The Works of Sir Thomas Browne Volume III Part 52

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_June 28, 1665._

After seven o'clock in the evening there was almost a continued thunder until eight, wherein the _tonitru_ and _fulgur_, the noise and lightning, were so terrible, that they put the whole city into an amazement, and most unto their prayers. The clouds went low, and the cracks seemed near over our heads during the most part of the thunder.

About eight o'clock, an _ignis fulmineus_, _pila ignea fulminans_, _telum igneum fulmineum_, or fire-ball, hit against the little wooden pinnacle of the high leucome window of my house, toward the market-place, broke the flue boards, and carried pieces thereof a stone's cast off; whereupon many of the tiles fell into the street, and the windows in adjoining houses were broken. At the same time either a part of that close-bound fire, or another of the same nature, fell into the court-yard, and whereof no notice was taken till we began to examine the house, and then we found a freestone on the outside of the wall of the entry leading to the kitchen, half a foot from the ground, fallen from the wall; a hole as big as a foot-ball bored through the wall, which is about a foot thick, and a chest which stood against it, on the inside, split and carried about a foot from the wall. The wall also, behind the leaden cistern, at five yards distance from it, broken on the inside and outside; the middle seeming entire. The lead on the edges of the cistern turned a little up; and a great washing-bowl, that stood by it, to recover the rain, turned upside down, and split quite through.

Some chimneys and tiles were struck down in other parts of the city. A fire-ball also struck down the wall in the market-place. And all this, G.o.d be thanked! without mischief unto any person. The greatest terror was from the noise, answerable unto two or three cannon. The smell it left was strong, like that after the discharge of a cannon. The b.a.l.l.s that flew were not like fire in the flame, but the coal; and the people said it was like the sun. It was _discutiens, terebrans_, but not _urens_. It burnt nothing, nor any thing it touched smelt of fire; nor melted any lead of window or cistern, as I found it do in the great storm, about nine years ago, at Melton-hall, four miles off, at that time when the hail broke three thousand pounds worth of gla.s.s in Norwich, in half-a-quarter of an hour. About four days after, the like fulminous fire killed a man in Erpingham church, by Aylsham, upon whom it broke, and beat down divers which were within the wind of it. One also went off in Sir John Hobart's gallery, at Blickling. He was so near that his arm and thigh were numbed about an hour after. Two or three days after, a woman and horse were killed near Bungay; her hat so shivered that no piece remained bigger than a groat, whereof I had some pieces sent unto me. Granades, crackers, and squibs, do much resemble the discharge, and _aurum fulminans_ the fury thereof. Of other thunderbolts or _lapides fulminei_, I have little opinion. Some I have by me under that name, but they are _e genere fossilium_.


_Norwich_, 1665.


Half our days we pa.s.s in the shadow of the earth; and the brother of death exacteth a third part of our lives. A good part of our sleep is peered out with visions and fantastical objects, wherein we are confessedly deceived. The day supplieth us with truths; the night with fictions and falsehoods, which uncomfortably divide the natural account of our beings. And, therefore, having pa.s.sed the day in sober labours and rational enquiries of truth, we are fain to betake ourselves unto such a state of being, wherein the soberest heads have acted all the monstrosities of melancholy, and which unto open eyes are no better than folly and madness.

Happy are they that go to bed with grand music, like Pythagoras, or have ways to compose the fantastical spirit, whose unruly wanderings take off inward sleep, filling our heads with St. Anthony's visions, and the dreams of Lipara in the sober chambers of rest.

Virtuous thoughts of the day lay up good treasures for the night; whereby the impressions of imaginary forms arise into sober similitudes, acceptable unto our slumbering selves and preparatory unto divine impressions. Hereby Solomon's sleep was happy. Thus prepared, Jacob might well dream of angels upon a pillow of stone. And the best sleep of Adam might be the best of any after.

That there should be divine dreams seems unreasonably doubted by Aristotle. That there are demoniacal dreams we have little reason to doubt. Why may there not be angelical? If there be guardian spirits, they may not be inactively about us in sleep; but may sometimes order our dreams: and many strange hints, instigations, or discourses, which are so amazing unto us, may arise from such foundations.

But the phantasms of sleep do commonly walk in the great road of natural and animal dreams, wherein the thoughts or actions of the day are acted over and echoed in the night. Who can therefore wonder that Chrysostom should dream of St. Paul, who daily read his epistles; or that Cardan, whose head was so taken up about the stars, should dream that his soul was in the moon! Pious persons, whose thoughts are daily busied about heaven, and the blessed state thereof, can hardly escape the nightly phantasms of it, which though sometimes taken for illuminations, or divine dreams, yet rightly perpended may prove but animal visions, and natural night-scenes of their awaking contemplations.

Many dreams are made out by sagacious exposition, and from the signature of their subjects; carrying their interpretation in their fundamental sense and mystery of similitude, whereby, he that understands upon what natural fundamental every notion dependeth, may, by symbolical adaptation, hold a ready way to read the characters of Morpheus. In dreams of such a nature, Artemidorus, Achmet, and Astrampsichus, from Greek, Egyptian, and Arabian oneirocriticism, may hint some interpretation: who, while we read of a ladder in Jacob's dream, will tell us that ladders and scalary ascents signify preferment; and while we consider the dream of Pharaoh, do teach us that rivers overflowing speak plenty, lean oxen, famine and scarcity; and therefore it was but reasonable in Pharaoh to demand the interpretation from his magicians, who, being Egyptians, should have been well versed in symbols and the hieroglyphical notions of things. The greatest tyrant in such divinations was Nabuchodonosor, while, besides the interpretation, he demanded the dream itself; which being probably determined by divine immission, might escape the common road of phantasms, that might have been traced by Satan.

When Alexander, going to besiege Tyre, dreamt of a Satyr, it was no hard exposition for a Grecian to say, 'Tyre will be thine.' He that dreamed that he saw his father washed by Jupiter and anointed by the sun, had cause to fear that he might be crucified, whereby his body would be washed by the rain, and drop by the heat of the sun. The dream of Vespasian was of harder exposition; as also that of the emperor Mauritius, concerning his successor Phocas. And a man might have been hard put to it, to interpret the language of aesculapius, when to a consumptive person he held forth his fingers; implying thereby that his cure lay in dates, from the h.o.m.onomy of the Greek, which signifies dates and fingers.

We owe unto dreams that Galen was a physician, Dion an historian, and that the world hath seen some notable pieces of Cardan; yet, he that should order his affairs by dreams, or make the night a rule unto the day, might be ridiculously deluded; wherein Cicero is much to be pitied, who having excellently discoursed of the vanity of dreams, was yet undone by the flattery of his own, which urged him to apply himself unto Augustus.

However dreams may be fallacious concerning outward events, yet may they be truly significant at home; and whereby we may more sensibly understand ourselves. Men act in sleep with some conformity unto their awaked senses; and consolations or discouragements may be drawn from dreams which intimately tell us ourselves. Luther was not like to fear a spirit in the night, when such an apparition would not terrify him in the day. Alexander would hardly have run away in the sharpest combats of sleep, nor Demosthenes have stood stoutly to it, who was scarce able to do it in his prepared senses. Persons of radical integrity will not easily be perverted in their dreams, nor n.o.ble minds do pitiful things in sleep. Cra.s.sus would have hardly been bountiful in a dream, whose fist was so close awake. But a man might have lived all his life upon the sleeping hand of Antonius.

There is an art to make dreams, as well as their interpretation; and physicians will tell us that some food makes turbulent, some gives quiet, dreams. Cato, who doated upon cabbage, might find the crude effects thereof in his sleep; wherein the Egyptians might find some advantage by their superst.i.tious abstinence from onions. Pythagoras might have calmer sleeps, if he totally abstained from beans. Even Daniel, the great interpreter of dreams, in his leguminous diet, seems to have chosen no advantageous food for quiet sleeps, according to Grecian physic.

To add unto the delusion of dreams, the fantastical objects seem greater than they are; and being beheld in the vaporous state of sleep, enlarge their diameters unto us; whereby it may prove more easy to dream of giants than pigmies. Democritus might seldom dream of atoms, who so often thought of them. He almost might dream himself a bubble extending unto the eighth sphere. A little water makes a sea; a small puff of wind a tempest. A grain of sulphur kindled in the blood may make a flame like aetna; and a small spark in the bowels of Olympias a lightning over all the chamber.

But, beside these innocent delusions, there is a sinful state of dreams.

Death alone, not sleep, is able to put an end unto sin; and there may be a night-book of our iniquities; for beside the transgressions of the day, casuists will tell us of mortal sins in dreams, arising from evil precogitations; meanwhile human law regards not noctambulos; and if a night-walker should break his neck, or kill a man, takes no notice of it.

Dionysius was absurdly tyrannical to kill a man for dreaming that he had killed him; and really to take away his life, who had but fantastically taken away his. Lamia was ridiculously unjust to sue a young man for a reward, who had confessed that pleasure from her in a dream which she had denied unto his awaking senses: conceiving that she had merited somewhat from his fantastical fruition and shadow of herself. If there be such debts, we owe deeply unto sympathies; but the common spirit of the world must be ready in such arrearages.

If some have swooned, they may also have died in dreams, since death is but a confirmed swooning. Whether Plato died in a dream, as some deliver, he must rise again to inform us. That some have never dreamed, is as improbable as that some have never laughed. That children dream not the first half-year; that men dream not in some countries, with many more, are unto me sick men's dreams; dreams out of the ivory gate, and visions before midnight.


In the doctrine of all insitions, those are esteemed most successful which are practised under these rules:--

That there be some consent or similitude of parts and nature between the plants conjoined.

That insition be made between trees not of very different barks; nor very differing fruits or forms of fructification; nor of widely different ages.

That the scions or buds be taken from the south or east part of the tree.

That a rect.i.tude and due position be observed; not to insert the south part of the scions unto the northern side of the stock, but according to the position of the scions upon his first matrix.

Now, though these rules be considerable in the usual and practised course of insitions, yet were it but reasonable for searching spirits to urge the operations of nature by conjoining plants of very different natures in parts, barks, lateness, and precocities, nor to rest in the experiments of hortensial plants in whom we chiefly intend the exaltation or variety of their fruit and flowers, but in all sorts of shrubs and trees applicable unto physic and mechanical uses, whereby we might alter their tempers, moderate or promote their virtues, exchange their softness, hardness, and colour, and so render them considerable beyond their known and trite employments.

To which intent curiosity may take some rule or hint from these or the like following, according to the various ways of propagation:--

Colutea upon anagris--arbor judae upon anagris--ca.s.sia poetica upon cytisus--cytisus upon periclymenum r.e.c.t.u.m--woodbine upon jasmine--cystus upon rosemary--rosemary upon ivy--sage or rosemary upon cystus--myrtle upon gall or rhus myrtifolia--whortleberry upon gall, heath, or myrtle--coccygeia upon alaternus--mezereon upon an almond--gooseberry and currants upon mezereon, barberry, or blackthorn--barberry upon a currant tree--bramble upon gooseberry or raspberry--yellow rose upon sweetbrier--phyllerea upon broom--broom upon furze--anonis lutea upon furze--holly upon box--bay upon holly--holly upon pyracantha--a fig upon chestnut--a fig upon mulberry--peach upon mulberry--mulberry upon buckthorn--walnut upon chesnut--savin upon juniper--vine upon oleaster, rosemary, ivy--an arbutus upon a fig--a peach upon a fig--white poplar upon black poplar--asp upon white poplar--wych elm upon common elm--hazel upon elm--sycamore upon wych elm--cinnamon rose upon hipberry--a whitethorn upon a blackthorn--hipberry upon a sloe, or skeye, or bullace--apricot upon a mulberry--arbutus upon a mulberry--cherry upon a peach--oak upon a chesnut--katherine peach upon a quince--a warden upon a quince--a chesnut upon a beech--a beech upon a chesnut--an hornbeam upon a beech--a maple upon an hornbeam--a sycamore upon a maple--a medlar upon a service tree--a sumack upon a quince or medlar--an hawthorn upon a service tree--a quicken tree upon an ash--an ash upon an asp--an oak upon an ilex--a poplar upon an elm--a black cherry tree upon a tilea or lime tree--tilea upon beech--alder upon birch or poplar--a filbert upon an almond--an almond upon a willow--a nux vesicaria upon an almond or pistachio--a cerasus avium upon a nux vesicaria--a cornelian upon a cherry tree--a cherry tree upon a cornelian--an hazel upon a willow or sallow--a lilac upon a sage tree--a syringa upon lilac or tree-mallow--a rose elder upon syringa--a water elder upon rose elder--buckthorn upon elder--frangula upon buckthorn--hirga sanguinea upon privet--phyllerea upon vitex--vitex upon evonymus--evonymus upon viburnum--ruscus upon pyracantha--paleurus upon hawthorn--tamarisk upon birch--erica upon tamarisk--polemonium upon genista hispanica--genista hispanica upon colutea.

Nor are we to rest in the frustrated success of some single experiments, but to proceed in attempts in the most unlikely unto iterated and certain conclusions, and to pursue the way of ablactation or inarching.

Whereby we might determine whether, according to the ancients, no fir, pine, or picea, would admit of any incision upon them; whether yew will hold society with none; whether walnut, mulberry, and cornel cannot be propagated by insition, or the fig and quince admit almost of any, with many others of doubtful truths in the propagations.

And while we seek for varieties in stocks and scions, we are not to admit the ready practice of the scion upon its own tree. Whereby, having a sufficient number of good plants, we may improve their fruits without translative conjunction, that is, by insition of the scion upon his own mother, whereby an handsome variety or melioration seldom faileth--we might be still advanced by iterated insitions in proper boughs and positions. Insition is also made not only with scions and buds, but seeds, by inserting them in cabbage stalks, turnips, onions, etc., and also in ligneous plants.

Within a mile of this city of Norwich, an oak groweth upon the head of a pollard willow, taller than the stock, and about half a foot in diameter, probably by some acorn falling or fastening upon it. I could show you a branch of the same willow which shoots forth near the stock which beareth both willow and oak twigs and leaves upon it. In a meadow I use in Norwich, beset with willows and sallows, I have observed these plants to grow upon their heads; bylders, currants, gooseberries, _cynocrambe_, or dog's mercury, barberries, bittersweet, elder, hawthorn.


Vol. I. Page 4, line 24. _For_ than _read_ that.

97, " 10. _For_ fell in love _read_ carnal'd.

227, " 4. _For_ Capio _read_ Capo.

300, " 8. _For_ Apicus _read_ a Picus.

301, " 30. _For_ Caterpillaries _read_ capillaries.

II. 111, " 14. _Prega, Dio_ omit comma.

206, " 1. _For_ Tarus and Fulius _read_ Varus and Julius.

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The Works of Sir Thomas Browne Volume III Part 52 summary

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