Five of 200 emblems collected and explained by George Wither in his 1635 Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne (2003 Kessinger facsimile).

“For, when levitie, or a childish delight, in trifling Objects, hath allowed them to looke on the Pictures; Curiositie may urge them to peepe further, that they might seeke out also their Meanings, in our annexed Illustrations; In which, may lurke some Sentence, or Expression so evidently pertinent to their Estates, Persons, or Affections, as will (at that instant or afterward) make way for those Considerations, which will, at last, wholly change them, or much better them, in their Conversation” (pA2).

No force

“What cannot be by Force attain’d, By Leisure, and Degrees, is gain’d” (p49).

Before and behinde

“He, that concealed things will finde, Must looke before him, and behinde” (p138).

Each day a line

“Each Day a Line, small tasks appeares. Yet, much it makes in threescore Yeares” (p158).

Unmoov’d abides

“True Vertue, whatfoere betides, In all extreames, unmoov’d abides” (p218).

The garland

“The Garland, He alone shall weare, Who, to the Goale, doth persevere” (p258).

3 Responses to “Wither’s Collection of Emblems”

  1. Mirco Says:

    Nice find!
    Kessinger is worth many praises for reprinting some remarkable books, although the quality could be better.

    Wither was also a poet; here is something of his I stumbled upon, that sits well with the previous two postings (4 + 1 elements, so why not 4 + 1 times?):


    Time is a Fading-flowre, that’s found

    Five Termes, there be, which five I doe apply
    To all, that was, and is, and shall be done.
    The first, and last, is that ETERNITIE,
    Which, neither shall have End, nor, was begunne.
    BEGINNING, is the next; which, is a space
    (Or moment rather) scarce imaginarie,
    Made, when the first Materiall, formed was;
    And, then, forbidden, longer time time tarry.
    TIME entred, when, BEGINNING had an Ending,
    And, is a Progresse, all the workes of Nature,
    Within the circuit of it, comprehending,
    Ev’n till the period, of the Outward-creature.
    END, is the fourth, of those five Termes I meane;
    (As briefe, as was Beginning) and, ordayned,
    To set the last of moments, to that Scaene,
    Which, on this Worlds wide Stage, is entertayned.
    The fifth, we EVERLASTING, fitly, call;
    For, though, it once begunne, yet shall it never
    Admit, of any future-end, at all;
    But, be extended onward, still, for ever.
    The knowledge of these Termes, and of what action,
    To each of them belongs, would set an end,
    To many Controversies, and Distractions,
    Which doe so many trouble, and offend.
    TIME’S nature, by the Fading-flowre, appeares;
    Which, is a Type, of Transitory things:
    The Circled-snake, ETERNITIE declares;
    Within whose Round, each fading Creature, springs.
    Some Riddles more, to utter, I intended,
    But, lo; a sudden stop, my words have ended.

  2. Greg Pass Says:

    Ah, that is Wither’s explanation of Ouroboros — 90th emblem of the 200. It almost made the cut. :O

  3. Mirco Says:

    Yap. The Ancient Circle-Snake, aka Time, often carries these magic words:


    see for instance

    The continuous tension of the Elements (actually, Phases would be a better term), their frantic passing into one another, keeps the wheel rolling. But the Ouroboros bites its own tail, closing the loop:

    the cog (i.e. the CENTER) is at rest.

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