Chap. XVI.

Of divers other Relations.

1. THE RELATION of Averroes, and now common in every mouth, of the woman that conceived in a bath, by attracting the sperm or seminal effluxion of a man admitted to bath in some vicinity unto her, I have scarce faith to believe; and had I been of the Jury, should have hardly thought I had found the father in the person that stood by her. 'Tis a new and unseconded way in History to fornicate at a distance, and much offendeth the rules of Physick, which say, there is no generation without a joynt emission, not only, a virtual but corporal and carnal contaction. And although Aristotle and his adherents do cut off the one, who conceive no effectual ejaculation in women, yet in defence of the other they cannot be introduced. For, if as he believeth, the inordinate longitude of the organ, though in its proper recipient, may be a means to improlificate the seed; surely the distance of place, with the commixture of an aqueous body, must prove an effectual impediment, and utterly prevent the success of a conception. And therefore that conceit concerning the daughters of Lot, that they were impregnated by their sleeping father, or conceived by seminal pollution received at distance from him, will hardly be admitted. And therefore what is related of devils, and the contrived delusions of spirits, that they steal the seminal emissions of man, and transmit them into their votaries in coition, is much to be suspected; and altogether to be denied, that there ensue conceptions thereupon, however husbanded by Art, and the wisest menagery of that most subtile impostor. And therefore also that our magnified Merlin, was thus begotten by the devil, is a groundless conception; and as vain to think from thence to give the reason of his prophetical spirit. For if a generation could succeed, yet should n ot the issue inherit the faculties of the devil, who is but an auxiliary, and no univocal Actor; Nor will his nature substantially concur to such productions.

And although it seems not impossible, that impregnation may succeed from seminal spirits, and vaporous irradiations containing the active principle, without material and gross immissions; as it happeneth sometimes in imperforated persons, and rare conceptions of some much under pubertie or fourteen. As may be also conjectured in the coition of some insects, wherein the female makes intrusion into the male; and from the continued ovation in Hens, from one single tread of a cock, and little stock laid up near the vent, sufficient for durable prolification. And although also in humane generation the gross and corpulent seminal body may return again, and the great business be acted by what it caryeth with it: yet will not the same suffice to support the story in question, wherein no corpulent immission is acknowledged; answerable unto the fable of the Talmudists, in the storie of Benzira, begotten in the same manner on the daughter of the Prophet Jeremie.

2. The Relation of Lucillius, and now become common, concerning Crassus the grand-father of Marcus the wealthy Roman, that he never laughed but once in all his life, and that was at an Ass eating thistles, is something strange. For, if an indifferent and unridiculous object could draw his habitual austereness unto a smile: it will be hard to believe he could with perpetuity resist the proper motives thereof. For the act of Laughter which is evidenced by a sweet contraction of the muscles of the face, and a pleasant agitation of the vocal Organs, is not meerly voluntary, or totally within the jurisdiction of our selves: but as it may be constrained by corporal contaction in any, and hath been enforced in some even in their death, so the new unusual or unexpected jucundities, which present themselves to any man in his life, at some time or other will have activity enough to excitate the earthiest soul, and raise a smile from most composed tempers. Certainly the times were dull when these things happened, and the wits of those Ages short of these of ours; when men could maintain such immutable faces, as to remain like statues under the flatteries of wit, and persist unalterable at all efforts of Jocularity. The spirits in hell, and Pluto himself, whom Lucian makes to laugh at passages upon earth, will plainly condemn these Saturnines, and make ridiculous the magnified Heraclitus, who wept preposterously, and made a hell on earth; for rejecting the consolations of life, he passed his days in tears, and the uncomfortable attendments of hell.

3. The same conceit there passeth concerning our blessed Saviour, and is sometimes urged as an high example of gravity.[1] And this is opinioned, because in holy Scripture it is recorded he sometimes wept, but never that he laughed. Which howsoever granted, it will be hard to conceive how he passed his yonger yeares and childhood without a smile; if as Divinity affirmeth, for the assurance of his humanity unto men, and the concealment of his Divinity from the devil, he passed this age like other children, and so proceeded until he evidenced the same. And surely herein no danger there is to affirm the act or performance of that, whereof we acknowledge the power and essential property; and whereby indeed he most nearly convinced the doubt of his humanity.[2] Nor need we be afraid to ascribe that unto the incarnate Son, which sometimes is attributed unto the uncarnate Father; of whom it is said, He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh the wicked to scorn. For a laugh there is of contempt or indignation, as well as mirth and Jocosity; And that our Saviour was not exempted from the ground hereof, that is, the passion of anger, regulated and rightly ordered by reason, the schools do not deny; and besides the experience of the money-changers, and Dove-sellers in the Temple, is testified by St. John, when he saith, the speech of David3 was fulfilled in our Saviour.

Now the Alogie of this opinion consisteth in the illation; it being not reasonable to conclude from Scripture negatively in points which are not matters of faith, and pertaining unto salvation. And therefore although in the description of the creation there be no mention of fire,[4] Christian Philosophy did not think it reasonable presently to annihilate that element, or positively to decree there was no such thing at all.[5] Thus whereas in the brief narration of Moses there is no record of wine before the flood, we cannot satisfactorily conclude that Noah was the first that ever tasted thereof.[6] And thus because the word Brain is scarce mentioned once,7 but Heart above an hundred times in holy Scripture;[8] Physitians that dispute the principality of parts are not from hence induced to bereave the animal Organ of its priority. Wherefore the Scriptures being serious, and commonly omitting such Parergies, it will be unreasonable from hence to condemn all laughter, and from considerations inconsiderable to discipline a man out of his nature. For this is by a rustical severity to banish all urbanity; whose harmeless and confined condition, as it stands commended by morality; so is it consistent with Religion, and doth not offend Divinity.

4. The custom it is of Popes to change their name at their creation; and the Author thereof is commonly said to be Bocca di porco, or swines face; who therefore assumed the stile of Sergius the second, as being ashamed so foul a name should dishonour the chair of Peter;[9] wherein notwithstanding, from Montacutius and others I find there may be some mistake. For Massonus who writ the lives of Popes, acknowledgeth he was not the first that changed his name in that Sea; nor as Platina affirmeth, have all his successors precisely continued that custom; for Adrian the sixt, and Marcellus the second, did still retain their Baptismal denominations. Nor is it proved, or probable, that Sergius changed the name of Bocca di Porco, for this was his sirname or gentilitious appellation: nor was it the custom to alter that with the other; but he commuted his Christian name Peter for Sergius, because he would seem to decline the name of Peter the second. A scruple I confess not thought considerable in other Seas, whose Originals and first Patriarchs have been less disputed; nor yet perhaps of that reality as to prevail in points of the same nature. For the names of the Apostles, Patriarchs and Prophets have been assumed even to affectation; the name of Jesus hath not been appropriate;[10] but some in precedent ages have born that name, and many since have not refused the Christian name of Emmanuel.[11] Thus are there few names more frequent then Moses and Abraham among the Jews; The Turks without scruple affect the name of Mahomet, and with gladness receive so honourable cognomination.

And truly in humane occurrences there ever have been many well directed intentions, whose rationalities will never bear a rigid examination, and though in some way they do commend their Authors, and such as first began them, yet have they proved insufficient to perpetuate imitation in such as have succeeded them. Thus was it a worthy resolution of Godfrey, and most Christians have applauded it, That he refused to weare a Crown of Gold where his Saviour had worn one of thorns. Yet did not his Successors durably inherit that scruple, but some were anointed, and solemnly accepted the Diadem of regality. Thus Julius, Augustus and Tiberius with great humility or popularity refused the name of Imperator, but their Successors have challenged that title, and retain the same even in its titularity. And thus to come nearer our subject, the humility of Gregory the Great, would by no means admit the stile of universal Bishop; but the ambition of Boniface made no scruple thereof, nor of more queasie resolutions have been their Successors ever since.

5. That Tamerlane[12] was a Scythian Shepherd, from Mr. Knolls13 and others, from Alhazen a learned Arabian who wrote his life, and was Spectator of many of his exploits, we have reasons to deny. Not only from his birth, for he was of the blood of the Tartarian Emperours, whose father Og had for his possession the Country of Sagathy, which was no slender Territory, but comprehended all that tract wherein were contained Bactriana, Sogdiana, Margiana, and the nation of the Massagetes, whose capital City was Samarcand; a place though now decaid, of great esteem and trade in former ages. But from his regal Inauguration, for it is said, that being about the age of fifteen, his old father resigned the Kingdom, and men of war unto him. And also from his education; for as the storie speaks it, he was instructed in the Arabian learning, and afterward exercised himselfe therein. Now Arabian learning was in a manner all the liberal Sciences, especially Mathematicks, and natural Philosophy; wherein not many Ages before him there flourished Avicenna, Averrhoes, Avenzoar, Geber, Almanzor and Alhazen, cognominal unto him that wrote his History, whose Chronology indeed, although it be obscure, yet in the opinion of his Commentator, he was contemporary unto Avicenna, and hath left sixteen books of Opticks, of great esteem with ages past, and textuary unto our days.

Now the ground of this mistake was surely that which the Turkish Historian declareth. Some, saith he, of our Historians will needs have Tamerlane to be the Son of a Shepherd. But this they have said, not knowing at all the custom of their Country; wherein the principal revenews of the King and Nobles consisteth in cattle; who despising gold and silver, abound in all sorts thereof. And this was the occasion that some men call them Shepherds, and also affirm this Prince descended from them. Now, if it be reasonable, that great men whose possessions are chiefly in cattle, should bear the name of Shepherds, and fall upon so low denominations; then may we say that Abraham was a Shepherd, although too powerfull for four Kings; that Job was of that condition, who beside Camels and Oxen had seven thousand Sheep;[14] and yet is said to be the greatest man in the East. Thus was Mesha King of Moab a Shepherd, who annually paid unto the Crown of Israel, an hundred thousand Lambs, and as many Rams. Surely it is no dishonourable course of life which Moses and Jacob have made exemplary: 'tis a profession supported upon the natural way of acquisition, and though contemned by the Egyptians, much countenanced by the Hebrews, whose sacrifices required plenty of Sheep and Lambs. And certainly they were very numerous; for, at the consecration of the Temple, beside two and twenty thousand Oxen, King Solomon sacrificed an hundred and twenty thousand Sheep: and the same is observable from the daily provision of his house: which was ten fat Oxen, twenty Oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred Sheep, beside row Buck, fallow Deer, and fatted Fowls. Wherein notwithstanding (if a punctual relation thereof do rightly inform us15) the grand Seignor doth exceed: the daily provision of whose Seraglio in the reigne of Achmet, beside Beeves, consumed two hundred Sheep, Lambs and Kids when they were in season one hundred, Calves ten, Geese fifty, Hens two hundred, Chickens one hundred, Pigeons an hundred pair.

And therefore this mistake concerning the noble Tamerlane, was like that concerning Demosthenes, who is said to be the Son of a Black-smith, according to common conceit, and that handsome expression of Juvenal.

Quem pater ardentis massæ fuligine lippus,
A carbone & forcipibus, gladiosq; parante
Incude, & luteo Vulcano ad Rhetora misit.

Thus Englished by Sir Robert Stapleton.

Whom's Father with the smoaky forg half blind,
From blows on sooty Vulcans anvil spent
In ham'ring swords, to study Rhet'rick sent.

But Plutarch who writ his life hath cleared this conceit, plainly affirming he was most nobly descended, and that this report was raised, because his father had many slaves that wrought Smiths work, and brought the profit unto him.


* [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}. Ross answers Browne on Christ laughing, very unsatsifactorily (to the reader, anyway; Ross himself is highly delighted with his production), Arcana Microcosmi II:15.3

1 [Wren: "Tis noe argument to say tis never read in Scripture that Christ laughed, therefore he did never laughe, but on the other side to affirme, that he did laughe is therefore dangerous bycause unwarrantable and groundles."

There are a large number of normal human actions that are not recorded of Christ. In the case of natural and semi-involuntary acts -- sneezing, laughing, coughing, and so on -- it is probably more dangerous to assume that he did not do these things than to assume that he did, since in the one case the worst that can happen is that one is wrong, while the other leads surely and certainly to heresies regarding the human nature of Jesus. But see Wren's argument in note 2 below.]

2 [Wren: the doubt of his humanity was convinced so many other wayes (before his passion) as by his birth, his circumcision, his hunger at the fig-tree, his compassion and teares over his friend Lazarus, and those other instances here alleaged, that the propertye of risibilitye (which is indeed the usuall instance of the schooles) though it be inseparable from the nature of man, and incommunicable to any other nature, yet it does not infer the necessitye of the acte in every individuall subject or person of man; no more then the power and propertye of numeration (whereof no other creature in the world is capable) can make every man an arithmetician. It is likewise recorded of Julius Saturninus, sonne to Phillipus (Arabs) the Emperor, that from his birth nullo prorsus cujusquam commento ad ribendum moveri potuerit.]

3 Zelus domus tuæ comedit me. [John 2:17, quoting Psalm 69:9]

4 [Wren: There is no mention of metals or fossiles; and yet we know they were created then, or else they could not now be.]

5 [Wren: "Many things may perchance be past over in silence in Holy Scripture, which notwithstandinge are knowne to be partes of the creation, and many things spoken to the vulgar capacity, which must be understood in a modified sense. But never any thinge so spoken as might be convinced of falshood: so that either God or Copernicus, speaking contradictions, cannot both speak truthe. And therefore, sit Deus verus et omnis homo mendax, that speakes contraditions to him."

Of course, if one does not regard fire as an "element", its not being mentioned in the story of the creation is of no account. Or, in other words, had Browne and Wren been a bit more modern, they could have been considerably more old-fashioned.]

6 [Wren: "Noah was not the first that tasted of the grape: but it is expresly sayd, Genesis ix, 21 that Noah was the first husbandman that planted a vineyard, and that first made wine, and therfore was the first that dranke of the wine; which does not only satisfactorily but necessarily oblige us to a beleefe that wine made by expression into a species of drinke was not knowne, and therfore not used in that new (dryed) world till Noah invented it. It was then, as it is now, in the westerne plantations where they have the vine, and eate the grapes, but do not drinke wine, bycause they never began to plant vineyardes till now of late."

Although it's a difficult thing, with my pittance of theology, to argue with the Dean of St. Paul's, yet the Bible (Genesis 9:20: "And Noah began [to be] an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard") does not say that Noah was the first husbandman to plant a vineyard. The Noah story is, however, the first mention in the Bible of wine and the first of a vineyard. Which leads us back to Browne's argument.]

7 Only in the vulgar Latine. Judg. 9:53. [et ecce una mulier fragmen molae desuper iaciens inlisit capiti Abimelech et confregit cerebrum eius; translated "skull" in the AV.]

8 [The word occurs 838 times, by my count, although often twice in the same scripture.]

9 [Sergius IV, Pope from 1009-1012, whose name was Peter Bucca Porci. The confusion with Sergius II perhaps originates in the phenomenal gluttony of the latter.]

10 [In English, in any case.]

11 [Wren: The name of Jesus was not the same, per omnia, in Joshua; and Jesu was never given to any before the Angel brought itt from heaven. The names of patriarches and prophets have been imposed (not assumed) as memorials (to children) of imitations: and that of Emmanuel in a qualified sense onlye. But that never any Pope would be stiled Peter the second, proceeds from a mysterye of policye; that they may rather seeme successors to his power, then to his name, which they therefore decline of purpose: that Christ's vicariate authoritye may seeme to descend not from personal succession, but immediately from him who first derived it on Peter.]

12 [Wren: "His true Scythian name was Temur-Can which all storyes corruptly and absurdlye call Tamberlane."

Timur, or Timur Can, or Timur Gen, or Timur Beg, or Timur Lenk as his byname is variously given, Mongol/Turkic conqueror born in 1336 in Kesh or its suburbs, died in 1405. The life by "Alhazen" is a sixteenth century fake.]

13 Turkish History. [Knolles, General History of the Turks.]

14 [Wren: Sir Wm. Jorden, of Wiltes, in the plaines, aspired to come to the number of 20,000: but with all his endeavor could never bring them beyond 18,000. He lived since 1630.]

15 Description of the Turkish Seraglio, since printed.

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