User Tools

Site Tools


Browne 1743 Edition - Book 4

Inspired, I wander over the Muses seats, of difficult access, and yet untrod; I love to approach the purest springs, and thence to draw large draughts; I love to crop fresh flowers and make a noble garland for my head from thence, where yet the Muses never bound another's temples with a crown like mine. And first I write of lofty things, and strive to free the mind from the severest bonds of what men call religion; then my verse I frame so clear, although my theme by dark; seasoning my lines with the poetic sweets of fancy, and reason justifies the method; for as physicians when they would prevail on children to take down a bitter draught of wormwood, first tinge the edges of the cup with sweet and yellow honey, that so the children's unsuspecting age, at least their lips, may be deceived, and take the bitter juice; thus harmlessly betrayed, but not abused, by tasting thus they rather have their health restored: So I, because this system seems severe and harsh to such who have not yet discerned its truth, and the common herd are utterly averse to this philosophy, I thought it fit to show these rigid principles in verse, smooth and alluring, and tinge them, as it were, with sweet poetic honey, thus to charm your mind with my soft numbers till you view the nature of all things clearly, and perceive the usefulness and order they display.

Now since I taught what are the first principles of all things, and how they differ in their figures, and wander of their own accord, urged on by an eternal motion, and how of them all beings are first formed, and I have shown the nature of the mind, of what seeds composed, and how it exerts itself united with the body, and separated from it, how it returns to its first principles again: I shall now begin to explain what is of the nearest concern to these inquiries, and prove that there are what we call the images of things, which, like membranes, or films, flowing from the surface of bodies, fly every way abroad through the air. These, while we are awake, often rush upon our minds and terrify us, and likewise sleeping, when we think we see strange phantoms and specters of the dead, which shake us horribly when fast asleep. For sure we are not to imagine that the souls are broke loose out of Hell, or that the ghosts hover and play about the living, or that any part of us remains after death; since the soul and body, once dissolved, return severally to their first seeds from whence they were produced.

I say then that images or tenuous figures are always flowing, or sent out from the surface of bodies, which may be called the membranes of the bark of things; and these several images bear the same shape and form as the particular body from whence they flow.

This requires no extraordinary apprehension to conceive, for to give a plain instance, many things emit bodies from themselves, some more rare and diffused, as wood discharges smoke and fire a vapour; others more dense and compact, as when grasshoppers in summer cast their old coats, and calves new-born drop the pellicules in which they are enclosed; or as the winding snake leaves his skin among the thorns, for the briers we often see adorned with their light spoils. This being so, it follows that a very subtle image may fly off from the utmost surface of bodies; for there can be no reason given why these, and not others more thin than these, may not fall off and be discharged; especially since in every surface there are many minute corpuscles that may be cast off in the very same order they are ranged in the body, and so preserve their old form and figure; and they are the readier to fly off because they are small, and no so liable to be stopped, and are placed likewise upon the utmost surface.

For it is certain that many particles are not sent out and get loose only from the middle and inward parts, as we said before, but color itself is discharged from the surface of bodies. And so curtains, yellow, of a deep red, or blue (as they hang in lofty theatres, waving expanded on the beams, and flowing on the pillars with the wind) do this; for they stain the stage, and scenes, and audience, senators, matrons, and the images of the gods; and cause them to wave in their own gaudy dye; and the more the walls of the theatre are darkened, and the daylight shut out, every thing which is spread over and shines out with a brighter luster. Since therefore these curtains discharge their colors from the surface, all things, by the same rule, may emit subtle images, for those are thrown off from the surface as well as these.

There are therefore certain images of things, of a fine and subtle contexture, that are always flying about, and are impossibly severally to be discovered by the eye.

Besides, all smell, smoke, vapour, and other such things fly off from bodies in a diffused and scattered manner, because as they pass to the outside of bodies from within they are broken and divided by the crooked pores they must make their way through; the road they are to take is full of windings, as they attempt to rise and fly out; but, on the contrary, when the membrane of color is thrown off, there is nothing to disorder it, because it lies disentangled upon the very surface.

And then since the forms that appear to us in looking-glass, in water, and all polished bodies are exactly like the things whose images they are, they must necessarily be composed of the images that flow from the substance of the things themselves, for why those particles should fall away and be discharged from bodies which are discovered by the eye rather than these that are more thin and subtle no reason can properly be assigned.

There are therefore tenuous and fine shapes of the same figure with the things themselves, which, though they cannot singly be distinguished by the sight, yet being reflected, and swiftly and constantly repelled from the smooth plane of the glass, become visible, nor can any other reason be so properly offered why forms so like the things are returned to us.

And now conceive, if you can, of what a tenuous and subtle nature an image consists, and for this reason, in the first place, because the seeds of things are so much beyond the reach and discovery of our senses, and are infinitely less than those bodies that escape the observation of the most curious eye; as a proof how subtle the first principles of things are, attend to these short observations.

And first there are animals so exceeding small, that one third part of them cannot possibly by any means be discovered. What are you to conceive of the bowels of these creatures? Of their little hearts and eyes? What of their members? What are you to think of their limbs? How small are they? What besides of the seeds which compose the soul and mid, don’t you imagine how subtle and minute they are?

Besides, herbs that exhale a sharp smell from their bodies, such as all-heal, bitter wormwood, strong southernwood, and four centaury, if you shake any of these ever so lightly you may be sure many particles fly off, and scatter every way, but without force, and too weak to affect the sense; yet how small and subtle are the images that are formed from these, no one can conceive or express.

But lest you should think that the images that fly off the surface of bodies are the only things that wander abroad, there are other shapes that are fashioned of their own accord, and are produced in the lower region we call the air; these are framed in various manners, are carried upward, and being very subtle and less compact in their contexture, are ever changing their figure, and assume all variety of forms. Thus we see the clouds sometimes thicken in the sky, darkening the serene face of the heavens, and wounding the air by violence of their motion; now the shape of giants seem to fly abroad, and project their shadows all round; and then huge hills, and rocks torn from the mountaintop, are born before the sun, and hide his light. Others again advance and represent the shape of monsters wandering through the sky.

Now learn in how easy and swift a manner these images are produced; how they continually fly and fall off from the surface of bodies; for there is always a store of forms upon the outside of things ready to be thrown off. These, when they light upon some things, pass through them, as a garment for instance; but when they strike upon sharp rocks, or upon wood, they are immediately broken and divided, so that no image can be reflected; but when they are opposed by dense and polished bodies, such as looking-glass, then nothing of this happens; for they can neither pass through this as through a garment, nor are they divided before the glass preserves their figure perfect and entire. Hence it is that these forms are presented to our sight, and place a thing ever so suddenly, and in a moment of time, before the glass, and the image instantly appears. So that you find there are subtle textures of things, and subtle images continually flowing from the surface of bodies; and therefore many of these forms are produced in a short space of time, and may be justly said to receive their being from a very swift motion.

And as the sun is obliged to emit many of its rays in an instant, that the whole air might be full of light, so many images of things must needs be carried off in the smallest point of time, and scattered every way abroad; for place your glass in what manner you please, the things appear in the same color and figure they really are.

So often, when the face of the sky is most serene and bright, it becomes on all sides black and horrid of a sudden, that you would think the while body of darkness had left the regions below, and filled the wide arch of heaven, so dreadful does the night appear from driving clouds, and scatters gloomy terror from above, but how small in comparison of these clouds are the images of things no one can conceive or express.

And now, with how swift courage these images are carried on, how suddenly they make their passage through the air, how they outstrip dull time, wherever by various motion they intend their way, I choose in sweetest numbers than in tedious verse to show: As the swan’s short song is more melodious than the harsh noise of cranes, scattered by winds through all the air.

First then, we observe that light things that are formed of small particles, are very swift in their motion; of this sort are the rays and heat of the sun, because they are composed of very minute seeds which are easily thrust forward, as it were, through the interjacent air, the following urging on the part that went before; for one beam of light is instantly supplied by another, and every ray is pressed on by another behind. By the same rule, the images may pass through an unaccountable space in a moment of time: first, because there is always a force behind to drive and urge them forward, and then their texture, as they fly off, is so thin and subtle, that they can pierce through any bodies, and, as it were, flow through the air that lies between.

Besides, if those corpuscles that lie in the inward parts of bodies are discharged from above down upon the earth, such as the light and heat of the sun; if these, we observe, descend in a point of time, and spread themselves through all the expansion of the air, and fly over the sea, the Earth, and the upper regions of the heavens; if these are diffused with such wonderful celerity, what shall we say? Those particles that are always ready upon the utmost surface of things, when they are thrown off, and have nothing to obstruct their motions, don’t you see how those may fly swifter, and go further, and pass through a much greater space in the same time than the beams of the sun take up to make their way through?

Another notable instance which fully proves with how swift a motion the images are carried on is this: as soon as a bowl of clear water is placed in the open air, in starlight night, the shining stars are seen twinkling in the still water; don’t you see therefore in what point of time the images descend upon the earth from the upper regions of the air?

Again then, and again, you must allow that particles are perpetually flowing fro the surface of bodies, which present themselves to our eyes and strike our sight: from some bodies a train of smells are always flying off, so cold is emitted from the rivers, heat from the sun, a salt vapor from the water of the sea that eats through walls along the shore, and sounds are always flying through the air. Lastly, as we walk upon the strand a salt taste offends our mouth; and when we see a bunch of wormwood bruised, the bitterness strikes upon the palate. So plain it is that something is continually flowing off from all bodies, and is scattered all about; there is no intermission, the seeds never cease to flow, because we still continue to feel, to see, to smell, and hear.
Besides, since any figure we feel with our hands in the dark, we know to be the same we before saw by day, and in the clearest light, the touch and sight must needs be moved by the same cause; and therefore, if we feel a quadrangular figure and distinguish its shape in the dark, what can present that shape to us in the light but its quadrangular image? The cause therefore of our sight must arise from the images, nor indeed can we distinguish any thing without them.

Now these images I am speaking of are carried about every way, and are thrown off and scattered on all sides; and therefore it is, since with our eyes alone we are able to see, that which way soever we turn our eyes, the objects strike upon them in their proper form and color.

The image likewise is the cause that we discover, and takes care to satisfy us at what distance bodies are removed from us, for as soon as it is emitted, it instantly thrusts forward, and drives on the air that is placed between itself and the sight; this stream of air then glides to the eye, and as it were grates gently upon the ball, and so passes through. Hence it is that we perceive how far things are distant from our sight; for the more air there is that is driven before the image, and the longer the stream of it that rubs upon the ball, the longer the interval of space between the object and the eye must be allowed to be. All this is done with the utmost celerity, for we see what the object is and know its distance in the same instance.

Nor are we to think it at all strange in this case that the objects may be perfectly seen, and yet the images that singly strike the eye cannot themselves be discovered, for when the wind blows gently upon us, and its sharp cold pierces our bodies, we cannot distinguish the several particles of wind or cold that so affect us, but we are sensible of their whole strength together; we perceive their blows laid upon our bodies as if something were beating us, and made us feel the effects of its outward force upon us. And so when we strike a stone with our fingers we touch the surface and out most color of the stone, but then we feel nothing of the color or surface by our touch, we perceive no more than the hardness of the stone that lies within.

And now learn why the image is always seen beyond the glass, for it certainly appears at a remote distance from us. For instance: when you are placed in an inner room, and things are seen at a distance from you, when the door is open, and gives you a clear prospect, and allows you plainly to discover any object without, your sight in this case is formed, as I may say, by a double air; the air that lies within the door is the first, then the door is placed in the middle between, and then the light without that rubs gently upon the eye, this is the other air; and at length the object is discovered. So when the image of the glass first flies off, as it makes a passage to our sight, it strikes forward, and drives on the air that lies between itself and the eye, so that we feel all this interjacent air before we see anything of the glass; but when we discovery the glass, the image that is emitted from us instantly flies to it, and being reflected and sent back, returns again to our sight, and forces the air that is before it, which is the reason that we perceive this interjacent air before the image is seen by us. Now when two airs are driven (the image of the glass forcing on one, and the image reflected another) the interval must of necessity be more extended, and even doubled. Hence it is that the images appears not in the surface of the glass, but beyond it, and therefore we are not to wonder at all that the images of things reflected to our sight, from the surface of a smooth glass, by means of a double air, because it appears plainly that they are so.

But more: That the part of the body that is the right side appears in the glass to be the left, because the image, when it strikes upon the surface of the glass, is not reflected again unchanged, but is turned a different way about. For instance: Take a mask made of clay, before it is dry, and dash it against a pillar or beam; if it preserves its figure entire, and appears inverted only so that the face fills up the hollow, the event will be that the right eye will now be the left, and the left the right.

And then it may be contrived that the image shall pass from one glass into another, so that five or six images shall be reflected at once; and objects that are placed backwards in the inward part of the house, let them be ever so much out of sight, and the turnings ever so crooked, they may be drawn out through the winding passages, and by the placing of so many glasses be perfectly discovered. The image may be so transferred from one glass into another that it will change its left into its right, but when it is again reflected from the second glass into the third it will resume its left part again, and will continue to change in the same manner as it passes into all the glasses that follow.

But in glasses joined together in the convex figure of a pillar, the side of the image reflected is returned so that the right part of the image answers to the right of the object or thing seen; either because the image, being transferred from one glass into another, is reflected twice, or that the image, when it comes to us, is turned about; for that the face is turned about as it passes backwards we learn from the figure of the glass.

Besides, you would believe that the image moves with us, and attends all our steps, and imitates our gestures, because, when you retire from any part of the glass, the image cannot be reflected from that part; for Nature ordains that all images that are emitted from bodies should be returned and reflected by equal angles.

The eyes, you observe, fly and avoid a glaring object; the sun likewise blinds you if you look too intensely against it, because its force is great, and its images are discharged from above through the pure air, and strike violently upon the eyes, and disturb and loosen their contexture; besides, a brightness too powerful for the sight often burns the eye, because it contains many seeds of fire, which piercing the ball, give it sensible pain.

And then, whatever a person looks upon that has the yellow jaundice becomes pale and lurid; because many lurid seeds flow from such a body, and meet with the images of things as they advance. And further, there are many seeds within the eyes of one so distempered which stain all things with their infection and make them look pale.

Again, if we are placed in the dark, we see objects that are in the light, because when the dark air, which is nearer, first enters and takes possession of the open eyes, the bright clear air immediately follows, which as it were purges the eye and dissipates the darkness the dusky air has infused into it; for this lucid air is by many degrees more apt to move, is more subtle, and has more force. This, as soon as it has filled the passages of the eyes with light, and opened those pores that the dark air has stopped before, the images of things conveyed in the light immediately follow, and strike upon the eye, and move the sight. But if we are placed in the light, we cannot discover objects in the dark, because a train of dark and thicker air follows the bright, which is nearest the eye, and stops up all the pores, and so chokes up the passages of the sight that the images of things cannot be moved or received into it.

Further, when we see the square towers of a city at a distance they commonly appear round to us, because all angles, seen far off, show obtuse, or rather they do not show at all. Their strokes die away, and the blows never reach our eyes, for, as the images are carried through a long tract of air, the air beats upon them continually in their passage, and so wears off their corners. Hence it is that since no manner of angle strikes the eye the stony fabric appears of a circular figure; yet the roundness is not so distinct as if the object itself were really round and seen at a small distance, but it bears a kind of resemblance to such a figure, yet is not completely so.

Our shadows seem to move with us in the sun, to follow our steps, and imitate our gestures (if you can suppose that air, void of light, is able to walk, and to follow the motions and gestures of the body; for what we usually call shadow can be nothing but the air deprived of light). The reason is because as we walk we hinder the rays of the sun from striking upon a certain part of the earth, which by that means becomes dark; but that as we leave the place it is covered with light, and therefore it is that the shadow of the body over against it follows us in all our motions. For a train of new rays are continually flowing from the sun; and the first dies away like thread of wool drawn through a flame, and by this means that part of the earth is soon deprived of light, and again becomes bright, and discharges the black shade that hung upon it.

But in this case we are not in the least to allow that the eyes are deceived; it is their business to discover only where the light and shade are, but to determine nothing whether the light be the same, or the shadow be the same that moves from one place to another, or whether it be as we explained above. It is the office of the mind and judgment to distinguish this, for the eyes can know nothing of the nature of things, and therefore you are not to impute to them the failures of the mind.

When we are on ship-board, the vessel drives on when it seems to stand still, and when it lies at anchor it seems to move; the hills and plains seem to fly and retire from us as we row, or scour with full sails before the wind.

And thus all the stars seem fixed in the vaulted sky, when they are all in continual motion: they rise, and when they have measured the heavens with their bright orbs, they set again at an immense distance. The sun and moon, by the same rule, appear fixed, when experience tells us that they move.

And mountains, standing at a distance from one another in the middle of the sea, so that a fleet of ships may sail easily between them, appear like one continued ridge of rocks, and though widely separated, yet show like one vast island, formed by all of them joined together.

So boys, when they have made themselves giddy, so strongly fancy that the walls are turned about, and the pillars run round, that even when they stand still, they can scarce believe but that the whole house threatens to tumble upon their heads.

Thus, when nature begins to display the bright splendor of the sun with trembling light, and to raise it above the top of the mountains, that hill over which the sun just appears, and glowing seems to scorch with his beams, is scarce two thousand bow-shot distant from us, perhaps not five hundred casts of a dart; when yet, between that and the sun lie many mighty seas, spread under a vast expansion of the heavens; many thousand leagues of land lie between, possessed by many nations, and the whole race of wild beasts.

So a puddle of water, no deeper than one of your fingers, that lies in the street between the stones, affords a prospect so deep under the earth as the distance between the earth and the wide arch of heaven, so that you seem to look down upon the clouds to take a clear survey of the sky and view with wonder the celestial bodies contained in it, as they seem beneath the earth.
Observe, when your mettled horse stands still with you in the middle of a river, and you look down upon the rapid stream of the water, the force of the current seems to drive your horse violently upwards, and hurry you swiftly against the tide; and on which side soever you cast your eyes, all things seem to be borne along, and carried against the current in the same manner.

A long portico, though it be of equal breadth from one end to the other, and reaches far, supported by pillars of equal height, yet when you stand at one end to take a view of its whole extent, it contracts itself by degrees to a narrow point at the further end; the roof touches the floor, and both sides seem to meet, ‘til it terminates at last in the sharp figure of a dark cone.

The sun, to Mariners, seems to rise out of the sea, and there again to set and hide his light; for they see nothing but the water and the sky; but therefore you are not to conclude rashly that the senses are at all deceived.

To those who know nothing of the sea, a ship in the port seems disabled, and to strive against the waves with broken oars; for that part of the oar and of the rudder that is above the water appears straight, but all below, being refracted, seems to be turned upwards, and to be bent towards the top of the water, and to float almost upon the surface of it.

So when the winds drive the light clouds along the sky in the night, the moon and stars seem to fly against the clouds, and to be driven above them in a course quite opposite to that in which they naturally move.

And if you chance to press with your fingers under one of your eyes, the effect will be that every thing you look upon will appear double, every bright candle will burn with two flames, and all the furniture of the house will multiply and show double; every face about you, and every body, will look like two.

Lastly, when sleep has bound our limbs in sweet repose, and all the body lies dissolved in rest, we think ourselves awake; our members move, and in the gloomy darkness of the night we think we see the sun in broad day-light, and, though confined in bed, we wander over the heavens, the sea, the rivers, and the hills, and fancy we are walking through the plains. And sounds we seem to hear; and, though the tongue be still, we seem to speak, when the deep silence of night reigns all about us.

Many more things of this kind we observe and wonder at, which attempt to overthrow the certainty of our senses, but to no purpose - for things of this sort generally deceive us upon account of the judgment of the mind which we apply to them, and so we conclude we see things which we really do not; for nothing is more difficult than to distinguish things clear and plain from such as are doubtful, to which the mind is ready to add its assent, as it is inclined to believe everything imparted by the senses.

Lastly, if anyone thinks that he knows nothing, he cannot be sure that he knows this, when he confesses that he knows nothing at all. I shall avoid disputing with such a trifler, who perverts all things, and like a tumbler with his head prone to the earth, can go no otherwise than backwards.

And yet allow that he knows this, I would ask (since he had nothing before to lead him into such a knowledge) whence he had the notion what it was to know, or not to know; what it was that gave him an idea of Truth or Falsehood, and what taught him to distinguish between doubt and certainty?

But you will find that knowledge of truth is originally derived from the senses, nor can the senses be contradicted, for whatever is able by the evidence of an opposite truth to convince the senses of falsehood, must be something of greater certainty than they. But what can deserve greater credit than the senses require from us? Will reason, derived from erring sense, claim the privilege to contradict it? Reason – that depends wholly upon the senses,which unless you allow to be true, all reason must be false. Can the ears correct the eyes? Or the touch the ears? Or will taste confute the touch? Or shall the nose or eyes convince the rest? This, I think, cannot be, for every sense has a separate faculty of its own, each has its distinct powers; and therefore an object, soft or hard, hot or cold, must necessarily be distinguished as soft or hard, hot or cold, by one sense separately, that is, the touch. It is the sole province of another, the sight, to perceive the colors of things, and the several properties that belong to them. The taste has a distinct office. Odors particularly affect the smell, and sound the ears. And therefore it cannot be that one sense should correct another, nor can the same sense correct itself, since an equal credit ought to be given to each; and therefore whatever the senses at any time discover to us must be certain.

And though reason is not able to assign a cause why an object that is really four-square when near, should appear round when seen at a distance; yet, if we cannot explain this difficulty, it is better to give any solution, even a false one, than to deliver up all Certainty out of our power, to break in upon our first principle of belief, and tear up all foundations upon which our life and security depend. For not only all reason must be overthrown, but life itself must be immediately extinguished, unless you give credit to your senses. These direct you to fly from a precipice and other evils of this sort which are to be avoided, and to pursue what tends to your security. All therefore is nothing more than an empty parade of words that can be offered against the certainty of sense.

Lastly, as in a building, if the principle rule of the artificer be not true, if his line be not exact, or his level bear in to the least to either side, every thing must needs be wrong and crooked, the whole fabric must be ill-shaped, declining, hanging over, leaning and irregular, so that some parts will seem ready to fall and tumble down, because the whole was at first disordered by false principles. So the reason of things must of necessity be wrong and false which is founded upon a false representation of the senses.

And now, in what manner each of the other senses distinguishes its proper object is a subject of no great difficulty to explain. And first, sound and all voices are heard when they enter the ears, and strike with their bodies upon the sense; for we must allow that sound and voice are bodies, because they have power to make impression upon the sense; for the voice often scrapes the jaws, and the noise makes the windpipe rough as it passes through. When the seeds of words begin to hurry in a crowd through the narrow nerves, and to rush abroad, those vessels being full, the throat is raked and made hoarse, and the voice wounds the passage through which it goes into the air. There is no question then but voice and words consist of corporeal principles, because they affect and hurt the sense. You are likewise to observe how much a continual speaking, from morning to night, takes off from the body; how much it wears away from the very nerves and strength of the speaker, especially if it be delivered in the highest stretch of the voice. Of necessity therefore voice must be a body, because the speaker loses many parts from himself. The roughness then of the voice depends upon the roughness of the seeds, as the smoothness is produced from smooth seeds; nor are the seeds from the same figure that strike the ears when the trumpet sounds with grave and murmuring blasts, as when the sackbut rings with its hoarse noise, or swans in the cold vales of Helicon sing out with mournful notes their sweet complaint.

When therefore we press out this voice from the lungs, and send it abroad directly through the open mouth, the nimble tongue, with curious art, fashions it into words, and the motion of the lips assists likewise in the formation of them. And when the distance is not long from whence any voice proceeds, the words must of necessity be plainly heard and articulately distinguished, for in this case the voice preserves its proper frame and figure; but if the interjacent space be more than it should be, the words must needs be confused by reason of the length of air, and the voice be disordered as it passes through. Hence it is that you may hear a sound only, but discover nothing at all of the meaning of the words, the voice becomes so broken and obstructed. Besides, one sentence delivered from the mouth of a bawling cryer strikes the ears of all about him; for the one general voice, that is pronounced instantly, breaks instantly into innumerable little voices, and so reaches every particular ear, giving a proper form and a distinct sound to every word. But that part of the voice that does not reach the ear is diffused through the air to no purpose, but there dies; some parts strike upon solid places, and being reflected return a sound, and sometimes disappoint us with the echo or image of the word. If you well consider this, you will be able to account to yourself and others why, in solitary places, the rocks regularly return words the same with those we speak, while we seek our companions wandering over the dark mountains, or call after them aloud when they are dispersed and lose their way. I myself have seen places that return six words for one; the hills so reverberate the words from one another that they severally repeat them and send them back. The neighboring people fondly imagine such places to be frequented by goat-footed satyrs and nymphs, and tell stories of the fawns. They say that the dead silence of the night is disturbed by their late revels and wanton sports, that they hear the sound of music, and the soft notes of the harp, as the artist touches and sings to it together; that the swains all about can distinguish when Pan, shaking his garland of pine-leaves upon his head, with long-hung lip, runs over the hollow reeds, and so his pipe prolongs his rural song. They speak of many other strange sights, and monstrous fables of the same kind; lest, perhaps, they should be thought to dwell in places where the gods never come, and therefore they invent their wonderful tales like these; or they are induced by some reason or other, as mankind in general are mighty eager after prodigies.

In short, it is nothing strange that those places through which the eye can see nothing, that through such the voice can pass and strike the ears. We can converse together in different rooms, when the doors are shut, as we frequently do, because voice can pierce safely through the crooked pores of bodies, which images cannot, for they are broken if the passages are not straight; such are the pores of glass through which all sorts of images freely find way. Besides, the voice divides itself into several little voices, and these are broken again into others, as soon as the first single voice breaks into many more, like a spark of fire that leaps abroad into a thousand; so that all places about, even those behind you, are filled with voice, and are moved by the sound; but all images direct their course through straight passages as soon as they are thrown off from bodies, and therefore no one can see anything over his head; you hear words that are spoken without, yet even these, as they pass through the doors that are shut, grow weak, and strike the ear in a confused manner, so that we seem to hear a sound than to distinguish the words.

Nor is the account of the tongue and palate, by which we taste, a subject of greater nicety or more difficult to explain. And first, we perceive a taste in the mouth when we squeeze the juice from our food by chewing, as if we were to press a sponge full of water in our hands to make it dry; then the juice we draw out is spread over the pores of the palate, and through the crooked passages of the spongy tongue. When the seeds of this flowing juice are smooth, they gently touch, and affect all the moist and sweating surface of the tongue with sweet delight; but the seeds, the more rough and sharp they are, the more they stimulate and tear the sense. And then the pleasure of taste we feel no further than the palate; when the food is driven down through the jaws and divided among the limbs, the pleasure is gone; nor is it of any concern with what meat our bodies are nourished, if you can but digest what you eat, and separate it among the members, and preserve the moist tenor of the stomach.

I shall now account why, as we find, different sorts of food are agreeable to different palates; or why, what is sour and bitter to some seems to others exceeding sweet. In these cases the variety and difference are so great that what is food to one will prove sharp poison to another; and it happens that a serpent touched with the spittle of a man expires and bites himself to death.
Besides, to us Hellebore is strong poison, but goats it fattens, and is nourishment to quails; and to understand by what means this comes to pass, you must recollect what we observed before, that seeds of different kinds are mingled in the composition of all bodies.

And then all animals supported by food, as they differ in outward shape, and after their several kinds have a different form of body and limbs, so they consist of seeds of different figures, and since their seeds differ, the pores and passages which (as we said) were in all the parts, and in the mouth and palate itself, must differ likewise; some must be less, some greater, some with three, some with four squares; many round, and some with many corners in various manners: For as the frame of the seeds and their motions require, the pores must differ in their figure. The difference of the pores depends upon the texture of the seeds, and therefore what is sweet to one is bitter to another: It is sweet because the smoothest seeds gently enter into the pores of the palate; but the same food is bitter to another because the sharp and hooked particles pierce the jaws and wound the sense.

Now by observing this things will appear plain, for when a man has a fever, either by the overflowing of the gall, or whether the violence of the disease be raised by any other means, in such a case the body is disturbed, and all the order and disposition of the seeds are changed. And hence it is that the juices that were before agreeable to the sense are no longer pleasing, and those are more fit to enter the pores that fret and produce a bitter taste; for even in honey there is a mixture of rough and smooth seeds, as we had frequent occasion to mention to you before.

And now shall I pass on and show in what manner the approach of smells affect the nose. And first, a various stream of odors is continuously flowing from all bodies; for you must suppose that smells are perpetually thrown off, are emitted and dispersed abroad; but some are more peculiar to some animals than others, because they consist of seeds of different figures; and therefore the bee is attracted by the smell of honey in the air afar off, and vultures by the stink of carcasses; and so the natural quality of the hound drives him on where the hoof of the stag has led the way, and the white goose (the savior of the capitol) can perceive the smell of a man at a great distance.

So it is the difference of smell, peculiar to different creatures, that directs every species to its proper food, and makes it start at the approach of poison; and by that means the race of beasts is constantly preserved.

But this smell or odor that affects the nose, some kinds of it are emitted much further than others, but no one of them is carried so far as sound or voice (not to speak of those images that strike the eye and provoke the sight) for they wander about and move lazily, and being scattered through the air, die away by degrees before they have gone far, and for this reason because they flow with difficulty from the most inward parts of bodies; and that odors are emitted from the lowest profundity of the subject is proved from this, that the more they are broken or scattered by fire, the stronger they smell.

And then we may observe that smells are formed of larger seeds than those of voice; for they cannot pierce through walls of stone, where voice and sound can freely pass; and therefore we cannot so easily distinguish on which side of us the body is placed that diffuses the smell, for the stroke grows cold as it moves through the air, nor does the hot scent briskly touch the organ, and therefore hounds are often at fault and hunt about for the trail.

And this happens not only in cases of smell and taste, but the images of things, and all colors, do not affect the eyes of men all alike, but to some they are more sharp and painful to the sense than they are to others.

For the cock that claps his wings and drives away the darkness and by his clear notes calls forth the morning light, the fiercest lion dares not stand against this creature, nor look him in the face, but instantly prepares for flight; and for this reason, because there are certain seeds in the body of the cock that when emitted into the eyes of the lion fret and tear the balls, and cause a very acute pain, which the beast in all his courage is not able to bear; and yet these particles are in no way hurtful to our eyes; either they do not pierce them, or if they do, they find a free passage and return easily from the eyes again, so that they do not the least prejudice to the sight.

And now attend, and observe in short, what things affect the mind, and from whence proceed those objects that make an impression upon it. First then, I say that subtle images of things, a numerous train of them, wander about in every way and in various manners. These, as they meet, easily twine and are joined together in the air, as threads of gold or the web of a spider; for these are much finer in their contexture than those images that strike the eye and move the sight. These pierce through the pores of the body and move the subtle nature of the mind within, and affect the sense. Hence it is that we see Centaurs, and the limbs of Scylla’s, and the heads of Cerberus, and the shadows of those who have long since been dead, and whose bones are rotting in the grave; because images of all kinds are ever wandering about; some of their own accord are formed in the air, some are continually flying off from various bodies, and others rise from these images mixed together. For it is certain that the image of a Centaur never flowed from one that was alive; for there was never such an animal in nature, but when the image of a horse met by chance with the image of a man, it immediately stuck to it, which it easily does, by reason of the subtlety of its nature and the fineness of its texture; and all other monstrous figures are formed after the same manner. These images being exceeding light, and easily put in motion (as I observed before) each of them affects the mind at one stroke; for the mind is of a very subtle nature, and wonderfully disposed to move.

browne_4.txt · Last modified: 2021/02/07 09:45 by cassius