Amor’s bullets

We recently found in a downtown street of Paris this graffiti, a modernized and stylized version of the topos popularized, among others, by the following emblem in Daniel Heinsius’ Emblemata amatoria (Leiden, 1613).

Ferrum est quod amant

Cedite facundi, locupletes cedite: ferro
Ferrea mollitur, atque amat inde virum

L’un vante son sçavoir et l’austre sa noblesse
L’un ses riches tresors, et l’austre son credit,
Mais en vain, car le coeur d’une jeune maistresse
Comme il est tout de fer par le fer s’amolit.
It is iron that they love

Away, talkative, away, rich: only iron
softens the iron so she loves the man.

This boasts with knowledge, that with nobility,
this with his treasures and that with fame.
But in vain, as the heart of a young lady,
as it is of iron, will be softened only by iron.

The ambiguity of the metaphor is based on the one hand on the irresistible effect of the impetuous soldier on the “jeune maîtresse”, and on the other hand on the violence indispensable to conquer her: none of both are considered nowadays as politically correct. And in fact, the Paris graffiti disarms both with its trivial postmodern topos, the “anti-cupido” which is determined to end love with an automatic firearm. But even this topos has its Renaissance model in Alciato’s emblem In formosam fato praereptam (“Beauty carried away by fate”, or in other editions De morte et amore, “On Death and Love”). Here Cupido mistakenly swaps his quiver with that of Death, so that he kills a young lover with his arrow (while Death sets an old man on amorous fire). Alciato thus at the same time also warns how ridiculous it is when an old man surrenders himself to the passion of love: another politically incorrect moment which would disturb us to see so openly drafted. But the pictures of the past haunt us, and they often imperceptibly fit to the new visual topoi and live on in them.

Andrea Alciato, Emblematum liber, Rouille, 1614

The above emblem of Heinsius with the handwritten poem comes from a magnificent album of around 1620, into which an anonymous French collector copied, illuminated and translated several emblems from the the original edition of 1613, especially the love-themed ones, with the title Badineriees d’amour dedies a l’auteur et ses comfreres. Its facsimile edition was published by Taschen in 2004.

2 comentarios:

languagehat dijo...

I was confused by "Ferrum est quod amam," because my (admittedly rusty) Latinity tells me there is no such form as "amam" -- the subjunctive of amo is amem, and why would you use the subjunctive here anyway? But a little googling convinced me that it must be amant 'they love,' even though the final letter does not look like a t; see, for example, Chapter II of The sword and womankind:
being a study of the influence of "The queen of weapons" upon the moral and social status of women
(p. 79):
Women's Infatuation for the Sword, — Ferrum est quod amant.

Ah, and I see it's a quote from Juvenal (ll. 111-12):

hoc pueris patriaeque, hoc praetulit illa sorori
atque uiro. ferrum est quod amant.

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you, Language! A superb little research. Obviously the verb has no such form. Its similarity to “amem” was deceptive. And Juvenal’s authority certainly decides the question.