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his heavenly doctrine, so he made the body the peculiar object of his miracles. For we nowhere read of any miracle done by him with respect to honours or money (except that one, for giving tribute money to Cæsar), but only with respect to the body of man, for the preservation, support, or healing thereof.
This subject of medicine (namely man's body) is of all other things in nature most susceptible of remedy ; but then that remedy is most susceptible of error. For the same subtlety and variety of the subject, as it supplies abundant means of healing, so it involves great facility of failing. And therefore as this art (especially as we now have it) must be reckoned as one of the most conjectural, so the inquiry of it must be accounted one of the most exact and difficult. Not that I share the idle notion of Paracelsus and the alchemists, that there are to be found in man’s body certain correspondences and parallels which have respect to all the several species (as stars, planets, minerals) which are extant in the universe ; foolishly and stupidly misapplying the ancient emblem (that man was a microcosm or epitome of the world) to the support of this fancy of theirs. But yet thus much is true, that (as I was going to say) of all substances which nature has produced man's body is the most multifariously compounded. For we see herbs and plants are nourished by earth and water; beasts for the most part by herbs and fruits ; but man by the flesh of those beasts (quadrupeds, birds, and fishes), and also by herbs, grains, fruits, juices and liquors of various kinds; not without manifold commixtures, dressings, and preparations of these several bodies, before they come to be his food and aliment. Add to this, that beasts have a more
simple manner of life, and fewer affections to work upon their bodies, and those much alike in their operation ; whereas man in his places of habitation, exercises, passions, sleep and watching, undergoes infinite variations ; so that it is true that the body of man, of all other things, is of the most fermented and compounded mass. The soul on the other side is the simplest of substances; as is well expressed,
purumque reliquit Æthereum sensum, atque aurai simplicis ignem.1 Whence it is no marvel that the soul so placed enjoys no rest; according to the axiom that the motion of things out of their place is rapid, and in their place calm. But to return. This variable and subtle composition and structure of man's body has made it as a musical instrument of much and exquisite workmanship, which is easily put out of tune. And therefore the poets did well to conjoin music and medicine in Apollo ; because the genius of both these arts is almost the same ; for the office of the physician is but to know how to stretch and tune this harp of man's body that the harmony may be without all harshness or discord. So then the subject being so inconstant and variable has made the art by consequence more conjectural; and the art being so conjectural has made so much more room not only for error, but also for imposture. For almost all other arts and sciences are judged by their power and functions, and not by the successes and events. The lawyer is judged by the
irtue of his pleading and speaking, not by the issue of che cause ; the master of the ship is judged by his skill
1 Virg. Æn. vi. 747.:
pure and unmixed The ethereal sense is left - mere air and fire.
in steering, and not by the fortune of the voyage. But the physician, and perhaps the politician, have ne particular acts whereby they may clearly exhibit their skill and ability; but are honoured or disgraced according to the event; - a most unfair way of judging. For who can know, if a patient die or recover, or if a state be preserved or ruined, whether it be art or accident? And therefore many times the impostor is prized, and the man of virtue censured. Nay, such is the weakness and credulity of men, that they will often prefer a witch or mountebank to a learned physician. And therefore the poets were clear-sighted when they made Circe sister of Æsculapius, and both children of the Sun; as is expressed in the verses, — respecting Æsculapius, that he was the son of Apollo,
Ille repertorem medicinæ talis et artis
Fulmine Phæbigenam Stygias detrusit ad undas; 1 and again respecting Circe, that she was the daughter of the Sun,
Dives inaccessos ubi Solis filia lucos
Urit odoratam nocturna in lumina cedrum.2 For in all times, in the opinion of the multitude, witches and old women and impostors have been the rivals in a manner of physicians, and almost contended with them in celebrity for working cures.
And what follows ? Even this, that physicians say to themselves, as Solomon expresses it upon a higher occasion,3 “ If it befall to me as befalleth to the fool, why should I Virg. Æn. vii. 772.:
Apollo's son the healing art who gave
Jove hurled with thunder to the Stygian wave. 2 Virg. Æn. vii. 11.:
Where the Sun's daughter in her deep retreat
8 Eccles. ii. 15.
labour to be more wise ?" And therefore I can the less blame physicians that they commonly attend to some other art or practice, which they fancy more than their own. For you have among them poets, antiquaries, critics, rhetoricians, statesmen, divines; and in every one of these arts more learned than in their own profession. Nor does this happen, in my opinion, because (as a certain declaimer against the sciences objects to the physicians) they have so many sad and disgusting objects to deal with that they must needs withdraw their minds to other things for relief (for “he that is a man should not think anything that is human alien to him "); but rather upon the ground
" we are now on, that they find that mediocrity and excellency in their art make no difference in profit or reputation towards their fortune. For the impatience of disease, the sweetness of life, the flattery of hope, the commendations of friends, make men depend upon physicians with all their defects. But yet if these things be more attentively considered, they tend rather to inculpate physicians than to excuse them. For instead of throwing away hope, they ought to put on more strength. For if any man will awake his observation and look a little about him, he will easily see from obvious and familiar examples what a mastery the subtlety and acuteness of the intellect has over the variety either of matter or of form. Nothing more variable than faces and countenances; yet men can bear in memory the infinite distinctions of them ; nay a painter, with a few shells of colours, and the help of his eye, of the force of his imagination, and the steadiness of his hand, can imitate and draw the faces of all 1 Ter. Heauton. i. 1. 25: – Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto.
men that are, have been, or shall be, if they were only brought before him. Nothing more variable than the human voice, yet we easily distinguish the differences of it in different persons; nay and there are buffoons and pantomimes who will imitate and express to the life as many as they please. Nothing more variable than the differing sounds of words, yet men have found the way to reduce them to a few simple letters. And most true it is that perplexities and incomprehensions in science proceed commonly not from any want of subtlety or capacity in the mind, but from the object being placed too far off. For as the sense when at a distance from the object is full of mistaking, but when brought near enough does not much err, so is it with the understanding. But men are wont to look down upon nature as from a high tower and from a great distance, and to occupy themselves too much with generalities; whereas if they would come down and draw near to particulars and take a closer and more accurate view of things themselves, they would gain a more true and profitable knowledge of them. Wherefore the remedy of this evil is not merely to quicken or strengthen the organ, but also to go nearer to the object. And therefore there is no doubt but if the physicians would for a while set these generalities aside
forth to meet Nature, they would obtain that of which the poet speaks,
Et quoniam variant morbi, variabimus artes;
Mille mali species, mille salutis erunt.1 Which they should the rather do, because those very
i Ovid. Remed. Amor.:
• Arts shall as various as diseases be;