folly argues that any woman who seeks to be considered as wise, will merely become "twice foolish, since wisdom is incongruous and unnatural for womankind. Thereby, without saying so, she quotes a Dutch proverb, namely, "Eene wijze vrouw is tweewerf zot."(18) Using similar wordings, Geillyaert notes in the margin of his translation (fol. 28): "Een wijf dat wijs wil zijn is dobbel sot." The proverb is also found in the Colloquies, as Miller notes, namely, in the dispute between the learned lady and the ignorant abbot, in which the latter objects, "I have often heard the common saying |A wise woman is twice foolish.' "(19) Lady Magdalia retorts: "That saying is common indeed, but it is used only by blockheads [stultis]." The abbot's next objection, by which he wittily compares women to cattle, echoes another argument used by Folly.(20) It goes without saying that Magdalia, who resembles More's learned daughter Margaret, expresses Erasmus's own opinion on wisdom and women, whereas the stupid abbot as well as Folly contradict their creator.

What about wise men? According to Folly, the idea that a state is happy if governed by a philosopher is absurd. Statesman-philosophers are unlucky in everything, above all in producing children: "Solet hoc hominum genus, qui se sapientiae studio dediderunt, cum caeteris in rebus, tum praecipue in liberis propagandis infelicissimum esse, prouidente, opinor, Natura ne malum hoc sapientiae inter mortales latius serpat" (100, 509-12). Folly here expands the Dutch proverb "Wijse luijden dwase kinderen" ("Wise guys have foolish children"), which was also quoted as "Van wijze ouders komen wel zotte kinderen voort" ("Wise parents sometimes produce foolish children"). Erasmus quotes it in the Adagia too, where he terms it a vernacular joke: "Manet et hodie vulgatus iocus |Ex sapientissimis patribus stultissimos propagari liberos.'"(21) He repeats it, without giving any source, in the Parabolae.(22) Geillyaert quotes the shorter version of the proverb, noting in the margin of his translation (fol. 37): "Wijse lieden, sotte kinderen."

Folly expects her audience to forget much of what she asserts (she hates people who remember), for she insists in a later section that Fortune loves the stupid: "Amat Fortuna parum cordatos."(23) Perhaps, this is merely a paraphrase of the medieval proverb "Fortuna favet fatuis."(24) On the other hand, it is hard not to think of its (modern) Dutch equivalent "Het geluk is met de dommen." Even though it is not found in Harrebomee's dictionary, the possibility that it was in use already in Erasmus's times cannot be ruled out.(25) Lister refers, on account of the preceding paragraph, to a vernacular proverb of the same meaning. After he has quoted the proverb "Fortuna stultis fauet," he illustrates it by the sayig "Hoe zotter, hoe gelukkiger" ("The more foolish, the more fortunate").(26)

At one point, Folly quotes a vernacular and an ancient expression in the same breath. Husbands who are deceived by their adulterous wives, she observes, are mostly unaware of it. "People make fun of such a fool, they call him names like cuckold": "Ridetur, cuculus, curruca, et quid non vocatur" (94, 421-22). She here combines the vernacular Dutch expression koekoek (cuculus) with the word "curruca" taken from the ancient satirist Juvenal.(27) That "cuculus" refers to a contemporary vernacular expression is dear from a section in Collectanea adagiorum (first published in 1500) entitled "Curruca, cuculus" (no. 71). In discussing the latter word Erasmus contrasts the modem use of it with the ancient usage. More prebcisely, he makes the following point: in the vernacular "koekoek" (cuculus) is used to denote cuckolds, whereas in ancient Latin "curruca" is so used; in ancient Latin "cuculus" referred to adulterers: "Nostra tempestate cuculos vocat vulgus quorum vxores alii possident, verum Iuuenalis eiusmodi maritum currucam vocat ... Cuculum autem vocat Plautus adulterum maritum, tanquam qui oua sua in alienis nidis ponat" ("Nowadays, ordinary people call husbands whose wives are possessed by other men |cuckoos', but Juvenal calls such a husband a |curruca'. . . Plautus, for that matter, uses the word |cuculus' to denote adulterers, since the cuckoo lays her eggs in the nests of other birds").(28) Hence it appears that "cuculus" used in the sense of "cuckold" (as is the case in the Moria) is of vernacular origin. Erasmus makes the same distinction between the modem and ancient use of the "cuckoo" expression again, though less sharply, in an adage of later date (Adagia 3484 "Cuculus"), saying: "The word for cuckoo [cuculus] is in use among a number of peoples today [apud quasdam nationes et hodie] to denote husbands who do not watch their own wives." As regards the ancient Romans on the other hand, he reiterates that they used "cuculus" as a word of abuse for adulterers: "Ohm, qui fuissent in re quapiam parum honesta deprehensi, vulgari probro cucuh dicebantur" ("In antiquity, one used to reproach men who were caught in some indecent affair by calling them |cuckoos'"). In another adage of later date he again calls attention to the modem use: "Hodie parum viri et ob hoc vxores cum aliis habentes communes, vulgo cuculi vocantur" ("Nowadays unmanly husbands who share their wives with other men are called cuckoos in the vernacular").(29) In his note on "cuculus" as used by Folly, Lister has adopted Erasmus's distinction.(30)

Students of the Dutch language may find it interesting that whereas Renaissance authors such as Constantijn Huygens use "koeckoeck" alternately in the sense of cuckold and adulterer, Erasmus was evidently unfamiliar with the latter use in his mother tongue.(31) (Had he known it, he would have certainly brought it up in his discussions about the word "cuculus.")

Erasmus makes it clear, at least in Adagia 3484, that he is referring to his native language and also to other vernaculars. Interestingly, his assistant Gilbert Cousin (Cognatus), a Frenchman, confirms in his own proverb collection that an inadvertent husband who leaves his wife to adulterous fellows is called a cuckoo in his native tongue.(32) In Cousin's expose one catches an echo of a conversation between him and his master.

In her broadside on monks, Folly ridicules the rigid and detailed rules to which they subject themselves in such matters as clothing. It is even prescribed "how many straws wide their cincture should be" (160, 541 "quot culmis latum cingulum"). "Culmum latum" is a phrase of Dutch origin, namely, een stroobreet, as Sartorius has it in his proverb collection (no. 465). Erasmus quotes it--from "the vernacular"--in his discussion of "latum vnguem" and similar hyperbolic expressions in the Adagia.(33) Geillyaert's translation of the Moria reads (fol. gov) "hoe veel stroyen de gordel moet breedt zijn."

Lastly, there is another passage in the Moria in which Dutch expressions have a part to play. In the final part of her oration Folly recalls that the true Christian flees from whatever is related to the body and is carried away in the pursuit of the invisible things of the spirit. This, she argues, is actually a sort of insanity (insania, furor). To prove her point, she refers to the Platonic notion of erotic ecstasy: a man in love, being enraptured and out of his wits, is in a state of madness.(34) She then confirms this by citing the evidence of colloquial phrases ("vulgo etiam dicunt"), namely, 1) "Non est apud se"; 2) "Ad te redi"; and 3) "Sibi redditus est" (192, 238-39). These and similar phrases are found in Terence and many other Latin authors. Yet, her use of their words "vulgo" and "etiam" (even, or even now) suggests that she refers to vernacular Dutch expressions as well. Which expressions? In this regard one may consider the phrases concerned as they are translated by Geillyaert (fol. 124), namely: 1) "Hy en is by hemseluen niet" ("He is beside himself"); 2) "Keert wederom tot u seluen" ("Come to your senses!"); and 3) "Hy is tot hemseluen wederghecomeri" ("He has come back to his senses"). One could object with good reason that Geillyaert quite simply translates literally the Latin original.(35) However, this is not true of the third expression. At any rate, Folly seeks to strengthen her point by citing phrases current in both Latin and the vernacular. Her rhetorical question "Alioqui quid sibi vult quod vulgo etiam dicunt" can be rendered in two ways: "This, surely, is borne out by the fact that people say even in the vernacular [and not only in Latin]" or "that people commonly say even now.(36) The first interpretation is that given by Geillyaert, who translates (fol. 124): "Anders wat wil dat wesen dat sy oock int gemeyne seggen."

In addition to the proverbs recorded first by Lister, I have pointed out a number of Dutch expressions and at least four Dutch proverbs in the Moria. Therefore, it seems appropriate to advise Erasmus scholars to be prepared for borrowings from his mother tongue in his other works as well. I have already discussed a vernacular proverb in the Colloquies; many more have remained unnoticed in scholarly literature. In De contemptu mundi, as its modern editor has noted, the sentence "Concoloribus plumis aues vna volitant" is a translation of the proverb "Vogelen van eender veer vllgen gern tsamen" ("Birds of a feather flock together").(37) In Lingua "Vasa quae sunt inania plurimum sonare" is the proverb "Ledighe vaten clincken seer," or, in its modern version, "Holle vaten klinken het meest" ("Empty vessels make the most sound" .31, In the Adagia the presence of the vernacular is particularly strong, as Suringar has demonstrated. In this compilation of ancient lore Erasmus quotes over 250 Dutch proverbs and expressions with a deliberate purpose, namely, to illustrate or clarify a given ancient proverb or to point out that it lives on in his own day. A characteristic example, which has escaped scholarly attention, is found in his explanation of "A sardonic luagh." He illustrates the ancient etymology of this expression (five unconvertible Greek Characters) i.e., part the lips and show the closed teeth, as people may do when laughing bitterly or sneeringly) by referring to the habit of horses who uncover their teeth when they are going to bite. Erasmus, though often enough on horseback himself, does not rely here on personal experience. Rather, he has in mind the Dutch proverb "Hy lacht als een peert dat bijten wil" ("He laughs like a horse that wants to bite"). We also learn from his comment that een paardelach (a horse laugh) was in use as a current expression.(39) In addition to the vernacular, Erasmus occasionally draws on current beliefs in the Low Countries concerning health and the human body. In De pueris instituendis he brings to mind that when struck in the face by some object, an expectant mother immediately plucks it away and transfers it to a less obvious, hidden part of the body. By doing so, the inevitable deformation of her child is transferred from its face to a different part of its body. From the context it is dear that Erasmus himself shared this widely held belief, which has it that a pregnant woman must not be frightened by any object or living being since the evil impression is transmitted to the foetus.(40) Even though Erasmus's attention is focused predominantly on the ancient world and early Christianity, memories and associations connected with the Low Countries crop up in many of his works.(41) To be able to catch and follow up borrowings and echoes from his native language, a familiarity with Dutch is indispensable. (The case seems obvious enough. No one would interpret the Latin works of More or Poliziano without paying attention to their mother tongues.

The total number of Dutch proverbs in the Moria is insignificant when compared with the mass of proverbs taken from classical and biblical writings.(42) On the other hand, Folly employs Dutch proverbs with the same validity (and sophistry) and the same purpose as classical adages -- as evidence of truth. Whereas to Folly, and to Erasmus, a classical adage is authoritative as being an expression of the ancients, a vernacular proverb derives its evidential value from being shared by the speech-making community of his own day, illiterate people included. (Of course, the value of a vernacular saying is increased when it can be traced back to a given ancient adage. In the Adagia Erasmus makes such identifications many times and, by modem standards, rather naively.)(43)

To us, the sheer bulk of proverbs put to use in the Moria may seem excessive. As a matter of fact, Folly is deliberately excessive in at least one passage, in which she levels eight adages in seven consecutive lines, interrupted by a declaration that she will stop citing proverbs so as to avoid any suspicion of having plagiarized the Adagia of "her" Erasmus (176, 863-69). Presumably, the uneasiness that modem readers may feel is due to intellectual skepticism concerning the persuasive value of proverbs, which one tends to mistrust and dismiss as gratuitous, moralizing cliches. We are inclined to subject ancient and biblical thought to critical reflection rather than readily embrace it. But Erasmus lived in an age fond of maxims--aphorisms, paradoxes, mottoes (imprese, devises), similes, apothegms, adages, and more--an age which saw the rise of the emblem mania. Because of their often enigmatic character, proverbs appealed to the imagination and to a widespread enthusiasm for arcane lore. Erasmus cherished them as "jewels," as vehicles of self-evident truth and time-honored wisdom. They invited meditation and were to be applied on various occasions. Their meaning could even be manipulated and twisted for such purposes as banter and satire.(44) In terms of rhetorical invention, he drew on proverbial lore for arguments in building up Folly's declamatio, exploiting the persuasive power of adages to prove her point. In terms of elocution, he studded her speech with a dazzling variety of proverbs so as to make it sparkling and witty. In doing so, he put into practice his own views on the relevance and usefulness of proverbs as set out in the introduction to the Adagia (ASD2, 1:60-65).


There is a long forgotten connection between a passage in the Moria and a poem by Poliziano, whose style Erasmus admired so highly. In the passage concerned, Folly flouts the mendicant friars who "advertise and exploit their squalor and beggary, bawling out their demands for bread from door to door" (160, 533-34). Regarding "sordes ac mendacitatem magno vendunt" Lister made the following comment: "|Vendunt' dixit pro |ostentant.' Ita Politianus: |vultuque tristes vendunt sanctimonias.' Simulant enim nonnulli sordes, ut plus acciplant a mullerculis." Erasmus (who had a hand in the compilation of Lister's commentary) quotes the same line of Poliziano in Adagia 3618 ("Coriaceum auxilium"), leaving his source unmentioned. In the adage, too, he aims at the mendicant friars.

I found Poliziano's line in a prologue which he had composed for a comedy by Plautus to be presented by students in Florence. In the spirit of the ancient Roman playwrights, he attacks hypocrites who condemn comedies. More precisely, his target is the friars, the popular preachers of his day:

Hi sunt praecipue quidam clamosi, leves,

cucullati, lignipedes, cincti funibus,

superciliosum incurvicervicum pecus,

qui, quod ab aliis habitu et cultu dissentiunt

tristesque vultu vendunt sanctimonias,

censuram sibi quandam et tyrannidem occupant

pavidamque plebem territant minaciis.(45) ("Above all some irresponsible bigmouths with cowls on, with wooden sandals, and ropes around their waist, those haughty animals with bowed necks. Deviant from others in outer appearance, with gloomy faces, they hold their pious manners up for sale. Hence, they claim for themselves the right to censure and bully people, terrorizing the fearful crowd.")

Poliziano's line and Folly's sentence have only one word in common. It is due to Lister's reference that we are able to catch the echo of Poliziano's poem in Folly's censure of the mendicant friars. Folly has substituted "sordes ac mendacitatem" for Poliziano's "habitu et cultu" and "sanctimonias." Clearly, at least two lines of the Italian poet had stuck in Erasmus's mind.


A number of observations may be added concerning the classical source texts in the Moria, which make up the bulk of Miller's impressive and detailed commentary.

In one section Folly ridicules the philosophers by exposing their ineptness in everyday life (100, 515 -- 30). On the other hand, she derides rulers and noblemen by viewing them from the lofty perspective of the philosopher (104, 604-06, 615). Both passages are clearly inspired by Socrates' digression in the Theaetetus (173c-175b) on the unworldliness of the philosopher, who is a laughing stock to everyone. (The same digression underlies a section in Poliziano's Lamia [12, 26-13, 361, an oration with which Erasmus was familiar.) It is interesting to see how Erasmus varies his model according to his purpose: Socrates ultimately defends the philosopher by stressing that he alone perceives the essence of reality; Folly, by contrast, holds on to her conviction that the wiseman is a fool since it is truly wise to run with the herd.

The sneer "the philosopher is utterly useless to himself, to his country, and to his friends" (100, 523-24 "neque sibi neque patriae neque suis vsquam vsui esse potest") is an allusion to Cicero's tenet in De officiis (1, 7, 22) "non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis ... homines ... hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se allis alii prodesse possent" ("since ... we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold ... people are born for the sake of people, that they may be able to help one another"). Erasmus discusses the passage in Adagia 3581 ("Nemo sibi nascitur").

Another gibe at the philosophers, namely, "The Stoics maintain that they are closest to the gods" (80, 150 "Stoici se diis proximos autumant"), refers to Diogenes' saying "The gods are friends to the wise" (six unconvertible words in Greek Characters), which is recorded by Diogenes Laertius in the Lives of the Philosophers (6, 72). Erasmus translates "Deorum autem amici sunt sapientes" (Apophthegmata 3, Diogenes, 249). Diogenes used this "truth" to demonstrate that all things are the property of the wise.

According to Folly, everyone recoils from a man who, like the Stoics, is "completely deaf to all human emotions" (106, 638-39 "qui ad omnes naturae sensus obsurduerit"). The phrase echoes Gellius, Noctes Atticae 12, 1, 11 "in capessendis naturae sensibus tam obsurduit."

Stoic philosophers may be deaf to emotions, but in a previous section Folly asserts that wisemen are obsessed by shame and fear; both feelings prevent them from taking action and acquiring practical experience (104, 572-74, "Sunt enim duo praecipua ad cognitionem rerum parandam obstacula, pudor . . . et metus, qui ostenso penculo dehortatur ab adeundis facinoribus"). Folly's assertion, which is preceded by an explicit quotation from Homer, was spired (at least in part) by Ilias 15, 657-58 (five unconvertible words in Greek Characters). It is the subject of Adagia 2810 ("Pudor et metus," ASD 2, 6), where Erasmus translates: "Nam pudor atque metus vetuit." It may be used, he says, when refraining from some action which seems both dishonorable and dangerous.

Philosophers, Folly observes, claim to know everything, but they do not know themselves (144, 369-70, "cum nihil omnino sciant, tamen omnia se scire profitentur, cumque seipsos ignorent"). In other words, they fail to comply with the precept of the Delphic oracle "Know thyself." Erasmus has recorded it in Adagia 595 ("Nosce teipsum"), in which he has gathered a great number of sources (from Plato, Cicero, Ovid, Juvenal, Diogenes Laertius, Macrobius, and Menander). He further condemns self-love as the capital vice from which all disasters in society originate.

Folly finds that university professors, too, are possessed by self-love (philautia). They do not even try to acquire true learning, since this would make them both more disgusting and timid; also, it would diminish their popularity (128, 56-58, "veram erudirionem ... reddituram et putidiorem et tiniidiorem ... multo paucibribus placituram"). In Adagia 292 (one unconvertible word in Greek Character), ASD 2, 1) Erasmus contrasts people filled with self-love with those who hate themselves. The latter are called "putiduli," he says, quoting Martial (4, 20, 4), that is, "a bit disgusting." Hence it appears that there is no reason to suspect the reading "putidiorem" in the Moria, as Miller does in his commentary.

In her incessant disparagement of reason and philosophy Folly also recalls that it was through the irrational force of music that Amphion and Orpheus brought primitive men together, "those boorish people born from stones and oaks" (100, 53I, "saxeos, quernos et agrestes illos homines"). "Quernos" is a later addition, included into the edition of 1522, as Miller notes. It was probably inspired by a line in the Odyssey (19, 163), in which the words "oak" and "stone" are used in connection with Odysseus: of) (nine unconvertible words in Greek characters). The line is the subject of Adagia 787 ("Ex quercubus ac saixs nati") and rendered there by "Nam neque fatidica quercu satus es neque saxo" ("For you are not sprung from an oracular oak, or from a stone"). The phrase "born from oaks and stones, " Erasmus says, may be applied to a person of obscure origin and also to boorish or wild fellows. He also recalls the creation story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, in which stones turned into human beings (Ovid, Metamorphoses 1, 395-413).(46A) At the same time, Folly alludes to the power of Orpheus and Amphion to move stones and trees by their music, as Miller notes. Thus, a complex pattern of allusions underlies this short passage.

In the same paragraph Folly brings to mind how the general Sertorius once managed to prevail upon his stupid troops--not through arguments but by means of a silly device, which involved the plucking of hairs from the tail of a horse (100, 538-39, "de vellendis equinae caudae pilis ridendum . . . commentum"). Folly is certainly referring to Plutarch's story in his Sertorius (16, 576a-b), as Lister and Miller observe. But her words are taken from Horace, who alludes to the same anecdote in Epistulae 2, 1, 45 f: "Caudaeque pilos ut equinae paulatim vello" ("Like hairs in a horse's tail, first one and then another I pluck"). Erasmus quotes these lines in Adagia 795, giving the following explanation: "Caudae pilos equinae paulatim vellit qui quod viribus atque impetu fieri nequit, id tempore atque assiduitate conficit. " He also recounts the story from Plutarch.(47)

The time-honored topos "Life is but a play" (104, 599, "Mortalium vita omnis quid aliud est quam fabula quaepiam") is reminiscent in the first place of Seneca's maxim "Quomodo fabula, sic vita" (Epistulae 9, 77,20), which Erasmus quotes in his Parabolae (ASD 1, 5:220, 959).

"This life is nothing but a sort of death" (104, 608-09 "Cum alloqui vita haec nihil aliud sit quam mors quaedam"), said in connection with a man who mourns the death of a relative, is reminiscent of Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes 1, 31, 75, "Nam haec quidem vita mors est, quam lamentari possem" ("For this life is death, and I could bemoan it if I would"). Folly seems to know parts of these dialogues by heart. When she pretends to adhere to the "stupid and widely acclaimed" scholastic theologians "with whom most scholars would rather go wrong, by Zeus, than share correct views with those humanist theologians" (182,985-87, cum quibus magna pars doctorum errare (three uncorvertible words in Greek characters) malit quam cum istis trilinguibus bene sentire"), she again uses wordings from the Tusculanae (1, 17, 39): "Errare mehercule malo cum Platone ... quam cum istis vera sentire. " It is amusing that the speaker in Cicero's dialogue defends Plato, whereas Folly defends the scholastic theologians. Her target is the troublesome humanists such as Erasmus who subvert traditional interpretations of the New Testament through their knowledge of Greek. That Folly herself should use Greek in this connection ((three unconvertible words in Greek characters); her model has "mehercule" is surprising, but it is only one of the many inconsistencies that she likes to indulge in.

"In Homer," she observes, "Nestor's speech flows from his mouth sweeter than honey" (82, 220, "Apud Homerum e Nestoris ore fluit oratio melle dulcior"). Here Miller refers to the Ilias (1, 249) and Otto (no. 1224). The Homeric expression is also quoted by Cicero, De senectute 10, 31 ("Ut ait Homerus, 'ex eius lingua melle dulcior fluebat oratio' ") and Quintilian, 12, 10, 64 ("Homerus ex ore Nestoris dixit dulciorem melle profluere sermonem").(48)

When Folly is about to disclose a startling truth, namely, that no one can reach wisdom except through her, she exclaims, "Immortal gods, should I speak or be silent?" (106, 620, "Eloquarne an sileam?"). She here repeats words spoken by Aeneas on the verge of recounting a horrific story (Vergil, Aen. 3, 39).

The expression "operam et impensam (ludere)" ("to waste one's effort and money, " 126, 1006) is reminiscent of a story about a crow which, having been taught to imitate the human voice, said: "Opera et impensa periit. " Erasmus recounts the story (from Macrobius, Saturnalia 2, 4, 29-30) in Adagia 362 ("Oleum et operam perdidi, " ASD 2, 1).

Folly also argues that her fools are straightforward and, therefore, better men than the so called wisemen, for these hypocrites "hide one thing in their hearts and pretend another in their speech" (114, 832-35, "Horum est ... aliud conditum habere in pectore, aliud sermone fingere"). She here translates Achilles' words in the Ilias (9, 313), which are quoted by the sophist Hippias in a dispute with Socrates (Plato, Hipp. min. 365a-b): "Hateful to me is the man who hides one thing in his heart and says another" (nine ucorvertible words in Greek characters). There can be no doubt as to the source, for Erasmus himself quotes from Plato's dialogue in Adagia 2012 (ASD 2, 5) which has the telling title "Duplices viros " and the marginal rubric "Aliud in ore, aliud in corde."(49) Probably, the same Homeric verse underlies Folly's statement "Nec aliud fronte simulo, aliud in pectore premo" (74, 69), in which she also uses a line of Vergil, as Miller notes, namely Aeneis 1, 209 "Spem vultu simulat, premit altum corde dolorem" ("He feigns hope on his face, and deep in his heart stifles the anguish" . As we know from Poliziano's prose, this kind of conflation of diverse passages was a favorite process for the humanists and part of the writer's art.

In characterizing speech as the most reliable mirror of the mind (74, 68, "oratio, minime mendax animi speculum"), Folly uses an image which was central throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. (50) The expression was a favorite one for Erasmus. He uses it in the Ciceronianus to express his ideas on style. For his view that style should reflect the individual personality of the writer he cites Nature herself, "quae voluit orationem esse speculum animi. " The mirror is false when it fails to reflect the true image of the mind: "Mendax erit speculum, nisi natiuam mentis imaginem referat. "(51) In commenting upon the maxim "A man is known by his speech" ("Qualis vir, talis oratio, " Adag. 550), he insists likewise that every image of one's way oflife and every motion of one's soul is reflected in one s speech as if in a mirror: "Omne vitae simulacrum, omnis animi vis in oratione perinde vt in speculo repraesentatur ac vel intima pectoris arcanis quibusdam vertigiis deprehenduntur." For this reason, he goes on, Socrates urged Charmides to speak, so as to be able to see him and judge him from his speech: "Socrates apud Platonem iubet loqui Charmidem, vt eum videat, nimirum hominem ex oratione aestimaturus. " Apparently, the mirror metaphor is taken from the classics. In fact, in the Apophthegmata (3, Socrates, 70) Erasmus has recorded among the sayings of Socrates the following: "Quum dlues quidam filium adolescentulum ad Socratem misisset, vt indolem illius inspiceret, ac paedagogus diceret: 'Pater ad te, o Socrates, misit filium, vt eum videres,' tum Socrates ad puerum 'Loquere igitur' inquit 'adolescens, vt te videam,' significans ingenium hominis non tam in vultu relucere quam in oratione, quod hoc sit certissimum minimeque mendax animi speculum." Erasmus was fond of this story, which he also included into his treatise on the usage of the tongue (Lingua, ASD 4, 1A: 93): "In nobis animi speculum est oratio, vnde celebratur illud a Socrate dictum: 'Loquere, vt te videam.' Adductus erat adolescens elegante forma, vt ex aspectu colligeret indolem; at ille non videbat adolescentem donec taceret, quod non tam in vultu quam in oratione reluceat animus.

It is only in Adagia 15 54 (ASD 2, 4) that Erasmus gives the source of this anecdote, namely, Apuleius's Florida 2: "Socrates, qui cum decorum adulescentem et diutule tacentem conspicatus foret, 'ut te videam' inquit 'aliquid et loquere.' Scilicet Socrates tacentem hominem non videbat; etenim arbitrabatur homines non oculorum, sed mentis acie et animi obtutu considerandos. " In Apuleius's version there is no mention of "oratio " or "speculum. " Despite this, it has a part to play in the passage of the Moria under discussion, for there the word "obtutu" occurs in the very same sentence. There is another, fundamental, correspondence: both Folly and Socrates contrast the physical appearance of a person and his character, and both refer to speech as the feature that is most revealing of a person's character. There is also a striking difference. In Socrates' view, a person can be judged solely by reading his mind, that is, by listening to what he says. Folly, on the other hand, lays down this challenge: "You can clearly see at first glance who I am by my outer appearance, even if I would not say anything. " "Quanquam quid vel hoc opus erat dicere, quasi non ipso ex vultu fronteque, quod aiunt, satis quae sim prae me feram, aut quasi si quis me Mineruam aut Sophiam esse contendat, non statim solo possit obtutu coargui, etiam si nulla accedat oratio, minime mendax animi speculum" (74, 65-68). In contrasting Socrates 'view with the notion that the face, too, is revealing of one's character, Folly uses a Ciceroman commonplace ("ex vultu fronteque"), which Erasmus discussed in Adagia 1304 ("ex fronte perspicere").(46) In short, Folly is poking fun at the wise saying by Socrates and at Apuleius's comment. In the same spirit, she satirizes the father of philosophy in other parts of her speech (96, 477-98, 486; 180, 951f). Furthermore, she contradicts her creator, since Erasmus shares Socrates' view.(47) The belief that a person's character can be known and judged solely through his words, that is, his own words, is in fact characteristic of Erasmus. It determines his view that a writer should develop his own style, which is one of his motives in i 528 for attacking the Italian idolaters of Cicero who sought to impose his oeuvre as sole model of style.(48)

Folly certainly reacts to Apuleius's story on Socrates, but we have not found yet the source of her expression "oratio, minime mendax amnimi speculum." Here different passages have played a part, for example, Terence, Heautontimorumenos 384-85: "Nam mihi quale ingenium haberes fuit indicio oratio: et quom egomet nunc mecum in animo vitam tuam considero . . . " ("Your speech has let me into your character. When I reflect on your way of life..."). In his Parabolae (ASD 1, 5: 302) Erasmus elaborates a famous maxim from Pliny (Naturalis historia 11, 271) into the following simile: "E voce agnoscimus hominem, facie non conspecta, nam sua cuique vox: ita ex oratione licet hominis vitam coniectare" ("We recognize a person by his voice without seeing his face, for no two voices are the same; and similarly we can guess a person's way of life from his speech.") The mirror metaphor recurs frequently in patristic literature, as Bradley has shown. Ambrose recommends modesty in conduct, and also in speaking, since the mirror of the mind is mostly reflected in one's speech: "Speculum enim mentis plerumque in verbis refulget" (De officiis 1, 18, 67). In his Variae (5, 22, 3) Cassiodorus calls speech the mirror of one's character: "Est enim quoddam speculum morum agentis oratio nec maius potest mentis esse testimonium quam qualitas inspecta verborum. " Discussing the effects that emotions have on one's physical attitude, he refers to words as the mirror of the heart: "Speculum siquidem cordis hominum verba sunt" (6, 9, 4). Lastly, in Ovid's Tristia (3, 7, 37-38) one finds the collocation "speculum mendax": "Cumque aliquis dicet 'fuit haec formosa' dolebis, et speculum mendax esse querere tuum" ("And when someone will say 'She once was fair,' you will grieve and complain that your mirror lies").

The expression "vulcaniis vinculis . . . irretiri" (146, 392 "to get entangled in such inextricable chains as Vulcan forged") is taken from an entry in the Souda (two uncorvertible words in Greek Characters). It is the subject of Adagia 1772 ("Vulcanium vinculum, " ASD 2, 4). Erasmus (who always refers to the author of this Byzantine dictionary as Suidas) also quotes Homer's story on Vulcan, who enchained his wife along with Mars (Od. 8, 273f).

In her broadside on monks, Folly ridicules their punctiliousness in such trifles as clothing and tonsure. It is even laid down "how many pecks their hoods should hold and how many inches wide their haircut may be" (160, 541-42, "quot modiorum capax cuculla . .quot digitis latum capillitium"). In Adagia 1907 (ASD 2, 4) Erasmus makes it dear that the "pecks" expression, which denotes a huge quantity, is of Greek origin. He has found it in the Souda: (two unconvertible words in Greek Characters), which he translates "Modio demetiar" ("I shall measure by the peck" . The reference is to piles of money. He also suggests that the expression is applicable to someone hoping for an enormous benefit. (This is what mendicant friars do.) Folly uses it once more in the same section, in connection with monks who believe that they deserve eternal life by pouring forth a "hundred pecks of psalms" (162, 560-61, "Alius psalmorum centum effundet modios"; one may note the rhythmical pattern of the sentence, which seems to suggest the chanting of the monks). As regards the "inches" expression, it appears from Adagia 406 ("Latum vnguem, ac similes hyperbolae prouerbiales," ASD 2, 1) that Folly owes it to Plautus, Aulularia 56-57, "Si tu hercle ex isthoc loco digitum transuersum aut vnguem latum excesseris . . ." ("If you dare to move a finger's breadth, a nail's breadth from that spot ..."). The same line seems to underlie 168, 682, "nec latum digitum discedere." Some monks, Folly goes on to say, are so scrupulous that they will wear an outer garment which has to be made of hair (160, 547, "vt summa veste non nisi Cilicina vtantur"). The "Cilician garment" of the monks is wittily reminiscent of the shaggy soldier's cloak, made of hair, which Erasmus mentions in Adagia 2127 ("Cilicii imperatores," ASD 2, 5). In it he observes, quoting (incorrectly) from Diogenianos's proverb collection (5, 54): "Saga pilis contexta Cilicia vocantur." At the same time, the "Cilician garment" may recall phrases in the Vulgate and patristic literature.(55)

In concluding her invective against the monks and friars, Folly contrasts them with Paul and Antony: "While bullying the people with their petty observances and ridiculous nonsense and screaming and shouting, they think they are veritable Pauls or Antonys" (168, 672, "Paulos atque Antonios sese credunt"). The reference is to the hermits who lived in the Egyptian desert rather than to the apostle Paul and Saint Antony of Padua, as Miller holds. When Erasmus uses the names of Paul and Antony in combination, as he frequently does in other works, he refers to the Egyptian hermits, who exemplify the ascetic and spiritual life style.(56) In the Moria the intended contrast is between the vain observances and ostentatious way of preaching of the religious orders on one hand and the simplicity and silence as practiced by the hermits in the Egyptian desert on the other.

Folly hates hypocrisy, as may be dear from her statements discussed above. This does not prevent her from recommending the following "well-known saying" as a sound piece of advice: "When you miss any thing, pretend that you have it" (178, 891-92, "Vbi res abest, ibi simulationem esse optimam").(57) She seems to think here of lines in Euripides and Terence, as appears from Adagia 1067 ("Exigua res est ipsa iustitia"). In it Erasmus quotes Orestes 236, (seven unconvertible words in Greek Characters) The words are spoken by Orestes when his madness abates momentarily: "It is better to have the semblance [of being healthy], even if it falls short of reality." Erasmus translates: "Res ipsa vt absit, optima est opinio." He also quotes Terence, Adelphoe 733-34, "Si tibi istuc re ipsa non dolet, at simulare certe est hominis." ("If the thing doesn't really pain you, it is only natural at least to pretend that it does."

Some of Folly's arguments are puzzling, not to say crooked. Since everything is full of folly, it follows that folly is the best there is, for "who does not know that the more widespread any good thing is, the more excellent it is?" (178-902-03), "Quis enim ignorat vnumquodque bonum, quo latius patet, hoc esse praestantius?" The thought expressed in this rhetorical question appears also at the beginning of the Ethica Nicomacheia (1, 2, 8) where Aristotle contrasts the good of the individual and the good of the state. Probably, this is the original source of the maxim "bonum quo communius eo melius," which is given as a saying of unknown origin in The Macmillan Book of Proverbs (ed. B. Stevenson, referred to in Miller's commentary).

In addition to the sources identified by Miller and Screech, a few metaphors of classical origin in the final part of the Moria may be pointed out. In the hereafter, Folly says, man's spirit will absorb his body without any difficulty because it is at last "in its own kingdom as it were" (192, 242, "velut in suo regno est"). The phrase brings to mind the Christian concept of the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, it has a pagan connotation, as it is reminiscent of Cicero, De oratore 1, 10, 41, where the idea is expressed that every man is king in his own house. It is the subject of Adagia 648 ("In tuo regno"). Erasmus uses it in a vulgar context too: in explanation of the proverb "Every cock crows on his own dunghill" (Adagia 3325), he observes, "In alieno timidiores sumus omnes, in suo quisque regno ferocior est et animosior."

Folly goes on to celebrate the ecstasy that privileged Christians may experience as their minds are enraptured in the enjoyment of heavenly bliss. This, she argues, is a sort of madness. After they come to themselves, they do not remember what they heard or saw "except in a cloudy way, as if it were a dream" (194, 264-65, "non meminerunt nisi tanquam per nebulam ac somnium"). In this context it is possible, and even appropriate, to point out specific sources for these common metaphors. The "cloud" metaphor is reminiscent of Plautus (Pseudolus 463, Captivi 1024), Cicero (De finibus 5, 15, 43), and Plato (Leges 7, 788c), whereas the "dream" metaphor is reminiscent of Leges 800a. In fact, in the Adagia (263; ASD 2, 1) Erasmus quotes these passages as examples of "per nebulam recordari per somnium meminisse, per caliginem videre." More interesting, however, is his explanation of the origin of these expressions, for which he draws also on common experience: "Quae puelli vidimus, senes quasi per somnium recordamur, vix tenuibus quibusdam simulacris rerum inhaerentibus animo nostro, qualis est ferme vulgarium insomniorum memoria. Porro, quod per mediam nebulam intuemur, eius confusam duntaxat imaginem ac velut vmbram incertam aspicimus." ("What we saw as children, we recall as old men as if in a dream because flimsy images of those things cling to our minds--more or less like we remember ordinary dreams. Furthermore, when we gaze at something through an intervening mist, we see only a blurred image, like a wavering shadow.")(58)

Erasmus, who kept expanding the Adagia (and the minor collections of the Parabolae and Apophthegmata) as he worked himself through a huge body of ancient literature, intended them to serve as repertories of maxims, commonplaces, and metaphors. Students were to read, ruminate, and memorize these materials so as to become erudite and morally responsible persons. Furthermore, these collections were to be consulted in developing a given topic, in finding modes of expression and means for embellishment. As Folly's successive commentators have seen, the Adagia sheds light on numerous passages in the Moria. Erasmus's comments frequently enable us to identify the sources on which he drew for quotations, motifs, expressions, and metaphors. In many cases, they provide clues as to Folly's intentions and allusions. In the absence of evidence that either the learned daughter of Sir Thomas More or Erasmus's housekeeper ever consulted the Adagia, Lady Folly was in fact the first woman to take advantage of this work, and her efforts resulted in a classic best-seller. Folly's fame outshines by far that of Listrius, who utilized the Adagia in his turn, compiling the first commentary on her speech.

Let us turn, by way of conclusion, to Folly's prologue once more. "What could be more fitting," the lady remarks, "than that Folly herself should |blow her own horn'?" (72, 32-33, "Quid enim magis quadrat quam vt ipsa Moria suarum laudum sit buccinatrix et (three unconvertible words in Greek Characters). Miller's comment on this Greek proverb is clear enough. Yet one would expect at least a reference to Adagia 1486 ("Ipse semet canit"). There Erasmus gives the following explanation: "|Ipse suimet tibicen est', hoc est: ipse cuiusmodi sit, factis ipsis declarat. Tibicines enim olim laudes fortium virorum decantabant. Proinde, qui recte gestis sibi satis magnam gloriam comparat, quorsum huic necessum est conducere buccinatorem laudum suarum?" A meritorious person, says Erasmus, does not need to praise himself, doing so would be superfluous and silly--"cocky," he says in the same adage. Folly, by contrast, indulges in eulogizing herself, as befits the personification of foolishness. She herself, however, justifies her speech on different grounds: she claims to be right in praising herself since she knows herself better than anyone and there is no one else to praise her. Which has brought us back to the Dutch proverb discussed at the beginning.

"But," to quote Folly for the last time, "I will stop bringing up adages, lest I seem to have pillaged the commentaries of Erasmus." (1) Miller, 1991. (2) Moriae encomium, ed. Miller, ASD 4, 3: 74, 43-44: "Sequor tritum illud vulgi prouerbium, quo dicitur is recte laudare sese, cui nemo alius contigit laudator." (3) Harrebomee, Eerste Deel, 105. The same proverb is quoted by Erasmus himself in Adag. 1659 ("Teipsam laudas"), ASD 2, 4: 123, 842: "Vulgus dictitat malignos esse vicinos illi, qui ipse laudator sui fuerit." On Lister's commentary, which was frequently printed with the Moria (it appeared in 1515 for the first time), see Miller's introduction to the Moria, 34-36. Quotations from the commentary are from the Basel 1532 edition. On Lister's life, see also Spruyt. (4) Harrebomee, Tweede Deel, 200, no sources given. As the proverb is not found in Walther, there can be little doubt that Erasmus quotes from his mother tongue. (5) Fol. IIV. On this (Flemish) translation, see Bijl, 245-58; and, esp., Trapman, 308-15. (6) 84, 247-56: "Accedit ad haec vulgati prouerbii non leue testimonium, quo dictitant stulticiam vnam esse rem, quae et iuuentam alioqui fugacissimam remoretur et improbam senectam procul arceat. Vt non temere de Brabantis populari sermone iactatum sit, cum caeteris hominibus aetas prudentiam adferre soleat, hos quo propius ad senectam accedunt, hoc magis atque magis stultescere. Atqui hac gente non est aha vel ad communem vitae consuetudinem festiuior vel quae minus sentiat senectutis tristitiam. His quidem vt loco, ita et vitae instituto confines sunt Hollandi mei--cur enim non meos appellem vsqueadeo studiosos mei cultores, vt inde vulgo cognomen emeruerint? Cuius illos adeo non pudet, vt hinc vel praecipue sese iactitent." I have gratefully used Miller's translation (1979, 23) and adapted it. Two points may be noted: line 251 "atqui" = "but in fact." The particle does not introduce here a contradiction of the previous sentence but, rather, a confirmation. The same is true of "atqui" on 92, 372, line 252 "[ad] communem vitae consuetudinem [festiuior]" = "social intercourse"; see 94, 413 "viri foeminaeque . . . consuetudo;" 180, 916 "cum theologis consuetudine." The reference is to the Brabantine gezelligheid (conviviality); the Brabanters are known to bejovial, companiable. Marnix of St. Aldegonde, a native of Brussels, justifies his love for dancing (1577) by recalling that the Brabanters are made for "fun and conviviality" (letter no. 81, 146 "iocos ac festivitatem"). I owe this reference to Herman Roodenburg. (7) Harrebomee, Eerste Deel, 135, 365, no sources given. The proverb is not found in Walther. Geillyaert translates the passage in question as follows (fol. 22): "[A common proverb has it] dat de Sotheyt dat eenich dinck is, dat de ioncheit (die anders seer haestich door loopt) vertraecht, ende de onloflicke outheyt verre veriaecht." Vredeveld has attempted to show that Folly's source is Proverbs, 17:22 "Animus gaudens aetatem floridam facit, spiritus tristis exsiccat ossa." (8) Harrebomfe, Eerste Deel, 86; Bijlage, 143-44. The earliest source given is Gruterus, 2:149, who combines the proverb on the Brabanters with a similar one concerning the Dutch, namely, "Hoe ouder, hoe botter Hollander." ("The older a Hollander gets, the more obtuse he is.") These proverbs are not found in Walther, (9) The qualification "vitae instituto confines" may also refer mainly to "stultescere" in line 251. In fact, "stultus" means both zot (the nickname of the Brabanters) and bot (the label of the Dutch). (10) Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, s.v. bot, 689-90. See also Briels, 19-21. (11) Erasmus, Opus epistolarum, no. 485, 24-27 "Non obtus adeo gestamus corda Bataui... vt quod aliis promiscue datum, nobis quoque sit in totum denegatum." Allen rightly notes that the first words are taken from Vergil, Aen. 1, 567 "Non obtusa adeo gestamus pectora Poeni." (12) On Erasmus's aversion from the Dutch, see Wesseling, 1993, 73-75. (13) Adag. 906 ("Boeotica sus"): "Suspicor a Graecis ad nos dimanasse quod hominem stupidum ac nullo mentis acumine praeditum vulgo dicimus bot pro Boeoto." (14) Batavia, 219: "Hollandi stupidi audimus et crassae Minervae homines, quod minim aut novum videri non debet in iis qui in extremo Oceani ambitu ad Arcton expositi, crasso caliginosoque sub aere nati et educati simus." (15) "Nulla natio nec humanior nec melior quam Brabantorum, verum ob perpetuam hilaritatem, quam illis nec senecta adimit, dictum est hoc, ioco vulgari, prouerbium |Brabantus quo natu grandior, hoc stultior'." Concerning Erasmus's countrymen he observes: "Et haec laudatissima gens est, tamen ob ingenii simplicitatem et mores minime fucatos vulgo stulti vocantur, prouerbio iocoso." It is unclear whether Lister by "prouerbio iocoso" refers to the proverb "Hoe ouder Hollander hoe botter" or (more likely) to the epithet "bot." Miller quotes, in addition to Lister's comment, the saying "The longer thou livest, the more foole thou art," but this is hardly relevant. More to the point is his reference to the expression "as dull as a Dutchman." (16) See Trapman, 313-14, who has demonstrated that Geillyaert used Franck's work in translating the Moria. (17) Od. 2, 313-15. Erasmus's (literal) translation is as follows: "Eram adhuc puer, ast vbi iam sum / grandior, et reddit me aliorum oratio doctum / ipseque grandescit mi animus." One may note the difference in wording between the passage in Homer and Erasmus's motto "Aetate prudentiores reddimur." Erasmus may have had in mind Terence, Adelphoe 832 "Aetate sapimus rectius." ("We get wiser as we get older.") I owe this suggestion to Prof. Vredeveld. (18) 90, 336-38: "Quod si qua forte mulier sapiens haberi voluerit, ea nihil aliud egerit quam vt bis stulta sit, perinde quasi bouem aliquis ducat ad ceroma." The Dutch equivalent is found in Harrebomee, Tweede Deel, 420. The source given there is Gruterus, 3:143. The proverb is not found in Walther. (19) Colloquium abbatis et eruditae, A SD 1, 3:407, 133-34: "Frequenter audiui vulgo dici foeminam sapientem bis stultam esse." Even the editors of the Colloquia (ASD 1, 3) failed to identify the proverb. (20) The abbot states: "Quemadmodum clitellae non conueniunt boui, ita nec literae mulieri." Folly's simile, which is nearly identical, has been quoted above, n. 18. (21) Adag. 532 ("Heroum filii noxae"). The Dutch equivalents are found in, respectively, Sartorius, no. 595; and Gruterus, 1:123. See Harrebomde, Eerste Deel, 308 and 407; Suringar, no. 86. (22) ASD 1, 5:320, 615-17: "Ex sapientissimis parentibus stuitissimi plaerunque nascuntur filii." in his commentary Margolin refers vaguely to Plutarch. Mynors comes close: "No exact source of this has been identified. It recalls Adag. 532," but he fails to follow up Erasmus's reference to the vernacular (Collected Works of Erasmus, 23: 274). (23) 178, 868 "Amat Fortuna parum cordatos, amat audaciores. (24) Attested by Walther, rio. 9847c. The same proverb appears as a marginal rubric ("Stultis fortuna fauet") in a number of editions of the Moria approved by Erasmus. See Miller's critical apparatus at line 856. (25) The nearest proverb in Harrebomde is "Waar weinig verstand is, daar is veel geluk" (Eerste Deel, 227, no sources given). (26) "Hic [176, 861] Rhamnusiam ipsam dicit [Erasmus] Fortunam, quae stultis fauere dicitur, vnde vulgato prouerbio dicunt: Quo quisque est stuitior, hoc est fortunatior." Lister had in mind: 1. "Het geluk is met de dommen" or "Fortuna favet fatuis" (quoted by Miller from Walther, no. 9847c); and2. "Hoe zotter, hoe gelukidger" (Harrebomee, Eerste Deel, 227, no sources given). (27) Juvenal, Sat. 6, 276; the modem editions read "uruca" (caterpillar, "worm") instead of the corrupt form "cur(r)uca," which is not attested elsewhere in ancient Latin. (28) Berasmus quotes Plautw, Asin. 923 and 934. In discussing "curruca" he refers contemptuously to "nescio quis Vallensis," meaning Giorgio Valla, who published an edition of Juvenal and a commentary at Venice in 1486 (see Wessner, xx). (29) Adag. 3781 ("Herniosi, in campum"). See also Suringar, no. 48. (30)"Cuculus, curruca: sic vulgo [|in the vernacular'] vocant maritum vxoris parum pudicae, quamquam Plautus cuculum vocat maritum foris amantem aliam, quod haec auis oua ponat in nido alieno. Iuuenalis currucam vocat maritum vxoris parum castae, quod alienos alat pro suis. " After giving the lemma, Lister first explains "cuculus," distinguishin between modem and ancient use, and next "curruca." Geillyaert's translation of the Moria is rather curious on this point (fol. 32): "Men Spot metten cochuyt ende cucurra" ("One mocks the cuckold and the |cucurra'"). Apparently, he was at a loss concerning the meaning of "curruca." Franck translates (38): "Es wirt verspot der gut cuculman und schandtdecker." (31) In Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, 7: 4917-18, instances are given of koekoek both in the sense "adulterer" and "cuckold." It is argued that the latter use is of later date. Regrettably, the evidence given by Erasmus has not been taken into account. (32) "Qui Matrimonii sui incuriosus est quique uxorem suam moechis permittit, a vulgari nostra lingua etiam cuculus dicitur." Cousin, who came into the service of Erasmus in 1530, completed his Sylloge, a supplement to his master's work, in 1559. From 1570 onward it was frequently reprinted along with Erasmus's collection. The passage quoted is found on 318-19 of the Frankfurt i 643 edition. On Cousin, see Erasmus, Opus epistolarum, no. 2381; Bietenholz, s.v. (33) Adag. 406, ASD 2, 1:484, 233-34: "Vulgo etiam nunc dicunt |culmum latum'. . . pro eo quod est |ne tantulum quidem'." See Suringar, no. 104; Harrebomee, Tweede Deel, 316. (34) See Screech, 130-31. (35) Franck has given only the third expression, translating the passage as follows (145): "Sonst was ist das, dass sie auch gemeiniglich sagen: er ist wider zu sich selbs kommen etc.?" (36) One may consider Adag. 501 ("Saepe etiam est holitor valde opportuna locutus"), in which a Dutch proverb is introduced by the words "etiam vulgo nunc dicitur." (37) ASD 5, 1:58, 516. Another Dutch proverb is quoted on 70, 853. (38) ASD 4, 1A:54, 905-06. Other vernacular proverbs are found on 43, 574; 73, 534-37; 83, 893-94. (39) Adag. 2401 ("Risus Sardonius"), ASD 2, 5:290, 44-45: "Quem morem [uncover the teeth] aiunt equis etiam inesse, si quando parent mordere, vnde vulgo nunc risum huiusmodi risum equinum vocant." The Dutch proverb is quoted by Sartorius, no. 2479. See Harrebomee, Tweede Deel, 164. Another Dutch expression which may be added to Suringar's nearly exhaustive compilation from Erasmus's Adagia is found in 3674 ("Calliae defluunt pennae"): "Deplumati dicuntur ac detonsi qui facultatibus exuti sunt." The reference is to the expression "ghepluct en gheschooren" (plucked and fleeced; see Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal, s.v. scheren, 473). (40) ASD 1, 2:27, 112-16. The passage has been clarified by Ilsewijn, 384-85, who points out that the belief under discussion is still alive in Flanders. See also a well-documented study on maternal imagination in early modem Holland by Roodenburg, 701-16. The editor of De Pueris instituendis (ASD 1, 2) is again at a loss for the origin of a vernacular proverb, quoted in the same section. It may be noted here that the saying on old parrots (28, 3-4, "vulgi prouerbio: Psittacum vetulum negligere ferulam") is given as "Ein alter Papagai achtet die Ruthe nicht" in Wander, 3, s.v. Papagai. Erasmus explains it in Adag. 161 ("Senis mutare linguam," ASD 2, 1). (41) I here paraphrase an observation made by Prof. IJsewijn, who has been so kind as to read an early version of this essay. (42) Miller, I978, 84, has counted 285 proverbs and proverbial expressions in the Moria. (43) Adag. 648 ("In tuo regno"): "Quin etiam vulgo iactatur adagium |Suae quemque domi regem esse,' quod tamen ab ipsa vsque antiquitate manasse videtur." For other examples, see Suringar, nos. 16, 29, 52, 66, 73, 99, 101, 103, 121, 123, 131, 135, etc. (44) Many instances of this are discussed by Miller, 1978, 87-94. (45) Erasmus, no doubt, read Poliziano's Prologus in Plauti Menaechmos as it appears in his correspondence, Ep. 7, 15, in the Aldine edition of the Omnia opera (Venice, 1498), fol. i 5. On the prologue, see Bombieri. (46) In De conscribendis epistolis and Encomium matrimonii Erasmus refers likewise to ancient myths in which human beings are produced "e terra, e saxis proiectis, e duris aroborum tuncis" (ASD 1, 2: 426, 19-21 and ASD 1, 5:414, 381-82). (47) The same story is included in Lingua, ASD 4, 1A:, 56, 978-85. (48) I owe the latter reference to Prof Vredeveld. (49) The rubric is found in the 1536 edition. Wisemen also "blow hot and cold in one breath" (114, 834 "eodem ex ore frigidum pariter et calidum efflare"). Miller has duly identified the sources of this proverb. It may be noted here that Erasmus has given a detailed explanation in Adag. 630. (50) See Grabes, who discusses the uses of the mirror metaphor in English literature. I owe this and the two following references to Prof. Vredeveld. (51) ASD 1, 2:703, 18-21; the metaphor recurs in 35. In a previous section he insists: "If you express a model such as Cicero instead of yourself, your speech is bound to be a false mirror" (649, 25 " Si teipsum non exprimis, mendax speculum tua fuerit oratio" Erasmus was also interested in the physical aspects of mirrors, as appears from Adag. I250 ("Tanquam in speculo"). (55) See the Onomasticon of the Thesaunis linguae Latinae, s.v. cilicinus and cilicium. (56) Examples of this are found in the Enchiridion (cited in Miller's commentary), Conuiuium religiosum, ASD 1, 3: 256, 76o (despite the note thereto), De contemptu mundi, ASD 5, 1: 84, 219, Opus epistolarum, no. 2443, 410-13, and in the following adages: 1837 ("Non iam illi non sunt, at qui sunt, mali," ASD 2, 4); 3628 ("Oliuam ne comedas" ; 301 ("Non est cuiuslibet Corinthum appellere," ASD 2, 1:409, 65). (57) Miller refers to Walther, no. 32039: "Ubi defidunt vires, astu utendum." (58) In addition to the adages cited above, some more expressions discussed in the Adagia can be pointed out which illustrate, though in a less important way, a few passages in the Moria: 76, 91, "Musis bene iuuantibus" (see Adag. 25 89 "Cum Musis," ASD 2, 6); 80, 147, "vultum illud Titanicum" (see 1588 "Titanicus aspectus," ASD 2, 4); 90, 327, "manus dat" (see 879 "Dare manus"); 106, 642, on the self-safisfied Stoic "qui solus seipso sit contentus" (see 1253 "Solus sapit"); 108, 658-59, "grauis senectus" and "morborum agmina" (see 1537 "Ipsa senectus morbus est," ASD 2, 4); 146, 389, theologians despise the common people, "vt humi reptantes pecudes" (see 1988 "Humi serpere," ASD 2,4); 160, 544, "nauci faciunt" (see 705 "Nauci non facio"); 162, 562, "ceremoniarum accruum" (see 231, "Aceruus bonorum," ASD 2, 1). (46) Erasmus quotes Cicero, Ad Atticum 14, 13 B, 1: "Non enim solum ex oratione, sed etiam ex vultu et oculis et fronte, ut aiunt, meum erga te amorem perspicere potuisses." See also Otto, nos. 717, 1; 1299; 1948, 1. (47) Erasmus expresses his belief at the end of Adag. 550: "Vulgo praedicant se nosse hominem quem viderint tantum [see Adag. 1304 and Suringar, no. 721], quum animus hominis non perspiciatur nisi ex oratione." See also Adag. 98 ("Stultus stulta loquitur"). The passages quoted above also throw light on a paragraph in his last work, the Ecclesiastes, in which the mirror metaphor is used to emphasize the unique value of human speech: "Humanae mentis imago quaedam est oratio, qua nihil habet homo mirabilius .. quae si dissideat ab animo vnde proficiscitur, ne orationis quidem meretur vocabuium" (ASD 5, 4: 40, 135-38). (48) For a recent discussion of Ciceronianism and Erasmus's reaction to it, see Bolzoni.


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Erasmus over Nederlandsche spreekwoorden en spreekwoordelijke uitdrukkingen vatt zijnen tijd. Utrecht, 1873. Trapman, Johannes. "De eerste Nederlandse vertaling van Erasmus' Moria (Emden, 1560) en Sebastiaan Franck." In Boek, bibliotheek en geesteswetenschappen (Festschrift C. Reedijk), 308-15. Hilversum, 1986. Vredeveld, Harry. "|That Familiar Proverb': Folly as the Elixir of Youth in Erasmus's Moriae encomium." Renaissance Quarterly (1989): 78-91. Walther, Hans. Proverbia sententiaeque Latinitatis medii aevi. 6 vols. Gottingen, 1963-69. -- and Paul G. Schmidt. Proverbia sententiaeque Latinitatis medii ac recentioris aevi. Gottingen, 1982. Wander, Karl F. W. Deutsches Sprichworter-Lexikon. 5 vols. Leipzig, 1867-80. Wesseling, Ari. "Are the Dutch Uncivilized? Erasmus on the Batavians and His National Identity." The Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook 13 (1993): 68-102. Wessner, Paul, ed. Scholia in Juvelialem vetustiora. Stuttgart, 1967. Woordenboek der Nederlandsche taal. The Hague, 1882-. (*) For support in preparing this essay I am indebted to the Constantijn & Christiaan Huygens Program of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). Special thanks are due to Prof. Clarence Miller for his helpful suggestions and for correcting my English. I am further indebted to Ineke Sluiter and my colleagues in the Department of Latin at Amsterdam University for their useful remarks.
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Author:Wesseling, Ari
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Date:Jun 22, 1994
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