The Fountain allegory of Bernard of TrevisoBack to allegories.
When I perceived that I had proceeded a considerable length in this Art, I began most earnestly to court and to frequent the company of those who were learned in it also: for it becomes good men to join themselves to their equals and not to others.
Therefore, when I passed through Apulea, a city in India, I heard that a man resided there who was so very learned in every branch of Science, that he had not his equal in this world. He instituted as a Prize of disputation for all skilled in Art, a book fabricated, both leaves and cover, of pure gold. Therefore, desirous of honour, I did not doubt that my mind would assist me thereto and dispose me to the prescribed disputations, a very learned man adding spurs to my undertaking this province, and it also coming into my mind that the daring and bold were carried to sublime things, while the timid were thrown down and lived in perpetual dejection, I passed manfully into the field of contest and happily obtained the palm of disputation before the audience, and the book of premium was so honourably delivered to me by the faculty of Philosophy, that I was looked upon by all men.
Then for the sake of recreating my mind, fatigued with study, and enquiring for pleasant plains and meadows, I met with a most limpid little fountain, surrounded and fortified with a most beautiful stone in an oaken trunk, and enclosed within a wall, that brutes might not enter nor birds make a bath for themselves there. Sitting above this fountain, I contemplated its beauty and I saw the upper part was shut.
A very venerable old man was coming there. As reverent as a priest, I honourably saluted him and I asked him wherefore that fountain was shut and fortified in that manner, above, below, and on every side.
Having deigned to give me a friendly answer, he said, "What you would know, my friend, is a fountain very terrible and wonderful in virtue before every other fountain in the world. It belongs to the King alone of this country, whom the fount knows very well, and he himself the fountain. It always draws the King, when passing this way, to itself, but is never drawn by the King. In that Bath he remains 282 days, at the end of which so much youthful strength is added to him, that he can afterwards be conquered by nobody however strong. He therefore took care to shut up his little fountain with a round white stone, as you see, in which a clear fountain shines like silver and of celestial colour. That it may also be stronger and lest it should be destroyed by horses or others, he introduced an old oak cleft in the middle, which protects it from the rays of the Sun, forming a shade.
"Then, as you see, he surrounds it with a wall very thick. He shuts it up first with the hard and clear stone, then finally in the cavities of the oak, chiefly because it is so terrible in its nature that once inflamed and irritated, it would make its way through every thing, and also should it escape the fences, there would be an end of us."
I afterwards asked him if he himself saw the King in the said fount, he answered that he indeed saw him enter, but from that time at which he is shut up in it by the Keeper, he does not appear more until the 130th day, at length he emerges bright and splendid. The Keeper Porter assiduously warms the bath, that he may keep up the heat which is occult in the water of the fount, and he warms it night and day without intermission.
I again interrogated what colour was the King?
He answered that the first of his vestures was from the beginning Cloth of Gold, then with a black velvet doublet, a shirt truly white above the snow, his flesh however, or blood is of the richest reds.
I then asked whether the King on coming there brought with him a great concourse of extraneous people low and vulgar along with him?
He answered me friendly but laughing at the question, saying, "When the King purposes to come hither, he dismisses all his counsellors and every stranger and enters alone, nobody approaching the fount except himself and its Keeper alone, the care of which a very simple man has. Verily the simplest man can best supply his place, since he does nothing else than warm the fount."
I again enquired whether the King was a friend to the fount, or the fount a friend to him?
He answered, "They love one another reciprocally in a wonderful manner, the fount attracts the King and not the King the fount, for it is as it were the Mother to the King."
I next interrogated of what kind the King was?
He answered, "He comes from the fount which makes him such as he is without any other thing whatever."
I enquired whether he had many counsellors. He said he has six forsooth who expect the succession, if by any chance or any means the King should die, they will also rule the Kingdom like him; hence it is that they serve him because they hope from him Dominion and possessions.
Then I asked whether he was an old man.
He answered, that he was older than the forest and more mature than any of his own subjects.
How happens it therefore, I asked, that these do not kill the King who expect so much inheritance from his death, since he is so old?
He answered, "Although he is so much advanced in years, nevertheless no one of his subjects is so patient of cold and sweats rains winds and labours as himself. Also no one of them by himself, nor any of them together could kill him."
How then will they possess the Kingdom if he cannot die not be killed by any one?
He answered, "His six subjects are from the fount, from which they possess everything they have, as well as he, wherefore they are chiefly drawn by the fount. The King is killed by that very fount as well as they are resuscitated by it afterwards, from the substance of his Kingdom, which substance is divided into the minutest particles, each of his subjects receives his portion and however minute the particle which any one of them has, he equals the King in power and strength and opulence, and they are made equal among themselves."
I again enquired, how long they might have to wait in this expectation?
Laughing at me again he answered, "Know that the King enters alone without any of his subjects, for although the fount also loves them, yet they do not enter, because they have not yet described this dignity. But the King upon entering throws off his vesture of fine beaten gold, which he delivers to his first Chamber Man called Saturn, who when he has once obtained possession of it keeps it for forty days, sometimes forty two days at most. Then the King throws off the Black Velvet waistcoat, which he delivers to his second Chamber Man, called Jupiter, who keeps it 22 days. Then the King ordering him, Jupiter gives it to Luna, which third person is beautiful and resplendent. She keeps it 20 days. Then the King is in a shift, pure white as snow, or like fine pearls or a white lily, which also he puts off and delivers to Mars, who keeps it 40 days and sometimes two more. Afterwards Mars by the will of God, delivers it to yellow Sol, not clear Sol, who keeps it 40 days. Then comes the most beautiful and blooded Sol who immediately snatches up the shirt."
I then asked him what is the meaning of all this, and he answered, "The fount is then opened, and as he had given them his shift, his waistcoat and his vestment, at this moment he delivers to them his blood red flesh to eat and now at length they have their desire."
Again I asked whether they always waited so long a time, and whether they had remuneration for their services, to induce them to persevere to the end?
He answered, "Four of these Counsellors, the moment they have obtained the white shirt may rejoice if they please, and also enjoy the greatest riches, but this only gives them the half part of the Kingdom. Wherefore, they rather wish to wait a little longer for the end, and wait that they also may be crowned with the Royal Diadem of their Monarch."
I asked whether any Physician attended or anything else whatsoever at that time.
He answered, "No, nor any thing whatever except the Keeper alone, who excits below a continual surrounding and vaporous heat, except this there is nothing else."
I asked whether this Keeper underwent much labour?
He answered, "He suffers more at the beginning than towards the end, because the fount is then heated."
I asked whether many people saw the work.
He answered, "It is done out of the sight of all the world, not one in the world even knows. The whole world have it before their eyes and do not know it."
I asked once more what do they next?
He said, "If these six wish again to purge the King they could do it in the fount in three days, by surrounding the place so as to satisfy the contents, by giving him back on the first day - the waistcoat, on the second - the shirt, and on the third day - his blood red flesh."
I asked to what purpose is all this?
He said, "I am wearied with what I have already told you."
Which when I perceived this, I was unwilling to be troublesome. I bid him farewell giving him many great thanks, and seeing him home to his residence. The old man was so reverend and so very wise, that the heavens obeyed him and all things trembled before him.
I was sleepy and returning to the fountain, I sat down to rest a little, when I could not abstain when sitting upon it from opening all the fastenings in a secret manner. In the meantime when I looked upon the book which was the reward of my disputation, and by its splendour and beauty increased my sleepiness and in a slumber it fell out of my sleepy hands into the fount, which happened very unluckily, for I wished to preserve the memorial of my having the honour of being an adept. And when I looked it had disappeared from my eyes, thinking therefore that it had fallen to the bottom, I began to draw out the water with such great care, however, that nothing more might remain in it than a tenth part of it, with scarcely ten parts, and when I attempted to draw out the whole, they obstinately adhered together.
In the meantime while I was labouring with the work, some people came upon me so that they hindered me from drawing out any more. Before I went away however, I shut all things again lest any body might perceive that I had exhausted or seen the fountain, or lest perhaps they might forcibly steal the Book from me. Then the heat began to be excited round about in the bath for the purpose of bathing the King. But I was taken to prison and detained 40 days for having perpetrated the crime.
After I was relieved, I returned to the fount that I might see it, obscure clouds appeared which lasted a long time. To conclude, I saw every thing at the end that my prize derived without much labour.
It will not torment you very much if you enter upon the right path and not leave it for erroneous ones, but imitate nature in every thing. In concluding I say unto you that whosoever upon reading of this book does not understand the Stone by himself, will never understand the work, however much he may operate. For in this very parable, the whole work is contained, in practice, days, colours, regimens, ways, dispositions and continuations, which I have narrated, moved by piety, charity, and compassion alone towards desolate operators in this most precious secret.
Therefore, in making of my book I beseech the Lord God, whose grace is absolute, that he may open the minds of men of good will, to whom if ingenious there will be little difficulty, only they must abstain from the dreaming phantasies and the subtleties of Sophists and always remain in this way of nature which is demonstrated by my speculations.
Farewell in Jesus Christ always and be mindful of the poor, when you obtain this inexhaustible treasure.
Pray to God, who will teach you more.
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