Homepage Van Bleyswijck

Y - Per Angusta Ad Augusta

An early road map of the path of life

The Greek letter Y can according to Pythagoras (read Pythagoras own text in Latin or in Dutch) symbolize the path of life. You can follow two different directions: to the right the path of virtue, which starts narrow and steep, but at the end wide and easy; to the left the path of vice, starting wide and easy, but at the end turning around narrow and steep.

This letter Y was used by the Delft Latin school as their symbol, with the added motto 'PER ANGUSTA AD AUGUSTA', through the narrow passage to loftiness, or paraphrasing: it is not an easy road to success.

In 1616 this symbol and motto was carved in stone (click on the stone to see it large - 83 kb) and placed above the entrance of school at the Oude Delft. When the school moved to a new building in 1890, the new building got also symbol and motto above the door.

I adopted this motto and added it to my e-mail signature after I got at last a position at the university of Utrecht in February 1996. It took me since my graduation in 1981 fifteen years before I got such a wished job. It could have been easier to look for a position outside map-history. There couldn't have been a better way to illustrate this than an old map showing this hard road !

Vergil's verse about Pythagoras's letter Y

In Latin Dutch translation
Littera Pythagorae discrimine secta bicorni

Humanae vitae speciem preferre videtur.

Nam via virtutis dextrum petit ardua callem,

Difficilemque aditum primum spectantibus offert:

Sed requiem praebet fessis in vertice summo.

Molle ostentat iter via lata: sed ultima meta

Praecipitat captos, volvitque per ardua saxa,

Quisquis enim duros casus virtutis amore

Vicerit, ille sibi laudemque decusque parabit.

At qui desideam, luxumque sequetur inertem,

Dum fugit oppositos incauta mente labores,

Turpis, inopsque simul miserabile transiget aevum.
Pythagras letter en besluyt,
Wil 's Menschen leven drucken uyt:
Waer van de deugd ten regten gaet,
Een steyle weg, een smalle straet,
Een weg die sig eerst moeylijk toont
Waer boven op de ruste woont.
De breede wegh ter syden aen,
Daer kan men met gemak toe gaen,
Daer klimt de pragt en wellust op:
Maer boven valtie van den top.
Doch wie, om deugd, op berg en dal,
Op steyle rotsen klimmen sal,
Die sal verkrygen lof en eer:
Maer wie den tragen weg veel meer,
De overdaed en wellust mint,
Die valt, al eer hy 't oock versint,
In schand, in armoe, spot en smaet,
En leeft in seer droeve staet.


Latin text and Dutch translation from:
Dirck Evertsz. van Bleyswijck, Beschryvinge der Stadt Delft. - Delft: Arnold Bon, 1667-[1680], pp. 521-522.


The same motto in a slightly different spelling is also in use by the King George VI Memorial School, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Sindile K. Mhlanga wrote me on 9 April 1999:

Dear Peter


I just happened to run a search on altavista.com - typed in the motto of
my old school, which is "Per Angusta ad Agusta" - and the search brought
up a link to your home page. Well, you might wonder who this stranger is
showing some interest in the motto!Let me introduce myself.


My name is Sindile kevin Mhlanga.  I am from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and
currently studying in the United States.  I have been deaf since the age
of 12 (I'm 27 now).  When I became deaf,  I had to switch from a
mainstream school to a special school for the deaf and physically
handicapped, King george VI Memorial School, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The
school had about 170 students of varying age and disability, and  the
motto, of course, was and still is "Per Agusta Ad Agusta."  We wore it
proudly on our school uniforms, it was on the school bus, letterheads,
etc.  All the while, we had no idea what it meant.  


Being a literary sort of person, I searched all over for a translation
using Latin/English dictionary, and I came up with "Through a difficulty 
to Greatness."  It wasn't entirely correct, but I felt that it conveyed
the circumstances of the disabled children in the school very well...
their struggle to overcome disability and all the difficulties associated
with it.


When I left the school to pursue higher studies, it broke my heart becomes
I was so attached to every one there.  Later I used the motto as my e-mail
signature (along with my name) -- check it out when you receive this
e-mail.


I have been yearning to go back home lately, and sometimes will just type a
search term on the web related to my school and hope it brings up
something.... today it did, and I  learned more about the origins of the
motto.  I am really glad I  visited your home page.  You talk about your
15 year wait before you finally got the job you wanted -- and I think the
motto says it all!  As a deaf person who has to contend with all kinds of
barriers, I understand it well.  It makes it sweeter when I consider that
was my school's motto as well.


On a final note, I noticed that there's a slight difference in spelling -
Augusta/Agusta -- but I guess the meaning's still the same.  You can check
out a picture of the school coat of arms on my homepage at
www.rit.edu/~skm9921/kg6.html

Best regards


Sindile   
His homepage doesn't exist anymore, and I can't find a new one or his new e-mail addres, but here you find some information.
He/she, who knows from which of Vergil's works this is quoted, or can give a good English translation, please write Peter van der Krogt.