The poet Jacob Cats was the author of one of the best-known emblem books of the early half of the seventeenth century: 'Proteus ofte minnebeelden verandert in sinnebeelden' (Proteus, or from love emblems to moral emblems).The artist Adriaen van de Venne illustrated Cats's influential book. Many seventeenth-century artists borrowed the moral messages in their paintings from this emblem book.
drawings by Adriaen van de Venne (1589-1662)
Be not too rash, nor yet to eager bent
For hastie wedded folkes, by leasure doe repent.
When Pan first saw the faire which hee before did never knowe,
Och what a goodly thinge (quoth hee) is that, and straight did goe
And did embrace the flame, as if his deare frend it had bin,
And so did scorch and burne his handes, his armes, his mouth and chin.
So where you shall perceave loves toyes extended like a flame,
Imbrace it not in haste, least with your flesh you feele the same;
But first advised be, before unto such love you turne;
Who sups his pottadge hastely, may chaunce his mouth to burne.
If that thyne eyes be conquered, sure,
Then loves torments thou must indure.
The lyon thats both stout and stronge, beinge but debard of sight,
As captive mayst thou gouverne him, and bringe him to thy might:
Even so the lovely ruddy cheeke, of comely maydens hew,
Once gazde upon, getts eyes consent, and doth thy hart subdue.
Then of a valiant man forthwith, thou must becomme her drudge,
Her tauntes, her checks, her frompes, her frownes, gainst them thou must not grudge.
In fine, thy lyons hart shee wil so worke upon with might,
That like a lambe, shee'le leade thee forth, and feare thee with her sight.
This I accounte for no torment
Because my woundes give ornament.
Your needle is the pensill, and youre coloures are fine silke,
The ground-worke of your fragant fielde, more whyter is then milke;
You open, and you close againe, you cure that which you wounde,
You give more then you take, and still your worke is perfect founde.
The needle bores a hole, and with your silke the same is filde
Then come sweet-harte deale so with mee, and graunt all that I wilde;
You know my deadly wounde proceedes by vertue of youre face
Then give consent, come cure my grieffe, and helpe my woefull case.
I hunt, and toyle, I chase alway,
And ever others catch the prey.
No favoure at my Sweet-hartes hande, I coulde obtayne, god wott.
Untill a rusticke clowne beganne to woe my love as hott
As I had done: Whom shee disdaynde, and could him not abyde,
But from him fled, to hyde her head, when ever shee him spyde.
Then was the tyme for mee to learne, my businesse how to guyde,
That deare that others chased, then came and downe sate by my syde.
When clownes assay to woe thy love, then never feare the same,
A clowne the ferrit is which huntes, when others gett the game.
Love, causeth mirth, Ioy, and delight
And love revives the spiritlesse wight.
Like dead in grave I lay, of liffe berefte, O Venus bright,
Untill your Sonne, and Sunne revyvde, & made mee stand upright.
My winges your Sonne did give, your Sunne restord'e my liffe forlorne,
And so of a dead stock was I a lively Creature borne.
I who was but a drowsie droane, now trickt and trymd'e am I,
I who in darkenesse late was lod'gde, abroad i'th' light now flie,
I, that of late crept like a worme, now lifted to the skye:
Loe, al these wonders doe proceede from one glance of her eye.
If at loves game you cannot play,
Leave off in tyme, or keepe away.
This webb that's fra'mde here as you see, is Venus tanglinge nett;
Though many creatures fall therein, yet out againe they gett,
Except some few, that powerlesse bee, and fondly downe are cast:
For such are onely they that are, in Venus webb made fast.
Who any courage hath, with ease may breake this geare asunder;
For loftie myndes looke not so lowe, and scorne to creepe there under.
Ne'er suffer you like muggs to bee ta'en up as Venus swayne:
But manfully breake through the nett; or else turne back againe.
Who unto Idlenesse doth yeilde,
Is as a but in Venus feilde.
The spyder will not once come neare the serpent him t'offende,
When shee perceaves hee busie is, or watchfully doth tend:
But when to sluggishnesse hee's bent, and carelesse of his good,
Upon him streight the spyder falls, and poysoneth his blood.
Who soe therefore will love beholde, and would be free from smarte,
They must eschew all Idlenesse, and thereof take no parte:
Or else this poysoned Cupids shafte will stryke them to the harte,
For everie Idle persone is a whetstone for his darte.
Emblem books, or emblemata books are collections of symbolic prints ('emblemata'), each accompanied by a motto, a short explanatory text. Usually the prints have a rhyme as well, offering a slightly longer explanation below or beside the print. 'Emblematum liber' by the Italian Andrea Alciati (1531) was one of the first emblem books. The combination of picture, motto and poem became especially popular, particularly in Germany and the Low Countries with countless editions appearing in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Typical of the Dutch tradition were the emblem books with realistic pictures and accompanying moralistic captions by Jacob Cats, Jan Luiken and Roemer Visschers. These emblemata reveal some of the opinions held in the 17th-century about how one should behave. In the 17th century (genre) paintings often contain references to these moral views and even to specific emblemata.