Front Page Titles (by Subject) PLUTARCH'S NATURAL QUESTIONS. - The Morals, vol. 3
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PLUTARCH’S NATURAL QUESTIONS. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 3 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 3.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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PLUTARCH’S NATURAL QUESTIONS.
What is the Reason that Sea-water nourishes not Trees?
Is it not for the same reason that it nourishes not earthly animals? For Plato, Anaxagoras, and Democritus think plants are earthly animals. Nor, though sea-water be aliment to marine plants, as it is to fishes, will it therefore nourish earthly plants, since it can neither penetrate the roots, because of its grossness, nor ascend, by reason of its weight; for this, among many other things, shows sea-water to be heavy and terrene, because it more easily bears up ships and swimmers. Or is it because drought is a great enemy to trees? For sea-water is of a drying faculty; upon which account salt resists putrefaction, and the bodies of such as wash in the sea are presently dry and rough. Or is it because oil is destructive to earthly plants, and kills things anointed with it? But sea-water participates of much fatness; for it burns together with it. Wherefore, when men would quench fire, we forbid them to throw on sea-water. Or is it because sea-water is not fit to drink and bitter (as Aristotle says) through a mixture of burnt earth? For a lye is made by the falling of ashes into sweet water, and the dissolution ejects and corrupts what was good and potable, as in us men fevers convert the humors into bile. As for what woods and plants men talk of growing in the Red Sea, they bear no fruit, but are nourished by rivers casting up much mud; therefore they grow not at any great distance from land, but very near to it.
Why do Trees and Seeds thrive better with Rain than with Watering?
Whether is it because (as Laitus thinks) showers, parting the earth by the violence of their fall, make passages, whereby the water may more easily penetrate to the root? Or cannot this be true; and did Laitus never consider that marsh-plants (as cat’s-tail, pond-weeds, and rushes) neither thrive nor sprout when the rains fall not in their season; but it is true, as Aristotle said, rain-water is new and fresh, that of lakes old and stale? And what if this be rather probable than true? For the waters of fountains and rivers are ever fresh, new always arriving; therefore Heraclitus said well, that no man could go twice into the same river. And yet these very waters nourish worse than rain-water. But water from the heavens is light and aerial, and, being mixed with spirit, is the quicker passed and elevated into the plant, by reason of its tenuity. And for this very reason it makes bubbles when mixed with the air. Or does that nourish most which is soonest altered and overcome by the thing nourished? — for this very thing is concoction. On the contrary, inconcoction is when the aliment is too strong to be affected by the thing nourished. Now thin, simple, and insipid things are the most easily altered, of which number is rain-water, which is bred in the air and wind, and falls pure and sincere. But fountain-water, being assimilated to the earth and places through which it passes, is filled with many qualities which render it less nutritive and slower in alteration to the thing nourished. Moreover, that rain-water is easily alterable is an argument; because it sooner putrefies than either spring or river-water. For concoction seems to be putrefaction, as Empedocles says, —
Or, which may most readily be assigned for a reason, is it because rain is sweet and mild, when it is presently sent by the wind? For this reason cattle drink it most greedily, and frogs in expectation of it raise their voice, as if they were calling for rain to sweeten the marsh and to be sauce to the water in the pools. For Aratus makes this a sign of approaching rain,
Why do Herdsmen set Salt before Cattle?
Whether (as many think) to nourish them the more, and fatten them the better? For salt by its acrimony sharpens the appetite, and by opening the passages brings meat more easily to digestion. Therefore Apollonius, Herophilus’s scholar, would not have lean persons, and such as did not thrive, be fed with sweet things and gruel, but ordered them to use pickles and salt things for their food, whose tenuity, serving instead of frication or sifting, might apply the aliment through the passages of the body. Or is it for health’s sake that men give sheep salt to lick, to cut off the redundance of nutriment? For when they are over fat, they grow sick; but salt wastes and melts the fat. And this they observe so well, that they can more easily flay them; for the fat, which agglutinates and fastens the skin, is made thin and weak by the acrimony. The blood also of things that lick salt is attenuated; nor do things within the body stick together when salts are mixed with them. Moreover, consider this, whether the cattle grow more fruitful and more inclined to coition; for bitches do sooner conceive when they are fed with salt victuals, and ships which carry salt are more pestered with mice, by reason of their frequent coition.
Why is the Water of Showers which falls in Thunder and Lightning fitter to Water Seeds? And they are therefore called Thunder-showers.
Is it because they contain much spirit, by reason of their confusion and mixture with the air? And the spirit moving the humor sends it more upwards. Or is it because heat fighting against cold causes thunder and lightning? Whence it is that it thunders very little in winter, but in spring and autumn very much, because of the inequality of temper; and the heat, concocting the humor, renders it friendly and commodious for plants. Or does it thunder and lighten most in the spring for the aforesaid cause, and do the seeds have greater occasion for the vernal rains before summer? Therefore that country which is best watered with rain in spring, as Sicily is, produces abundance of good fruit.
How comes it to pass, that since there be Eight Kinds of Tastes, we find the Salt in no Fruit whatever?
Indeed, at first the olive is bitter, and the grape acid; one whereof afterward turns fat, and the other vinous. But the harshness in dates and the austere in pomegranates turn sweet. Some pomegranates and apples have only a simple acid taste. The pungent taste is frequent in roots and seeds.
Is it because a salt taste is never natural, but arises when the rest are corrupt? Therefore such plants and seeds as are nourished receive no nourishment from salt; it serves indeed some instead of sauce, by preventing a surfeit of other nourishment. Or, as men take away saltness and bitingness from the sea-water by distilling, is saltness so abolished in hot things by heat? Or indeed does the taste (as Plato says) arise from water percolated through a plant, and does even sea-water percolated lose its saltness, being terrene and of gross parts? Therefore people that dig near the sea happen upon wells fit to drink. Several also that draw the sea-water into waxen buckets receive it sweet and potable, the salt and earthy matter being strained out. And straining through clay renders sea-water potable, since the clay retains the earthy parts and does not let them pass through. And since things are so, it is very probable either that plants receive no saltness extrinsically, or, if they do, they put it not forth into fruit; for things terrene and consisting of gross parts cannot pass, by reason of the straitness of the passages. Or may saltness be reckoned a sort of bitterness? For so Homer says:
Plato also says that both these tastes have an abstersive and colliquative faculty; but the salt does it less, nor is it rough. And the bitter seems to differ from the salt in abundance of heat, since the salt has also a drying quality.
What is the Reason that, if a Man frequently pass along Dewy Trees, those Limbs that touch the Wood are seized with a Leprosy?
Whether (as Laitus said) that by the tenuity of the dew the moisture of the skin is fretted away? Or, as smut and mildew fall upon moistened seeds, so, when the green and tender parts on the superficies are fretted and dissolved by the dew, is a certain noxious taint carried and imparted to the most bloodless parts of the body, as the legs and feet, which there eats and frets the superficies? For that by Nature there is a corrosive faculty in dew sufficiently appears, in that it makes fat people lean; and gross women gather it, either with wool or on their clothes, to take down their flesh.
Why in Winter do Ships sail slower in Rivers, but do not so in the Sea?
Whether, because the river-air, which is at all times heavy and slow, being in winter more condensed by the cold, does more resist sailing? Or is it long of the water rather than the air? For the piercing cold makes the water heavy and thick, as one may perceive in a waterclock; for the water passes more slowly in winter than in summer. Theophrastus talks of a well about Pangaeum in Thrace, how that a vessel filled with the water of it weighs twice as much in winter as it does in summer. Besides, hence it is apparent that the grossness of the water makes ships sail slower, because in winter river-vessels carry greater burthens. For the water, being made more dense and heavy, makes the more renitency; but the heat hinders the sea from being condensed or frozen.
Why, since all other Liquors upon moving and stirring about grow cold, does the Sea by being tossed in Waves grow hot?
Whether that motion expels and dissipates the heat of other liquors as a thing adscititious, and the winds do rather excite and increase the innate heat of the sea? Its transparentness is an argument of heat; and so is its not being frozen, though it is terrene and heavy.
Why in Winter is the Sea least salt and bitter to the Taste? For they say that Dionysius the Hydragogue reported this.
Is it that the bitterness of the sea is not devoid of all sweetness, as receiving so many rivers into it; but, since the sun exhales the sweet and potable water thereof, arising to the top by reason of its levity, and since this is done in summer more than in winter, when it affects the sea more weakly by reason of the debility of its heat, that so in winter a great deal of sweetness is left, which tempers and mitigates its excessive poisonous bitterness? And the same thing befalls potable waters; for in summer they are worse, the sun wasting the lightest and sweetest part of them. And a fresh sweetness returns in winter, of which the sea must needs participate, since it moves, and is carried with the rivers into the sea.
Why do Men pour Sea-water upon Wine, and say the Fishermen had an Oracle given them, whereby they were bid to dip Bacchus into the Sea? And why do they that live far from the Sea cast in some Zacynthian Earth toasted?
Whether that heat is good against cold? Or that it quenches heat, by diluting the wine and destroying its strength? Or that the aqueous and aerial part of wine (which is therefore prone to mutation) is stayed by the throwing in of terrene parts, whose nature it is to constipate and condense? Moreover, salts with the sea-water, attenuating and colliquating whatever is foreign and superfluous, suffer no fetidness or putrefaction to breed. Besides, the gross and terrene parts, being entangled with the heavy and sinking together, make a sediment or lees, and so make the wine fine.
Why are they Sicker that Sail on the Sea than they that Sail in fresh Rivers, even in Calm Weather?
Of all the senses, smelling causes nauseousness the most, and of all the passions of the mind, fear. For men tremble and shake and bewray themselves upon apprehension of great danger. They that sail in a river are troubled with neither of these. And the smell of sweet and potable water is familiar to all, and the voyage is without danger. On the sea an unusual smell is troublesome; and men are afraid, not knowing what the issue may be. Therefore tranquillity abroad avails not, while an estuating and disturbed mind disorders the body.
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? This may be probably said in respect of things external; but they say that divers take oil in their mouths, and when they spout it out they have light at the bottom, and it makes the water transparent; so that the slipping of the winds will not hold good here for an argument. Therefore it is to be considered, whether the sea, which is terrene and uneven, is not compacted and made smooth by the dense oil; and so the sea, being compact in itself, leaves passes, and a pellucidity penetrable by the sight. Or whether that the air, which is naturally mixed with the sea, is lucid, but by being troubled grows unequal and shady; and so by the oil’s density, smoothing its inequality, the sea recovers its evenness and pellucidity.
Why do Fishermen’s Nets rot more in Winter than in Summer, since other things rot more in Summer?
Is not that the cause which Theophrastus assigns, — that heat (to wit) shuns the cold, and is constrained by it on every side? Hence the waters are hottest in the bottom of the sea. And so it is on land; for springs are hotter in winter, and then lakes and rivers send up most vapors, because the heat is compelled to the bottom by the prevailing cold. Or it may be, nets do not rot at that time more than at another; but being frozen and dried in the cold, since they are therefore the more easily broken by the waves, they are liable to something like putrefaction and rottenness. And they suffer most in the cold (as strained cords are aptest to break in such a season), because then there be most frequent storms at sea. Therefore fishermen guard their nets with certain tinctures, for fear they should break. Otherwise a net, neither tinged nor daubed with any thing, might more easily deceive the fish; since line is of an air color, and is not easily discerned in the sea.
Why do the Dorians pray for bad making of their hay?
Is it because hay rained upon is never well made? For the grass is cut down green and not dry, wherefore it putrefies when wet with rain water. But when before harvest it rains upon corn, this is a help to it against the hot south winds; which otherwise would not let the grain fill in the ear, but by their heat would hinder and destroy all coalition, unless by watering the earth there came a moisture to cool and moisten the ear.
Why is a fat and deep Soil fruitful of Wheat, and a lean Soil of Barley?
Is it because a stronger grain needs more nourishment, and a weaker a light and thin one? Now barley is weaker and laxer than wheat, therefore it affords but little nourishment. And, as a farther testimony to this reason, wheat, that is ripe in three months, grows in dryer ground; because it is juiceless, and stands in need of less nourishment, and therefore is more easily brought to perfection.
Why do Men say, Sow wheat in Clay and Barley in Dust?
Is the reason (as we said) because wheat takes up more nourishment; and barley cannot bear so much, but is choked with it? Or does wheat, because it is hard and ligneous, thrive better when it is softened and loosened in a moist soil; and barley at the first in a dry soil, because of its rarity? Or is the one temperament congruous and harmless to wheat, because it is hot; and the other to barley, because it is cold? Or are men afraid to sow wheat in a dry soil, because of the ants, which presently lie in wait for it; but they cannot so easily deal with barley nor carry it away, because it is a larger grain?
Why do Men use the Hair of Horses rather than of Mares for Fishing-Lines?
Is it that the males are stronger in those parts, as well as in others, than the females? Or is it that the females spoil the hair of their tails by their staling?
Why is the Sight of a Cuttle-fish a Sign of a great Storm?
Is it because all fishes of the soft kind cannot endure cold, by reason of their nakedness and tenderness? For they are covered neither with shell, skin, or scale, though within they have hard and bony parts. Hence the Greeks call them soft fish. Therefore they easily perceive a storm coming, since they are so soon affected by the cold. When the polypus gets to shore and embraces the rocks, it is a sign the wind is rising; but the cuttle-fish jumps up, to shun the cold and the trouble of the bottom of the sea; for, of all soft fishes, she is the tenderest and soonest hurt.
Why does the Polypus change Color?
Whether, as Theophrastus writes, because it is an animal by nature timorous; and therefore, being disturbed, it changes color with its spirit, as some men do, of whom it is said, an ill man ever changes color? But though this may serve as a reason for changing its color, it will not for the imitation of colors. For the polypus does so change its color, that it is of the color of every stone it comes nigh. Hence that of Pindar, Mind the color of the marine beast, and so converse cunningly in all cities; and that of Theognis:
And they say, that such as are excellent at craftiness and juggling have this in their eye, — that they may the better cheat them they have to deal withal, — ever to imitate the polypus. Some think the polypus can use her skin as a garment, and can put it on or off at pleasure. But if fear occasions this change in the polypus, is not something else more properly the cause? Let us consider what Empedocles says, that effluvia proceed from all things whatever. For not only animals, plants, the earth and sea, but stones, and even brass and iron, do continually send out many effluvia. For all things corrupt and smell, because there runneth always something from them, and they wear continually; insomuch that it is thought that by these effluvia come all attractions and insultations, some supposing embraces, others blows, some impulses, others circuitions. But especially about the sea rocks, when they are wet and cool by the waves (as is most likely), constantly some small particles are washed off, which do not incorporate with other bodies, but either pass by the smaller passages, or pass through the larger. Now the flesh of the polypus, as one may judge by the eye, is hollow, full of pores, and capable of effluvia. When therefore she is afraid, as her spirit changes she changes herself, and by straitening and contracting her body, she encloses the neighboring effluvia. And, as a good token of this argument, the polypus cannot imitate the color of every thing he comes near, nor the chameleon of any thing that is white; but each of these creatures is assimilated only to those things to whose effluvia it has pores proportionable.
What is the Reason, that the Tears of wild Boars are sweet, and the Tears of the Hart salt and hurtful?
The reason seems to be the heat and cold of these animals. For the hart is cold, and the boar is very hot and fiery; therefore the one flies from, the other defends himself against, his pursuers. Now when great store of heat comes to the eyes (as Homer says, with horrid bristles, and eyes darting fire), tears are sweet. Some are of Empedocles’s opinion, who thought that tears proceed from the disturbance of the blood, as whey does from the churning of milk; since therefore boar’s blood is harsh and black, and hart’s blood thin and watery, it is consentaneous that the tears, which the one sheds when excited to anger, and the other when dejected with fear, should be of the same nature.
Why do tame Sows farrow often, some at one time and others at another; and the wild but once a Year, and all of them about the same time at the beginning of summer, whence it is said, —
The wild sow farrowing, that night falls no rain?
Is it because of plentiful feeding, as in very truth fulness doth produce wantonness? For abundance of nourishment breeds abundance of seed both in animals and plants. Now wild sows live by their own toil, and that with fear; the tame have always food enough, either by nature or given them. Or may it not be ascribed to their rest and exercise? For the tame do rest and go not far from their keepers; the wild get to the mountains, and run about, by which means they waste the nutriment, and consume it upon the whole body. Therefore either through continual converse, or abundance of seed, or because the females feed in herds with the males, the tame sows call to mind coition and stir up lust, as Empedocles talks of men. But in wild sows, which feed apart, desire is cold and dull for want of love and conversation. Or is it true, what Aristotle says, that Homer called the wild boar χλούνης, because he had but one stone? For most boars spoil their stones (he says) by rubbing them against stumps of trees.
Why are the Paws of Bears the sweetest and pleasantest Food?
Because the flesh of those parts of the body which concoct aliment the best is sweetest; and that concocts best which transpires most by motion and exercise. But the bear uses the fore-feet most in going and running, and in managing of things, as it were with hands.
Why are the Steps of wild Beasts most difficultly Traced in Spring-time?
Whether the dogs, as Empedocles says, “with noses find the steps of all wild beasts,” and draw in those effluvia which the beasts leave in the ground; but the various smells of plants and flowers lying over the footsteps do in spring-time obscure and confound them, and put the dogs to a loss at winding them? Therefore about Etna in Sicily no man keeps any hunting dogs, because abundance of wild marjoram flourishes and grows there the year round, and the perpetual fragrancy of the place destroys the scent of the wild beasts. There is also a tale, how Proserpine, as she was gathering flowers thereabout, was ravished by Pluto; therefore people, revering that place as an asylum, do not catch any creature that feeds thereabout.
Why are the Tracks of Wild Beasts worse Scented about the Full Moon?
Whether for the foresaid cause? For the full moons bring down the dews; and therefore Alcman calls dew the daughter of Jove and Luna in a verse of his,
Fed by the dew, bred by the Moon and Jove.
For dew is a weak and languid rain, and there is but little heat in the moon; which draws water from the earth, as the sun does; but because it cannot raise it on high, it soon lets it fall.
Why does Frost make Hunting difficult?
Whether is it because the wild beasts leave off going far abroad by reason of the cold, and so leave but few signs of themselves? Therefore some say, beasts spare the neighboring places, that they may not be sore put to it by going far abroad in winter, but may always have food ready at hand. Or is it because that for hunting the track alone is not sufficient, but there must be scent also? And things gently dissolved and loosened by heat afford a smell, but too violent cold binds up the scent, and will not let it reach the sense. Therefore they say that unguents and wine smell least in winter and cold weather; for the then concrete air keeps the scent in, and suffers it not to disperse.
What is the Reason that Brutes, when they ail any thing, seek and pursue Remedies, and are often cured by the use of them?
Dogs eat grass, to make them vomit bile. Swine seek craw-fish, because the eating of them cures the headache. The tortoise, when he has eaten a viper, feeds on wild marjoram. They say, when a bear has surfeited himself and his stomach grows nauseous, he licks up ants, and by devouring them is cured. These creatures know such things neither by experience nor by chance.
Whether, as wax draws the bee, and carcasses the vulture afar off by the scent, do craw-fish so draw swine, wild marjoram the tortoise, and ants the bear, by smells and effluvia accommodated to their nature, they being prompted altogether by sense, without any assistance from reason? Or do not the temperaments of the body create appetites in animals, while diseases create these, producing divers acrimonies, sweetnesses, and other unusual and absurd qualities, the humors being altered; as is plain in women with child, who eat stones and earth? Therefore skilful physicians take their prognostic of recovery or death from the appetites of the sick. For Mnesitheus the physician says that, in the beginning of a disease of the lungs, he that craves onions recovers, and he that craves figs dies; because appetites follow the temperament, and the temperament follows diseases. It is therefore probable that beasts, if they fall not into mortal diseases, have such a disposition and temper, that by following their temper they light on their remedies.
Why does Must, if the Vessel stand in the Cold, continue long sweet?
Is it because the changing of the sweet must into wine is concoction, but cold hinders concoction, because this is caused by heat? Or, on the contrary, is the proper taste of the grape sweet, and is it then said to be ripe, when the sweetness is equally diffused all over it; but does cold, not suffering the heat of the grape to exhale, and keeping it in, conserve the sweetness of the grape? And this is the reason that, in a rainy vintage, must ferments but little; for fermentation proceeds from heat, which the cold does check.
Why, of all Wild Beasts, does not the Boar bite the Toil, although both Wolves and Foxes do this?
Is it because his teeth stand so far within his head, that he cannot well come at the thread? For his lips, by reason of their thickness and largeness, meet close before. Or does he rather rely on his paws and mouth, and with those rend the toil, and with this defend himself against the hunters? His chief refuge is rolling and wallowing; therefore, rather than stand gnawing the toil, he rolls often about, and so clears himself, having no occasion for his teeth.
What is the Reason that we admire Hot Waters (i. e.Baths) and not Cold; since it is plain that Cold is as much the cause of one sort as Heat is of the other?
It is not (as some are of opinion) that heat is a quality, and cold only a privation of that quality, and so that an entity is even less a cause than a non-entity. But we do it because Nature has attributed admiration to what is rare, and she puts men upon enquiry how any thing comes to pass that seldom happens. As Euripides saith,
what wonders he brings out by night, and what beauty he shows forth by day! . . . The rainbow and the varied beauty of the clouds by day, and the lights which burst forth by night . . .
Why are Vines which are rank of leaves, but otherwise fruitless, said τϱαγᾶν?
Is it because very fat goats (τϱάγοι) are less able to procreate, nay, scarce able to use coition, by reason of their fatness? Seed is the superfluity of the aliment which is allotted to the body: now, when either an animal or a plant is of a very strong constitution and grows fat, it is a sign that all the nourishment is spent within, and that there is little and base excrement, or none at all.
Why does the Vine irrigated with Wine die, especially the very Wine made from its own Grapes?
Is it as baldness happens to great wine-bibbers, the heat of the wine evaporating the moisture? Or, as Empedocles saith, “the putrefied water in the wood becomes wine beneath the bark,” . . . thus, when the vine is outwardly irrigated with wine, it is as fire to the vine, and destroys the nutritive faculty. Or, because wine is obstructive, it gets into the roots, stops the passages, and so hinders any moisture from coming to the plant to make it grow and thrive. Or, it may seem contrary to Nature that that should return into the vine which came out of it; for whatsover moisture comes from plants can neither nourish nor be again a part of the plant.
Why doth the Palm alone of all trees bend Upward when a weight is laid thereupon?
Is it that the fiery and spiritual power which it hath, being once provoked and (as it were) angered, putteth forth itself so much the more, and mounteth upward? Or is it because the weight, forcing the boughs suddenly, oppresseth and keepeth down the airy substance which they have, and driveth all of it inward; but the same afterwards, having resumed strength again, maketh head afresh, and more eagerly withstandeth the weight? Or, lastly, is it that the softer and more tender branches, not able to sustain the violence at first, so soon as the burden resteth quiet, by little and little lift up themselves, and make a show as if they rose up against it?
What is the Reason that Pit-water is less nutritive than either that which ariseth out of Springs or that which falleth down from Heaven?
Is it because it is more cold, and withal hath less air in it? Or because it containeth much salt from the earth mingled therewith? — now it is well known that salt above all other things causeth leanness. Or because standing still, and not exercised with running and stirring, it getteth a certain malignant quality, which is hurtful to both plants and animals, and is the cause that it is neither well concocted nor able to feed and nourish any thing? Hence it is that all dead waters of pools are unwholesome, for that they cannot digest and despatch those harmful qualities which they borrow of the evil property of the air or of the earth.
Why is the West Wind held commonly to be the Swiftest, according to this Verse of Homer:
Is it not because this wind is wont to blow when the sky is very well cleansed, and the air is exceeding clear and without all clouds? — for the thickness and impurity of the air doth not a little impeach and interrupt the course of the winds. Or is it rather because the sun, striking through a cold wind with his beams, is the cause that it passeth the faster away? — for whatsoever of cold is drawn in by the force of the winds, when the same is overcome by heat, as it were its enemy, we must think, is driven and set forward further and with greater celerity.
Why cannot Bees abide Smoke?
Whether is it because the passages of their vital spirits are exceeding strait, and, if it chance that smoke be gotten into them and there kept in and intercepted, it is enough to stop the poor bees’ breath, — yea, and to strangle them quite? Or is not the acrimony and bitterness (think you) of the smoke in cause? — for bees are delighted with sweet things, and in very truth they have no other nourishment; and therefore no marvel if they detest and abhor smoke, as a thing for the bitterness most adverse and contrary unto them. Therefore honey-masters, when they make a smoke for to drive away bees, are wont to burn bitter herbs, as hemlock, centaury, &c.
Why will Bees sooner Sting those who newly before have committed Whoredom?
Is it not because it is a creature that wonderfully delighteth in purity, cleanliness, and elegancy, and withal hath a marvellous quick sense of smelling? Because therefore such unclean dealings between man and woman are wont to leave behind much filthiness and impurity, the bees both sooner find them out and also conceive the greater hatred against them. Hereupon it is that in Theocritus the shepherd pleasantly sendeth Venus away unto Anchises to be well stung with bees for her adultery:
And Pindar saith: “Thou little creature, who honey-combs dost frame, and with thy sting hast pricked false impure Rhoecus for his lewd villanies.”
Why do Dogs follow after a Stone that is thrown at them and bite it, letting the Man alone who flung it?
Is it because he can comprehend nothing by imagination nor call a thing to mind, which are gifts and virtues proper to man alone; and therefore, seeing he cannot discern the party that offered him injury, he supposeth that to be his enemy which seemeth in his eye to threaten him, and of it he goes about to be revenged? Or is it that he thinks the stone, while it runs along the ground, to be some wild beast, and according to his nature he intendeth to catch it first; but afterwards, when he seeth himself deceived and put besides his reckoning, he setteth upon the man? Or rather, doth he not hate the man and the stone both alike, but pursueth that only which is next unto him?
Why at a certain time of the year do all She-wolves Whelp within the compass of twelve days?
Antipater in his History of Animals affirms, that shewolves exclude forth their young ones about the time that mast trees shed their blossoms, for upon the taste thereof their wombs open; but if there be none of such blooms to be had, then their young die within the body and never come to light. Moreover, he saith, those countries which bring not forth oaks and mast are never troubled nor spoiled with wolves. Some attribute all this to a tale that goes of Latona; who being with child, and finding no abiding place of rest and safety by reason of Juno for the space of twelve days, went to Delos, and, being transmuted by Jupiter into a wolf, obtained at his hands that all wolves for ever after might within that time be delivered of their young.
How cometh it that Water, seeming White aloft, showeth to be Black in the bottom?
Is it because depth is the mother of darkness, so that it doth dim and mar the sunbeams before they can descend so low as it? As for the uppermost superficies of the water, because it is immediately affected by the sun, it must needs receive the white brightness of the light; the which Empedocles verily approveth in these verses:
Or, since the bottom of the sea and of great rivers is often full of mud, doth it by reflection of the sunbeams represent the like color that the said mud hath? Or is it more probable that the water toward the bottom is not pure and sincere, but corrupted with an earthy quality, — as continually carrying with it somewhat of that by which it runneth and wherewith it is stirred, — and the same settling once to the bottom causeth it to be more troubled and less transparent?
end of vol. iii.
[* ]Odyss. V. 322.
[* ]Theognis, vs. 215.
[* ]The Questions which follow (XXXII-XXXIX) are not found in the Greek, but are restored from the Latin translation, said to have been made in the 16th century from a Greek manuscript now lost. The version here given is based upon that of Holland. (G.)
[* ]Il. XIX. 415.
[* ]Theoc. I. 105.