Chap. VII.

Of East, and West.

THE next shall be of East and West; that is, the proprieties and conditions ascribed unto Regions respectively unto those situations; which hath been the obvious conception of Philosophers and Geographers, magnifying the condition of India, and the Eastern Countries, above the setting and occidential Climates, some ascribing hereto the generation of gold, precious stones, and spices, others the civility and natural endowments of men; conceiving the bodies of this situation to receive a special impression from the first salutes of the Sun, and some appropriate influence from his ascendent and oriental radiations. But these proprieties affixed unto bodies, upon considerations deduced from East, West, or those observable points of the sphere, how specious and plausible so ever, will not upon enquiry be justified from such foundations.

For, to speak strictly, there is no East and West in nature, nor are those absolute and invariable, but respective and mutable points, according unto different longitudes, or distant parts of habitation, whereby they suffer many and considerable variations. For first, unto some, the same part will be East or West in respect of one another, that is, unto such as inhabit the same parallel, or differently dwell from East to West. Thus as unto Spain, Italy lyeth East, unto Italy Greece, unto Greece Persia, and unto Persia China; so again unto the Country of China, Persia lyeth West, unto Persia Greece, unto Greece Italy, and unto Italy Spain. So that the same Countrey is sometimes East and sometimes West; and Persia though East unto Greece, yet is it West unto China.

Unto other habitations the same point will be both East and West; as unto those that are Antipodes or seated in points of the Globe diametrically opposed. So the Americans are Antipodal unto the Indians, and some part of India is both East and West unto America, according as it shall be regarded from one side or the other, to the right or to the left; and setting out from any middle point, either by East or West, the distance unto the place intended is equal, and in the same space of time in nature also performable.

To a third that have the Poles for their vertex,[1] or dwell in the position of a parallel sphere, there will be neither East nor West, at least the greatest part of the year. For if (as the name Oriental implyeth) they shall account that part to be East where ever the Sun ariseth, or that West where the Sun is occidental or setteth: almost half the year they have neither the one nor the other. For half the year it is below their Horizon, and the other half it is continually above it, and circling round about them intersecteth not the Horizon, nor leaveth any part for this compute. And if (which will seem very reasonable) that part should be termed the Eastern point, where the Sun at the Æquinox, and but once in the year ariseth, yet will this also disturb the cardinal accounts, nor will it with propriety admit that appellation. For that surely cannot be accounted East which hath the South on both sides; which notwithstanding this position must have. For if unto such as live under the Pole, that be only North which is above them, that must be Southerly which is below them, which is all the other portion of the Globe, beside that part possessed by them. And thus these points of East and West being not absolute in any, respective in some, and not at all relating unto others; we cannot hereon establish so general considerations, nor reasonably erect such immutable assertions, upon so unstable foundations.

Now the ground that begat or promoted this conceit, was first a mistake in the apprehension of East and West, considering thereof as of the North and South, and computing by these as invariably as the other; but herein, upon second thoughts there is a great disparity. For the North and Southern Pole, are the invariable terms of that Axis whereon the heavens do move; and are therefore incommunicable and fixed points; whereof the one is not apprehensible in the other. But with East and West it is quite otherwise; for the revolution of the Orbs being made upon the Poles of North and South, all other points about the Axis are mutable; and wheresoever therein the East point be determined; by succession of parts in one revolution every point becometh East. And so if where the Sun ariseth, that part be termed East, every habitation differing in longitude, will have this point also different; in as much as the Sun successively ariseth unto every one.

The second ground, although it depend upon the former, approacheth nearer the effect; and that is the efficacy of the Sun, set out and divided according to priority of ascent; whereby his influence is conceived more favourable unto one Countrey than another, and to felicitate India more then any after. But hereby we cannot avoid absurdities, and such as infer effects controulable by our senses: For first, by the same reason that we affirm the Indian richer than the American, the American will also be more plentiful than the Indian, and England or Spain more fruitful then Hispaniola or golden Castle; in as much as the Sun ariseth unto the one sooner than the other; and so accountably unto any Nation subjected unto the same parallel, or with a considerable diversity of longitude from each other.[2]

Secondly, An unsufferable absurdity will ensue: for thereby a Country may be more fruitful than it self: For India is more fertile then Spain, because more East, and that the Sun ariseth first unto it; Spain likewise by the same reason more fruitful than America, and America than India: so that Spain is less fruitful than that Countrey, which a less fertile Country than it self excelleth.

Lastly, If we conceive the Sun hath any advantage by priority of ascent, or makes thereby one Country more happy than another, we introduce injustifiable determinations, and impose a natural partiality on that Luminary, which being equidistant from the earth, and equally removed in the East as in the West, his Power and Efficacy in both places must be equal, as Boetius hath taken notice,3 and Scaliger graphically declared.4 Some have therefore forsaken this refuge of the Sun, and to salve the effect have recurred unto the influence of the Stars, making their activities National, and appropriating their Powers unto particular regions. So Cardan conceiveth the tail of Ursa Major peculiarly respecteth Europ: whereas indeed once in 24 hours it also absolveth its course over Asia and America. And therefore it will not be easie to apprehend those stars peculiarly glance on us, who must of necessity carry a common eye and regard unto all Countries, unto whom their revolution and verticity is also common.

The effects therefore or[5] different productions in several Countries, which we impute unto the action of the Sun, must surely have nearer and more immediate causes than that Luminary. And these if we place in the propriety of clime, or condition of soil wherein they are produced, we shall more reasonably proceed, than they who ascribe them unto the activity of the Sun. Whose revolution being regular, it hath no power nor efficacy peculiar from its orientality, but equally disperseth his beams, unto all which equally, and in the same restriction, receive his lustre. And being an universal and indefinite agent, the effects or productions we behold, receive not their circle from his causality, but are determined by the principles of the place, or qualities of that region which admits them. And this is evident not only in gemms, minerals, and metals, but observable in plants and animals; whereof some are common unto many Countries, some peculiar unto one, some not communicable unto another. For the hand of God that first created the earth, hath with variety disposed the principles of all things; wisely contriving them in their proper seminaries, and where they best maintain the intention of their species; whereof if they have not a concurrence, and be not lodged in a convenient matrix, they are not excited by the efficacy of the Sun; or failing in particular causes, receive a relief or sufficient promotion from the universal. For although superiour powers co-operate with inferiour activities, and may (as some conceive) carry a stroke in the plastick and formative draught of all things, yet do their determinations belong unto particular agents, and are defined from their proper principles. Thus the Sun which with us is fruitful in the generation of Frogs, Toads and Serpents, to this effect proves impotent in our neighbour Island;[6] wherein as in all other carrying a common aspect, it concurreth but unto predisposed effects; and only suscitates those forms, whose determinations are seminal, and proceedeth from the Idea of themselves.

Now whereas there be many observations concerning East, and divers considerations of Art which seeme to extol the quality of that point, if rightly understood they do not really promote it. That the Astrologer takes account of nativities from the Ascendent, that is, the first house of the heavens, whose beginning is toward the East, it doth not advantage the conceit. For, he establisheth not his Judgment upon the orientality thereof, but considereth therein his first ascent above the Horizon: at which time its efficacy becomes observable, and is conceived to have the signification of life, and to respect the condition of all things, which at the same time arise from their causes, and ascend to their Horizon with it. Now this ascension indeed falls out respectively in the East: but as we have delivered before, in some positions there is no Eastern point from whence to compute these ascensions.[7] So is it in a parallel sphere: for unto them six houses are continually depressed, and six never elevated: and the planets themselves, whose revolutions are of more speed, and influences of higher consideration, must find in that place a very imperfect regard; for half their period they absolve above, and half beneath the Horizon. And so for six years, no man can have the happiness to be born under Jupiter: and for fifteen together all must escape the ascendent domination of Saturn.

That Aristotle in his Politicks, commends the situation of a City which is open towards the East, and admitteth the raies of the rising Sun, thereby is implied no more particular efficacy than in the West: But that position is commended, in regard the damps and vaporous exhalations ingendred in the absence of the Sun, are by his returning raies the sooner dispelled, and men thereby more early enjoy a clear and healthy habitation.[8] Upon the like considerations it is, that Marcus Varro9 commendeth the same situation, and exposeth his farm unto the equinoxial ascent of the Sun, and that Palladius adviseth the front of his edifice should so respect the South, that in the first angle it receive the rising raies of the Winter Sun, and decline a little from the Winter setting thereof. And concordant hereunto is the instruction of Columella De positione villæ: which he contriveth into Summer and Winter habitations, ordering that the Winter lodgings regard the Winter ascent of the Sun, that is, South-East; and the rooms of repast at supper, the Æquinoxial setting thereof, that is the West: that the Summer lodgings regard the Æquinoxial Meridian: but the rooms of cænation in the Summer, he obverts unto the Winter ascent, that is, South-East; and the Balnearies or bathing places, that they may remain under the Sun until evening, he exposeth unto the Summer setting, that is, North-West, in all which, although the Cardinal points be introduced, yet is the consideration Solary, and only determined unto the aspect or visible reception of the Sun.

Jews and Mahometans in these and our neighbour parts are observed to use some gestures towards the East, as at their benediction, and the killing of their meat. And though many ignorant spectators, and not a few of the Actors conceive some Magick or Mysterie therein, yet is the Ceremony only Topical, and in a memorial relation unto a place they honour. So the Jews do carry a respect and cast an eye upon Jerusalem: for which practice they are not without the example of their fore-fathers, and the encouragement of their wise King: For so it is said10 that Daniel went into his house, and his windows being opened towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed. So is it expressed in the prayer of Solomon, [11] what prayer or supplication soever be made by any man, which shall spread forth his hands towards this house: if thy people go out to battle, and shall pray unto the Lord towards the City which thou has chosen, and towards the house which I have chosen to build for thy Name, then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. Now the observation hereof, unto the Jews that are dispersed Westward, and such as most converse with us, directeth their regard unto the East: But the words of Solomon are appliable unto all quarters of Heaven: and by the Jews of the East and South must be regarded in a contrary position. So Daniel in Babylon looking toward Jerusalem had his face toward the West. So the Jews in their own Land looked upon it from all quarters. For the Tribe of Judah beheld it to the North: Manasses, Zabulon, and Napthali unto the South; Reuben and Gad unto the West; only the tribe of Dan regarded it direct or to the due East. So when it is said,12 when you see a cloud rise out of the West, you say there cometh a shower, and so it is: the observation was respective unto Judea: nor is this a reasonable illation in all other Nations whatsoever: For the Sea lay West unto that Country, and the winds brought rain from that quarter; but this consideration cannot be transferred unto India or China, which have a vast Sea Eastward: and a vaster Continent toward the West. So likewise when it is said13 in the vulgar Translation, Gold cometh out of the North; it is no reasonable inducement unto us and many other Countries, from some particular mines septentrional unto his situation, to search after that metal in cold and Northern regions, which we most plentifully discover in hot and Southern habitations.

For the Mahometans, as they partake with all Religions in something, so they imitate the Jew in this. For in their observed gestures, they hold a regard unto Mecha and Medina Talnabi, two Cities in Arabia fælix; where their Prophet was born and buried; whither they perform their pilgrimages: and from whence they expect he should return again. And therefore they direct their faces unto these parts, which unto the Mahometans of Barbary and Egypt lie East, and are in some point thereof unto many other parts of Turkie. Wherein notwithstanding there is no Oriental respect; for with the same devotion on the other side they regard these parts toward the West, and so with variety wheresoever they are seated, conforming unto the ground of their conception.

Fourthly, Whereas in the ordering of the Camp of Israel, the East quarter is appointed unto the noblest Tribe, that is the Tribe of Judah, according to the command of God,14 in the East-side toward the rising of the Sun shall the Standard of the Tribe of Judah pitch: it doth not peculiarly extol that point. For herein the East is not to be taken strictly, but as it signifieth or implieth the foremost place; for Judah had the Van, and many Countries through which they passed were seated Easterly unto them. Thus much is implied by the Original, and expressed by Translations which strictly conform thereto: So Tremellius, Castra habentium ab anteriore parte Orientem versus, vexillum esto castrorum Judæ; so hath R. Solomon Jarchi expounded it, the foremost or before, is the East quarter, and the West is called behind. And upon this interpretation may all be salved that is alleageable against it. For if the Tribe of Judah were to pitch before the Tabernacle at the East, and yet to march first, as is commanded,Numb. 10. there must ensue a disorder in the Camp, nor could they conveniently observe the execution thereof: For when they set out from Mount Sinai where the Command was delivered, they made Northward unto Rithmah: from Rissah unto Eziongaber about fourteen stations they marched South: From Almon Diblathaim through the mountains of Yabarim and plains of Moab towards Jordan the face of their march was West: So that if Judah were strictly to pitch in the East of the Tabernacle, every night he encamped in the Rear: and if (as some conceive) the whole Camp could not be less than twelve miles long, it had been preposterous for him to have marched foremost; or set out first who was most remote from the place to be approached.

Fifthly, That Learning, Civility and Arts had their beginning in the East, it is not imputable either to the action of the Sun, or its Orientality, but the first plantation of Man in those parts; which unto Europe do carry the respect of East. For on the mountains of Ararat, that is part of the hill Taurus, between the East-Indies and Scythia, as Sir W. Raleigh accounts it, the Ark of Noah rested; from the East they travelled that built the Tower of Babel: from thence they were dispersed and successively enlarged, and Learning, good Arts, and all Civility communicated. The progression whereof was very sensible; and if we consider the distance of time between the confusion of Babel, and the Civility of many parts now eminent therein, it travelled late and slowly into our quarters. For notwithstanding the learning of Bardes and Druides of elder times, he that shall peruse that worke of Tacitus de moribus Germanorum, may easily discern how little Civility two thousand years had wrought upon that Nation:[15] the like he may observe concerning our selves, from the same Author in the life of Agricola,[16] and more directly from Strabo;[17] who to the dishonour of our Predecessors, and the disparagement of those that glory in the Antiquity of their Ancestors, affirmeth the Britains were so simple, that though they abounded in Milk, they had not the Artifice of Cheese.

Lastly, That the Globe it self is by Cosmographers divided into East and West, accounting from the first Meridian, it doth not establish this conceit. For that division is not naturally founded, but artificially set down, and by agreement; as the aptest terms to define or commensurate the longitude of places. Thus the ancient Cosmographers do place the division of the East and Western Hemisphere, that is the first term of longitude in the Canary or fortunate Islands; conceiving these parts the extreamest habitations Westward: But the Moderns have altered that term, and translated it unto the Azores or Islands of St. Michael; and that upon a plausible conceit of the small or insensible variation of the Compass in those parts, wherein nevertheless, though upon second invention, they proceed upon a common and no appropriate foundation; for even in that Meridian farther North or South the Compass observably varieth; and there are also other places wherein it varieth not, as Alphonso and Rodoriges de Lago will have it about Capo de las Agullas in Africa; as Maurolycus affirmeth in the shore of Peloponesus in Europe: and as Gilbertus averreth, in the midst of great regions, in most parts of the earth.


* [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 [Wren: "This is spoken by way of supposition, yf any such there be that dwell under the pole." There are certainly people living near enough to the pole for Browne's observations to hold for them.]

2 [Wren: Virginia is about 7 houres distant from London, for when 'tis noone heere, tis 5 in the morne with them.]

3 De gemmis.

4 Exercitat.[The second to sixth editions and 1686 confuse these two notes, making one "De gemmis exercitat.", even though the references are plainly two and are in fact in the text of 1646.]

5 [Wren (incorrectly): Read of.]

6 [Ireland, as in Vulgar Errors Book IV Chapter X, and also in VII.XV. Wren remarks "It is a true and remarkable thing that whereas Islip and Bletchinton in Oxon shire are not distant above 2 miles, and noe river between, yet noe man living remembers a snake or adder found alive in Bletchinton (which abounds with frogs and toods) and yf they be brought from Islip, or other partes, unto that towne, they dye, as venemous things do on Irish earthe brought thence by ship into our gardens in England: nor is this proper to Irish earthe, but to the timber brought thence, as appeares in that vast roof of Kings College Chappel in Cambridge, where noe man ever saw a spider, or their webs, bycause itt is all of Irish timber."

Wilkin continues: On reading the preceding passage, I wrote to a friend in Cambridge requesting that some inquiry might be made as to the matter of fact. I subjoin an extract from his reply: —

"Ever since I was a boy, I have heard the traditional account of the roof and more particularly the organ loft of Kings College Chapel, being formed of Irish oak, and that no spiders or their webs are to be found upon it. I yesterday took an opportunity of making a personal enquiry and examination — two curators had, I found, since passed to the silent tomb, a third whom I now met with had not even heard of the circumstance, though an intelligent man, and who seemed to enter at once into the nature of my enquiries. He wished me to go up to the roof and examine for myself, assuring me, that no trouble was taken to sweep it over at any time; I went up and could not succeed in discovering the least appearance of a cobweb, much less of a spider; from the stone roof which is underneath the wooden roof, he informed me that in some parts the spider's webs were very abundant and troublesome.

"I saw the organist, who seemed to be aware of the tradition, though almost forgotten, and who told me there was plenty of dust for want of proper care of the place, but he believed there were no spiders; he had officiated many years, but had never seen one.

"The curator has promised to bring me a spider or web if he can find one, and seemed much pleased with the, to him, novel information."

The Hon. D. Barrington (in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. lix, p. 30) says that he had examined several ancient timber roofs, without being able to detect any spider's webs. He accounts however for this, on the principle that flies are not to be found in such situations, and therefore spiders do not frequent them. How would this remark agree with the number of cobwebs found in the stone roof of King's College?

Cf. also the description of Westminster in Fuller's Worthies, which puts forth claims for the spiderlessness of beams made of Irish yew: "Amongst the civil structures, Westminster-Hall is eminent, erected by King. W. Rufus, for the Hall to his own Court, built with cobwebless beams, conceived of Irish-wood. Sure I am, we then had no command in that Island, as first subdued by King Henry the second. It is one of the greatest rooms in Christendome, and indeed it needeth to be of good capacity, to receive so many Plantiffes and Defendants, beign at such mutual distance of affection." The roof is in fact newer than the walls of the hall and postdates (considerably) Henry II. For a picture, see the Great Hall of Westminster.]

7 [It is indeed an open and much-disputed question whether astrology as commonly practised is valid at high latitudes, and if so, how charts are to be cast and read. Short of fiat or a long period of experimentation (the latter anathema to most astrologers) the question is not easily answered. Browne, however, pushes the question a bit more strongly than perhaps is fair (or necessary).]

8 [Wren: The waters of those springs are held to be most medicinal (of all others) which rise into the easte, for this very reason here alleaged: hence in the west parts of England, to differences such from all others, they call them by a significant name, East-up-springs, intimating by that proper name, a proper kind of excellencye, above other springs, especially yf the soile from whence they rise bee chalke, or pure gravell.]

9 De re Rustica.

10 Dan. 6

11 [2 Chron. 34: "If thy people go out to war against their enemies by the way that thou shalt send them, and they pray unto thee toward this city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name; [35] Then hear thou from the heavens their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause" etc.]

12 Luke 12.

13 Job. [37:22, which has "fair weather" coming out of the north in the AV; in the Vulgate, a more literal translation of the Hebrew: "ab aquilone aurum venit et ad Deum formidolosa laudatio"]

14 Num. 2. [Editions 2-6 and 1686 have incorrectly "Num. 3" in a marginal note; 1646, "Num. 2" in the text]=

15 [See, for instance, Tacitus Germania 15 and 16.]

16 [Tacitus rather admires the Britons than otherwise, and there is little indication that he regards their culture as much inferior to that of the Romans (except perhaps in organization); but see 11 and 12.]

17 [In IV.5: Britons, Strabo says, are tall bandy-legged ugly forest-dwelling blondes whose drink is made from honey and who have milk but don't make cheese. Strabo is greatly concerned with cheese, seeming to use it as a tracer of civility. In this, as well as his singular insularity, he is perhaps the first Frenchman.]

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