In El amante liberal the heroin, who has endured numerous misfortunes but has miraculously preserved her chastity ( a value whose appreciation in those days can be compared to how integrity and sincerity are appreciated in our times) uses this image to explain to herself her life journey:
como el oro tengo de ser, con el favor del cielo, que mientras más se acrisola, queda con más pureza y más limpio.
I must, by Heaven's favour, be like gold, which the longer it is submitted to the melting pot the purer and cleaner it becomes.
My rereading of this Exemplary Novel of Cervantes', but particularly different occurrences of recent days, have brought to my mind this emblem of Sebastián de Covarrubias’ that also speaks of the melting pot but in this case in reference to friendship.
SIC EXPERIENDA FIDES
[So faith must be tested]
Los quilates del oro y su fineza,
En el crisol lo apura el vivo fuego,
La amistad verdadera y su pureza,
El caso adverso lo descubre luego:
Si por mala fortuna o por pobreza
Huis el rostro a la demanda, y ruego,
De aquel amigo, que por tal tuvistes
Quando en prosperidad le conocistes.
The carats of gold and its fineness
Are in the crucible proved by ardent fire
True friendship and its purity
By adversity are quickly exposed:
When because of misfortune or poverty
You turn your face from the demand and plea
Of the friend that you held as such
When in prosperity you encountered him.
Emblems do not usually express novel truths but rather trite and familiar ones. Their peculiarity consists in the way that these truths are presented to us. They strive to fix them in our minds attached to an image, as well as to invite us to reflection with the verses that accompany them.
I discover once more Covarrubias’ genius. I had only retained the idea of the proof of friendship –which was what I wanted to talk about– but now, reading it again, I find even more wisdom in the game in which he immerses us: not to remain only in the blame that we place on our neighbour but also to acknowledge that we ourselves are guilty of the same fault. I believe that that is what the use of the third person expresses, the you, so inherent to exemplarity, that turns its face from the friend that demands and pleas.
Here is the measure of the world: in the measure of man.