Atalanta Fugiens
Michael Maier's

by  Alejandro Franz

An English tanslation exists in the British Library MS. Sloane 3645.
Emblems 1 to 5 to be shown here. Words in blue are translation from LATIN

Emblems 6 - 10 

Emblem 6th:
Seminate aurum vestrum in terram albam foliatam
[Sow Your Gold in the white foliate Earth.]

A man is scattering or sowing seed with his right hand from a basket
that he holds with his left.
Atalanta Fugiens  6 midi


Epigram 6th:

Ruricolae pingui mandant sua femina terrae,
Cum fuerit rastris haec foliata suis.
Philosophi niveos aurum docuere per agros
Spargere, wui folii se levis instar habent:
Hoc ut agas, illus bene respice, namque quod aurum
Germinet, ex tritico videris, ut speculo.


Discourse 6th:

Plato says that a City does not consist of a Physician & a Physician,
but of a Physician & a Husbandman; that is, of men of diverse
Crafts & Professions, & he mentions then two more, especially
because their Labors are more visible in the Imitation, Improvement,
& Perfection of Nature. For they both take a Natural Subject to which,
according to their Art, they either add something that is necessarily
wanting or remove those things which are superfluous. So that both
their Arts may (as medicine is by Hippocrates) be defined to be the
addition of what is wanting or Subtraction of superfluity. For the
Husbandman does no more than add ploughing, furrowing, Harrowing,
dunging or manuring, & lastly sowing to the Land that is left in its
Original State.
 But as for the increase & produce of it he leaves that to Nature which
administers Rain to the Heat of the Sun, & by these two Multiplies the
seeds & improves them into standing Corn fit for reaping. While the
blade is growing he weeds out the thistles & throws out all other
impediments. He reaps the Corn when it is ripe & cleans it when reaped
from its straw & Chaff. So the Physician (likewise the Chemist in a
different respect) administers preventing Physick to the Patient as well
as Restorative, removes the Cause, Cures the malady, assuages
symptoms, takes away superfluous blood by opening a vein & if low
restores it by a Regulation of Diet, evacuates ill humors by purging, &
so by a thousand methods imitates, supplies & corrects Nature with
the operations of Art & Understanding. Our present Considerations are
not concerning these things which are commonly known, but of matters
merely Chemical.
 For Chemistry shows its Affinity to Husbandry even in its secret Terms &
courses of Operation. The Husbandmen have their Earth into which they
sow their seed & so have the Chemists. They have their Dung with which
they enrich their ground, so have these without which nothing can be
accomplished nor any fruit expected. They have seed from which they
hope for an increase, & unless the Chemists had so too, they would be
like a Painter (as Lully says) endeavoring to draw the face of a Man of
whom he had never seen so much as the least resemblance. The Country
man expects Rain & Sunshine & so indeed the Chemists must supply their
work with such & Heat & Rain as is proper & convenient. What need of
many words?
 Chemistry runs entirely Parallel with Agriculture as its Deputy, & represents
it in all things, but under a most compleat Allegory. From hence the Ancients
produced their Cerereus, Triptolemus, Osirideus, Dionysius, Golden Gods,
or such as had Relation to Chemistry, but at the same time represented them
as teaching mortals to cast their seed into the Earth & showing them Husbandry
& the planting & Cultivation of Vines & the use of Wine. All which things the
Ignorant falsely applied to their Countries' Employment. For these abstruse
Mysteries of Nature under these Veils are at the same time explained to the
Wise, whilst they are concealed from the Vulgar.
 Hence the Philosophers affirm it to be sowed in White foliated Earth, as if they
would have said that the sowing of Wheat must be looked upon as an example
& consequently imitated. Which the Author of Tractatus de tritico & Jodoc
Greverus have most excellently performed in their Descriptions for they have
very elegantly adapted each Operation of Husbandry in the production of
Corn to the Semination of Gold & the generation of the Tincture. White Earth
as being Sandy yields little fruit to the Countrymen who esteem that which is
black as being fattest. But the other is of most Value to the Philosophers if it
be foliated, that is, well prepared. For they know how to improve it with their Dung,
which the others do not. For semination is the propagation of the world by which
Care is taken that what cannot last in the individual may be continued in the species.
This is in Men, Animals & Plants; in the first, Hermaphroditically, in the two last
under different sexes, but in Metals it is far otherwise, for in them a Line is
made from the flux of a Point, a Superficies from the flux of a Line, a body
from the flux of a Superficies.
 But the Stars produce that point before either the line, the superficies, or the Body,
because it is the Principle of them all. Nature added the flux a long time afterwards;
that is, the Caelestial Phoebus generated a Son underneath the Earth, which
Mercury committed to Vulcan to be Educated, & to Chiron, that is, to Manual
operation, to be instructed, as it is reported of Achilles that he was detained &
Hardened in Fires by his Mother Thetis. Among other things He learned Music &
the Art of playing on the Harp from his Master Chiron. Achilles is nothing else but
the Philosophic subject, whose Son is Pyrrhus, with red Hair, without which two,
Troy could not be subdued, as we have demonstrated in the sixth Book of our


Emblem 7th

Fit pullus à nido volans, qui iterùm cadit in nidum.
(A young eaglet attempts to fly out of its own nest
& falls into it again.)

On the summit of a high mountain over a town a bird sits upon a nest.
Another bird is just about to fly off.
Atalanta Fugiens  7 midi


Epigram 7th

Rupe cavâ nidum Jovis ALES struxerat, in quo
Delituit, pullos enutriítque suos:
Horum unus levibus voluit se tollere pennis,
At fuit implumi fratre retentus ave.
Inde volans redit in nidum, quem liquerat, illis
Junge caput caudae, tum nec inanis eris.


Discourse 7th

That which Hippocrates, the standard of all Physick, affirms concerning Humors,
that they are different & many in the Body of Man, & not one only, otherwise various
diseases would not arise, is found by us to be true likewise in the Elements of
the World. For if there was but one Element, there could be nom change of that
into another, no generation nor corruption would happen, but all would be one
immutable thing, and no meteors, minerals, plants or animals could be naturally
produced from it. Therefore the supreme creator composed the whole system
of this whole world of diverse & contrary natures, namely of light & heavy, hot &
cold, moist & dry, that one might by affinity pass into the other, & so a composition
be made of bodies which should be very different one from another in Essence,
Qualities, Virtues & Effects. For in things perfectly mixed are the light Elements,
as Fire & Air, & likewise the Heavy, as Earth & Water, which are to be poised
and tempered together, that one flies not from the other.
 But the neighboring Elements easily suffer themselves to be taken & detained by
their Neighbors. Earth & Air are contrary one to the other, & so are Fire & Water, &
Yet Fire maintains friendship with Air by heat common to both, & does so with Earth
by reason of dryness, & so Air with Water & Water with the Earth. By which means
they are joined in bonds of Affinity, or rather consanguinity, & remain together in
one composition, which, if it abound with the light Elements, elevates the Heavy
with it; if with the heavy it presses down the light. This is illustrated by two Eagles,
one with Wings, the other without; the first of which, endeavoring to fly, is restrained
by the second. There is a plain Example of this Matter in the fight between the
Falcon & Heron, for the Falcon, soaring higher in the Air by his speedy Flying &
swift wings, takes & tears the Heron with his Talons, by whose weight, both fall
to the ground. The contrary appeared in the Artificial Dove which was an Automata
or self-moving piece of Workmanship made by Architas, whose heavy things were
carried upwards by light, that is, its wooden body was lifted into the Air by the Spirit
that was enclosed within it.
 In the Philosophical Subject, the light things are first predominant over the Heavy
as to their quantity, but they are overcome by virtue of the heavy, 7 in process of time,
the eagle's wings are cut off, & one very great Bird (namely an Ostrich) is made of two,
which Bird can consume Iron, & being hindered by its own weight, seems rather to
run upon the Earth that to fly in the Air, although it has goodly wings. Concerning this
or one like it, Hermes (as the Author of Aurora, ch. 5th affirms) writes thus: 'I have
considered a Bird Venerable to the Wise, which flies when it is in Aries, Cancer,
Libra or Capricorn,' & 'You will acquire it Perpetually to yourself out of mere minerals &
Rocks of Mountainous places.' Senior in Tabula relates to the same thing, where two
birds are seen, one flying, the other without wings, whereof the one holds the other's
Tail by its beak, that they cannot easily be separated. For this is the machination or
device of Universal Nature, always to raise heavy things by light, & to depress light
ones by heavy, as the Author of Perfectum Magisterius declares: 'Who constitutes
seven Mineral Spirits, as it were erratic or Wandering Stars, & so many Metallic
Bodies & Fixed Stars, and enjoins these to be married to the others.' And thence
Aristotle the Chemist says: 'The Spirit having dissolved the Body & Soul so that they
may exist in their form, does not remain unless You Occupy it.'
 Now this Occupation is that You join it with the Body from whence you prepared it
in the beginning. Because in that the Spirit at the superexistences of the Body is
Occupied from flight. In Camphora, as Bonus observes, the light Elements, that is,
Air & Fire, prevail over the Heavy, & therefore it is said wholly to exhale & evaporate
into Air. In Argent Vive, the Flowers of Sulphur, Antimony, the salt of Heart's blood,
Sal Armoniac & such other things, the Earth flies with the Alembic, & is not separated
from it. In Gold, Glass, Diamonds, the Stone Smiris, Granite, & the like, the Elements
remain joined a long time notwithstanding the fire, without any detriment. For the
Earth retains the other Elements with itself. In other Combustibles, a separation or
division of one from another is effected, so that the Ashes are left in the Bottom, &
the Water, Air & Fire fly upwards.
 We must not therefore have respect to the unequal Composition of these last, being
not so strongly mixed, nor to the Commixture of the first, which is more desirable,
though composed of Volatiles. But to the solidity, Constancy & Fixity of the middle ones.
For so the Bird without wings will detain that which hath, and the Fixed Substances
will Fix the Volatiles, which is the thing that of necessity must be Effected.


Emblem 8th

Accipe ovum & igneo percute gladio.
(Take an Egg & smite it with a fiery sword.)

In a courtyard in front of a fire burning in a chimney on the left,
a man stands holding a sword out in his right hand.
He is about to strike an egg which stands on a small table.
In the background wall is set a tunnel or alley way.
Atalanta Fugiens  8  midi


Epigram 8th

Est avis in mundo sublimior omnibus, Ovum
Cujus ut inquiras, cura sit una tibi.
Albumen luteum circumdat molle vitellum,
Ignito (ceu mos) cautus id ense petas:
Vulcano Mars addat opem: pullaster & inde
Exortus, ferri victor & ignis erit.


Discourse 8th

There are many & diverse kinds of Birds whose number is uncertain & their Names
unknown to Us. Story tells us of a very great Bird named Ruc [Roc?], that appears at
certain seasons of the Year in a small Island of the Ocean, which can bear an Elephant
up with it into the Air. India & America send us Crows & Parrots of diverse Colors.
But it is not the Philosophical intention to enquire after the Eggs of these birds.
The AEgyptians yearly persecute the Crocodiles' Eggs with weapons of Iron &
destroy them. The Philosophers do indeed smite their Eggs with fire, but it is not
with an intent to mortify it, but that it may live & grow up. For, seeing that an animate &
living chicken is thence produced, it cannot be said to be Corruption, but generation.
It ceases to be an Egg by the privation of the Oval form, & begins to be a two-footed &
volatile Animal by the introduction of a more noble Form, for in the Egg are the seeds
of both male & female joined together under one Shell or Cover.
 The Yolk constitutes the Chicken with its radical parts & Bowels, the seed of the male
forming it & becoming the internal Efficient, whereas the White... [**"Albumen materiam
seu subtegmen & incrementum dat rudimento seu stamini pulli."] The external heat is
the first mover which by a certain Circulation of the Elements & change of one into the
other, introduces a new form by the instinct & guidance of Nature. For Water passes
into Air, Air into Fire, Fire into Earth, which being joined together, & a specific being
transmitted by the stars, an individual Bird is made of that kind whose Egg it was &
whose seed was infused into it. This is said to be smitten with a fiery sword when
Vulcan performing the office of a Midwife as he did to Pallas coming from the brain
of Jupiter, does by his ax make a passage for the newborn Chicken. This is what
Basil Valentine affirms, that Mercury was imprisoned by Vulcan at the command
of Mars, & could not be released before he was wholly purified & dead. But this
death is to him the beginning of a New life, as the Corruption or death of the Egg
brings new generation & life to the Chicken.
 So an Embryo being freed from that human vegetable life which alone it enjoyed in
the Mother's womb, obtains another, more perfect one, by his birth & coming into the
light of the world. So when we shall pass from this present life, there remains for us
another that is most perfect & Eternal. Lully in many places calls this fiery sword a
sharp Lance, because fire as a Lance or sharp sword perforates bodies & makes
them porous & pervious [?], so that they may be penetrated by waters & be dissolved &
being reduced from hardness become soft & Tractable. In the Stomach of a Cormorant,
which is the most voracious of all Birds, there are found long & round worms which
serve it as the instruments of Heat, & as we have sometimes observed, seize upon
those Eels & other fish which she has swallowed & Pierce them like sharp needles,
& so consume them in a short time by a wonderful operation of Nature.
As, therefore, Heat pierces, so that which pierces will sometimes supply the absence
of Heat. Upon which Consideration, that wherewith the Philosophical Egg ought to
be smitten may not undeservedly be called a fiery sword.
 But the Philosophers had rather have it understood of Temperate Heat, whereby the
Egg is cherished, as Morfoleus in Turba declares: 'It is necessary [that a] wise man's
moisture be burned up with a slow fire, as is shown us in the Example of the generation
of a Chicken, & where the fire is increased, the Vessel must be stopped on all sides,
that the body of the Air (or brass)['aeris' in original] & the fugitive spirit of it may not
be extracted.' But what Bird's Egg must it be? Moscus tells us in the same place:
'Now I say that no instruments are made except of our white starry splendid powder, &
of the white Stone, of which powder are made fit instruments for the Egg. But they
have not named the Egg, nor what Bird's Egg it must be.'


Emblem 9th

Arborem cum fene concludein rorida domo,
& comedens de fructu ejus fiet juvenis.
(Shut up the Tree with the Old Man in a
House of Dew, & eating the fruit thereat
He will become Young.)

In a round pavilion set in a formal garden, a bearded old man
sits eating with his left hand a round fruit, while with his right he picks
another fruit (possibly an apple) from a tree which grows inside this pavilion.
Atalanta Fugiens  9 midi


Epigram 9th

Arbor inest hortis Sophiae dans aurea mala,
Haec tibi cum nostro sit capienda sene;
Inque domo vitrea claudantur, roréque plenâ,
Et sine per multos haec duo juncta dies:
Tum fructu (mirum!) satiabitur arboris ille
Ut fiat juvenis qui fuit ante senex.


Discourse 9th

All things that grow in length, breadth & Depth, that is, are Born, nourished, augmented,
brought to maturity, & propagated, the same things likewise decrease, that is, have
their strength diminished, dice, fall away, as we see in all Vegetables & Animals.
Wherefore man also, when he arrives at full growth, admits of decay, which is the
same thing as old age, whereby his strength is sensibly diminished 'till he die.
For the cause of old Age is the same with that of a Lamp that burns dim for want
of Oil, for as there are three things in a Lamp: the wick, fatness & flame, so in a
man the wick is the Vital members, the Bowels & Limbs. The fatness is the radical
moisture, & the flame is the Natural Hat. The only difference is, the flame of a Lamp
shines bright, but the Natural Heat does not, it not being fire but only Heat, &
whereas that fatness is oily, the Radical moisture is viscous, being of a seminal
principle. As, therefore, a Lamp is extinguished for want of oil, so man by old age,
without any other disease, falls into atrophy ["marasmus," lit. 'dying away,' from the
Greek] & aged consumption, & lastly into his grave. It is reported of the Eagle,
that when he grows old, his beak becomes so crooked that he would die with Hunger,
unless he could cast it. So Deer seem to grow young again by throwing off their horns,
Serpents their skins, & Crabs their shells; not that they really do so, for their radical
moisture is not restored to them, but only in appearance.
 There is nothing that can restore Youth to man but death itself, which is the beginning
of Eternal life that follows it. However, there are some that say as to his external Form &
the restoring of his strength in some measure, together with the taking away of wrinkles,
& changing of grey Hair, a proper remedy may be found out, as Lully affirms of his
Quintessence, & Arnold of prepared Gold. But here the Philosophers say that if the
Old Man would become Young, he must be shut up in a House of Dew, & then he will
eat of the fruit of the Tree, & so recover Youth. It is scarce believed by the Vulgar that
such Trees can be in Nature. The Physicians write wonders of Myrobalanis
[literally: 'miracle fruit'], the Fruit of a certain Tree, that they restore grey Hair to
blackness, purify the blood & prolong life. But this is scarce credited.
 Marsilio Ficino, in his book of preserving the health of students, recommends sucking
the milk of a beautiful young woman, others recommend the eating of Vipers' flesh,
but these remedies are more troublesome than Old Age itself, & could not be obtained
by one in a thousand, although their effect should be certain. Paracelsus, in his book of
Long life, says a sick man may attract to himself the Health of another by imagination
only, & so an Old Man may gather Youth. But in this he seems rather to be guided by
his fancy than experience. It is certain that the people called Psyllis, with their double
pupils, & witches by their very aspect bewitch Cattle & Children, according to
Virgil: "Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinet agnos." These things are done without
contact. But as for the Tree which is to restore the Old Man, the fruit of it is sweet, red &
full ripe, turning into the best blood, as being easy of digestion, & affording the best
Nutriment, leaving nothing in the body that is faecal or superfluous. But the Old Man
abound with white Phlegm, has white Hair & Complection, which Humours, Color, &
Hair are changed into that Red which appears in Youth & Vigor.
 Therefore the Philosophers say their Stone is first an Old Man that is white, & then a
Young man, which is Red. And they say further that the Old Man must be placed together
with the Tree, not in the open air, but in a House, & that not dry, but moist, with Dew.
It may seem strange that Trees should spring & grow in a close place, but if it be moist,
there is no doubt of their continuance. For the Nutriment of a Tree is moisture &
Airy Earth that is fat, which can ascend into the body & Bough, & these produce leaves,
blossoms & fruit. In which Natural work then is the concurrence of all the Elements.
 Fire gives the First Motion as the efficient, Air gives Tenuity & Penetrability, Water
Lubricity, & Earth Coagulation. For when any of their superfluities ascend, Air turns
into Water, & Water into Earth. By Fire, I understand the Native Heat, which being
propagated with the seed, does by the Power of the Stars as if it were a Smith,
forge out & form such fruits as are like to those things from whence the seed ariseth.
But a Dewy Evaporation is not only Expedient, to moisten the Tree so as to make it
yield fruit, but likewise the Old Man, that he may the more easily be made Young
again by that fruit. For the Dewy Vapors will mollify, fill up, & restore his dry & wrinkled
skin with temperate heat & moisture. Wherefore Physicians very rationally & with
good success prescribe Warm Baths for the atrophy ["marasmo"] or Consumption
of Old Age.
 But if the thing be well considered, that Tree is the Daughter of the Old Man, which as
Daphne is changed into a Vegetable of the like sort, & therefore the Old Man may not
unjustly expect Youth from it, seeing He himself was the cause of their being.


Emblem 10th

Da ignem igni, Mercurium Mercurio,
et sufficit tibi.
[Give Fire to fire, Mercury to Mercury,
and you have enough.]

An artisan tends a fire in a chimney set into a wall, holding a
burning log in his left hand. With his right hand he reaches out and
holds the hand of a Hermes or Mercury figure, with winged helme
t and sandals, who holds a caduceus in his right hand.
Seated beside the fire is another Hermes or Mercury also with winged
helmet and sandals. This seated figure hold the caduceus in his left hand.

Atalanta Fugiens 10 midi


Epigram 10th

Machina pendet ab hac mundi connexa catena
Mercurius sic Mercurio, sic jungitur igni
Ignis & haec arti sit data meta tuae.
Hermetem Vulcanus agit, sed penniger Hermes,
Cynthia, te solvit, te sed, Apollo, soror.


Discourse 10th

If this saying be taken literally, it only increaseth the quantity of Fire & Mercury,
but introduceth no new quality into the subject. For every like added to its like,
makes it become more like. Hence Physicians affirm that contraries are healed &
removed by contraries. So we see Fire is extinguished by Water, but fomented
by the addition of Fire. As the Poet says: "Venus in wine, as fire in Fire, does rage.
" ["Et Venus in vinis, ignis in igne furit."] But it may be answered that Fire differs
very much from Fire, & Mercury from Mercury, for there are several sorts of Fire &
Mercury amongst the Philosophers. Moreover, the same heat & cold, being distant
only in place & situation, differs from another of its own kind, so as to attract to
it that which is like to itself.
 So we see that Heat fixed in any part is drawn forth by the same Heat. Limbs
benumbed & almost dead with Frost & cold water will be restored by putting
them into cold Water rather than by the application of external heat. For as the
greater light obscures the lesser, so also greater heat or cold has power over
the lesser, so it is necessary that the Cold or Heat that is outwardly applied
should be less than that which was before imprinted or fixed in the joints,
otherwise the same impression would be made as before, & the like would
rather be much more increased than drawn forth by the like.
 This drawing out of cold by cold water, & of fiery heat by heat, is agreeable to Nature,
for all sudden changes in contraries are dangerous & less acceptable to it, but that
which comes by degrees can more easily be endured. So we say there is one internal
Fire which is essentially infixed in the Philosophical subject, & another external.
The same may likewise be said of Mercury. The internal Fire is Equivocally so
cold because of its fiery qualities, virtue, & operation, but the External Fire is
Univocally so. Therefore, External Fire & Mercury must be given to the internal Fire &
Mercury, that so the intention of the Work may be completed. For in boiling we
use Fire & Water to Mollify & mature any thing that has crudities & hardness.
For Water penetrates into & dissolves the parts contracted, whilst the heat adds
strength & motion to it. Thus we see in the common coction of Pulse ["pulté"],
which, being hard in themselves, yet well are broken and reduced to a pulp in Water,
the heat of the Fire rarifying the Water by ebullition & reducing to almost an aerial
substance, so the heat of Fire resolves the crude parts of Fruit or Flesh into water,
& makes them Vanish into Air together with it.
 After the same manner, Fire & Mercury here are Fire & Water, & the same Fire &
Mercury are the Mature & Crude parts, of which the crude are to be matured by Coction,
or the mature to be purged from superfluities by the assistance of Water. But we shall in
short demonstrate that these two Fires & these two Mercuries are principally & solely
necessary to the completion of the Art. Empedocles was of opinion that the
Principles of all things were Friendship & Discord. That corruptions were made by
Variance, and generations by Love.
This Discord is manifestly apparent in Fire & Water, Fire making Water evaporate &
Water extinguishing Fire when applied to it.
 But it is likewise plain that generations will proceed from these same things by a
certain Friendship. For by heat is made new generation of Air, & by the same
Heat that induration of Water into the Stone is performed, & so from these two
as the first Elements are made the other two, & consequently from thence the
production of all things. Water was the Matter of Heaven & all Corporeal things.
Fire as the Form moves & informs this matter, so this Water or Mercury yields
the Matter & Fire or Sulphur the Form. That these two may operate & mutually
move themselves by Solution, Coagulation, Alteration, Tinction & Perfection,
there will be a Necessity of external Helps, as instruments without which, no effect
can follow. For as a Smith cannot Work without Hammers & Fire, so neither can
the Philosopher without his instruments, which are Water & Fire.
 This Water is by some called the Water of Clouds, as this Fire is called Occasioned
Fire. It is without doubt called the Water of Clouds because it is distilled as May Dew,
& consists of most thin parts. For as it is affirmed that May Dew being enclosed in
the Shell of a Egg will raise it up by the Heat of the Sun, so this Water of the Clouds,
or Dew, makes the Philosopher's Egg ascend, that is, Sublimes, Exalts & Perfects it.
The same Water is also most sharp Vinegar, which makes the body a mere Spirit.
For as Vinegar has different qualities & can penetrate to the bottom & bind, so this
Water dissolves & coagulates, but is not coagulated, because it is not of a proper
Subject. The Water is had from the Fountain of Parnassus, which, contrary to the
Nature of other fountains, is upon the Top of the Hill made the Hoof of the flying
Horse Pegasus.
 There must also be actual Fire, which, notwithstanding, must be governed & qualified
by its degrees as with Bridles. For as the Sun proceeding from Aries into Leo,
& so approaching nearer, gradually increaseth heat to things growing, so it is here
necessary to be done, for the Philosophical Infant must be nourished by Fire as with
Milk, & the more plentiful that is, the more he grows.

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