Mors perniciosorum gratissima
- Bestia noxia sus, quae spes intercipit anni:
- Viua nocet tantum mortua tota iuuat.
- Ergo vbi mactatur brumali mense Decembri:
- Purpureamque animam guttura secta vomunt:
- Vir Mulier, Pueri impexi innuptaeque Puellae
- Conueniunt, gaudent, Laetaque flamma micat.
- Diuiditur corpus membratim, Otaria, Pernae,
- Cauda, caput, xenio distribuenda nouo.
- Flatilis in partem vesica venit puerorum.
- Caetera proficuis exta parata cibis.
- Sic vbi quis perijt Epicuri de grege porcus:
- Cui Deus est venter: pro sale cui anima:
- Omnia qui viuus vertit sursum, atque deorsum:
- Congereret ventri quo male versa suo:
- Plauditur, et cunctis eius gratissima mors est:
- Qui vixit coeno deditus, atque gulae.
- Nam multi pascuntur eo, quo pinguit vnus.
- Cum corpus multis vnius interijt.
- Incipit et prodesse simul, cum desinit esse
- Ignauus viuens, mortuus vtilior.
The Death of a Nuisance — Glad Tidings
- The pig is a pernicious beast, ruining hoped harvests;
- it is, living, pure bane, but dead, every bit good,
- and so when it is slaughtered in wintry December
- spouting its purple lifeblood from its parted throat,
- men and women, unshorn boys and unmarried virgins
- come together and revel around the bright fire;
- the corpse diced up piecemeal, ears and hams,
- tail and head make fresh treats for the guests,
- the inflatable bladder passed on to the boys,
- and the rest of the entrails become wholesome meat.
- So when out of the Epicure-herd some pig-follower dies,
- votary of his gullet, with soul good as dead
- whose lifework is to turn the whole world upside down
- and stash all of his ill-gotten gains in his gut,
- everyone cheers and welcomes the news of his death
- who lived wholly devoted to gorging and filth,
- for what he stuffed himself with keeps many alive
- once the body of one dies to benefit many
- and he starts to be helpful by ceasing to be,
- useless while he is living, and more useful dead.
Loose or unmanaged pigs in Renaissance times were seen as an enemy to crops because of their great destructive power through unsupervised rooting. For this reason, pigs seemed eminently suited for sacrifice to the crop-goddess, Ceres, thus alleviating humans and the goddess both of a nuisance.
The overall intention of Picta Poesis is that it is a book of emblems – essentially allegorical depictions of common life experiences that also represent some greater aspect of the human condition.
The allegorical suggestion or warning in “Death of a Nuisance” is that any egregious tyrannical enemies to public well being, animal as well as human, could be cast as fair game for just this sort of violent reprisal or elimination.
And, below is a copy of the image that accompanied this original Latin poem in Picta Poesis. The scene is the butchering process after the pig was slaughtered. Notice the child on the left inflating the pig’s bladder – this was then a common toy given to children.
And, for another allegorical look at the nature and life style of pigs as a lesson for man. See John Bunyan’s Of the Fatted Swine also in this collection.
About the Poet:
Barthélémy Aneau (c.1510-1561) was a French poet, writer, translator and humanist. He also enjoyed a successful career as a learned and respected regent and then as principal of the Collège de la Trinité in Lyon, France.
Aneau wrote both French and Latin poetry and is best known for his novel Alector, ou le coq, and his work on emblems. He was killed in 1561, during the Protestant riots in Lyon, in or near the College. He was suspected of Protestantism. [DES-07/12]
- A digital copy of the entire 1564 edition of Picta Poesis is available for viewing at “Renaissance in Print” an online project of the Gordon Collection at the University of Virginia Library.
- Picta Poesis in digital form is also available from the Glasgow University’s French Emblems at Glasgow project, with access to all the French Emblem Books of the 16th century.