The Hedgehog: Do What Thou Canst

Book Title: De bykorf des gemoeds : honing zaamelende uit allerly bloemen / vervattende over de honderd konstige figuuren ; met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyke verzen, door Jan Luiken

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Hedgehog: Do What Thou Canst

Scripture Reference:

Description: Two men contemplate two hedge-hogs which are rolling on the ground in order to pick up fallen fruit. Behind the men a hedgehog is rolled into a ball to defend itself from an attack by a dog. The Dutch artist and poet Jan Luiken (1649-1712), whose initials are at the lower right, was responsible for drawing and etching this emblem, as well as for the poem that accompanies it (below). The attendant Scripture text is Romans 2:4.

If Hunger seeks Fruit for teeth,
Diligence will create hands.

Although the little hedgehog has no Hands,
He has a body covered with sharp teeth,
Which serve it in place of hands,
To prevent harm,
And also to feed himself with,
As one apparently sees,
That it can carry away the Object of its desire,
As if with hands:
O Man! make everything on thee,
Into Hands, so as to take hold of,
(Before the course of Time dost take thee by surprise)
The offered Inheritance,
Of Eternal, truly happy life,
Cast and given to thee,
As if lying before thy feet,
Free thyself from the shame,
Of still standing as if without hands,
Otherwise pain and woe will follow.
How many people there are without hands,
To seize the Good, from the very highest wishes,
As their most valuable treasure,
While they in earthly things,
Are like Hedgehogs, in actions,
Of which the Body seizes on all sides.
But he who wishes to learn from the little Hedgehog,
Should make hands so as to turn away the evil,
And to pick up the very highest Good,
On all sides,
Then is his action upright,
To the Eternal advantage of the Soul.

(Translation by Josephine V. Brown, with editorial assistance from William G. Stryker)

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