Chap. IV.

Of some computations of days and deductions of one part of the year unto another.

FOURTHLY, There are certain vulgar opinions concerning days of the year, and conclusions popularly deduced from certain days of the moneth: men commonly believing the days increase and decrease equally in the whole year: which notwithstanding is very repugnant unto truth. For they increase in the moneth of March, almost as much as in the two moneths of January and February: and decrease as much in September, as they do in July and August. For the days increase or decrease according to the declination of the Sun, that is, its deviation Northward or Southward from the Æquator. Now this digression is not equal but near the Æquinoxial intersections, it is right and greater, near the Solstices more oblique and lesser. So from the eleventh of March the vernal Æquinox, unto the eleventh of April the Sun declineth to the North twelve degrees; from the eleventh of April unto the eleventh of May but eight, from thence unto the fifteenth of June, or the Summer Solstice but three and a half; all which make twenty three degrees and an half, the greatest declination of the Sun.

And this inequality in the declination of the Sun in the Zodiack or line of life, is correspondent unto the growth or declination of man. For setting out from infancy we increase not equally, or regularly attain to our state or perfection: nor when we descend from our state, is our declination equal, or carrieth us with even paces unto the grave. For as Hippocrates affirmeth, a man is hottest in the first day of his life, and coldest in the last: his natural heat setteth forth most vigorously at first, and declineth most sensibly at last. And so though the growth of man end not perhaps until twenty one, yet is his stature more advanced in the first septenary than in the second, and in the second, more than in the third, and more in the first seven years, than in the fourteen succeeding; for what stature we attain unto at seven years, we do sometimes but double, most times come short of at one and twenty. And so do we decline again: For in the latter age upon the Tropick and first descension from our solstice, we are scarce sensible of declination: but declining further, our decrement accelerates, we set apace, and in our last days precipitate into our graves. And thus are also our progressions in the womb, that is, our formation, motion, our birth or exclusion. For our formation is quickly effected, our motion appeareth later, and our exclusion very long after: if that be true which Hippocrates and Avicenna have declared, that the time of our motion is double unto that of formation, and that of exclusion treble unto that of motion. As if the Infant be formed at thirty five days, it moveth at seventy, and is born the two hundred and tenth day, that is, the seventh month; or if it receives not formation before forty five days, it moveth the ninetieth day, and is excluded in two hundred and seventy, that is, the ninth month.

There are also certain popular prognosticks drawn from festivals in the Calendar, and conceived opinions of certain days in months; so is there a general tradition in most parts of Europe, that inferreth the coldness of succeeding winter from the shining of the Sun upon Candlemas day, or the Purification of the Virgin Mary, according to the proverbial distich,

Si Sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.

So is it usual among us to qualifie and conditionate the twelve months of the year, answerably unto the temper of the twelve days in Christmas; and to ascribe unto March certain borrowed days from April; all which men seem to believe upon annual experience of their own, and the received traditions of their fore-fathers.

Now it is manifest, and most men likewise know, that the Calenders of these computers, and the accounts of these days are very different; the Greeks dissenting from the Latins, and the Latins from each other; the one observing the Julian or ancient account, as great Britain and part of Germany; the other adhering to the Gregorian or new account, as Italy, France, Spain, and the united Provinces of the Netherlands. Now this later account by ten days at least anticipateth the other; so that before the one beginneth the account, the other is past it; yet in the several calculations, the same events seem true, and men with equal opinion of verity, expect and confess a confirmation from them all. Whereby it is evident that Oraculous authority of tradition, and the easie seduction of men,[1] neither enquiring into the verity of the substance, nor reforming upon repugnance of circumstance.

And thus may divers easily be mistaken who superstitiously observe certain times, or set down unto themselves an observation of unfortunate months, or dayes, or hours; As did the Egyptians, two in every month, and the Romans, the days after the Nones, Ides and Calends. And thus the Rules of Navigators must often fail, setting down, as Rhodiginus observeth, suspected and ominous days in every month, as the first and seventh of March, the fift and sixt of April, the sixt, the twelfth and fifteenth of February. For the accounts hereof in these months are very different in our days, and were different with several nations in Ages past; and how strictly soever the account be made, and even by the self-same Calendar, yet is it possible that Navigators may be out. For so were the Hollanders, who passing Westward through fretum le Mayre, and compassing the Globe, upon their return into their own Country, found that they had lost a day.[2] For if two men at the same time travel from the same place, the one Eastward, the other Westward round about the earth, and meet in the same place from whence they first set forth; it will so fall out, that he which hath moved Eastward against the diurnal motion of the Sun, by anticipating dayly something of its circle with his own motion, will gain one day; but he that travelleth Westward,[3] with the motion of the Sun, by seconding its revolution, shall lose or come short a day. And therefore also upon these grounds that Delos4 was seated in the middle of the earth, it was no exact decision, because two Eagles let fly East and West by Jupiter, their meeting fell out just in the Island Delos.


* [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: By the jugling Priests in the old mythologies of heathen deytyes, trulye taxte by the poet under that "Quicquid Græcia mendax mandat in historiis". (Juvenal, x.174-5: "quidquid Graecia mendax audet in historia"). Browne's point is that it doesn't require any "jugling Priests": men will do it on their own.]

2 [Like the young lady who traveled faster than light, although (presumably) for other reasons.]

3 [Wren: Captain Bodman an auncient and discrete gentleman, and learned, for his many services to the State, being admitted a poore Knight at Windsor, was wont to tell me, that at their returne from surrounding the world with Sir Francis Drake in the year 1579, they found that they lost a daye in their accomptes of their daylye saylinge, which agrees with this excellent observation of Dr. Browne; for their voyage was from England to the Streits of Magellan, and soe round by the Moluccas and Cape of Good Hope, back to England, which was totalye with the sonne, and therefore what they observed with admiration, concerning the losse of a daye in their accompt, had a manifest reason and cause to justifie the truth of that observation, and that it could not possiblye be otherwise.]

4 [Sc. Delphi; cf. Book I, chapter IIII, where the opposite confusion is made.]

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