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SUCH then is the present state of the world, and of the countries, nations, more remarkable seas, islands, and cities which it contains.1 The nature of the animated beings which exist upon it, is hardly in any degree less worthy of our contemplation than its other features; if, indeed, the human mind is able to embrace the whole of so diversified a subject. Our first attention is justly due to Man, for whose sake all other things appear to have been produced by Nature; though, on the other hand, with so great and so severe penalties for the enjoyment of her bounteous gifts, that it is far from easy to determine, whether she has proved to him a kind parent, or a merciless step-mother.

In the first place, she obliges him alone, of all animated beings, to clothe himself with the spoils of the others; while, to all the rest, she has given various kinds of coverings, such as shells, crusts, spines, hides, furs, bristles, hair, down, feathers, scales, and fleeces.2 The very trunks of the trees even, she has protected against the effects of heat and cold by a bark, which is, in some cases, twofold.3 Man alone, at the very moment of his birth cast naked upon the laked earth,4 does she abandon to cries, to lamentations, and, a thing that is the case with no other animal whatever, to tears: this, too, from the very moment that he enters upon existence.5 But as for laughter, why, by Hercules!—to laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day6 from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity. Introduced thus to the light, man has fetters and swathings instantly put upon all his limbs,7 a thing that falls to the lot of none of the brutes even that are born among us. Born to such singular good fortune,8 there lies the animal, which is destined to command all the others, lies, fast bound hand and foot, and weeping aloud! such being the penalty which he has to pay on beginning life, and that for the sole fault of having been born. Alas! for the folly of those who can think after such a beginning as this, that they have been born for the display of vanity!

The earliest presage of future strength, the earliest bounty of time, confers upon him nought but the resemblance to a quadruped.9 How soon does man gain the power of walking? How soon does he gain the faculty of speech? How soon is his mouth fitted for mastication? How long are the pulsations of the crown of his head to proclaim him the weakest of all ani- mated beings?10 And then, the diseases to which he is subject, the numerous remedies which he is obliged to devise against his maladies, and those thwarted every now and then by new forms and features of disease.11 While other animals have an instinctive knowledge of their natural powers; some, of their swiftness of pace, some of their rapidity of flight, and some again of their power of swimming; man is the only one that knows nothing, that can learn nothing without being taught; he can neither speak, nor walk, nor eat,12 and, in short, he can do nothing, at the prompting of nature only, but weep. For this it is, that many have been of opinion, that it were better not to have been born, or if born, to have been annihilated13 at the earliest possible moment.

To man alone, of all animated beings, has it been given, to grieve,14 to him alone to be guilty of luxury and excess; and that in modes innumerable, and in every part of his body. Man is the only being that is a prey to ambition, to avarice, to an immoderate desire of life,15 to superstition,16—he is the only one that troubles himself about his burial, and even what is to become of him after death.17 By none is life held on a tenure more frail;18 none are more influenced by unbridled desires for all things; none are sensible of fears more bewildering; none are actuated by rage more frantic and violent. Other animals, in fine, live at peace with those of their own kind; we only see them unite to make a stand against those of a different species. The fierceness of the lion is not expended in fighting with its own kind; the sting of the serpent is not aimed at the serpent;19 and the monsters of the sea even, and the fishes, vent their rage only on those of a different species. But with man,—by Hercules! most of his misfortunes are occasioned by man.20

(1.) We have already given21 a general description of the human race in our account of the different nations. Nor, indeed, do I now propose to treat of their manners and customs, which are of infinite variety and almost as numerous as the various groups themselves, into which mankind is divided; but yet there are some things, which, I think, ought not to be omitted; and more particularly, in relation to those peoples which dwell at a considerable distance from the sea;22 among which, I have no doubt, that some facts will appear of an astounding nature, and, indeed, incredible to many. Who, for instance, could ever believe in the existence of the Æthiopians, who had not first seen them? Indeed what is there that does not appear marvellous, when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?23 How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible, until they have been actually effected?24 But it is the fact, that every moment of our existence we are distrusting the power and the majesty of Nature, if the mind, instead of grasping her in her entirety, considers her only in detail. Not to speak of peacocks, the spotted skins of tigers and panthers, and the rich colours of so many animals, a trifling thing apparently to speak of, but of inestimable importance, when we give it due consideration, is the existence of so many languages among the various nations, so many modes of speech, so great a variety of expressions; that to another, a man who is of a different country, is almost the same as no man at all.25 And then, too, the human features and countenance, although composed of but some ten parts or little more, are so fashioned, that among so many thousands of men, there are no two in existence who cannot be distinguished from one another, a result which no art could possibly have produced, when confined to so limited a number of combinations. In most points, however, of this nature, I shall not be content to pledge my own credit only, but shall confirm it in preference by referring to my authorities, which shall be given on all subjects of a nature to inspire doubt. My readers, however, must make no objection to following the Greeks, who have proved them- selves the most careful observers, as well as of the longest standing.26

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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