Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parallel - Ashes of Chance and Fortune

First, Shake-Speare

from Anthony And Cleopatra 5.2.172-3

"Or shall I show the cinders of my spirits
Through the ashes of my chance"?

Now Bacon:

"Beneath the ashes of my fortune the sparks of love shall ever remain alive".
   Letter to Count Gondomar (in Latin)

"The sparks of my affection shall ever rest quick under the ashes of my fortune, to do you service".
   Letter to Lord Falkland

"While I live, my affection to do your Lordship service shall remain quick under the ashes of my fortune."
   Letter to Lord Digby

"I hope I am rather embers than dead ashes, having the heat of good affections under the ashes of my fortune".
   Notes for interview with King James

Note: Fire under ashes was a familiar poetical conceit. But no parallel has been cited for the metaphor of fire etc under "ashes of fortune" or "ashes of chance". Shake-Speare uses "chance" rather than Bacon's "fortune" because the metre required a monosyllable. Some scholars amend "spirits" to "spirit" - they evidently do not know Bacon's theory of "spirits". I.M. Ingleby amended "chance" to "glance". He and the rest evidently did not know the Bacon parallels just quoted. All the Bacon texts were in 1622. Likewise it was chronologically impossible for Bacon to have borrowed from Anthony And Cleopatra which was not published till 1623.


  1. A source of Bacon's conceit becomes obvious if we read the fable of Nemesis in The Wisdom of Ancients:

    NEMESIS is represented as a goddess venerated by all, but feared by the powerful and the fortunate. She is said to be the daughter of Nox and Oceanus She is drawn with wings, and a crown; JAVELIN OF ASH in her right hand; a glass containing Ethiopians in her left; and riding upon a stag.

    ...And for the javelin in her right hand, it has regard to those whom she has actually struck and transfixed.

    Therefore it's very strange that some scholars can't see a connection between ASH AND CHANCE (fortune)

  2. Yes, there is in both cases the matter of chance or fortune becoming ashes. And in Cleopatra's case at least there's present her nemesis in Caesar. It would have been extra nice if she said she had been smitten by a javelin of some type!