Anatomy of Melancholy, 280-282 — Pt. I, Sec. 2, Mem. III, Subsect. 11 — Concupiscible Appetite, as Desires, Ambition, Causes

For commonly they that, like Sisyphus, roll this restless stone of ambition, are in a perpetual agony, still perplexed, semper taciti, tritesque recedunt [they fall back continually, silent and sorrowful] (Lucretius), doubtful, timorous, suspicious, loath to offend in word or deed, still cogging and colloguing, embracing, capping, cringing, applauding, flattering, fleering, visiting, waiting at men’s doors, with all affability, counterfeit honesty and humility. 

Well, I feel seen. If anyone is “semper taciti, tritesque recedunt,” it’s me, rolling my stone of ambition up a hill to nowhere. Although to be honest, I’m feeling less like Sisyphus these days and more like a Sisyphus who finally got really tired and just let that stupid rock crush him already. Hm… Looks like I will have to do a second drawing for this section. Case in point. This tendency right here is why I have never finished anything in my life.

Sidenote: Has anyone read Out of Sheer Rage, by Geoff Dyer? It is one of my favorite books, probably because it is about not being able to finish a book, or even start it really. At least I finished that book!

Also, this quote is everything that I love about this book: “They [the ambitious] may not cease, but as a dog in a wheel, a bird in a cage, or a squirrel in a chain (so Budaeus compares them), they climb and climb still, with much labour, but never make an end, never at the top.”

I guess hamsters didn’t exist in Early Modern England, judging by the lack of a hamster wheel metaphor in that string of pet metaphors. Oops, similes! I mean similes. Might as well get it right. If my unfinished literature PhD taught me anything, it sure as hell had better be the difference between a simile and a metaphor. 

Where was I? Oh of course. Evidently there were no hamsters in Early Modern England. They did, however, have something called “a squirrel in a chain.” And who put the dog in a wheel? What on earth is a dog wheel?

Really that’s just a lot to think about, so I guess I’ll get back to cogging and colloguing now.


This post is part of a long, tedious, and very illustrated read-along of Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy. More info here and follow along on Facebook here. Illustrations posted via devon_isadevon on Instagram.


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