PARABOLA OF MARS DE BUSTO NICENAS
One day, I embarked on a long journey to a very remote place, a journey that many had taken before me and also some in my own time. To accomplish it requires a man of sound body and mind, who knows neither fear nor doubt, but who is constant and can endure many misfortunes and difficulties, because it is not only the remoteness of the place, but also the many obstacles that will be encountered on this journey. This is why those who start out on this journey must take with them what is necessary, so that they are not obliged to return soon after their departure, or halfway through, where they can hardly hope for help. If anyone does not want to do this, let him abstain entirely from this path.
I also undertook this journey, without thinking of all the circumstances mentioned above, but which I later recognized through having had to repeated this journey. I especially learned how foolish it is to undertake anything without thinking and without considering the end. But I never got tired of it and, on the contrary, my mind was becoming more and more enthused, and it seemed to me that I was walking on emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, diamonds and rubies rather than on poor land. But by that many were deceived, the roughness of the way was unknown to them.
Moreover, the nature of this place changed colour according to circumstances, the weather and the radiance of the sun, which amazed me greatly and still excited my desire. And although it was winter and the dominant planet was powerfully manifesting its action through the cold, I still found here and there beautiful meadows, green vegetation and flowers of various colours; but I thought only of the delights of the place to which the repellent way tends, especially because it had been begun for the honour of Almighty God and for the good of men.
Since I had no idea that I had to renounce or entirely contemplate this place of delights, or bear with great patience all the difficulties that I would encounter on my way, I decided to suffer rather, with the help of God, all the misfortunes of giving it up, for it was impossible to moderate my ardent and longing spirit. Especially as this path appeared at the beginning very beautiful and pleasant, like a mirror, and mostly covered with blue flowers called heliotropes which follow the movement of the sun; I think, however, that this place must be full of blood, because the Greeks had here fought many great battles with the Trojans, as the inhabitants of this country told me.
I noticed, moreover, that such undulating meadows and variegated flowers appeared especially when the sun was occluded by opaque clouds, so that it could not emit its light with sufficient force; but when the sun shone with its rays unobstructed, the ground became black as coal or shining pitch, which almost blinded me. This journey (the duration of and the great distance to travel, being not yet known to me) suited me very well, for winter persisted in its rigour, which gave me a great desire; and, what increased it more is that at sunrise, in spite of the intense cold, the ground, the soil, and the earth was everywhere wet, as if it were made to be so naturally, or as if Nature had rooted all its moisture in this place, or if the salt marsh took its origin there.
But various difficulties held me back, as I have mentioned above; and, as I thought the journey would be impossible because of lack of food, I returned, carefully observing where I had found the wet ground, which I felt was a sure sign, because it was the place where Fortune received his purse of fortune; Fortune was still depicted there with the amiable fortune, as if this picture had just been completed the same day. I burned this place as best I could into my memory.
But I must also reveal the reason that impelled me to take this journey, because it is important. I had learnt that seven sages or philosophers were to live in seven different capitals of Europe, and that all these sages, more than all the others, were educated in all the arts and in all wisdom, and, in particular, in medicine. As any man has the natural desire to live long and healthy on this earth, I also conceived a great desire to visit all these places, to meet these sages, hoping also to obtain from one of these sages a perfect medicine for conserving my health to the term predestined by God. I therefore deliberated in myself what city I should go to in the first place, since it depended on my good fortune that some among these wise men would or could satisfy me. So I have learned many times, to my detriment, that words are in vain if the prosperity and blessing of God are lacking; similarly, I easily presumed that, although these seven sages had been vaunted as the wisest in all the arts of the whole world, they would not all have the same intelligence, but it would be different for everyone, because God constantly endows one man more intelligence, more virtues and wisdom than another, so that one surpasses the other in quality and virtues; so I thought it must be the same for these wise men. I therefore prayed earnestly to God the Almighty to lead me in the true way to the true man who surpassed others by his wisdom, so that he would be favourable to my will and grant me my request.
This is why I had during the night a dream or a vision that spoke to me aloud: “Lead your steps towards the pole observed by the sailors and whom they call the pole star; this is where your desire will be fulfilled”.
When I awoke from the dark night, I meditated whether I should believe this dream or not. Finally, filled with desire and with the thought of entering the right path, I decided to undertake the journey; and as it was no doubt a good angel who had indicated to me in the dream the direction I should take. I set out on the road with the grace of God.
But as soon as I wished to advance, I saw before me high and pointed rocks, a hard and rough road, deep crevasses, smoking chasms where the water produced by its fall made such a noise that I was frightened; and I stopped abruptly in the terror that seized me, wondering if I should dare to go on or should return.
On the one hand, a great desire encouraged me to reach what I had in front of me; on the other hand, the terrifying aspect of the extremely rough place repelled me and, to tell the truth, I was very afraid when I saw before me such a difficult path. I therefore remained in great pain, finding no man near me who could advise me or console me in this alternative.
Finding myself thus without help or consolation, I took my courage in both hands, especially by recalling my dream, and I advanced with the grace of God with a happy step, while being obliged to rest frequently before accomplishing the ascent to the place. But when I reached the height or the summit, I saw nothing in front of me but a vast expanse; I was therefore obliged to resort to my little compass, which I had carried with me through all the hazards; and it soon pointed me to the city which was nearer than I had thought.
So I went up the mountain, and arrived at the proper capital, whose name I have forgotten. I immediately questioned the inhabitants of this country about the sage, and as they told me the situation and place of his dwelling, I went to talk with him.
There I found an extraordinary man, who looked like a thief, a robber, or a rude craftsman, spending his days in front of a smithy, burning coal, much more than a learned physician. But in truth, in conversation, I found so much reason and skill in him, that I would prefer to believe him, though a thousand others would not believe, without having heard what he said. For all the wise men of the six other capitals were obliged to take advice of him alone when it was a very important matter
It is therefore a great folly to judge persons according to their appearance, as the poet says: “How often the powers of mighty men, are hidden under a seeming humility”, which equally applies to this man.
This course and strange man, but very learned according to the spirit, occupied a unique place and dwelling; besides, he possessed extremely strange qualities and customs, and I was greatly astonished.
For, just as Diogenes dwelt in a barrel, which he preferred to the most beautiful of palaces, so Nature had also implanted in the nature of this adventurer, by strange influences and incidences, the determination to choose his place of residence similarly strange. He cared not for pomp or ostentation, nor for magnificent palaces or beautiful clothes; but he made much of his wisdom and his virtues, which he loved more than all the treasures of the world.
His residence was in a coarse and hard rocky cave, where neither heat nor cold could reach him; but, inside, its rooms were painted with such beautiful natural colors, that they appeared to be decorated with the most precious jasper, or painted by the most skillful artist who had applied all his art and all his skill.
Likewise, he never suffered from thirst or hunger; but, according to the usual habits and customs, he was affected by the arrows of Cupid; that is why he often worried, on looking to go out, what was not always allowed to those who lived with him. So he called the neighbours, saying, “Friends, help me out a little in the light, so I’ll help you too.” When the neighbours heard this, they were very satisfied because they knew he would not leave them without reward.
As soon as he was free, they had to prepare a bath for him to pass his time. But he was very ill. For the dear man began to sweat and became the prey of a malaise, so he cried and ranted like one possessed, to the point of fainting. Then the musician committed to his care seized his instrument to sing to him the song that the shepherds often sang to the god Pan.
As soon as he heard this song, he returned to himself; but, against all odds, and in great haste, he gave birth to a living child, not without great sorrow and pain, to tell the truth; this child did not resemble him in any way, as one could ascertain when he reached adulthood.
This child must have been something wonderful, because it came from a strange birth, that one cannot find such a thing. It had two natures, so it was necessary to feed it with a milk of a goat, that produced both milk and blood.
And here again there were difficulties to be overcome, for the goat only wanted to be milked by one midwife who bore the name of a witch. She was called Urganda. She used a strange glass composed of marvellous pieces created the most skilful artist; it seemed more natural than artificial, and it seemed to me that it was a piece of the Table of Hermes, and signified the same, so that the subtle vapours of milk could not be discerned.
And Urganda boiled the milk to the point that it appeared glowing with the heat, and nourished the marvellous newborn, who, because of his regular diet with this milk, grew from day to day, from week to week, from month to month, from year to year, and increased in size, strength, and virtues, so much so that he greatly surpassed the virtues of his father, and had great renown. Royal children are begotten in the same way.
As for the old witch, Urganda, she could, despite her old age, change herself every day, to the point that her very hair, when they were not braided and a slight cold draft touched them, stretched out into most beautiful and long golden threads, or the rays of the sun; that fluttered and waved.
Behold, O most enlightened servants of God, what I wanted to bring to your knowledge, concerning my second concern, praying to you and humbly begging you not to refuse me, but to admit me and to receive me with grace.
With the help of the Lord, I will be humble, submissive, and obedient in everything you charge me, as long as I can endure and fulfill this with my human weakness. I warmly and humbly commend you, Oh! most enlightened servants of God, as well as myself, to the omnipotence and protection of God.
Completed at N., 14 June 1619.