Anatomy of Melancholy, by Robert Burton

The Argument of the Frontispiece.

Ten distinct Squares here seen apart,

Are joined in one by Cutter's art.


Old Democritus under a tree,

Sits on a stone with book on knee;

About him hang there many features,

Of Cats, Dogs and such like creatures,

Of which he makes anatomy,

The seat of black choler to see.

Over his head appears the sky,

And Saturn Lord of melancholy.


To the left a landscape of Jealousy,

Presents itself unto thine eye.

A Kingfisher, a Swan, an Hern,

Two fighting-cocks you may discern,

Two roaring Bulls each other hie,

To assault concerning venery.

Symbols are these; I say no more,

Conceive the rest by that's afore.


The next of solitariness,

A portraiture doth well express,

By sleeping dog, cat: Buck and Doe,

Hares, Conies in the desert go:

Bats, Owls the shady bowers over,

In melancholy darkness hover.

Mark well: If't be not as't should be,

Blame the bad Cutter, and not me.


I'th' under column there doth stand

Inamorato with folded hand;

Down hangs his head, terse and polite,

Some ditty sure he doth indite.

His lute and books about him lie,

As symptoms of his vanity.

If this do not enough disclose,

To paint him, take thyself by th' nose.


Hypocondriacus leans on his arm,

Wind in his side doth him much harm,

And troubles him full sore, God knows,

Much pain he hath and many woes.

About him pots and glasses lie,

Newly brought from's Apothecary.

This Saturn's aspects signify,

You see them portray'd in the sky.


Beneath them kneeling on his knee,

A superstitious man you see:

He fasts, prays, on his Idol fixt,

Tormented hope and fear betwixt:

For Hell perhaps he takes more pain,

Than thou dost Heaven itself to gain.

Alas poor soul, I pity thee,

What stars incline thee so to be?


But see the madman rage downright

With furious looks, a ghastly sight.

Naked in chains bound doth he lie,

And roars amain he knows not why!

Observe him; for as in a glass,

Thine angry portraiture it was.

His picture keeps still in thy presence;

'Twixt him and thee, there's no difference.

Viii, ix.

Borage and Hellebor fill two scenes,

Sovereign plants to purge the veins

Of melancholy, and cheer the heart,

Of those black fumes which make it smart;

To clear the brain of misty fogs,

Which dull our senses, and Soul clogs.

The best medicine that e'er God made

For this malady, if well assay'd.


Now last of all to fill a place,

Presented is the Author's face;

And in that habit which he wears,

His image to the world appears.

His mind no art can well express,

That by his writings you may guess.

It was not pride, nor yet vainglory,

(Though others do it commonly)

Made him do this: if you must know,

The Printer would needs have it so.

Then do not frown or scoff at it,

Deride not, or detract a whit.

For surely as thou dost by him,

He will do the same again.

Then look upon't, behold and see,

As thou lik'st it, so it likes thee.

And I for it will stand in view,

Thine to command, Reader, adieu.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52