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Let it be so, that nothing will serve ye but to devour whatever comes near ye, to pamper and indulge your voracious appetites. Yet where is the benefit and pleasure of all this? But such is the prudence of the beasts, as not to admit of any vain and unprofitable arts. And as [p. 231] for those that are necessary, they do not acquire them, as being introduced by others or taught for reward; neither do they make it their study to soder and fasten one contemplation to another, but they are supplied by their own prudence with such as are true-born and genuine. It is true, we hear the Egyptians are generally physicians. But the beasts are not only every one of them notionally endued with knowledge and art which way to cure themselves, but also to procure their food and repair their strength, to catch their prey by slight and cunning, to guard themselves from danger; neither are some of them ignorant how to teach the science of music so far as is convenient for them. For from whom did we hogs learn to run to the rivers, when we are sick, to search for crawfish? Who taught the tortoises, when they have eaten vipers, to physic themselves with origanum? Who taught the Cretan goats, when shot with arrows that stick in their bodies, to betake themselves to dittany, which they have no sooner eaten, but the heads of the darts fall out of the wound? Now if you say that Nature is the schoolmistress that teaches them these things, you acknowledge the prudence of beasts to be derived from the chiefest and wisest original of understanding; which if you think not proper to call reason and wisdom, it is time for ye to find out a more glorious and honorable name for it. Indeed by its effects it shows itself to be greater and more wonderful in power; not illiterate or without education, but instructed by itself and wanting nothing from without; not weak and imperfect, but, through the vigor and perfection of its natural virtue, supporting and cherishing that natural contribution of understanding which others attain to by instruction and education. So that, whatever men acquire and contemplate in the midst of their luxury and wantonness, those things our understanding attains to through the excellency [p. 232] of our apprehensions, even contrary to the nature of the body. For not to speak of whelps that learn to draw dry foot, and colts that will practise figure-dances; there are crows that will speak, and dogs that will leap through hoops as they turn around. You shall also see horses and bulls upon the theatres lie down, dance, stop, and move their bodies after such a manner as would puzzle even men to perform the same things; which, though they are of little use, yet being learned and remembered by beasts, are great arguments of their docility.

If you doubt whether we learn arts, be convinced that we teach them. For partridges teach their young ones to hide themselves by lying upon their backs just before a clod of earth, to escape the pursuit of the fowlers. And you shall observe the old storks, when their young ones first begin to take wing, what care they take to instruct them upon the tops of houses. Nightingales also teach their young ones to sing; insomuch that nightingales taken young out of the nest, and bred up by hand in cages, sing worse, as being deprived of their instructors before their time. So that after I had been a while transformed into this shape, I admired at myself, that I was so easily persuaded by idle arguments of the sophisters to believe that all other creatures were void of sense and reason except man.

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load focus English (Harold Cherniss and William C. Helmbold, 1957)
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