I TRAVERSE the pathless haunts of the Pierides never yet trodden by sole of man.
I love to approach the untasted springs and to quaff; I love to cull fresh flowers and gather for my head a distinguished crown from spots whence the muses have yet veiled the brows of none; first because I teach of great things and essay to release the mind from the fast bonds of religious scruples, and next because on a dark subject I pen such lucid verses, overlaying all with the muses’ charm.
For that too would seem to be not without good grounds: even as physicians when they propose to give nauseous wormwood to children, first smear the rim round the bowl with the sweet yellow juice of honey, that the unthinking age of children may be fooled as far as the lips, and meanwhile drink up the bitter draught of wormwood and though beguiled yet not be betrayed, but rather by such means recover health and strength: so now, since this doctrine seems generally somewhat bitter to those by whom it has not been handled, and the multitude shrinks back from it in dismay, have resolved to set forth to you our doctrine in sweet-toned Pierian verse and overlay it, as it were, with the pleasant honey of the muses, if haply by such means I might engage your mind on my verses, till such time as you apprehend all the nature of things and thoroughly feel what use it has.
And now that I have taught what the nature of the mind is and out of what things it is formed into one quickened being with the body, and how it is dissevered and returns into its first-beginnings, I will attempt to lay before you a truth which most nearly concerns these questions, the existence of things which we call idols of things: these, like films peeled from the surface of things, fly to and fro through the air, and do likewise frighten our minds when they present themselves to us awake as well as in sleep, what time we behold strange shapes and idols of the light-bereaved, which have often startled us in appalling wise as we lay relaxed in sleep: this I will essay, that we may not haply believe that souls break loose from Acheron or that shades fly about among the living or that something of us is left behind after death, when the body and the nature of the mind destroyed together have taken their departure into their several first-beginnings.
I say then that pictures of things and thin shapes are emitted from things off their surface, to which an image serves as a kind of film, or name it if you like a rind, because such image bears an appearance and form like to the thing whatever it is from whose body it is shed and wanders forth.
This you may learn, however dull of apprehension, from what follows.
First of all, since among things open to sight many emit bodies, some in a state of loose diffusion, like smoke which logs of oak, heat which fires emit; some of a closer and denser texture, like the gossamer coats which at times cicades doff in summer, and the films which calves at their birth cast from the surface of their body, as well as the vesture which the slippery serpent puts off among the thorns; for often we see the brambles enriched with their flying spoils: since these cases occur, a thin image likewise must be emitted from things off their surface.
For why those films should drop off and withdraw from things rather than films which are really thin, not one tittle of proof can be given; especially since there are on the surface of things many minute bodies which maybe discharged in the same order they had before and preserve the outline of the shape, and be discharged with far more velocity, inasmuch as they are less liable to get hampered being few in number and stationed in the front rank.
For without doubt we see many things discharge and freely give not only from the core and center, as we said before, but from their surfaces, besides other things, color itself.
And this is commonly done by yellow and red and dark blue awnings, when they are spread over large theaters and flutter and wave as they stretch across their poles and crossbeams; for then they dye the seated assemblage below and all the show of the stage and the richly attired company of the fathers, and compel them to dance about in their color.
And the more these objects are shut in all round by the walls of the theater the more do all of them within laugh on all hands, overlaid with graceful hues, the light of day being narrowed.
Therefore since sheets of canvass emit color from their surface, all things will naturally emit thin pictures too, since in each case alike they discharge from the surface.
There are therefore as now shown sure outlines of shapes, which fly all about possessed of an exquisitely small thickness and cannot when separate be seen one at a time.
Again, all smell, smoke, heat, and other such-like things stream off things in a state of diffusion, because while they are coming from the depths of the body having arisen within it, they are torn in their winding passage, and there are no straight orifices to the paths, for them to make their way out by in a mass.
But on the other hand, when a thin film of surface color is discharged, there is nothing to rend it, since it is ready to hand, stationed in front rank.
Lastly, in the case of all idols which show themselves to us in mirrors, in water or any other shining object, since their outsides are possessed of an appearance like to the things they represent, they must be formed of emitted images of things.
There are therefore thin shapes and pictures like to the things, which, though no one can see them one at a time, yet when thrown off by constant and repeated reflection give back a visible image from the surface of mirrors; and in no other way it would seem can they be kept so entire that shapes are given back so exceedingly like each object.
Now mark, and learn how thin in the nature of an image is.
And first of all, since first-beginnings are so far below the ken of our senses and much smaller than the things which our eyes first begin to be unable to see, to strengthen yet more the proof of this also, learn in a few words how minutely fine are the beginnings of all things.
First, living things are in some cases so very little, that their third part cannot be seen at all.
Of what size are we to suppose any gut of such creatures to be? Or the ball of the heart or the eyes? The limbs? Or any part of the frame? How small they must be!
And then further, the several first-beginnings of which their soul and the nature of their mind must be formed? Do you not perceive how fine, how minute they are?
Again in the case of all things which exhale from their body a pungent smell, all-heal, nauseous wormwood, strong scented southernwood and the bitter centauries, any one of which, if you happen to [feel it] lightly between two [fingers, will impregnate them with a strong smell] but rather you are to know that idols of things wander about many in number in many ways, of no force, powerless to excite sense.
But lest haply you suppose that only those idols of things which go off from things and no others wander about, there are likewise those which are spontaneously begotten and are formed by themselves in this lower heaven which is called air: these fashioned in many ways are borne along on high and being in a fluid state cease not to alter their appearance and change it into the outline of shapes of every possible kind; as we see clouds sometimes gather into masses on high and blot the calm clear face of heaven, fanning the air with their motion.
Thus often the faces of giants are seen to fly along and draw after them a far-spreading shadow; sometimes great mountains and rocks torn from the mountains are seen to go in advance and pass across the sun; and then some huge beast is observed to draw with it and bring on the other storm clouds.
Now [I will proceed to show] with what ease and celerity they are begotten and how incessantly they flow and fall away from things.
The outermost surface is ever streaming off from things and admits of being discharged: when this reaches some things, it passes through them, glass especially.
But when it reaches rough stones or the matter of wood, it is then so torn that it cannot give back any idol.
But when objects at once shining and dense have been put in its way, a mirror especially, none of these results has place: it can neither pass through it, like glass, nor can it be torn either; such perfect safety the polished surface minds to ensure.
In consequence of this idols stream back to us from such objects; and however suddenly at any moment you place anything opposite a mirror, an image shows itself: hence you may be sure that thin textures and thin shapes of things incessantly stream from their surface.
Therefore many idols are begotten in a short time, so that the birth of such things is with good reason named a rapid one.
And as the sun must send forth many rays of light in a short time in order that all things may be continually filled with it, so also for alike reason there must be carried away from things in a moment of time idols of things many in number in many ways in all directions round; since to whatever part of them we present a mirror before their surfaces, other things correspond to these in the mirror of a like shape and like color.
Moreover, though the state of heaven has just before been of unsullied purity, with exceeding suddenness it becomes so hideously overcast, that you might imagine all its darkness had abandoned Acheron throughout and filled up the great vaults of heaven: in such numbers do faces of black horror rise up from amid the frightful night of storm clouds and hang over us on high.
Now there is no one who can tell how small a fraction of these an image is, or express that sum in language.
Now mark: how swift the motion is with which idols are borne along, and what velocity is assigned to them as they glide through the air, so that but a short hour is spent on a journey through long space, whatever the spot towards which they go with a movement of varied tendency, all this I will tell in sweetly worded rather than in many verses; as the short song of the swan is better than the loud noise of cranes scattered abroad amid the ethereal clouds of the south.
First of all we may very often observe that things which are light and made of minute bodies are swift.
Of this kind are the light of the sun and its heat, because they are made of minute first things which are knocked forward so to speak and do not hesitate to pass through the space of air between, ever driven on by a blow following behind; for light on the instant is supplied by fresh light and brightness goaded to show its brightness in what you might call an ever on-moving team.
Therefore in like manner idols must be able to scour in a moment of time through space unspeakable, first because they are exceeding small and there is a cause at their back to carry and impel them far forward; where moreover they move on with such winged lightness; next because when emitted they are possessed of so rare a texture, that they can readily pass through any things and stream as it were through the space of air between.
Again, if those minute bodies of things which are given out from the inmost depths of these things, as the light and heat of the sun, are seen in a moment of time to glide and spread themselves through the length and breadth of heaven, fly over sea and lands and flood the heaven, what then of those which stand ready posted in front rank, when they are discharged and nothing obstructs their egress?
How much faster, you see, and farther must they travel, scouring through many times the same amount of space in the same time that the sunlight takes to spread over heaven !
This too appears to be an eminently true proof of the velocity with which idols of things are borne along: as soon as ever the brightness of water is set down in the open air, if the heaven is starry, in a moment the clear radiant constellations of ether imaged in the water correspond to those in the heaven.
Now do you see in what a moment of time an image drops down from the borders of heaven to the borders of earth? Therefore, again and again I repeat you must admit that bodies capable of striking the eyes and of provoking vision [constantly travel] with a marvelous [velocity].
Smells too incessantly stream from certain things; as does cold from rivers, heat from the sun, spray from the waves of the sea, that enter into walls near the shore.
Various sounds also cease not to fly through the air.
Then too a moist salt flavor often comes into the mouth, when we are moving about beside the sea; and when we look on at the mixing of a decoction of wormwood, its bitterness affects us.
In such a constant stream from all things the several qualities are carried and are transmitted in all directions round, and no delay, no respite in the flow is ever granted, since we constantly have feeling, and may at any time see smell and hear the sound of anything.
Again since a particular figure felt by the hands in the dark is known to be the same which is seen in the bright light of day, touch and sight must be excited by a quite similar cause.
Well then if we handle a square thing and it excites our attention in the dark, in the daylight what square thing will be able to fall on our sight, except the image of that thing? Therefore the cause of it is plain lies in images and no thing can be perceived without them.
Well, the idols of things I speak of are borne along all round and are discharged and transmitted in all directions; but because we can see with the eyes alone, the consequence is that, to whatever point we turn our sight, there all the several things meet and strike it with their shape and color.
And the image gives the power to see and the means to distinguish how far each thing is distant from us; for as soon as ever it is discharged, it pushes before it and impels all the air which lies between it and the eyes; and thus that air all streams through our eyes and brushes so to say the pupils and so passes through.
The consequence is that we see how far distant each thing is.
And the greater the quantity of air which is driven on before it and the larger the current which brushes our eyes, the more distant each different thing is seen to be.
You must know these processes go on with extreme rapidity, so that at one and the same moment we see what like a thing is and how far distant it is.
And this must by no means be deemed strange herein that, while the idols which strike the eyes cannot be seen one at a time, the things themselves are seen.
For thus when the wind too beats us with successive strokes and when piercing cold streams, we are not wont to feel each single particle of that wind and cold, but rather the whole result; and then we perceive blows take effect on our body just as if something or other were beating it and giving us a sensation of its body outside.
Again when we thump a stone with a finger, we touch merely the outermost color on the surface of the stone, and yet we do not feel that color by our touch, but rather we feel the very hardness of the stone seated in its inmost depths.
Now mark, and learn why the image is seen beyond the mirror; for without doubt it is seen withdrawn far within.
The case is just the same as with things which are viewed in their reality beyond a door, when it offers through it an unobstructed prospect and lets many things outside be seen from a house.
That vision too is effected by two separate airs: first there is an air seen in such a case inside the doorway; next come the leaves of the door right and left; next a light outside brushes the eyes, then a second air, then those things outside which are viewed in their reality.
Thus when the image of the mirror has first discharged itself, in coming to our sight it pushes forward and impels all the air which lies between it and the eyes, and enables us to see the whole of it before the mirror.
But when we have perceived the mirror as well, at once the image which is conveyed from us reaches the mirror and then is reflected and comes back to our eyes, and drives on and rolls in front of it a second air and lets us see this before itself, and for this reason it looks so far withdrawn from the mirror.
Wherefore again and again I repeat there is no cause at all to wonder why the images give back the reflection from the surface of mirrors in the spot they do, since in both the given cases the result is produced by two airs.
To proceed, the right side of our body is seen in mirrors to be on the left, because when the image comes and strikes on the plane of the mirror, it is not turned back unaltered, but is beaten out in a right line backwards, just as if you were to take a plaster mask before it is dry and dash it on a pillar or beam, and it forthwith were to preserve the lines of its features undistorted in front and were to strike out an exact copy of itself straight backwards.
The result will be that the eye which was right will now be left; and conversely the left become the right.
An image may also be so transmitted from one mirror to another that five or six idols are often produced.
And thus all the things which lurk in the inmost corners of a house, however far they are withdrawn into tortuous recesses, may yet be all brought out through winding passages by the aid of a number of mirrors and be seen to be in the house.
So unfailingly does the image reflect itself from mirror to mirror; and when the left side is presented, it becomes the right in the new image; then it is changed back again and turns round to what it was.
Moreover all little sides of mirrors which possess a curvature resembling our side, send back to us idols with their right corresponding to our right either for this reason, because the image is transmitted from one mirror to another, and then after it has been twice struck out flies to us, or else because the image, when it has come to the mirror, wheels about, because the curved shape of the mirror teaches it to turn round and face us.
Again you would think that idols step out and put down their foot at the same time with us and mimic our action, because from before whatever part of a mirror you move away, from that part forthwith no idols can be reflected; since nature constrains all things, when they are carried back and recoil from things, to be given back at angles equal to those at which they impinged.
Bright things again the eyes eschew and shun to look upon: the sun even blinds them, if you persist in turning them towards it, because its power is great and idols are borne through the clear air with great downward force from on high, and strike the eyes, and disorder their fastenings.
Moreover any vivid brightness often bums the eyes, because it contains many seeds of fire which make a way in and beget pain in the eyes.
Again whatever the jaundiced look at becomes a greenish-yellow, because many seeds of greenish-yellow stream from their body and meet the idols of things, and many too are mixed up in their eyes, and these by their infection tinge all things with sallow hues.
Again we see out of the dark things which are in the light for this reason: when the black air of darkness being the nearer has first entered and taken possession of the open eyes, the bright white air follows straightway after and cleanses them so to say and dispels the black shadows of the other air; for this is a great deal more nimble, a great deal more subtle and more efficacious.
As soon as it has filled with light and opened up the passages of the eyes which the black air had before blocked up, forthwith the idols of things which are situated in the light follow and excite them so that we see.
This we cannot do conversely in the dark out of the light, because the grosser air of darkness follows behind and quite fills all the openings and blocks up the passages of the eyes, not letting the idols of any things at all be thrown into the eyes to move them.
Again when we descry far off the square towers of a town, they often appear to be round for this reason: all the angles are seen from a distance to look obtuse, or rather are not seen at all, and their blow is lost and their stroke never makes its way to our sight, because while the idols are borne on through much air, the air by repeated collisions blunts the stroke perforce.
When in this way all the angles have together eluded the sense, the stone structures are rounded off as if by the lathe; yet they do not look like the things which are close before us and really round, but somewhat resembling them as in shadowy outline.
Our shadow likewise seems to move in the sunshine and to follow our steps and mimic our action; if you think forsooth that air deprived of life can step, imitating the motions and the actions of men; for that which we are wont to term shadow can be nothing but air devoid of light.
Sure enough, because the earth in certain spots successively is deprived of light wherever we intercept it in moving about, while that part of it which we have quitted is filled with light, therefore that which was the shadow of our body, seems to have always followed us unchanged in a direct line with us.
For new rays of light ever pour in and the old are lost, just as if wool were drawn into the fire.
Therefore the earth is readily stripped of light, and again filled, and cleanses itself from black shadows.
And yet in all this we do not admit that the eyes are cheated one whit, for it is their province to observe in what spot soever light and shade are; but whether the lights are still the same or not, and whether it is the same shadow which was in this spot that is now passing to that, or whether what we said a little before is not rather the fact, this the reason of the mind, and only it, has to determine; nor can the eyes know the nature of things.
Do not then fasten upon the eyes this frailty of the mind.
The ship in which we are sailing moves on while seeming to stand still; that one which remains at its moorings is believed to be passing by.
The hills and fields seem to be dropping astern, past which we are driving our ship and flying under sail.
The stars all seem to be at rest fast fixed to the ethereal vaults, and yet are all in constant motion, since they rise and then go back to their far-off places of setting after they have traversed the length of heaven with their bright bodies.
In like manner sun and moon seem to stay in one place, bodies which simple fact proves are carried on.
And though between mountains rising up afar off from amid the waters there opens out for fleets a free passage of wide extent, yet a single island seems to be formed out of them united into one.
When children have stopped turning round themselves, the halls appear to them to whirl about and the pillars to course round to such a degree, that they can scarce believe that the whole roof is not threatening to tumble down upon them.
Again when nature begins to raise on high the sun’s beam ruddy with bickering fires and to lift it up above the mountains, those hills above which the sun then seems to you to be, as blazing close at hand he dyes them with his own fire, are distant from us scarce two thousand arrow-flights, yea often scarce five hundred casts of a javelin; and yet between them and the sun lie immense levels of sea, spread out below the huge borders of ether, and many thousands of lands are between, held by divers peoples and races of wild beasts.
Then a puddle of water not more than a finger-breadth deep, which stands between the stones in the streets, offers a prospect beneath the earth of a reach as vast, as that with which the high yawning maw of heaven opens out above the earth; so that you seem to discern clouds and see the bodies of birds far withdrawn into that wondrous sky beneath the earth.
Again when our stout horse has stuck in the middle of a river and we have looked down on the swift waters of the stream, some force seems to carry athwart the current the body of the horse which is standing still and to force it rapidly up the stream; and to whatever point we cast our eyes about, all things seem to be carried on and to be flowing in the same way as we are.
Again although a portico runs in parallel lines from one end to the other and stands supported by equal columns along its whole extent, yet when, from the top of it, it is seen in its entire length, it gradually forms the contracted top of a narrowing cone, until uniting roof with floor and all the right side with the left it has brought them together into the vanishing point of a cone.
To sailors on the sea the sun appears to rise out of the waters and in the waters to set and bury his light; just because they behold nothing but water and sky; that you may not lightly suppose the credit of the senses to be shaken on all hands.
Then to people unacquainted with the sea ships in harbor seem to be all askew and with poop fittings broken to be pressing up against the water.
For whatever part of the oars is raised above the saltwater is straight, and the rudders in their upper half are straight: the parts which are sunk below the water-level appear to be broken and bent round and to slope up and turn back towards the surface and to be so much twisted back as well nigh to float on the top of the water.
And when the winds carry the thinly scattered clouds across heaven in the night time, then do the glittering signs appear to glide athwart the rack and to be traveling on high in a direction quite different to their real course.
Then if our hand chance to be placed beneath one eye and press it below, through a certain sensation all things which we look at appear then to become double as we look; the light of lamps brilliant with flames to be double, double too the furniture through the whole house, double men’s faces and men’s bodies.
Again when sleep has chained down our limbs in sweet slumber and the whole body is sunk in profound repose, yet then we seem to ourselves to be awake and to be moving our limbs, and mid the thick darkness of night we think we see the sun and the daylight; and though in a confined room, we seem to be passing to new climates seas rivers and mountains and to be crossing plains on foot and to hear noises, though the austere silence of night prevails all round, and to be uttering speech though quite silent.
Many are the other marvels of this sort we see, which all seek to shake as it were the credit of the senses: quite in vain, since the greatest part of these cases cheats us on account of the mental suppositions which we add of ourselves, taking those things as seen which have not been seen by the senses.
For nothing is harder than to separate manifest facts from doubtful which straightway the mind adds on of itself.
Again if a man believe that nothing is known, he knows not whether this even can be known, since he admits he knows nothing.
I will therefore decline to argue the case against him who places himself with head where his feet should be.
And yet granting that he knows this, I would still put this question, since he has never yet seen any truth in things, whence he knows what knowing and not knowing severally are, and what it is that has produced the knowledge of the true and the false and what has proved the doubtful to differ from the certain.
You will find that from the senses first has proceeded the knowledge of the true and the false and that the senses cannot be refuted.
For that which is of itself to be able to refute things false by true things must from the nature of the case be proved to have the higher certainty.
Well then, what must fairly be accounted of higher certainty than sense?
Shall reason founded on false sense be able to contradict them, wholly founded as it is on the senses?
And if they are not true, then all reason as well is rendered false.
Or shall the ears be able to take the eyes to task, or the touch the ears? Again shall the taste call in question this touch, or the nostrils refute or the eyes controvert it? Not so, I guess; for each apart has its own distinct office, each its own power; and therefore we must perceive what is soft and cold or hot by one distinct faculty, by another perceive the different colors of things and thus see all objects which are conjoined with color.
Taste too has its faculty apart; smells spring from one source, sounds from another.
It must follow therefore that any one sense cannot confute any other.
No nor can any sense take itself to task, since equal credit must be assigned to it at all times.
What therefore has at any time appeared true to each sense, is true.
And if reason shall be unable to explain away the cause why things which close at hand were square, at a distance looked round, it yet is better, if you are at a loss for the reason, to state erroneously the causes of each shape than to let slip from your grasp on any side things manifest and ruin the groundwork of belief and wrench up all the foundations on which rest life and existence.
For not only would all reason give way, life itself would at once fall to the ground, unless you choose to trust the senses and shun precipices and all things else of this sort that are to be avoided, and to pursue the opposite things.
All that host of words then be sure is quite unmeaning which has been drawn out in array against the senses.
Once more, as in a building, if the rule first applied is wry, and the square is untrue and swerves from its straight lines, and if there is the slightest hitch in any part of the level, all the construction must be faulty, all must be wry, crooked, sloping, leaning forwards, leaning backwards, without symmetry, so that some parts seem ready to fall, others do fall, ruined all by the first erroneous measurements; so too all reason of things must needs prove to you distorted and false, which is founded on false senses.
And now to explain in what way the other senses do each perceive their several objects, is the nowise arduous task which is still left.
In the first place, all sound and voice is heard when they have made their way into the ears and have struck with their body the sense of hearing.
For voice too and sound you must admit to be bodily, since they are able to act upon the senses.
Again, voice often abrades the throat, and shouting in passing forth makes the windpipe more rough: when to wit the first-beginnings of voices have risen up in larger mass and commenced to pass abroad through their strait passage, you are to know the door of the mouth now crammed itself is abraded.
There is no doubt then that voices and words consist of bodily first beginnings, with the power to hurt; nor can you fail to know how much of body is taken away and how much is withdrawn from men’s very sinews and strength by a speech continued without interruption from the dawning brightness of morning to the shadow of black night, above all if it has been poured forth with much loud shouting.
Voice therefore must be bodily, since a man by much speaking loses a portion from his body.
Next roughness of voice comes from roughness of first-beginnings, as smoothness is produced from smoothness.
Nor are the first-beginnings of like shape which pierce the ears in these two cases: when the trumpet brays dully in deep low tones, the barbarian country roused echoing back the hoarse hollow sound, and when swans from the headstrong torrents of Helicon raise their clear-toned dirge with plaintive voice.
When therefore we force these voices forth from the depths of our body and discharge them straight out at the mouth, the pliant tongue, deft fashioner of words, gives them articulate utterance and the structure of the lips does its part in shaping them.
Therefore when the distance is not long between the point from which each several voice has started and that at which it arrives, the very words too must be plainly heard and distinguished syllable by syllable; for each voice retains its structure and retains its shape.
But if the space between be more than is suitable, the words must be huddled together in passing through much air and the voice be disorganized in its flight through the same.
Therefore it is that you can hear a sound, yet cannot distinguish what the meaning of the words is: so huddled and hampered is the voice when it comes.
Again a single word often stirs the ears of a whole assembly of people, when uttered by the crier’s mouth.
One voice therefore in a moment starts asunder into many voices, since it distributes itself separately into all the ears, stamping upon them the form and distinct sound of the word.
But such of the voices as do not fall directly on the ears, are carried past and lost, fruitlessly dispersed in air: some striking upon solid spots are thrown back and give back a sound and sometimes mock by an echo of the word.
When you fully perceive all this, you may explain to yourself and others how it is that in lonely spots rocks give back in regular succession forms of words like to those sent forth, as we seek our comrades straying about among the darkened hills and with loud voice call upon them scattered abroad.
I have seen places give back as many as six or seven voices, when you sent forth one: in such wise did the very hills dash back on hills and repeat the words thus trained to come back.
These spots the people round fancy that the goat-footed satyrs and nymphs inhabit, and tell that they are the fauns by whose night-pervading noise and sportive play as they declare the still silence is broken and sounds produced of stringed instruments and sweet plaintive melodies, such as the pipe pours forth when beaten by the fingers of the players; the country-people hearing far and wide, what time Pan nodding the piny covering of his head half a beast’s oft runs over the gaping reeds with curved lip, making the pipe without ceasing to pour forth its woodland song.
Other such like prodigies and marvels they tell of, that they may not haply bethought to inhabit lonely places, abandoned even by the gods.
On this account they vaunt such wonders in their stories or are led on by some other reason; inasmuch as the whole race of man is all too greedy after listening ears.
To proceed, you need not wonder how it is that through places, through which the eyes cannot see plain things, voices come and strike the ears.
We often see a conversation go on even through closed doors, sure enough because the voice can pass uninjured through the winding openings of things, while idols refuse to pass: they are torn to shreds, if the openings through which they glide are not straight, like those of glass, through which every image passes.
Again, a voice distributes itself in all directions, since voices are begotten one out of another, when a single voice has once gone forth and sprung into many, as a spark of fire is often wont to distribute itself into its constituent fires.
Therefore places are filled with voices which though far withdrawn out of view yet are all in commotion and stirred by sound.
But idols all proceed in straight courses as soon as they have been discharged; and therefore you can never see beyond a wall, but you may hear voices outside it.
And yet this very voice even in passing through the walls of houses is blunted and enters the ears in a huddled state, and we seem to hear the sound rather than the actual words.
The tongue and palate whereby we perceive flavor, have not in them anything that calls for longer explanation or offers more difficulty.
In the first place we perceive flavor in the mouth when we press it out in chewing our food, in the same way as when one haply begins to squeeze with his hand and dry a sponge full of water.
Next the whole of what we press out distributes itself through the cavities of the palate and the intricate openings of the porous tongue.
Therefore when the bodies of oozing flavor are smooth, they pleasantly touch and pleasantly feel all the parts if about the moist exuding quarters of the palate.
But on the other hand, when they rise in a mass they puncture and tear the sense according to the degree in which they are pervaded by roughness.
Next the pleasure from the flavor reaches as far as the palate; when however it has passed down through the throat, there is no pleasure while it is all distributing itself into the frame.
And it makes no matter what the food is with which the body is nurtured, provided you can digest what you take and transmit it into the frame and keep the stomach in an equable condition of moistness.
I will now explain how it is that different food is pleasant and nutritious for different creatures; also why that which to some is nauseous and bitter, may yet to others seem passing sweet; and why in these matters the difference and discrepancy is so great that what to one man is food, to another is rank poison; and there is actually a serpent which on being touched by a man’s spittle wastes away and destroys itself by gnawing its body.
Again hellebore for us is rank poison, but helps to fatten goats and quails.
That you may know how this comes to pass, first of all you must remember what we have said before, that the seeds which are contained in things are mixed up in manifold ways.
Again all living creatures soever which take food, even as they are unlike on the outside, and, differing in each after its kind, an exterior contour of limbs bounds them, so likewise are they formed of seeds of varying shape.
Again since the seeds differ, there must be a discrepancy in the spaces between and the passages, which we name openings, in all the limbs and mouth and palate as well.
Some openings therefore must be smaller, some larger; some things must have them three-cornered, others square; many must be round, some many-angled after many fashions.
For as the relation between the shapes of seeds and their motions require, the openings also must differ accordingly in their shapes; and the passages must vary, as varies the texture formed by the seeds which bound them.
For this reason when that which is sweet to some becomes bitter to others, for that creature to whom it is sweet the smoothest bodies must enter the cavities of the palate with power to feel them all over; but on the other hand in the case of those to whom the same thing is bitter within, rough and barbed seeds sure enough pass down the throat.
It is easy now from these principles to understand all particular cases: thus when a fever has attacked any one from too great a flow of bile, or a violent disease has been excited in any other way, thereupon the whole body is disordered and all the arrangements of particles then and there changed; the consequence of which is that the bodies which before were suited to excite sensation, suit no more; and those fit it better, which are able to make their way in and beget a bitter sense.
Both kinds for instance are mixed up in the flavor of honey: a point we have often proved before.
Now mark me, and I will discuss the way in which the contact of smell affects the nostrils: and first there must be many things from which a varied flow of smells streams and rolls on; and we must suppose that they thus stream and discharge and disperse themselves among all things alike; but one smell fits itself better to one creature, another to another on account of their unlike shapes; and therefore bees are drawn on by the smell of honey through the air to a very great distance, and so are vultures by carcases.
Also the onward-reaching power of scent in dogs leads them whithersoever the cloven hoof of wild beasts has carried them in their course; and the smell of man is felt far away by the savior of the Romans’ citadel, the bright white goose.
Thus different scents assigned to different creatures led each to its appropriate food and constrain them to recoil from nauseous poison, and in this way the races of beasts are preserved.
Of all these different smells then which strike the nostrils one may reach to a much greater distance than another; though none of them is carried so far as sound, as voice, to say nothing of things which strike the eyesight and provoke vision.
For in its mazy course each comes slowly on and is sooner lost, being gradually dispersed into the readily receiving expanse of air; first because coming out of its depths it with difficulty discharges itself from the thing: for the fact that all things are found to have a stronger smell when crushed, when pounded, when broken up by fire, shows that odors stream and withdraw from the inner parts of things: next you may see that smell is formed of larger first-beginnings than voice, since it does not pass through stone walls, through which voice and sound are borne without fail.
For this reason also you will find that it is not so easy to trace out in what quarter a thing which smells is situated; for the blow cools down as it loiters through the air, and the courier particles of things are no longer hot when they finish their race to sense; for which reason dogs are often at fault and lose the scent.
But what I have said is not found in smells and in the class of flavors only, but also the forms and colors of things are not all so well suited to the senses of all, but that some will be more distressing to the sight than others.
Moreover ravenous lions cannot face and bear to gaze upon a cock with flapping wings putting night to rout and wont to summon morning with shrill voice: in such wise they at once bethink themselves of flight, because sure enough in the body of cocks are certain seeds, and these, when they have been discharged into the eyes of lions, bore into the pupils and cause such sharp pain that courageous though they be, they cannot continue to face them; while at the same time these things cannot hurt at all our sight, either because they do not enter in or because the moment they enter a free passage out of the eyes is granted them, so that they cannot by staying behind hurt the eyes in any part!
Now mark, and hear what things move the mind, and learn in a few words whence the things which come into it do come.
I say first of all, that idols of things wander about many in number in many ways in all directions round, extremely thin; and these when they meet, readily unite, like a cobweb or piece of gold-leaf.
For these idols are far thinner in texture than those which take possession of the eyes and provoke vision; since these enter in through the porous parts of the body and stir the fine nature of the mind within and provoke sensation.
Therefore we see Centaurs and limbs of Scyllas and Cerberus-like faces of dogs and idols of those who are dead, whose bones earth holds in its embrace; since idols of every kind are everywhere borne about, partly those which are spontaneously produced within the air, partly all those which withdraw from various things and those which are formed by compounding the shapes of these.
For assuredly no image of Centaur is formed out of a live one, since no such nature of living creature ever existed; but when images of a horse and a man have by chance come together, they readily adhere at once, as we said before, on account of their fine nature and thin texture.
All other things of the kind are produced in like fashion.
And when these from extreme lightness are borne on with velocity, as I showed before, any one subtle composite image you like readily moves the mind by a single stroke; for the mind is fine and is itself wondrously nimble.
That all this is done as I relate you may easily learn from what follows.
So far as the one is like another, seeing with the mind and seeing with the eyes must be produced in a like way.
Well then since I have shown that I perceive for instance a lion by means of idols which provoke the eyes, you may be sure that the mind is moved in a like way, which by means of idols sees a lion or anything else just as well as the eyes, with this difference that it perceives much thinner idols.
And when sleep has prostrated the body, for no other reason does the mind’s intelligence wake, except because the very same idols provoke our minds which provoke them when we are awake, and to such a degree that we seem without a doubt to perceive him whom life has left and death and earth gotten hold of.
This nature constrains to come to pass because all the senses of the body are then hampered and at rest throughout the limbs and cannot refute the unreal by real things.
Moreover memory is prostrate and relaxed in sleep and protests not that he has long been in the grasp of death and destruction whom the mind believes it sees alive.
Furthermore it is not strange that idols move and throw about their arms and other limbs in regular measure: for sometimes in sleep an image is seen to do this: when the first to wit has gone and a second then been born in another posture, that former one seems to have altered its attitude.
This remember you must assume to take place with exceeding celerity: so great is the velocity, so great the store of things; so great in any one unit of time that sense can seize is the store of particles, out of which the supply may go on.
And here many questions present themselves and many points must be cleared up by us, if we desire to give a plain exposition of things.
The first question is why, when the wish has occurred to any one to think of a thing, his mind on the instant thinks of that very thing.
Do idols observe our will, and so soon as we will does an image present itself to us, if sea, if earth, ay or heaven is what we wish?
Assemblies of men, a procession, feasts, battles, everything in short does nature at command produce and provide? And though to increase the marvel the mind of others in the same spot and room is thinking of things all quite different.
What again are we to say, when we see in sleep idols advance in measured tread and move their pliant limbs, when in nimble wise they put out each pliant arm in turn and represent to the eyes over and over again an action with foot that moves in time?
Idols to wit are imbued with art and move about well-trained, to be able in the night-time to exhibit such plays.
Or will this rather be the truth? Because in one unit of time, when we can perceive it by sense and while one single word is uttered, many latent times are contained which reason finds to exist, therefore in any time you please all the several idols are at hand ready prepared in each several place.
And because they are so thin, the mind can see distinctly only those which it strains itself to see; therefore all that there are besides are lost, save only those for which it has made itself ready.
Moreover, it makes itself ready and hopes to see that which follows upon each thing; therefore the result does follow.
Do you not see that the eyes also, when they essay to discern things which are thin and fine, strain themselves and make themselves ready, and without that we cannot see distinctly?
And yet you may observe even in things which are plain before us, that if you do not attend, it is just as if the thing were all the time away and far distant?
What wonder then, if the mind loses all other things save those with which it is itself earnestly occupied?
Then too from small indications we draw the widest inferences and by our own fault entangle ourselves in the meshes of self-delusion.
Sometimes it happens too that an image of the same kind is not supplied, but what before was a woman, turns out in our hands to have changed into a man; or a different face and age succeed to the first.
But sleep and forgetfulness prevent us from feeling surprise at this.
And herein you should desire with all your might to shun the weakness, with a lively apprehension to avoid the mistake of supposing that the bright lights of the eyes were made in order that we might see; and that the tapering ends of the shanks and hams are attached to the feet as a base in order to enable us to step out with long strides; or again that the forearms were slung to the stout upper arms and ministering hands given us on each side, that we might be able to discharge the needful duties of life.
Other explanations of like sort which men give, one and all put effect for cause through wrongheaded reasoning; since nothing was born in the body that we might use it, but that which is born begets itself a use: thus seeing did not exist before the eyes were born, nor the employment of speech ere the tongue was made; but rather the birth of the tongue was long anterior to language and the ears were made long before sound was heard, and all the limbs, I trow, existed before there was any employment for them: they could not therefore have grown for the purpose of being used.
But on the other hand, engaging in the strife of battle and mangling the body and staining the limbs with gore were in vogue long before glittering darts ever flew; and nature prompted to shun a wound or ever the left arm by the help of art held up before the person the defense of a shield.
Yes, and consigning the tired body to rest is much older than a soft-cushioned bed, and the slaking of thirst had birth before cups.
These things therefore which have been invented in accordance with the uses and wants of life, may well be believed to have been discovered for the purpose of being used.
Far otherwise is it with all those things which first were born, then afterwards made known the purposes to which they might be put; at the head of which class we see the senses and the limbs.
Wherefore again and again I repeat, it is quite impossible to believe that they could have been made for the duties which they discharge.
It ought likewise to cause no wonder that the nature of the body of each living creature absolutely requires food I have shown that bodies ebb away and withdraw from things, many in number in many ways; but most numerous must be those which withdraw from living things; for because these are tried by active motion, and many particles are pressed out from the depths of the frame and carried off by sweating, many breathed out through the mouth, when they pant from exhaustion, from such causes the body becomes rarefied and the whole nature undermined; and this state is attended by pain.
Food therefore is taken in order to give support to the frame and recruit the strength by its infusion, and to close up the open-mouthed craving for meat throughout limbs and veins.
The moisture too passes into all the parts which call for moisture; and many accumulated bodies of heat which cause a burning in our stomach, the approach of liquid scatters and quenches as if they were fire, so that dry heat can no longer parch the frame.
In this way then you see gasping thirst is drenched out of our body, in this way the hungry craving is satisfied.
Now how it comes to pass that we are able to step out when we please, and how it is given us to move about our limbs, and what cause is wont to push forward the great load of this our body I will tell: do you take in my words.
I say that idols of walking first present themselves to our mind and strike on the mind, as we said before: then the will arises; for no one begins to do anything, until his mind has first determined what it wills.
From the very fact that it determines such thing, there is an image of that thing.
When therefore the mind bestirs itself in such a way as to will to walk and step out, it strikes at the same moment the force of the soul which is spread over the whole body throughout the limbs and frame; and this is easily done, since the whole is held in close union with the mind.
Next the soul in its turn strikes the body, and thus the whole mass by degrees is pushed on and set in motion.
Then again, the body becomes also rarefied, and the air, as you see its nature is, being always so nimble in moving, comes and passes in great quantity through the opened pores and is thus distributed into the most minute parts of the body.
In this way then by these two causes acting in two ways the body like a ship is carried on by sails and wind.
And herein it need not excite any surprise that such very minute bodies can steer so great a body and turn about the whole of this our load; for wind though fine with subtle body drives and pushes on a large ship of large moving mass and one hand directs it however great the speed at which it is going and one rudder steers it to any point you like; and by means of blocks of pulleys and tread-wheels a machine stirs many things of great weight and raises them up with slight effort.
Now by what means yon sleep lets a stream of repose over the limbs and dispels from the breast the cares of the mind, I will tell in sweetly worded rather than in many verses; as the short song of the swan is better than the loud noise of cranes scattered abroad amid the ethereal clouds of the south.
Do you lend me a nice ear and a keen mind, that you may not deny what I say to be possible and secede with breast disdainfully rejecting the words of truth, you yourself being in fault the while and unable to discern.
Sleep mainly takes place when the force of the soul has been scattered about through the frame, and in part has been forced abroad and taken its departure, and in part has been thrust back and has withdrawn into the depths of the body: after that the limbs are relaxed and droop.
For there is no doubt that this sense exists in us by the agency of the soul; and when sleep obstructs the action of this sense, then we must assume that our soul has been disordered and forced abroad; not indeed all; for then the body would lie steeped in the everlasting chill of death.
Where no part of the soul remained behind concealed in the limbs, as fire remains concealed when buried under much ash, whence could sense be suddenly rekindled through the limbs, as flame can spring up from hidden fire?
But by what means this change of condition is accomplished and from what the soul can be disordered and the body grow faint, I will explain: do you mind that I waste not my words on the wind.
In the first place the body in its outer side, since it is next to and is touched by the air, must be thumped and beaten by its repeated blows; and for this reason all things as a rule are covered either by a hide or else by shells or by a callous skin or by bark.
When creatures breathe, this air at the same time buffets the inner side also, as it is inhaled and exhaled.
Therefore since the body is beaten on both sides alike and blows arrive by means of the small apertures at the primal parts and primal elements of our body, there gradually ensues a sort of breaking up throughout our limbs, the arrangements of the first-beginnings of body and mind getting disordered.
Then next a part of the soul is forced out and apart withdraws into the inner recesses; a part too scattered about through the frame cannot get united together and so act and be acted upon by motion; for nature intercepts all communication and blocks up all the passages; and therefore sense retires deep into the frame as the motions are all altered.
And since there is nothing as it were to lend support to the frame, the body becomes weak and all the limbs are faint, the arms and eyelids droop and the hams even in bed often give way under you and relax their powers.
Then sleep follows on food, because food produces just the same effects as air, while it is distributed into all the veins; and that sleep is much the heaviest which you take when full or tired, because then the greatest number of bodies fall into disorder, bruised by much exertion.
On the same principle the soul comes in part to be forced more deeply into the frame, and there is also a more copious emission of it abroad, and at the same time it is more divided and scattered in itself within you.
And generally to whatever pursuit a man is closely tied down and strongly attached, on whatever subject we have previously much dwelt, the mind having been put to a more than usual strain in it, during sleep we for the most part fancy that we are engaged in the same; lawyers think they plead causes and draw up covenants of sale, generals that they fight and engage in battle, sailors that they wage and carry on war with the winds, we think we pursue our task and investigate the nature of things constantly and consign it when discovered to writings in our native tongue.
So all other pursuits and arts are seen for the most part during sleep to occupy and mock the minds of men.
And whenever men have given during many days in succession undivided attention to games, we generally see that after they have ceased to perceive these with their senses, there yet remain passages open in the mind through which the same idols of things may enter.
Thus for many days those same objects present themselves to the eyes, so that even when awake they see dancers as they think moving their pliant limbs, and receive into the ears the clear music of the harp and speaking strings, and behold the same spectators and at the same time the varied decorations of the stage in all their brilliancy.
So great is the influence of zeal and inclination, so great is the influence of the things in which men have been habitually engaged, and not men only but all living creatures.
Thus you will see stout horses, even when their bodies are lying down, yet in their sleep sweat and pant without ceasing and strain their powers to the utmost as if for the prize, or as if the barriers were thrown open.
And often during soft repose the dogs of hunters do yet all at once throw about their legs and suddenly utter cries and repeatedly snuff the air with their nostrils, as though they had found and were on the tracks of wild beasts; and after they are awake often chase the shadowy idols of stags, as though they saw them in full flight, until they have shaken off their delusions and come to themselves again.
And the fawning brood of dogs brought up tame in the house haste to shake their body and raise it up from the ground, as if they beheld unknown faces and features.
And the fiercer the different breeds are, the greater rage they must display in sleep.
But the various kinds of birds flee and suddenly in the night time trouble with their wings the groves of the gods, when in gentle sleep hawks and pursuing birds have appeared to show fight and offer battle.
Again the minds of men which pursue great aims under great emotions, often during sleep pursue and carry on the same in like manner; kings take by storm, are taken, join battle, raise aloud cry as if stabbed on the spot.
Many struggle hard and utter groans in pain, and as if gnawed by the bite of panther or cruel lion fill all the place with loud cries.
Many during sleep speak of important affairs and have often and often disclosed their own guilt.
Many meet death; many as if tumbling down from high precipices to the ground with their whole body, are scared with terror and after sleep as if out of their judgment scarce come to themselves again, quite disordered by their body’s turmoil.
Again a thirsty man sits down beside a river or a pleasant spring and gulps down well-nigh all the stream.
Cleanly people often, when sound asleep, believing that they are lifting their dress beside a urinal or the public vessels, pour forth the filtered liquid of their whole body, and the Babylonian coverlets of surpassing brilliancy are drenched.
Then too those into the boiling currents of whose age seed is for the first time passing, when the ripe fulness of days has produced it in their limbs, idols encounter from without from what body soever harbingers of a glorious face and a beautiful bloom, which stir and excite the frame.
That seed we have spoken of before is stirred up in us, as soon as ripe age fortifies the frame.
For as different causes set in motion and excite different things, so from man the sole influence of man draws forth human seed.
As soon then as it has been forced out from and quits its proper seats throughout the limbs and frame, it withdraws itself from the whole body and meets together in appropriate places and rouses forthwith the appropriate parts of the body.
The places are excited and swell with seed, !and the inclination arises to emit the seed towards that to which the fell desire all tends, and the body seeks that object from which the mind is wounded by love; for all as a rule fall towards their wound and the blood spurts out in that direction whence comes the stroke by which we are struck; and if he is at close quarters, the red stream covers the foe.
Thus then he who gets a hurt from the weapons of Venus, whatever be the object that hits him, inclines to the quarter whence he is wounded, and yearns to unite with it and join body with body; for a mute desire gives a presage of the pleasure.
This pleasure is for us Venus; from that desire is the Latin name of love, from that desire has first trickled into the heart yon drop of Venus’ honeyed joy, succeeded soon by chilly care; for though that which you love is away, yet idols of it are at hand and its sweet name is present to the ears.
But it is meet to fly idols and scare away all that feeds love and turn your mind on another object, distract your passion elsewhere and not keep it, with your thoughts once set on one object by love of it, and so lay up for yourself care and unfailing pain.
For the sore gathers strength and becomes inveterate by feeding, and every day the madness grows in violence and the misery becomes aggravated, unless you erase the first wounds by new blows and first heal them when yet fresh, roaming abroad after Venus the pandemian, or transfer to something else the emotions of your mind.
Nor is he who shuns love without the fruits of Venus, but rather enjoys those blessings which are without any pain: doubtless the pleasure from such things is more unalloyed for the healthy-minded than for the love-sick; for in the very moment of enjoying the burning desire of lovers wavers and wanders undecided, and they cannot tell what first to enjoy with eyes and hands.
What they have sought, they tightly squeeze and cause pain of body and often imprint their teeth on the lips and clash mouth to mouth in kissing, because the pleasure is not pure and there are hidden stings which stimulate to hurt, even that whatever it is from which spring those germs of frenzy.
But Venus with light hand breaks the force of these pains during love, and the fond pleasure mingled therein reins in the bites.
For in this there is hope, that from the same body whence springs their burning desire, their flame may likewise be quenched; though nature protests that the very opposite is the truth; and this is the one thing of all in which, when we have most of it, then all the more the breast burns with fell desire.
Meat and drink are taken into the body; and as they can fill up certain fixed parts, in this way the craving for drink and bread is easily satisfied; but from the face and beautiful bloom of man nothing is given into the body to enjoy save flimsy idols; a sorry hope which is often snatched off by the wind.
As when in sleep a thirsty man seeks to drink and water is not given to quench the burning in his frame, but he seeks the idols of waters and toils in vain and thirsts as he drinks in the midst of the torrent stream, thus in love Venus mocks lovers with idols, nor can bodies satisfy them by all their gazing upon them nor can they with their hands rub aught off the soft limbs, wandering undecided over the whole body.
At last when they have united and enjoy the flower of age, when the body now has a presage of delights and Venus is in the mood to sow the fields of woman, they greedily clasp each other’s body and suck each other’s lips and breathe in, pressing meanwhile teeth on each other’s mouth; all in vain, since they can rub nothing off nor enter and pass each with his whole body into the other’s body; for so sometimes they seem to will and strive to do: so greedily are they held in the chains of Venus, while their limbs melt overpowered by the might of the pleasure.
At length when the gathered desire has gone forth, there ensues for a brief while a short pause in the burning passion; and then returns the same frenzy, then comes back the old madness, when they are at a loss to know what they really desire to get, and cannot find what device is to conquer that mischief; in such utter uncertainty they pine away by a hidden wound.
Then too they waste their strength and ruin themselves by the labor, then too their life is passed at the beck of another.
Meanwhile their estate runs away and is turned into Babylonian coverlets; duties are neglected and their good name staggers and sickens.
On her feet laugh elastic and beautiful Sicyonian shoes, yes, and large emeralds with green light are set in gold and the sea-colored dress is worn constantly and much used drinks in the sweat.
The noble earnings of their fathers are turned into hair-bands, head-dresses; sometimes are changed into a sweeping robe and Alidensian and Cean dresses.
Feasts set out with rich coverlets and viands, games, numerous cups, perfumes crowns and garlands are prepared; all in vain, since out of the very well-spring of delights rises up something of bitter, to pain amid the very flowers; either when the conscience-stricken mind haply gnaws itself with remorse to think that it is passing a life of sloth and ruining itself in brothels, or because she has launched forth some word and left its meaning in doubt and it cleaves to the love-sick heart and bums like living fire, or because it fancies she casts her eyes too freely about or looks on another, and it sees in her face traces of a smile.
And these evils are found in love that is lasting and highly prosperous; but in crossed and hopeless love are ills such as you may seize with closed eyes, past numbering; so that it is better to watch before-hand in the manner I have prescribed, and be on your guard not to be drawn in.
For to avoid falling into the toils of love is not so hard as, after you are caught, to get out of the nets you are in and to break through the strong meshes of Venus.
And yet even when you are entangled and held fast you may escape the mischief, unless you stand in your own way and begin by overlooking all the defects of her mind or those of her body, whoever it is whom you court and woo.
For this men usually do, blinded by passion, and attribute to the beloved those advantages which are not really theirs.
We therefore see women in ways manifold deformed and ugly to be objects of endearment and held in the highest admiration.
And one lover jeers at others and advises them to propitiate Venus, since they are troubled by a disgraceful passion, and often, poor wretch, gives no thought to his own ills greatest of all.
The black is a brune, the filthy and rank has not the love of order; the cat-eyed is a miniature Pallas, the stringy and wizened a gazelle; the dumpy and dwarfish is one of the graces, from top to toe all grace; the big and overgrown is awe-inspiring and full of dignity.
She is tongue-tied, cannot speak, then she has a lisp; the dumb is bashful; then the fire-spit, the teasing, the gossiping turns to a shining lamp.
One becomes a slim darling then when she cannot live from want of flesh; and she is only spare, who is half-dead with cough.
Then the fat and big-breasted is a Ceres’ self big-breasted from Iacchus; the pug-nosed is a she Silenus and a satyress; the thick-lipped a very kiss.
It were tedious to attempt to report other things of the kind.
Let her however be of ever so great dignity of appearance; such that the power of Venus goes forth from all her limbs; yet there are others too; yet have we lived without her before; yet does she do, and we know that she does, in all things the same as the ugly woman; and fumigates herself, poor wretch, with nauseous perfumes, her very maids running from her and giggling behind her back.
But the lover, when shut out, often in tears covers the threshold with flowers and wreaths, and anoints the haughty doorposts with oil of marjoram; and imprints kisses, poor wretch, on the doors.
When however he has been admitted, if on his approach but one single breath should come in his way, he would seek specious reasons for departing, and the long-conned deep drawn complaint would fall to the ground; and then he would blame his folly on seeing that he had attributed to her more than it is right to concede to a mortal.
Nor is this unknown to our Venuses; wherefore all the more they themselves hide with the utmost pains all that goes on behind the scenes of life from those whom they wish to retain in the chains of love; but in vain, since you may yet draw forth from her mind into the light all these things and search into all her smiles; and if she is of a fair mind and not troublesome, overlook them in your turn and make allowance for human failings.
Nor does the woman sigh always with feigned passion, when she locks in her embrace and joins with her body the man’s body and holds it, sucking his lips into her lips and drinking in his kisses.
Often she does it from the heart, and seeking mutual joys courts him to run the complete race of love.
And in no other way could birds, cattle, wild beasts, sheep and mares submit to bear the males, except because the very exuberance of nature in the females is in heat and burns and joyously draws in the Venus of the covering males.
See you not too how those whom mutual pleasure has chained are often tortured in their common chains?
How often in the highways do dogs, desiring to separate, eagerly pull different ways with all their might, while all the time they are held fast in the strong fetters of Venus!
This they would never do, unless they experienced mutual joys strong enough to force them into the snare and hold them in its meshes.
Wherefore again and again I repeat there is a common pleasure.
And when haply in mixing her seed with the man’s, the woman by sudden force has overpowered and seized for herself his force, then children are formed from the mothers’ seed like to the mothers, as from the fathers’ seed like to the fathers.
But those whom you see with a share of both forms, blending equally the features of the parents, grow from the union of the father’s body and the mother’s blood, when the mutual ardor of desire working in concert has brought and clashed together the seeds roused throughout the frame by the goads of Venus; and neither of the two has gotten the mastery nor has been mastered.
Sometimes too the children may spring up like their grandfathers and often resemble the forms of their grandfathers’ fathers, because the parents often keep concealed in their bodies many first-beginnings mixed in many ways, which first proceeding from the original stock one father hands down to the next father; and then from these Venus produces forms after a manifold chance and repeats not only the features, but the voices and hair of their forefathers.
And the female sex equally springs from the father’s seed and males go forth equally formed from the mother’s body; since these distinctions no more proceed from the fixed seed of one or other parent than our faces and bodies and limbs: the birth is always formed out of the two seeds; and whichever parent that which is produced more resembles of that parent it has more than an equal share; as you may equally observe, whether it is a male child or a female birth.
Nor do the divine powers debar anybody from the power of begetting, forbidding him ever to receive the name of father from sweet children and forcing him to pass his life in a barren wedlock; as men commonly fancy when in sorrow they drench the altars with much blood and pile the raised altars with offerings, to make their wives pregnant with abundant seed.
In vain they weary the divinity of the gods and the sacred lots.
They are barren sometimes from the too great thickness of the seed, sometimes from its undue fluidity and thinness: because the thin is unable to get a firm hold on the right spots, it at once passes away and is repelled and withdrawn abortively: since by others again a too thick seed is discharged in a state more solid than is suitable, it either does not fly forth with so prolonged a stroke or cannot equally pass into the proper spots or when it has passed in with difficulty mixes with the woman’s seed.
For well-assorted matches are found to be of great importance; and some males impregnate some females more readily than others, and other females conceive and become pregnant more readily from other males.
And many women have hitherto been barren during several marriages and have yet in the end found mates from whom they could conceive children and be enriched with a sweet offspring.
And often even for those to whom hitherto wives however fruitful had been unable in their house to bear, has been found a compatible nature, enabling them to fortify their age with sons.
Of such great importance is it in order that seeds may agree and blend with seeds in a way to promote birth whether the thick comes into contact with the fluid and the fluid with the thick.
And on this point it matters much on what diet life is supported; for by some foods seed is thickened in the limbs, and by others again is thinned and wasted.
And in what modes the intercourse goes on, is likewise of very great moment; for women are commonly thought to conceive more readily after the manner of wild beasts and quadrupeds, because the seeds in this way can find the proper spots in consequence of the position of the body.
Nor have wives the least use for effeminate motions: a woman hinders and stands in the way of her own conceiving, when thus she acts; for she drives the furrow out of the direct course and path of the share and turns away from the proper spots the stroke of the seed.
And thus for their own ends harlots are wont to move, in order not to conceive and lie in child-bed frequently, and at the same time to render Venus more attractive to men.
This our wives have surely no need of.
Sometimes too by no divine grace and arrows of Venus a sorry woman of inferior beauty comes to be loved; for the wife sometimes by her own acts and accommodating manners and by elegant neatness of person readily habituates you to pass your life with her.
Moreover custom renders love attractive; for that which is struck by oft-repeated blows however lightly, yet after long course of time is overpowered and gives way.
See you not too that drops of water falling on stones after long course of time scoop a hole through these stones?