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THE HISTORY OF LIFE AND DEATH.
It is an ancient saying and complaint, that life is short and art long; wherefore it behoveth us, who make it our chiefest aim to perfect arts, to take upon us the consideration of prolonging man's life, God, the author of all truth and life, prospering our endeavours. For though the life of man be nothing else but a mass and accumulation of sins and sorrows, and they that look for an eternal life set but light by a temporary: yet the continuation of works of charity ought not to be contemned, even by us Christians. Besides, the beloved disciple of our Lord survived the other disciples; and many of the fathers of the church, especially of the holy monks and hermits, were long lived; which shows, that this blessing of long life, so often promised in the old law, had less abatement after our Saviour's days than other earthly blessings had; but to esteem of this as the chiefest good, we are but too prone. Only the inquiry is difficult how to attain the same, and so much the rather, because it is corrupted with false opinions and vain reports: for both those things, which the vulgar physicians talk of, radical moisture and natural heat, are but mere fictions; and the immoderate praises of chymical medicines first puff up with vain hopes, and then fail their admirers.
And as for that death which is caused by suffocation, putrefaction, and several diseases, we speak not of it now, for that pertains to a history of physick; but only of that death which comes by a total decay of the body, and the inconcoction of old age. Nevertheless, the last act of death, and the very extinguishing of life itself, which may so many ways be wrought outwardly and inwardly (which notwithstanding have, as it were, one common porch before it comes to the point of death), will be pertinent_to_be inquired of in this treatise; but we reserve that for the last place.
That which may be repaired by degrees, without a total
waste of the first stock, is potentially eternal, as the vestal fire. Therefore, when physicians and philosophers saw that living creatures were nourished and their bodies repaired, but that this did last only for a time, and afterwards came old age, and in the end dissolution; they sought death in somewhat which could not properly be repaired, supposing a radical moisture incapable of solid reparation, and which, from the first infancy, received a spurious addition, but no true reparation, whereby it grew daily worse and worse, and, in the end, brought the bad to none at all. This conceit of theirs was both ignorant and vain; for all things in living creatures are in their youth repaired entirely; nay, they are for a time increased in quantity, bettered in quality, so as the matter of reparation might be eternal, if the manner of reparation did not fail. But this is the truth of it. There is in the declining of age an unequal reparation; some parts are repaired easily, others with difficulty and to their loss; so as from that time the bodies of men begin to endure the torments of Mezentius: that the living die in the embraces of the dead; and the parts easily repairable, through their conjunction with the parts hardly repairable, do decay; for the spirits, blood, flesh, and fat are, even after the decline of years, easily repaired; but the drier and more porous parts (as the membranes, all the tunicles, the sinews, arteries, veins, bones, cartilages, most of the bowels, in a word, almost all the organical parts) are hardly repairable, and to their loss. Now these hardly repairable parts, when they come to their office of repairing the other, which are easily repairable, finding themselves deprived of their wanted ability and strength, cease to perform any longer their proper functions. By which means it comes to pass, that in process of time the whole tends to dissolution; and even those very parts which, in their own nature, are with much ease repairable, yet, through the decay of the organs of reparation, can no more receive reparation, but decline, and in the end utterly fail. And the cause of the termination of life is this, for that the spirits, like a gentle flame, continually preying upon bodies, conspiring with the outward air, which is ever sucking and drying of them, do, in time, destroy the whole fabric of the body, as also the particular engines and organs thereof, and make them unable for the work of reparation. These are the true ways of natural death, well and faithfully to be revolved in our minds; for he that knows not the way of nature, how can he succour her or turn her about.
Therefore the inquisition ought to be twofold; the one touching the consumption or depredation of the body of man, the other touching the reparation and renovation of the same: to the end, that the former may, as much as is possible, be forbidden and restrained, and the latter comforted. The former of these pertains, especially, to the spirits and outward air, by which the depredation and waste is committed; the latter to the whole race of alimentation or nourishment, whereby the renovation or restitution is made. And as for the former part touching consumption, this hath many things common with bodies inanimate, or without life. For such things as the native spirit (which is in all tangible bodies, whether living or without life) and the ambient or external air worketh upon bodies inanimate, the same it attempteth upon animate or living bodies; although the vital spirit superadded, doth partly break and bridle those operations, partly exalt, and advance them wonderfully. For it is most manifest that inanimate bodies (most of them) will endure a long time without any reparation; but bodies animate, without food and reparation, suddenly fall and are extinguished, as the fire is. So, then, our inquisition shall be double. First, we will consider the body of man as inanimate, and not repaired by nourishment. Secondly, as animate and repaired by nourishment. Thus, having prefaced these things, we come now to the topic places of inquisition.
PARTICULAR TOPIC PLACES;
ARTICLES OF INQUISITION TOUCHING LIFE AND DEATH.
1. FIRST, inquire of nature durable and not durable, in bodies inanimate or without life, as also in vegetables; but that not in a large or just treatise, but as in a brief or summary only.
2. Also inquire diligently of desiccation, arefaction, and consumption of bodies inanimate, and of vegetables, and of the ways and processes by which they are done and further, of inhibiting and delaying of desiccation, arefaction, and consumption, and of the conservation of bodies in their proper state: and again, of the inteneration, emollition, and recovery of bodies to their former freshness, after they be once dried and withered.
Neither need the inquisition touching these things to be full or exact, seeing they pertain rather to their proper title of nature durable; seeing also, they are not principals in this inquisition, but serve only to give light to the prolongation and instauration of life in living creatures. In which (as was said before) the same things come to pass, but in a particular manner. So from the inquisition touching bodies inanimate and vegetables, let the inquisition pass on to other living creatures besides man.
3. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in living creatures, with the due circumstances which make most for their long or short lives.
4. But because the duration of bodies is twofold, one in identity, or the selfsame substance, the other by a renovation or reparation; whereof the former hath place only in bodies inanimate, the latter in vegetables and living creatures, and is perfected by alimentation or nourishment; therefore it will be fit to inquire of alimentation, and of the ways and progresses thereof; yet this not exactly (because it pertains properly to the titles of assimilation and alimentation), but, as the rest, in progress only.
From the inquisition touching living creatures and bodies repaired by nourishment, pass on to the inquisition touching man. And now being come to the principal subject of inquisition, the inquisition ought to be in all points more precise and accurate.
5. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in men, according to the ages of the world, the several regions, climates, and places of their nativity and habitation.
6. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in men, according to their races and families, as if it were a thing hereditary; also according to their complexions, constitutions, and habits of body, their statures, the manner and time of their growth, and the making and composition of their members.
7. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in men, according to the times of their nativity, but so as you omit for the present all astrological observations, and the figures of heaven under which they were born, only insist upon the vulgar and manifest observations; as whether they were born in the seventh, eighth, ninth, or tenth month; also, whether by night or by day, and in what month of the year.
8. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in men, according to their fare, diet, government of their life, exercises, and the like. For as for the air in which men live and make their abode, we account that proper to be inquired of in the abovesaid article, touching the places of their habitation.
9. Inquire touching the length and shortness of life in men, according to their studies, their several courses of life, the affections of the mind, and divers accidents befalling them.
10. Inquire apart touching those medicines which are thought to prolong life.
11. Inquire touching the signs and prognostics of long and short life, not those which betoken death at hand (for they belong to a history of physick) but those which are seen and may be observed even in health, whether they be physiognomical signs or any other.
Hitherto have been propounded inquisitions touching length and shortness of life, besides the rules of art, and in a confused manner; now we think to add some, which shall be more art like, and tending to practice, under the name of intentions. Those intentions are generally three; as for the particular distributions of them, we will propound