quae, quasi, per mediam, mundi praecordia, partem disposita, obtineant, Phoebum lunamque vagasque evincunt stellas nec non vincuntur et ipsa, his regimen natura dedit (III 61-4) "...
As Schwarz pointed out in an important article over forty years ago, the definition of the zodiac as praecordia (literally 'the area before the heart') mundi (I 16; III 61) implies that it stands as the governing principle of the soul, i.e.
Boccaccio, Genealogie, book IIII, chapter xliv, 'illi praecordia
aiunt ab aquila lacerari: idest a meditationibus sublimibus anxiari' ('They say the vitals are lacerated by an eagle: that is, tormented by meditations on the sublime').
rubet auditor cui frigida mens est criminalibus, tacita sudant praecordia
flebis: non tua sunt duro praecordia
ferro uincta, neque in tenero stat tibi corde silex.
Shaking a snake (anguem) from her tresses, Alecto thrusts it into the |secret' or inmost heart (praecordia
intima) of Amata, whereupon it glides (volvitur) and slithers (lapsus) between her garment and skin -- all this without her noticing or feeling anything (attactu nullo).(3) It is a brilliant passage, one which Dryden would translate with great gusto in the following decade (1697).(4) Here, however, in 1681 Dryden employs this reminiscence of Virgil to enhance, as elsewhere in the poem, the heroic grandeur of the occasion.
Elsewhere Sidney complains that poetry has been given a bad name by the 'base men with seruile wits' who write for the press, and cites Juvenal to the effect that 'they, Queis meliore luto finxit praecordia
Titan |whose hearts Prometheus fashioned from a better clay~ are better content to suppresse the out-flowing of their wit, then by publishing them to be accounted Knights of the same order'.(53) Gentlemen-courtiers who were thus 'better' than everyone else in this absolute sense could afford to place more emphasis on their blood and less on their education than commoners or ex-commoners like Smith.
These are the Praecordia
, the "outworks of the heart." A huge globular cluster, M4, appears even closer to Antares (as described in the Binocular Highlight for last month's issue, page 84).
Sed mihi des veniam, quaeso, clarissime regum, Et mihi parce, precor, nostri si carmina tantum Ingenii madefacta haud sunt Heliconis in undis, Illius quantum vatis quem antiqua Tholosa Gallorum genuit urbs, ortu regia claro, Cui non deficiunt praecordia
sacra Platonis, Alta Maroneae cul non facundia musae.
The snake's poison freezes Laevus' blood: fixus praecordia
pressit / Niliaca serpente cruor ("[Laevus'] blood pressed his heart, frozen by the serpent of the Nile," 815-16).