The world, and whatever that be which we call the heavens, by the vault of which all things are enclosed, we must conceive to be a deity, to be eternal, without bounds, neither created nor subject at any time to destruction. To inquire what is beyond it is no concern of man; nor can the human mind form any conjecture concerning it.
Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvellous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?7 How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have been actually effected?
The human features and countenance, although composed of but some ten parts or little more, are so fashioned that among so many thousands of men there are no two in existence who cannot be distinguished from one another.8
All men possess in their bodies a poison which acts upon serpents; and the human saliva, it is said, makes them take to flight, as though they had been touched with boiling water. The same substance, it is said, destroys them the moment it enters their throat.9
It has been observed that the height of a man from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot is equal to the distance between the tips of the middle fingers of the two hands when extended in a straight line.
Cincinnatus was ploughing his four jugera of land upon the Vaticanian Hill,the same that are still known as the Quintian Meadows,when the messenger brought him the dictatorship, finding him, the tradition says, stripped to the work.
The agricultural population, says Cato, produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers, and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs . A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.
It is a maxim universally agreed upon in agriculture, that nothing must be done too late; and again, that everything must be done at its proper season; while there is a third precept which reminds us that opportunities lost can never be regained.
It was a custom with Apelles, to which he most tenaciously adhered, never to let any day pass, however busy he might be, without exercising himself by tracing some outline or other,a practice which has now passed into a proverb.17 It was also a practice with him, when he had completed a work, to exhibit it to the view of the passers-by in his studio, while he himself, concealed behind the picture, would listen to the criticisms . Under these circumstances, they say that he was censured by a shoemaker for having represented the shoes with one latchet too few. The next day, the shoemaker, quite proud at seeing the former error corrected, thanks to his advice, began to criticise the leg; upon which Apelles, full of indignation, popped his head out and reminded him that a shoemaker should give no opinion beyond the shoes,18 a piece of advice which has equally passed into a proverbial saying.
Natural History. Book xxxv. Sect. 84.
Note 1. Why does pouring oil on the sea make it clear and calm? Is it for that the winds, slipping the smooth oil, have no force, nor cause any waves?Plutarch: Natural Questions, ix.
The venerable Bede relates that Bishop Adain (A. D. 651) gave to a company about to take a journey by sea some holy oil, saying, I know that when you go abroad you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but do you remember to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind shall cease immediately.Ecclesiastical History, book iii. chap. xiv.
In Sparkss edition of Franklins Works, vol. vi. p. 354, there are letters between Franklin, Brownrigg, and Parish on the stilling of waters by means of oil. [back]
Note 2. To man the earth seems altogether No more a mother, but a step-dame rather. Du Bartas: Divine Weekes and Workes, first week, third day. [back]
Note 3. He is born naked, and falls a whining at the first.Robert Burton: Anatomy of Melancholy, part i. sect. 2, mem. 3, subsect. 10.
And when I was born I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, which is of like nature; and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do.The Wisdom of Solomon, vii. 3.
It was the custom among the ancients to place the new-born child upon the ground immediately after its birth. [back]
Note 4. This term of forty days is mentioned by Aristotle in his Natural History, as also by some modern physiologists. [back]
Note 9. Madame dAbrantes relates that when Bonaparte was in Cairo he sent for a serpent-detecter (Psylli) to remove two serpents that had been seen in his house. He having enticed one of them from his hiding-place, caught it in one hand, just below the jaw-bone, in such a manner as to oblige the mouth to open, when spitting into it, the effect was like magic: the reptile appeared struck with instant death.Memoirs, vol. i. chap. lix. [back]
Note 10. This is alluded to by Cicero in his letters to Atticus, and is mentioned by Ælian (Animated Nature, book vi. chap. 41). It is like our proverb, Rats leave a sinking ship. [back]
Not unlike the bear which bringeth forth In the end of thirty dayes a shapeless birth; But after licking, it in shape she drawes, And by degrees she fashions out the pawes, The head, and neck, and finally doth bring To a perfect beast that first deformed thing. Du Bartas: Divine Weekes and Workes, first week, first day. [back]