Maier himself had recently returned from a five-year sojourn in England, and it was perhaps there that he had prepared this and the nine other books published in 1616-1618.

Atalanta Fugiens exudes the air of its time: the alchemist's laboratory, the echoes of Renaissance choirs, the attention of the engraver to his copper plate. It is beautiful and strange, and it must be full of meaning, but what is that meaning? The question was a teasing one even to Maier's contemporaries, and four hundred years of 'progress' have not brought us any closer to answering it. Yet one can enjoy and love this work without being able to understand it. Art, and that includes Maier's chosen art of alchemy, does not have to be rational in order to give satisfaction. It is sufficient for it to arouse the sense of wonder, the sense of something coming from another level of existence or another order of being. That, after all, is what music regularly does.

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Titles of the Fugues:

1. The wind has carried it in his belly
2. Its nurse is the earth
3. Go to the woman washing sheets, and do thou likewise
4. Join brother to sister and hand them the cup of love
5. Put a toad to the breasts of a woman, and nurse it; the woman may die, but the toad grows big from the milk
6. Sow your gold in the white foliated earth
7. There is a chick, flying up from its nest, that falls back into the nest again
8. Take the egg and pierce it with a fiery sword
9. Lock the tree with the old man in a bedewed house, and by eating of its fruit he will become young
10. Give fire to fire, Mercury to Mercury, and it is enough for you
11. Make Latona white and tear up the books
12. The stone that Saturn vomited up, after having devoured it in place of his son, Jupiter, has been placed on Helicon as a monumneet for mortals
13. The Ore of the Philosophers is dropsical, and needs to be washed seven times in the river, just as the leper Naaman in the Jordan
14. This is the dragon devouring its own tail
15. Let the work of the potter, consisting of the dry and the wet, teach you
16. This lion has no feathers; the other has
17. A fourfold wheel rules this fiery work
18. Fire loves to make fire, but not to make gold, as gold does
19. If you kill one of the four, all will be dead immediately
20. Nature teaches nature to overcome the fire
21. Make a circle around man and woman, then a square, now a triangle; make a circle, and you will have the Philosophers' Stone
22. When you have the white lead, do the women's work, that is, cook
23. Gold rains down, as Pallas is born on Rhodes, and the Sun lies with Venus
24. The wolf devoured the king, and when burned, it returned him to life.
25. The dragon will not die, unless it be killed by its brother and sister, who are Sol and Luna
26. The fruit of human wisdom is the Tree of Life
27. He who tries to enter the Philosophic Rose-garden without a key is like a man wanting to walk without feet
28. The king is bathed, sitting in a steam-bath, and is freed from black bile by Pharut
29. Like the salamander, the stone lives in the fire
30. The Sun needs the Moon, as the cock needs the hen
31. The king swims in the sea, crying with a loud voice: 'He who rescues me shall have a mighty reward!'
32. As coral grows under water and hardens in the air, so does the stone
33. The hermaphrodite, like a corpse, lying in the dark, needs fire
34. He is conceived in the bath and born in the air, but when he is made red he steps over the waters
35. As Ceres accustomed Triptolemus to stay in the fire, and Thetis Achilles, so the master does to the stone
36. The stone is projected onto the land, and exalted in the moutains, and lives in the air, and feeds in the river, that is, Mercury
37. Three things suffice for the mastery: white smoke, that is, water; the green lion, that is the Ore of Hermes; and foetid water
38. The Rebis, like the hermaphrodite, is born from two mountains, those of Mercury and Venus
39. Oedipus, having overcome the Sphinz and murdered Laius his father, takes his mother to wife.
40. From two waters make one, and it will be the water of holiness
41. Adonis is slain by a boar, and as Venus runs up, she tinctures the roses with her blood
42. For him versed in chemistry, let Nature, Reason, Experience and Reading be his guide, staff, spectacles and lamp
43. Hear the garrulous vulture, who in no wise deceives you
44. Typhon kills Osiris by trickery, and scatters his members far and wide, but the renowned Isis collects them
45. The Sun and its shadow complete the work
46. Two eagles meet, one from the East, the other from the West
47. The wolf coming from the East and the dog coming from the West have bitten each other
48. The king, sick from drinking the waters, is cured by the physicians and regains his health
49. The Philosophic Child acknowledges three fathers, like Orion
50. The dragon kills the woman, and she him, and together they are soaked in blood
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