[When] cash speaks, the trumpet of Tullius' eloquence grows hoarse;
When cash takes the field, the lighting of Hector's warfare ceases;
When cash fights, the strength of Hercules is subdued.
Ubi nummus loquitur, Tulliani eloquii tuba raucescit;
Ubi nummus commilitat, Hectoreae militiae fulgura conticescunt;
Ubi pugnat pecunia, virtus expugnatur Herculea.
Alas, wretched Tantalus, in the middle of the waves, stands
There thirsty, and, starving, cannot have the nearby fruit.
Change the name, and this will be said of you, oh greedy man,
You, who, almost as if you had it not, do not enjoy what you have.
Heu miser in mediis sitiens stat Tantalus undis,
Et poma esuriens proxima habere nequit.
Nomine mutato de te id dicetur avare,
Qui, quasi non habeas, non frueris quod habes.
Moderns say, "Cash is King." Medievals like Alan de Lille said through his character Nature: "Now not Caesar but cash is everything." Jam non Caesar, sed nummus est omnia. And it rules, given the chance, everything secular and everything religious. To show the travesty of it all, Alan of Lille takes the popular chant that hales from the rugged Carolingian times, Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christ imperat (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ rules), and transforms it to Nummus vincit, Nummus mundum regit, Nummus imperat universis (Cash conquers, Cash rules, Cash gives orders to all). This is money become God. Hail all-powerful Mammon.
Wisdom is man's most noble posession: it surpasses all other temporal goods, and in fact, works exactly the opposite of money:
Though scattered she remains concentrated, when expended she returns, when shared with one and all, she experiences an increase.
Generosa possessio, quae sparsa colligitur, erogata revertitur, publicata suscipit incrementum!
She is the sun through which daylight shines on the mind's darkness, the eye of the heart, delightful paradise of the spirit.
[She, by] the influence of a deific transformation, . . . changes the earthly into the heavenly, the perishable into the immortal, man into God.
She is the one remedy for your exile, the only solace in human misfortune, the one and only morning star to end man's night, the specific redemption for your misery. No darkness in the heavens confuses her keen vision, no thickness of earth blocks her operation, no water's depth dims her vision.
Haec est sol, per quem mens diescit in tenebris, cordis oculus, deliciosus animi paradisus.
Haec in coeleste terrenum, in immortale caducum, in deum hominem, deificae mutationis auctoritate convertit.
Haec est verum peregrinationis remedium, solum humanae calamitatis solatium, humanae noctis lucifer singularis, tuae miseriae redemptio specialis, cujus aciem nulla aeris caligo confundit, non densitas terrae operam ejus offendit, non altitudo aquae respectum ejus obtundit.
The poet wants more information from Nature on Avarice. He wants Nature to tell him, without reservation, her intimate beliefs about Avarice. Nature complies with a poem in Dactylic Hexameter. Though wealth is deprecated, ultimately, Nature's view is balanced. Wealth, and in particular its pursuit, must be governed by reason.
From Avarice, Nature turns her attention to Arrogance.
When the accursed greed for gold pierces the heart of man,
The hungry human mind can feel no fear.
It weakens the bonds of frienship, begets hatred, gives rise to anger,
Sows the seed of war, fosters contentions, reknots the severed line of battle,
Unties the knots of covenants, stirs up
Children against their fathers, mothers against their offsring, causes brother
To ignore the peaceful intent of brother.
This one madness harmfully disunites all whom unity of blood makes one.
. . . .
This discourse does not disparage riches
Or the rich but rather seeks to sink its teeth into vice.
I do not condemn property, riches or the practices of the rich,
Provided that the mind, with reason as mistress, is in command, brings this wealth into subjection to itself and treads upon it--
In a word, provided that reason, the noble charioteer,
shall direct the use of riches.
Postquam sacra fames auri mortalia pungit
Pectora, mens hominis nescit jejuna manere.
Laxat amicitias, odium parit, erigit iras,
Bella serit, lites nutrit, bellumque renodat,
Rumpit nodata, disrumpit foedera, natos
Excitat in patres, matres in viscera, fratres
Dat fratrum nescire togas, et sanguinis omnes
Unio quos unit, furor hos male dividit unus.
. . . .
Divitiis vel divitibus non derogat iste
Sermo, sed vitium potius mordere laborat.
Non census, non divitias, non divitis usum
Damno, si victor animus ratione magistra
Subjectas sibi calcat opes, si denique census
Nobilis auriga ratio direxerit usum.