To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.  

THE TWELFTH BOOK OF JOHN OWEN’S EPIGRAMS
or an appendix of John Owen’s epigrams, of which the greater part are
now published for the first time

1.

Other than virtue, we possess nothing immortal. Mind and virtue endure, the rest will belong to death.

2. CHRISTIAN FAITH

All our faith depends on history.

3. A RULE OF LIFE

Always be a friend to many, but familiar to yourself alone, and regarding that which you would prefer others to keep silent about, keep silent yourself.

4. ON THE METHOD OF MAKING THE PHILOSOPHERS’ STONE

I do not know, or if I do know, I do not know that I know, and in the Socratic fashion I know that I know nothing.

5. ON A ROSE

The rose has a sweet odor to suffuse the nose, and a thorn to sting him who touches it.

6. ON A PAINTING OF THOMAS EGERTON, BARON OF ELLESMERE, CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND

You who wish to behold virtue’s look, lo, for you virtue is present in this man’s face. Although painters and poets have equal licence to dare what they will, it is clear that the poet has not lied in this poem, nor the painter in his art.

7. ON JOSEPH SCALIGER’S DEPARTURE FROM FRANCE

Now France longs for you alone in your absence. While France possessed you, you were a nobody.

8. TO JAKOB FETZER, A PATRICIAN AUSTRIAN LAWYER

Scorner of transitory riches, greedy to see true things in every land, and wonders in every sea, Fetzer, energetic in running to the distant pole, seeks wealth everlasting by land and by sea.

9. TO JACOBUS MORSIUS
Death has no power over you.

You wrote my name in book, James; you deserve to have yours in mine.

10. ABOUT THOMAS FARNABY, COMMENTATOR ON SENECA’S TRAGEDY. TO THE READER

That most readable author, who lately was only read, is now understood as well as read. No letter of Seneca’s will baffle you, while the Faranaby spirit inspires you within.

11. ON THOMAS PANTSCHMANN

You send fat chickens, partridges, and pheasants to the wealthy, but nothing to the poor. If you want to send each person suitable things, send food to the poor, and hunger to the rich.

12. ON A CERTAIN GLUTTON

You drink as many cups as your gut can hold: a few cups do no harm, many are damaging.

13. THE NOBILITY OF A CERTAIN HUGH

Thou you are a good-for-nothing, Hugh, you wish to appear noble. Oh Hugh the Huge Fool, you are a noble numbskull.

14. THE DRUNKARD’S CARGO

Through many gulps, and through so many bumpers of Bacchus we are headed towards pissing.

15. DOMINIE OWEN’S WITTICISM
Paul Stokman refers to the man thus.

If you want to see life, death, and limbs in a living man, read this epigram. “You are batchelor? You are alive.. You are dead, married resurrected man? You are resurrected if a widower,” said canny Owen to Morse.

16. JAKOB FETZER, JAMES MORSE, AND MATTHEW LEE WERE TARRYING TOGETHER AT A LONDON INN. WHEN OWEN CAME TO VISIT THEM, FETZER THUS CONGRATULATED HIM ON HIS PRESENCE

This was fated, but the fates are ruled by divine will, that we three are linked in love.

TO WHOM OWEN REPLIED

I was the last to come here, thrice three, you were here before me. Yet Apollo has not come to the nine Muses.

FETZER AGAIN

Welcome, Apollo has come to the nine Muses.

17. OWEN ON HIS BATCHELORHOOD

“Even if Wisdom herself should be given me as a wife, I do not wish to marry,” says the world. But Martin say, “I do not wish to live without a wife, even if Folly herself were my wife.”

18. TO M. L.

You wed Folly, let Wisdom be my wife. You govern your wife, let my bride govern me.

19. AN IMITATION OF THIS EPIGRAM

“Even if Wisdom wanted to marry me of her own free will, I would not want to wed her,” says the world. “Of my own free will,” says the fool, “I would not want to live without a wife, even if Folly were present as my wife.” But I would rather follow my opinions than theirs, the world does not speak well, nor does the fool. Let Folly be yours, but let Wisdom be my wife: that bride pleases you more, this one me.

MASTER MATTHEW LEE, AVRILLARIENSIS

20. FORTUNE, NOT WISDOM, GOVERNS LIFE

A blind goddess rules the world, called Fortune. But they are no less blind whom the blind goddess rules.

21. ON LINUS

The greedy man seeks riches, ambitious Linus seeks Honors. One is a dwarf thanks to greed, a giant thanks to ambition.

22. WHETHER MAN OR WOMAN IS NOBLER

Eve is higher-born than her husband, because she was born of a man, but he was a son of the earth.

23. HENRY THE EIGHTH, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

It is auspicious that the Pope named you defender of the faith, that is, of the only faith. The Pope called you protector of the faith. From that time, the only faith has triumphed safely.

24. TO AN IRATE FRIEND

Anger, even the greatest, is wont to be overcome by reason, though anger be a Goliath, and reason a David. Though anger be brief, it is not expedient for it to be a madness. But since it is a madness, it is expedient for it to be brief.

25. ON THE END OF THE WORLD

Recently, his ship leading the way, Christopher Columbus discovered a new world not far from ours. At length we have discovered the ends of the western world. Hence I suspect that the end of the world is close at hand.

(26. is virtually identical to VII.90 )

27. THE CHRISTIAN WORLD

Europe is nurse of our faith, Asia was its mother. What does the rest of the world have to claim for itself?

(28. is virtually identical to VI.81)

29. ON MAN AND THE COSMOS

The world contains more things in itself than does a microcosm. The microcosm has more errors than the cosmos.

30. TO A CERTAIN MAN

A woman’s sin is written on her husband’s brow. But the husband is the pen, the woman her husband’s sheet of paper.

31. ON HORSES

As the horse goes, so he is worth,” says the Italian.* If you never stumble, horse, procede, and be healthy.

* Il cavallo tanto vale, quanto va.

32. ON THE PREVIOUS VOLUMES OF EPIGRAMS

Reading my poems, the throng cheers, but I myself hiss. For at home I have no money.

33. THE DONATIST

In our age Donatism is a damnable heresy. Once it was a holy sect.

(34. is virtually identical to VI.68)

35. FRIENDSHIPS OF ALLIANCES

Fear manufactures alliances for timid kings, affection confirms them when they have been made, and honor shatters them when they have been confirmed.

36. TO A CERTAIN LONDON WINE MERCHANT

All the gods and goddesses are bidden hire themselves out: along with Ceres and Bacchus, mother Venus is for sale. You put a price on Bacchus, your wife on Venus, and the both of you are impious: you sell a god, and she a goddess.

37. TO A CERTAIN LADY OF THE VENETIAN COURT, NAMED “JUSTICE”

Justice contains within herself all the virtues. “Justice” contains within herself all the men.

38. TO JUSTINA, A LADY OF VENICE

No other woman is more zealous for justice than you. For, Justina, nothing pleases you that is not upright.

39. TO HIS FORMER FELLOW-STUDENT JOHN PENNY, A LAWYER, 1607

You be here for me, as often as adversities oppress. Bring me ready help, for you can.

40. LET ARMS YIELD TO THE TOGA. TO * * *

The learned Knight (none more learned) did not prefer Roman arms to the Roman toga. I scarce understand what this doctor-knight wants for himself, or why, when he wears the toga himself, he prefers arms to a toga. What was marvelous in my eyes: was this lately done by the don - or by his donna?

41. BRITAIN

Britain is divided in four parts, of which England is the greatest, and Cornwall the smallest. England, which used to be the greatest part of the British kingdom, now can have the name of the smallest.

42. ANSWER TO A FALSE FRIEND’S LETTER

Recently your letter promised something great, but failed to make good on such a great promise. You gave me words fairer than your paper, but your deeds are blacker than your ink. Farewell.

43. IN PRAISE OF FOLLY

The husband who praises his wife, who praises his friend, who praises his mistress, what is he praising but folly?

44. IN PRAISE OF A DONKEY. TO DAMIANUS

In our time many have written in praise of the donkey. We also read your praises, Damianus.

45. ON POLYDORUS

Under an alias you have sought out many a land, you have dodged a thousand arrows of ill repute. There would be no need to change your name so often, Polydore, if you would change your ways once.

(46. TO J. SP., 1607. Virtually identical to VI.51)

47. TO A CERTAIN OXONIAN

In quamquam te, Marce Tully argues that what is not honorable in deed cannot be useful. Yet you possess a jolly wife, and scarce useless. Yet the professors are uncertain whether she is honorable.

48. MARS AND VENUS

Mars once lived at Rome, and Cytherea at Cyprus. Nowadays Mars is at Cyprus, and Venus in the city.

49. IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD

We men make words, God made everything with a word. God Himself is a word, and we too are words.

50. WITTICISMS

Samson found honey in a lion’s mouth. Thus witty japes have something of honey in themselves.

51. SIR JOHN LACK-LATIN

John once lacked the Latin language, now he lacks clothing, food, and honor.

(52. is identical to VIII.32)

53. THE DIVISION OF FOLLY

Once upon a time knowing nothing was the height of folly. Nowadays, there as a greater form of folly, to possess nothing. Woe is me, who detect both kinds of folly in myself: I know nothing, I possess nothing.

(54. = II.217)

55. TO EDWARD NOEL, ON HIS BELOVED WIFE ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER OF BAPTIST HICKS, KNIGHT

Juvenal says, “a dowry is a source of contention,” and I suspect what Juvenal affirms. If a dowry, as the poet says, is a source of contention, you have married a rich woman, yet an undowered one.

56.

All that seems fair to the world disappears, unfriendly Chance suddenly snatches away wealth. Virtue and learning endure constantly, and Chance has nothing in them to govern. This alone can procure you praise and glory, this makes you enjoy genuine pleasures. Pursue this with wakeful effort, studious boy, let this take first place for you above all things.

57.

No more distinguished praise accrues to children, than if they treat their dear parents with due honor. For even the blessing of our heavenly Father accrues to these, these are granted to enjoy a more prosperous fate. When Tobias perceived that death was at hand, then he gave these instructions to his dear son. “Heed this, son, that in all the time of your life, everywhere, you please your mother.” Hence Solomon arose from his high throne, when he saw his mother approach. In all things, the law of nature demands this, and, ruling everything, God commands these things.

58.

He who rejoices to live a base and criminal life, nor has ever refrained from committing foul misdeeds, that wretch is wounded by a wound so fatal that he is never able to recover.

59.

Volatile Fortune wanders on dubious steps, and remains fixed in no certain place. Rather, now she remains happy, now she assumes a bitter expression, and is only constant in her levity.

Finis