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This picture, plain and insignificant in appearance,
Concealeth a great and important thing.
Yea, it containeth a secret of the kind
That is the greatest treasure in the world.
For what on this earth is deemed more excellent
Than to be a Lord who ever reeketh with gold,
And hath also a healthy body,
Fresh and hale all his life long,
Until the predestined time
That cannot be overstepped by any creature.
All this, as I have stated, clearly
Is contained within this figure.
Three separate shields are to be seen,
And on them are eagle, lion, and free star.
And painted in their very midst
Artfully stands an imperial globe.
Heaven and Earth in like manner
Are also placed herein intentionally,
And between the hands outstretched towards each other
Are to be seen the symbols of metals.
And in the circle surrounding the picture
Seven words are to be found inscribed.
Therefore I shall now tell
What each meaneth particularly
And then indicate without hesitation
How it is called by name.
Therein is a secret thing of the Wise
In which is to be found great power.
And how to prepare it will also
Be described in the following:
The three shields together indicate
Sal, Sulphur and Mercurium.
The Sal hath been one Corpus that
Is the very last one in the Art.
The Sulphur henceforth is the soul
Without which the body can do nothing.
Mercurius is the spirit of power,
Holding together both body and soul,
Therefore it is called a medium
Since whatever is made without it hath no stability.
For soul and body could not die
Should spirit also be with them.
And soul and spirit could not be
Unless they had a body to dwell in,
And no power had body or spirit
If the soul did not accompany them.
This is the meaning of the Art:
The body giveth form and constancy,
The soul doth dye and tinge it,
The spirit maketh it fluid and penetrateth it.
And therefore the Art cannot be
In one of these three things alone.
Nor can the greatest secret exist alone:
It must have body, soul, and spirit.
And now what is the fourth,
From which the three originate,
The same names teach thee
And the sevenfold star in the lower shield.
The Lion likewise by its colour and power
Showeth its nature and its property.
In the Eagle yellow and white are manifest.
Mark my words well, for there is need of care:
The imperial orb doth exhibit
The symbol of this highest good.
Heaven and earth, four elements,
Fire, light, and water, are therein.
The two hands do testify with an oath
The right reason and the true knowledge,
And from what roots are derived
All of the metals and many other things.
Now there remain only the seven words,
Hear further what they mean:
If thou dost now understand this well
This knowledge shall nevermore fail thee.
Every word standeth for a city
Each of which hath but one gate.
The first signifieth gold, is intentionally yellow.
The second for fair white silver.
The third, Mercurius, is likewise grey.
The fourth for tin, is heaven-blue.
The fifth for iron, is blood-red.
The sixth for copper, is true green.
The seventh for lead, is black as coal.
Mark what I mean, understand me well:
In these city gates, indeed,
Standeth the whole ground of the Art.
For no one city alone can effect anything,
The others must also be close at hand.
And as soon as the gates are closed
One cannot enter any city.
And if they had no gates
Not one thing could they accomplish.
But if these gates are close together
A ray of light appeareth from seven colors.
Shining very brightly together
Their might is incomparable.
Thou canst not find such wonders on earth,
Wherefore hearken unto further particulars:
Seven letters, and seven words,
Seven cities, and seven gates,
Seven times, and seven metals,
Seven days, and seven ciphers.
Whereby I mean seven herbs
Also seven arts and seven stones.
Therein stands every lasting art.
Well for him who findeth this.
If this be too hard for thee to understand
Here me again in a few other particulars:
Truly I reveal to thee
Very clearly and plainly, without hatred or envy,
How it is named with one word
Vitriol, for him who understandeth it.
If thou wouldst oft figure out
This Cabbalistic way with all diligence,
Seven and fifty in the cipher
Thou findest figured everywhere.
Let not the Work discourage thee,
Understand me rightly, so shalt thou enjoy it.
Besides that, note this fully,
There is a water which doth not make wet.
From it the metals are produced,
It is frozen as hard as ice.
A moistened dust a fuller wind doth raise,
Wherein are all qualities.
If thou dost not understand this,
Then I may not name it for thee otherwise.
Now I will instruct thee
How it should be prepared.
There are seven ways for this art,
If thou neglectest any of them thou workest in vain.
But thou must, before all things else, know
Thou hast to succeed in purification.
And although this be twofold,
Thou art in need of one alone.
The first work is freely done by it
Without any other addition,
Without distilling something in it,
Simply through its putrefication.
From all of its earthliness
Is everything afterwards prepared.
This first way hath two paths,
Happy is he who goeth on the right path.
The first extendeth through the strength of fire,
With and in itself, note this well.
The second extendeth further
Until one cometh to treasure and to gain.
This is done by dissolving,
And again by saturating, I inform you:
This must be undertaken first of all,
So comest thou to the end of the fine art.
After the whole purification hath been completed
It will be prepared and boiled in the sun
Or in the warm dung of its time,
Which extendeth itself very far
Until it becometh constant and perfect,
And the treasure of the Wise is in it.
The other ways are very subtle
And many mighty one fail therein,
For here is the purpose of the distillation
And the sublimation of the Wise Men.
The separation of the four elements
Is also called by the Wise Men
Air, water, and rectified fire.
The earth on the ground hath mislead many,
Having been deemed a worthless thing,
Although all the power lieth in it.
Some know not how to separate it
From their Cortibus, therefore they fail.
It was cast behind the door,
But the Wise Man taketh it up again,
Purifieth it snow-white and clear:
This is the ground, I say in truth.
But if thou dost wish to separate it,
Note that it is of no little importance,
For if they are not prepared
Then you are in error, that I swear.
Therefore thou must also have some vinegar
Which is revealed to the Wise Men,
Wherewith thou wilt effect the separation,
So that nothing earthly remaineth in it any mo
Till body and soul have to be separated,
Otherwise called fire and earth
And after they are thus purified,
And thereupon followeth the mixture, observe!
And so it cometh to a wondrous strength,
The finished figures with the unfinished.
And if the fire be likewise rightly controlled,
It will be entirely perfect
In much less time than a year.
Now thou hast the entire way in its length
On which are not more than two paths.
From these one soon wandereth and goeth astray,
Else it all standeth clear and plain.
The one is the water of the Wise Men,
Which is the Mercurius alone.
The other is called a vinegar,
And it is known only to a very few.
And this vinegar doth circle
Away from the philosophical iron.
It is Lord Aes whom it makcth glad.
Therefore they have combined so closely
Many hundred forms and names are given
After each hath chosen it.
One way springeth from the true source,
A few have worked on it for a whole year.
But many through their art and craft
Have shortened so long a space of time.
And quickly is the preparation set free
As Alchemy doth point out.
The preparation alone
Maketh this stone great and glorious.
Although there is but one matter
It lacketh nothing else.
But when it is clarified
Its name hath misled many.
However, I have revealed enough to thee
In many ways, forms, and fashions.
There are many names; I say
Let not thyself be misled from the true way.
In their scriptures the Elders write
That it is a draught, a great poison.
Others call it a snake, a monster,
Which is not costly anywhere.
It is common to all men.
Throughout the world, to rich and also to poor.
It is the property of the metals
Through which they conquer victoriously.
The same is a perfection
And setteth a golden crown upon it.
Now the practice is completed
For him who understandeth it and knoweth the matter.
Only two things more are to be chosen
Which thou wilt find by now
If thou dost follow the right way
And attend carefully to thy work.
The composition is the one
Which the Wise Men kept secret.
The nature of the fire also hath hidden craft;
Therefore its order is another.
With that, one should, not deal too much
Or else all execution is lost.
One cannot be too subtle with it.
As the hen hatcheth out the chick
So also shall it be in the beginning,
And time itself will prove it.
For just as the fire is regulated
Will this treasure itself be produced.
Be industrious, constant, peaceful, and pious,
And also ask God for His help:
If thou dost obtain that, then always remember
The poor and their needs.
If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.
Works of Nicolas Flamel
Works of George Ripley
Works of Sendivogius
Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum
Emerald tablet of Hermes
Texts from Musaeum Hermeticum
Spanish alchemical texts
German alchemical texts
French alchemical texts
Russian alchemical texts
Italian alchemical texts