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Proteus

(pron. Pro'-tuce). As many shapes as Proteus- i.e. full of shifts, aliases, disguises, etc. Proteus was Neptune's herdsman, an old man and a prophet. He lived in a vast cave, and his custom was to tell over his herds of sea-calves at noon, and then to sleep. There was no way of catching him but by stealing upon him during sleep and binding him; if not so captured, he would clude anyone who came to consult him by changing his shape, for he had the power of changing it in an instant into any form he chose.

The changeful Proteus, whose prophetic mind,
The secret cause of Bacchus' rage divined,
Attending, left the flocks, his scaly charge,
To graze the bitter weedy foam at large.

Camoens: Lusiad, vi.

Proteus

One of the two gentlemen of Verona; his serving-man is Launce. Valentine is the other gentleman, whose serving-man is Speed. (Shakespeare. Two Gentlemen of Verona.)

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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