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1 This remark refers to the five preceding books, in which these subjects have been treated in detail.—B.
2 We have a similar remark in Cicero, De. Nat. Deor. ii. 47.—B.
3 Ajasson remarks, that trees have two barks, an outer, and an inner and thinner one; but seems to think that by the word "gemino" here, Pliny only means that the bark of trees is sometimes double its ordinary thickness.
4 It seems to have been the custom among the ancients to place the newborn child upon the ground immediately after its birth.
5 Pliny appears to have followed Lucretius in this gloomy view of the commencement of human existence. See B. v. 1. 223, et seq.
6 This term of forty days is mentioned by Aristotle, in his Natural History, as also by some modern physiologists.—B.
7 We may hence conclude, that the practice of swathing young infants in tight bandages prevailed at Rome, in the time of Pliny, as it still does in France, and many parts of the continent; although it has, for some years, been generally discontinued in this country. Buffon warmly condemned this injurious system, eighty years ago, but without effect.—B.
8 "Feliciter natus;" this appears so inconsistent with what is stated in the text, that it has been proposed to alter it into infeliciter, although against the authority of all the MSS.; but it may be supposed, that Pliny, as is not unusual with him, employs the term ironically.—B.
9 This reminds us of the terms of the riddle proposed to Œdipus by the Sphinx: "What being is that, which, with four feet, has two feet and three feet, and only one voice; but its feet vary, and where it has most it is weakest?" to which he answered, That it is man, who is a quadruped (going on feet and hands) in childhood, two-footed in manhood, and moving with the aid of a staff in old age.
10 He alludes to the gradual induration of the bones of the head which takes place in the young of the human species, and imparts strength to it. Aristotle, in his Hist. Anim., states the general opinion of the ancients, that this takes place with the young of no other class of animated beings.
11 There is little doubt that new forms and features of disease are continually making their appearance among mankind, and even the same peoples, and have been from the earliest period; it was so at Rome, in the days of the Republic and of the Emperors. It is not improbable that these new forms of disease depend greatly upon changes in the temperature and diet. The plagues of 1348, 1666, and the Asiatic cholera of the present day, are not improbably various features of what may be radically the same disease. At the first period the beverage of the English was beer, or rather sweet-wort, as the hop does not appear to have been used till a later period. At the present day, tea and coffee, supported by ardent spirits, form the almost universal beverage.
12 Pliny forgets, however, that infants do not require to be taught how to suck.
13 According to Cicero, this opinion was more particularly expressed by Silenus and Euripides. Seneca also, in his Consolation to Marcia, expresses a very similar opinion. It was a very common saying, that "Those whom the gods love, die young." It will be observed that Pliny here uses the significant word "aboleri," implying utter annihilation after death. It will be seen towards the end of this Book, that he laughed to scorn the notion of the immortality of the soul.
14 By the use of the word "luctus" he may probably mean "tears;" but there is little doubt that all animals have their full share of sorrows, brought upon them either by the tyranny and cruelty of man, or their own unrestrained passions.
15 This is said hyperbolically by Pliny. The brutes of the field have as strong a love of life as man, although they may not be in fear of death, not knowing what it is. That they know what pain is, is evident from their instinctive attempts to avoid it.
16 Under this name he evidently intends to include all systems of religion, which he held in equal contempt.
17 Ajasson seems to think that he alludes to man's craving desire for posthumous fame; but it is pretty clear that he has in view the then prevalent notions of the life of the soul after the death of the body.
18 Pascal has a similar thought; he says that "Man is a reed, and the weakest reed of nature." The machinery of his body is minute and complex in the extreme, but it can hardly be said that his life is exposed to as many dangers dependent on the volition of, or on accidents arising from, other animated beings, as that of minute insects.
19 Ajasson refers to various classical authors for a similar statement, It is scarcely necessary to remark, that it is contrary to many well-known facts.—B. The cravings of hunger and of the sexual appetite, are quite sufficient to preclude the possibility of such a happy state of things among the brutes as Pliny here describes.
20 It was this feeling that prompted the common saying among the ancients, "Homo homini lupus"—"Man to man is a wolf;" and most true it is, that "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."
21 He alludes to the description already given in his geographical Books, of man taken in the aggregate, and grouped into nations.
22 These are less known, as being less easy of access to travellers, and it is accordingly in connection with these, that we always meet with the most wonderful tales.—B.
23 This feeling is well expressed in the old and hackneyedadage, "Omne ignotum pro mirifico"—"Everything that is unknown is taken for mar- vellous."
24 Cuvier remarks, that Pliny generally employs this kind of oratorical language when he is entering upon a part of his work in which he betrays a peculiar degree of credulity, and a total want of correct judgment on physical topics.—B.
25 Being debarred from holding converse, the first great tie of sociality.
26 Ajasson does not hesitate to style this remark, "ridiculum sane;" as every one knows that the Greeks were more noted for their lively imagination, than for the correctness of their observations.—B. Surely Ajasson must have forgotten the existence of such men as Aristotle and Theophrastus!
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