Tuesday, August 16, 2016


The Three Parts of Time

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), The Heroic Enthusiasts (Gli Eroici Furori): An Ethical Poem by Giordano Bruno, Part the Second, Translated by L. Williams (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1889), pp. 2-4 (from Part II, Dialogue 1; interlocutors are Maricondo and Cesarino):
MARICONDO. Know, my brother, that this succession and order of things is most true and most certain; but as regards ourselves in all ordinary conditions whatever, the present afflicts more than the past, nor can these two together console, but only the future, which is always in hope and expectation as you may see designated in this figure which is taken from the ancient Egyptians, who made a certain statue which is a bust, upon which they placed three heads, one of a wolf which looks behind, one of a lion with the face turned half round, and the third of a dog who looks straight before him; to signify that things of the past afflict by means of thoughts, but not so much as things of the present which actually torment, while the future ever promises something better; therefore behold the wolf that howls, the lion that roars and the dog that barks (applause).

CES. What means that legend that is written above?

MAR. See, that above the wolf is Lam, above the lion Modo, above the dog Praeterea, which are words signifying the three parts of time.

CES. Now read the tablet.

MAR. I will do so.

A wolf, a lion, and a dog appear
At dawn, at midday, and dark night.
That which I spent, retain and for myself procure,
So much was given, is given, and may be given;
For that which I did, I do, and have to do.
In the past, in the present and in the future,
I do repent, torment myself and re-assure,
For the loss, in suffering and in expectation.
With sour, with bitter and with sweet
Experience, the fruits, and hope,
Threatens, afflict, and comforts me.
The age I lived, do live and am to live,
Affrights me, shakes me and upholds
In absence, presence and in prospect.
Much, too much and sufficient
Of the past, of now, and of to come,
Put me in fear, in anguish and in hope.
The nonsensical "above the wolf is Lam" continues to appear in reprints of this book and on web pages. Here is an image of the sentence, from p. 3 of the book:

Nowhere, it seems, has the obvious correction been made—"above the wolf is Iam". The three Latin temporal adverbs (iam, modo, praeterea) signify the three parts of time. See an image of the Italian sentence, from Giordano Bruno, Opere italiane, Vol. II: Dialoghi morali...con note da Giovanni Gentile (Bari: Gius. Laterza & Figli, 1908), p. 402:

Here is the Italian of Bruno's sonnet, from Gentile's edition, pp. 402-403:
Un alan, un leon, un can appare
    A l'auror, al dì chiaro, al vespr'oscuro.
    Quel che spesi, ritegno, e mi procuro,
    Per quanto mi si diè, si dà, può dare.
Per quel che feci, faccio ed ho da fare
    Al passato, al presente ed al futuro,
    Mi pento, mi tormento, m'assicuro,
    Nel perso, nel soffrir, nell'aspettare.
Con l'agro, con l'amaro, con il dolce
    L'esperienza, i frutti, la speranza
    Mi minacciò, m'affligono, mi molce.
L'età che vissi, che vivo, ch'avanza,
    Mi fa tremante, mi scuote, mi folce,
    In absenza, presenza e lontananza.
Assai, troppo, a bastanza
    Quel di già, quel di ora, quel d'appresso
    M'hanno in timor, martir e spene messo.

Titian, Allegory of Prudence

See Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968), "Titian's Allegory of Prudence: A Postscript," in his Meaning in the Visual Arts: Papers in and on Art History (Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955), pp. 146-168.


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