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IT now remains for us to speak of stones, or, in other words, the leading folly of the day; to say nothing at all of our taste for gems and amber, crystal and murrhine vases.1 For everything of which we have previously treated, down to the present Book, may, by some possibility or other, have the appearance of having been created for the sake of man: but as to the mountains, Nature has made those for herself, as a kind of bulwark for keeping together the bowels of the earth; as also for the purpose of curbing the violence of the rivers, of breaking the waves of the sea, and so, by opposing to them the very hardest of her materials, putting a check upon those elements which are never at rest. And yet we must hew down these mountains, forsooth, and carry them off; and this, for no other reason than to gratify our luxurious inclinations: heights which in former days it was reckoned a miracle even to have crossed!

Our forefathers regarded as a prodigy the passage of the Alps, first by Hannibal,2 and, more recently, by the Cimbri: but at the present day, these very mountains are cut asunder to yield us a thousand different marbles, promontories are thrown open to the sea, and the face of Nature is being everywhere reduced to a level. We now carry away the barriers that were destined for the separation of one nation from another; we construct ships for the transport of our marbles; and, amid the waves, the most boisterous element of Nature, we convey the summits of the mountains to and fro: a thing, however, that is even less unpardonable than to go on the search amid the regions of the clouds for vessels3 with which to cool our draughts, and to excavate rocks, towering to the very heavens, in order that we may have the satisfaction of drinking from ice! Let each reflect, when he hears of the high prices set upon these things, when he sees these ponderous masses carted and carried away, how many there are whose life is passed far more happily without them. For what utility or for what so-called pleasure do mortals make themselves the agents, or, more truly speaking, the victims of such undertakings, except in order that others may take their repose in the midst of variegated stones? Just as though too, the shades of night, which occupy one half of each man's existence, would forbear to curtail these imaginary delights.

1 See B. xxxvii. cc. 7, 8, 11.

2 See the lines of Juvenal, Sat. x. 1. 151, et seq.

3 He alludes to vessels made of crystal, which, as Dalechamps remarks, was long supposed to be nothing but ice in a concrete form. See B. xxxvii. c. 9.

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