Chap. III.

Of the Divisions of the seasons and four Quarters of the year, according unto Astronomers and Physitians: that the common compute of the Ancients, and which is still retained by some is very questionable.

AS for the divisions of the year, and the quartering out this remarkable standard of time, there have passed especially two distinctions; the first in frequent use with Astronomers, according to the cardinal intersections of the Zodiack, that is, the two Æquinoctials and both the Solsticial points; defining that time to be the Spring of the year, wherein the Sun doth pass from the Æquinox of Aries unto the Solstice of Cancer; the time between the Solstice and the Æquinox of Libra, Summer; from thence unto the Solstice of Capricornus, Autumn; and from thence unto the Æquinox of Aries again, Winter. Now this division although it be regular and equal, is not universal; for it includeth not those latitudes which have the seasons of the year double; as have the inhabitants under the Æquator, or else between the Tropicks. For unto them the Sun is vertical twice a year, making two distinct Summers in the different points of verticality. So unto those which live under the Æquator, when the Sun is in the Æquinox it is Summer, in which points it maketh Spring or Autumn unto us; and unto them it is also Winter when the Sun is in either Tropick; whereas unto us it maketh alwayes Summer in the one: And the like will happen unto those habitations, which are between the Tropicks and the Æquator.

A second and more sensible division there is observed by Hippocrates, and most of the ancient Greeks, according to the rising and setting of divers stars; dividing the year, and establishing the account of the seasons from usual alterations, and sensible mutations in the air, discovered upon the rising and setting of those stars; accounting the Spring from the Æquinoxial point of Aries; from the rising of the Pleiades, or the several stars on the back of Taurus, Summer; from the rising of Arcturus, a star between the thighes of Boots, Autumn; and from the setting of the Pleiades, Winter. Of these divisions because they were unequal, they were fain to subdivide the two larger portions, that is of the Summer and Winter quarters; the first part of the Summer they named θέρος, the second unto the rising of the Dog-star, ὥρα, from thence unto the setting of Arcturus ὀπώρα. The Winter they divided also into three parts; the first part, or that of seed time they named σπόρητον, the middle or proper Winter, χειμὼν, the last, which was their planting or grafting time φυταλίαν. This way of division was in former ages received, is very often mentioned in Poets, translated from one Nation to another; from the Greeks unto the Latines as is received by good Authors; and delivered by Physitians, even into our times.

Now of these two, although the first in some latitude may be retained, yet is not the other in any to be admitted. For in regard of time (as we elsewhere declare) the stars do vary their longitudes, and consequently the times of their ascension and discention. That star which is the term of numeration, or point from whence we commence the account, altering his site and longitude in process of time, and removing from West to East, almost one degree in the space of 72 years, so that the same star, since the age of Hippocrates who used this account, is removed in consequentia about 27 degrees. Which difference of their longitudes, doth much diversifie the times of their ascents, and rendereth the account unstable which shall proceed thereby.

Again, In regard of different latitudes, this cannot be a setled rule, or reasonably applied unto many Nations. For whereas the setting of the Pleiades or seven stars, is designed the term of Autumn, and the beginning of Winter; unto some latitudes these stars do never set, as unto all beyond 67 degrees. And if in several and far distant latitudes we observe the same star as a common term of account unto both, we shall fall upon an unexpected, but an unsufferable absurdity; and by the same account it will be Summer unto us in the North, before it be so unto those, which unto us are Southward, and many degrees approaching nearer the Sun. For if we consult the Doctrine of the sphere, and observe the ascention of the Pleiades, which maketh the beginning of Summer, we shall discover that in the latitude of 40, these stars arise in the 16 degree of Taurus; but in the latitude of 50, they ascend in the eleventh degree of the same sign, that is, 5 dayes sooner; so shall it be Summer unto London before it be unto Toledo, and begin to scorch in England, before it grow hot in Spaine.

This is therefore no general way of compute, nor reasonable to be derived from one Nation unto another; the defect of which consideration hath caused divers errors in Latine Poets, translating these expressions from the Greeks; and many difficulties even in the Greeks themselves; which living in divers latitudes, yet observed the same compute. So that to make them out, we are fain to use distinctions; sometime computing cosmically what they intended heliacally, and sometime in the same expression accounting the rising heliacally, the setting cosmically. Otherwise it will be hardly made out, what is delivered by approved Authors; and is an observation very considerable unto those which meet with such expressions, as they are very frequent in the poets of elder times, especially Hesiod, Aratus, Virgil, Ovid, Manilius; and Authors Geoponical, or which have treated de re rustica, as Constantine, Marcus Cato, Columella, Palladius and Varro.

Lastly, The absurdity in making common unto many Nations those considerations whose verity is but particular unto some, will more evidently appear, if we examine the Rules and Precepts of some one climate, and fall upon consideration with what incongruity they are transferrible unto others. Thus is it advised by Hesiod,

Pleiadibus Atlante natis orientibus
Incipe messem, Arationem vero occidentibus.

Implying hereby the Heliacal ascent and Cosmical descent of those stars. Now herein he setteth down a rule to begin harvest at the arise of the Pleiades; which in his time was in the beginning of May. This indeed was consonant unto the clime wherein he lived, and their harvest began about that season; but is not appliable unto our own, for therein we are so far from expecting an harvest, that our Barley-seed is not ended. Again, correspondent unto the rule of Hesiod, Virgil affordeth another,

Ante tibi Eoæ Atlantides abscondantur,
Debita quam sulcis committas semina.

Understanding hereby their Cosmical descent, or their setting when the Sun ariseth, and not their Heliacal obscuration, or their inclusion in the lustre of the Sun, as Servius upon this place would have it; for at that time these stars are many signs removed from that luminary. Now herein he strictly adviseth, not to begin to sow before the setting of these stars; which notwithstanding without injury to agriculture, cannot be observed in England; for they set unto us about the 12 of November, when our Seed-time is almost ended.

And this diversity of clime and cœlestial observations, precisely observed unto certaine stars and moneths, hath not only overthrown the deductions of one Nation to another, but hath perturbed the observation of festivities and statary Solemnities, even with the Jews themselves. For unto them it was commanded that at their entrance into the land of Canaan, in the fourteenth of the first moneth (that is Abib or Nisan which is Spring with us) they should observe the celebration of the Passover; and on the morrow after, which is the fifteenth day, the feast of unleavened bread; and in the sixteenth of the same moneth, that they should offer the first sheaf of the harvest. Now all this was feasible and of an easie possibility in the land of Canaan, or latitude of Jerusalem; for so is it observed by several Authors in later times; and is also testified by holy Scripture in times very far before. For when the children of Israel passed the river Jordan,1 it is delivered by way of parenthesis, that the river overfloweth its banks in the time of harvest; which is conceived the time wherein they passed; and it is after delivered,2 that in the fourteenth day they celebrated the Passover: which according to the Law of Moses was to be observed in the first moneth, or moneth of Abib.

And therefore it is no wonder, what is related by Luke, that the Disciples upon the Deuteroproton, as they passed by, plucked the ears of corn. For the Deuteroproton or second first Sabbath, was the first Sabbath after the Deutera or second of the Passover, which was the sixteenth of Nisan or Abib. And this is also evidenced from the received construction of the first and latter rain.3 I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain. For the first rain fell upon the seed-time about October, and was to make the seed to root, the latter was to fill the ear, and fell in Abib or March, the first moneth: according as is expressed.4 And he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first moneth; that is the moneth of Abib wherein the Passover was observed. This was the Law of Moses, and this in the land of Canaan was well observed, according to the first institution: but since their dispersion and habitation in Countries, whose constitutions admit not such tempestivity of harvests; and many not before the latter end of Summer; notwithstanding the advantage of their Lunary account, and intercalary moneth Veader, affixed unto the beginning of the year, there will be found a great disparity in their observations; nor can they strictly and at the same season with their forefathers observe the commands of God.[5]

To add yet further, those Geoponical rules and precepts of Agriculture which are delivered by divers Authors, are not to be generally received; but respectively understood unto climes whereto they are determined. For whereas one adivseth to sow this or that at one season, a second to set this or that at another, it must be conceived relatively, and every Nation must have its Country Farm; for herein we may observe a manifest and visible difference, not only in the seasons of harvest, but in the grains themselves. For with us Barley-harvest is made after wheat-harvest but with the Israelites and Ægyptians it was otherwise; so is it expressed by way of priority, Ruth the 2. So Ruth kept fast by the maidens of Boaz to glean unto the end of Barley-harvest and of Wheat-harvest, which in the plague of hayl in Ægypt is more plainly delivered Exod. 9. And the Flax and the Barley were smitten, for the Barley was in the eare and the Flax was bolled, but the Wheat and the Rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up.

And thus we see the account established upon the arise or descent of the stars can be no reasonable rule unto distant Nations at all, and by reason of their retrogression but temporary unto any one. Nor must these respective expressions be entertained in absolute considerations; for so distinct is the relation, and so artificial the habitude of this inferiour globe unto the superiour, and even of one thing in each unto the other: that general rules are dangerous; and applications most safe that run with security of circumstance. Which rightly to effect, is beyond the subtlety of sense, and requires the artifice of reason.[6]


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 Iosh. 3.

2 Iosh. 5.

3 Deut. 11.

4 Ioel. 2.

5 [There is of course nothing to prevent somebody from saving the first sheaf of the harvest and offering it at the proper time.]

6 [Wren: Hence it may appeare that those rules of prognostic and signification, which the Ægyptian, Arabian, Græcian, yea and Italian astronomers, have given concerning the starrs, and those clymates wherein they lived, cannot be applied to our remote and colder clymes, nor to these later times (wherein the constellations of all the 12 signes are moved eastward almost 30 degrees; Aries into Taurus and that into Gemini, &c.) without manifest errors and grosse deceptions, and are therefore of late rejected by the most famous astronomers, Tycho, Copernicus, Longomontanus and Kepler (as diabolical impostures.) De Cometa Anni, 1618.]

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional