When he had done, I said: The rest of the discourse I like very well, but I cannot consent when you ascribe this effect to the strength and degree of heat, and chiefly in the hot seasons; for in winter every one knows that the sun warms little, yet in summer it putrefies most. Now the contrary should happen, if the gentleness of the heat were the cause of putrefaction. And besides, the hotter the season is, so much the sooner meat stinks; and therefore this effect is not to be ascribed to the want of heat in the moon, but to some particular proper quality in her beams. For heat is not different only by degrees; but in fires there are some proper qualities very much unlike one another, as a thousand obvious instances will prove. Goldsmiths heat their gold in chaff fires; physicians use fires of vine-twigs in their distillations; and tamarisk is the best fuel for a glass-house. Olive-boughs in a vapor-bath warm very well, but hurt other baths: they spoil the [p. 286] timbers, and weaken the foundation; and therefore the most skilful of the public officers forbid those that rent the baths to burn olive-tree wood, or throw darnel seed into the fire, because the fumes of it dizzy and bring the headache to those that bathe. Therefore it is no wonder that the moon differs in her qualities from the sun; and that the sun should shed some drying, and the moon some dissolving, influence upon flesh. And upon this account it is that nurses are very cautious of exposing their infants to the beams of the moon; for they being full of moisture, as green plants, are easily wrested and distorted. And everybody knows that those that sleep abroad under the beams of the moon are not easily waked, but seem stupid and senseless; for the moisture that the moon sheds upon them oppresses their faculty and disables their bodies. Besides, it is commonly said, that women brought to bed when the moon is a fortnight old, have easy labors; and for this reason I believe that Diana, which was the same with the moon, was called the goddess of childbirth. And Timotheus appositely says,
By the blue heaven that wheels the stars,Even in inanimate bodies the power of the moon is very evident. Trees that are cut in the full of the moon carpenters refuse, as being soft, and, by reason of their moistness, subject to corruption; and in its wane farmers usually thresh their wheat, that being dry it may better endure the flail; for the corn in the full of the moon is moist, and commonly bruised in threshing. Besides, they say dough will be leavened sooner in the full, for then, though the leaven is scarce proportioned to the meal, yet it rarefies and leavens the whole lump. Now when flesh putrefies, the combining spirit is only changed into a moist consistence, and the parts of the body separate and dissolve. And this is evident in the very air itself, for when the [p. 287] moon is full, most dew falls; and this Alcman the Poet intimates, when he somewhere calls dew the air's and moon's daughter, saying,
And by the moon that eases women's pains.
See how the daughter of the Moon and JoveThus a thousand instances do prove that the light of the moon is moist, and carries with it a softening and corrupting quality. Now the brazen nail that is driven through the flesh, if, as they say, it keeps the flesh from putrefying, doth it by an astringent quality proper to the brass. The rust of brass physicians use in astringent medicines, and they say those that dig brass ore have been cured of a rheum in their eyes, and that the hair upon their eyelids hath grown again; for the dust rising from the ore, being insensibly applied to the eyes, stops the rheum and dries up the humor. Upon this account, perhaps, Homer calls brass εὐήνωρ and νῶροψ. Aristotle says, that wounds made by a brazen dart or a brazen sword are less painful and sooner cured than those that are made of iron weapons, because brass hath something medicinal in itself, which in the very instant is applied to the wound. Now it is manifest that astringents are contrary to putrefying, and healing to corrupting qualities. Some perhaps may say, that the nail driven through draws all the moisture to itself, for the humor still flows to the part that is hurt; and therefore it is said that by the nail there always appears some speck and tumor; and therefore it is rational that the other parts should remain sound, when all the corruption gathers about that.
Does nourish all things.