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No plant1 in particular was employed in the composition of this crown, such only being used as were found growing on the spot so imperilled; and thus did they become the means, however humble and unnoted themselves, of conferring high honour and renown. All this, however, is but little known among us at the present day; a fact which I am the less surprised at, when I reflect that those plants even are treated with the same indifference, the purpose of which it is to preserve our health, to allay our bodily pains, and to repel the advances of death! And who is there that would not visit with censure, and justly visit, the manners of the present day? Luxury and effeminacy have augmented the price at which we live, and never was life more hankered after, or worse cared2 for, than it is at present. This, however, we look upon as the business of others, forsooth; other persons must see to it, without our troubling ourselves to request them, and the physicians must exercise the necessary providence in our behalves.3 As for ourselves, we go on enjoying our pleasures, and are con- tent to live—a thing that in my opinion reflects the highest possible disgrace—by putting faith in others.4

Nay, even more than this, we ourselves are held in derision by many, for undertaking these researches, and are charged with busying ourselves with mere frivolities! It is some solace, however, in the prosecution of these our boundless labours, to have Nature as our sharer in this contempt: Nature who, as we will prove beyond a doubt, has never failed in coming to the assistance of man, and has implanted5 reme- dies for our use in the most despised even of the vegetable productions, medicaments in plants which repel us with their thorns.

It is of these, in fact, that it remains for us now to speak, as next in succession to those which we have mentioned in the preceding Book; and here we cannot sufficiently admire, and, indeed, adore,6 the wondrous providence displayed by Nature. She had given us, as already7 shewn, plants soft to the touch, and agreeable to the palate; in the flowers she had painted the remedies for our diseases with her varied tints, and, while commingling the useful with the delicious, had attracted our attention by means of the pleasures of the eye. Here, how- ever, she has devised another class of plants, bristling and repulsive to the sight, and dangerous to the touch; so much so, indeed, that we fancy we all but hear the voice of her who made them as she reveals to us her motives for so doing. It is her wish, she says, that no ravening cattle may browse upon them, that no wanton hand may tear them up, that no heedless footstep may tread them down, that no bird, perching there, may break them: and in thus fortifying them with thorns, and arming them with weapons, it has been her grand object to save and protect the remedies which they afford to man. Thus we see, the very qualities even which we hold in such aversion, have been devised by Nature for the benefit and advantage of mankind.

1 Hence we may conclude that the word "gramen" signified not only "grass," but any plant in general.

2 By reason of the luxury and sensuality universally prevalent.

3 This is said in bitter irony.

4 Trusting to the good faith and research of the physician.

5 "Inseruisse."

6 "Amplecti."

7 In the Twentieth Book.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CORO´NA
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