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Browne 1743 Edition - Book 2

[1] 'Tis pleasant, when a tempest drives the waves in the wide sea, to view the sad distress of others from the land; not that the pleasure is so sweet that others suffer, but the joy is this, to look upon the ills from which yourself are free. It likewise gives delight to view the bloody conflicts of a war, in battle ranged all over the plains, without a share of danger to yourself: But nothing is more sweet than to attain the serene 'tho lofty heights of true philosophy, well fortified by learning of the wise, and thence look down on others, and behold mankind wandering and roving every way, to find a path to happiness; they strive for wit, contend for nobility, labor nights and days with anxious care for heaps of wealth, and to be ministers of state.

[14] O wretched are the thoughts of men! How blind their souls! In what dark roads they grope their way, in what distress is this life spent, short as it is! Don't you see Nature requires no more than the body free from pain, she may enjoy the mind easy and cheerful, removed from care and fear?

[20] And then we find a little will suffice the nature of our bodies, and take off every pain; nay will afford much pleasure, and Nature wishes for nothing more desirable than this. What tho' no golden images of boys, holding forth blazing torches in their hands, to light the midnight revels of the great, adorn they house? What tho' thy rooms shine not with silver, nor are overlaid with gold, nor do thy arched gilded roofs rebound with the strong notes of music? Yet we find men sweetly indulge their bodies as they lie together on the soft and tender grass, hard by a river's sie, under the boughs of some high tree, without a heap of wealth; chiefly when the spring smiles, and the season of the year sprinkles the verdant herbs with flowery pride. Nor will a burning fever sooner leave the body when you are tossed in clothes embroidered on beds of blushing purple, than when you lie in coarsest blankets.

[37] Since riches then afford no comfort to our bodies, nor nobleness, nor the glory of ambition, 'tis plain you are to think they do the mind no good. If, when you behold your furious legions embattled over the plains, waging mock war, or when you view your navy stand eager to engage, or bear away over the wide sea, if struck with sights like these your fearful superstitions and the dread of death forsake your mind, and leave your breast serene, and free from care, 'twere something.

[46] But if these things are vain and all grimace, and the truth is that nor the fears of men, nor following cares fly from the sound of alarms or cruel darts, but boldy force their way among the kings and mighty of the earth; nor do they homage pay to shining gold, nor the gay splendor of a purple robe. Do you doubt but all this stuff is want of sense, and all our life is groping in the dark?

[54] For as boys tremble and fear every thing in the dark night, so we, in open day, fear things as vain, and little to be feared, as those that children quake at in the dark, and fancy making toward them. This terror of the mind, this darkness then, not the sun's beams, nor the bright rays of day can scatter, but the light of nature and the rules of reason.

[61] But now, come on, remember you attend, while I explain by what motion the genial seeds of matter produce the various kinds of bodies, and dissolve them when produced, and by what force compelled they act, and what celerity of motion they possess to force their way through all the mighty void.

[66] For certain it is that no seeds of matter stick close and unmoved among themselves; for we see every thing grows less, and perceive all things wear away by a long tract of time, and old age removes them quite from our sight. And yet the mass of things still remains safe and entire; and for this reason, because the particles of matter which fall off, lessen the bodies from which they fall, but add to those to which they join. There they force to decay; those, on the contrary, they increase: nor do they remain in this posture. And thus the universe of things is continually renewing; generations succeed one another, one kind of animal increases, another wastes away; and in a short time the living creation is entirely changed, and, like racers, delivers the lamp of life to those that are behind.

[82] But if you think the seeds of things can be at rest, and, being themselves unmoved, can give motion to bodies, you wander wildly from the way of true reason. For since all the seeds of things are rambling through the void, they must necessarily be born along either by their own natural gravity, or by the outward stroke of something else; for then these seeds tending downward meet with others, they must all fly off, and rebound a different way, and no wonder, since they are hard bodies and of solid weight; nor is there any thing behind to stop the motion. But, that you may perceive more plainly how all the seeds of matter are tossed about, you must recollect that there is no such thing in the universe as the lowest place, where the first seeds may remain fixed, because I have shown fully, and proved by certain reason, that space is without end, without bounds immense, and lies extended every way.

This being plain, there can be no rest possibly allowed to these first seeds, for ever wandering through the empty void; but being tossed about with constant and different motion, and striking against other bodies, some rebound to a great distance, others fly off, but not so far; such of them as rebound but for a small distance, their contexture being more close, and being hindered by their natural twinings, these compose the solid root of rocks, and the hard bodies of iron, and a few other things of the same nature; but such as wander widely through the void, and moved by the blow, fly further off, and rebound to greater distances; these compose the thin air, and the Sun's bright light.

Besides, there are many seeds keep wandering through the void that are refused all union with other seeds, nor could ever be admitted to join their motion to anything else. An instance or representation of this, as I conceive, is always at hand, and visibly before our eyes. When the Sun's light shoots its rays through a narrow chink into a darkened room, you shall see a thousand little atoms dance a thousand ways through the empty space, and mingle in the very rays of light, engaging, as it were, in endless war, drawing up their little troops, never taking breath, but meeting and exercising their hostile fury with constant blows. And hence you may collect in what manner the principles of things are tossed in this empty void; so small an instance will give you an example of these extraordinary motions, and open a way to your knowledge of greater events.

[1066] Now since there is so great a plenty of seeds, that all the ages of men would not be sufficient to number them, and the same power, the same nature remains, that can dispose the seeds of things in any other place, by the same rule as they united in this world of ours, we must needs confess, there are other worlds in other parts of the universe, possessed by other kinds of inhabitants, both of men and beasts.

browne_2.1530307366.txt.gz · Last modified: 2018/06/29 17:22 by cassius