Francis Bacon.

The works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) online

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pewter, into which no water could enter, became more
white, and liker to silver, and less flexible by much.
There were also put into an earthen bottle, placed as
before, a good pellet of clay, a piece of cheese, a piece
of chalk, and a piece of free-stone. The clay came
forth almost of the hardness of stone ; the cheese like-
wise very hard, and not well to be cut ; the chalk and
the free-stone much harder than they were. The



colour of the clay inclined not a whit to the colour of
brick, but rather to white, as in ordinary drying by the
sun. Note, that all the former trials were made by
a boiling upon a good hot fire, renewing the water as
it consumed, with other hot water ; but the boiling was
but for twelve hours only ; and it is like that the
experiment would have been more effectual, if the
boiling had been for two or three days, as we prescribed

89. As touching assimilation, for there is a degree
of assimilation even in inanimate bodies, we see ex-
amples of it in some stones in clay-grounds, lying near
to the top of the earth, where pebble is ; in which you
may manifestly see divers pebbles gathered together,
and a crust of cement or stone between them, as hard
as the pebbles themselves ; and it were good to make
a trial of purpose, by taking clay, and putting in it
divers pebble stones, thick set, to see whether, in con-
tinuance of time, it will not be harder than other clay
of the same lump, in which no pebbles are set. We
see also in ruins of old walls, especially towards the
bottom, the mortar will become as hard as the brick :
we see also, that the wood on the sides of vessels of wine,
gathereth a crust of tartar, harder than the wood itself ;
and scales likewise grow to the teeth, harder than the
teeth themselves.

90. INIost of all, induration by assimilation aj/pear-
eth in the bodies of trees and living creatures : for no
nourishment that the tree rccciveth, or that the living
creature receiveth, is so hard as wood, bone, or horn, &c,
but is indurated after by assimilation.

Eocperiment solitary touching the version x)f water into air.

91 . The eye of the understanding is like the eye of
the sense : for as you may see great objects through
small crannies, or levels ; so you may see great axioms
of nature through small and contemptible instances.
The speedy depredation of air upon watery moisture,
and version of the same into air, appcareth in nothing
more visible, than in the sudden discharge or vanishing
of a little cloud of breath or vapour from glass, or the


blade of a sword, or any such polished body, such as
doth not at all detain or imbibe the moisture ; for the
mistiness scattereth and breaketh up suddenly. But
the like cloud, if it were oily or fatty, will not discharge ;
not because it sticketh faster ; but because air preycth
upon water ; and flame and fire upon oil ; and therefore
to take out a spot of grease they use a coal upon brown
paper ; because fire worketh upon grease or oil, as air
doth upon water. And we see paper oiled, or wood
oiled, or the like, last long moist ; but wet with water,
dry or putrify sooner. The cause is, for that air
meddleth little with the moisture of oil.

Experiment solitary touching the force of union.

92. There is an admirable demonstration in the
same trifling instance of the little cloud upon glass, or
gems, or blades of swords, of the force of union, even
in the least quantities, and weakest bodies, how much
it conduceth to preservation of the present form, and
the resisting of a new. For mark well the discharge
of that cloud ; and you shall see it ever break up, first
in the skirts, and last in the midst. We see likewise,
that much water draweth forth the juice of the body
infused ; but little water is imbibed by the body : and
this is a principal cause, why in operation upon bodies
for their version or alteration, the trial in great quanti-
ties dotli not answer the trial in small ; and so deceiveth
many : for that, I say, the greater body resisteth more
any alteration of form, and requireth far greater
strength in the active body that should subdue it.

Experiment solitary touchinp the producing of feathers and
hairs of divers colours.

93. We have spoken before, in the fifth instance, of
the cause of orient colours in birds ; which is by the
fineness of the strainer ; we will now endeavour to
reduce the same axiom to a work. For this writing of
our " Sylva Sylvarum" is, to speak properly, not natural
history, but a high kind of natural magic. For it is
not a description only of nature, but a breaking of
nature into great and strange works. Try therefore
the anointing over of pigeons, or other birds, when they

T *i


are but in their down ; or of whelps, cutting their hair
as short as may be ; or of some other beast ; with some
ointment that is not hurtful to the flesh, and that will
harden and stick very close ; and see whether it will
not alter the colours of the feathers or hair. It is
received, that the pulling off the first feathers of birds
clean, will make the new come forth white : and it is
certain that white is a penurious colour, and where
moisture is scant. So blue violets, and other flowers,
if they be starved, turn pale and white ; birds and
horses, by age or scars, tarn white ; and the hoar
hairs of men come by the same reason. And therefore
in birds, it is very likely, that the feathers that come
first will be many times of divers colours, according to
the nature of the bird, for that the skin is more porous ;
but when the skin is more shut and close, the feathers
will come white. This is a good experiment, not only
for the producing of birds and beasts of strange colours ;
but also for the disclosure of the nature of colours them-
selves ; which of them require a finer porosity, and
which a grosser.

Experiment solitary iouching the notirishment of livi7ig a'ea-
tiires before they he brought forth.

94. It is a work of providence, that hath been truly
observed by some, that the yolk of the egg conducctli
little to the generation of the bird, but only to the
nourishment of the same ; for if a chicken be opened,
when it is new hatched, you shall find much of the yolk
remaining. And it is needful, that birds that are
shaped without the female's womb have in the egg, as
well matter of nourishment, as matter of generation
for the body. For after the egg is laid, and severed
from the body of the hen, it hath no more nourish-
ment from the hen, but only a quickening heat wlien
she sitteth. But beasts and men need not the matter
of nourishment within themselves, because they are
shaped within the womb of the female, and are nou-
rished continually from her body.

Experiments in consort touching sympathy and antipathy for
medicinal use.

95. It is an inveterate and received opinion, that
cantharides applied to any part of the body, touch tlie


bladder, and exulcerate it, if they stay on long. It is
likewise received, that a kind of stone, which they
bring out of the West-Indies, hath a peculiar force to
move gravel, and to dissolve the stone : insomuch, as
laid but to the wrist, it hath so forcibly sent down
gravel, as men have been glad to remove it, it was so

96. It is received, and confirmed by daily experience,
that the soles of the feet have great affinity with the
head and the mouth of the stomach ; as we see going
wet-shod, to those that use it not, affecteth both :
applications of hot powders to the feet attenuate first,
and after dry the rheum : and therefore a physician
that would be mystical, prescribeth, for the cure of the
rheum, that a man should walk continually upon a
camomile-alley ; meaning, that he should put camomile
within his socks. Likewise pigeons bleeding, applied
to the soles of the feet, ease the head : and soporiferous
medicines applied unto them, provoke sleep.

97. It seemeth, that as the feet have a sympathy
with the head, so the wrists and hands have a sympathy
with the heart ; we see the affects and passions of the
heart and spirits are notably disclosed by the pulse:
and it is often tried, that juices of stock-gilly-flowers,
rose-campian, garlick, and other things, applied to the
wrists, and renewed, have cured long agues. And I
conceive, that washing witli certain liquors the palms
of the hands doth much good : and they do well in
heats of agues, to hold in the hands eggs of alabaster
and balls of crystal.

Of these things wc shall speak more, when we
handle the title of sympathy and antipathy in the
proper place.

Experiment solitary touching the secret processes of nature.

98. The knowledge of man hitherto hath been
determined by the view or sight ; so that whatsoever
is invisible, either in respect of the fineness of the body
itself, or the smallness of the parts, or of the subtilty
of the motion, is little inquired. And yet these be the
things that govern nature principally ; and without


which you cannot make any true analysis and indica-
tion of the proceedings of nature. The spirits or
pneumaticals, that are in all tangible bodies, are scarce
kno\\Ti. Sometimes they take them for vacuum ;
whereas they are the most active of bodies. Sometimes
they take them for air ; from which they differ exceed-
ingly, as much as wine from water ; and as wood from
earth. Sometimes thev will have them to be natural
heat, or a portion of the element of fire ; whereas some
of them are crude and cold. And sometimes they will
have them to be the virtues and qualities of the tan-
gible parts which they see ; whereas they are things
by themselves. And then, when they come to plants
and living creatures, they call tlieni souls. And such
superficial speculations they have ; like prospectives,
that shew things inward, when they are but paintings.
Neither is this a question of words, but infinitely
material in nature. For spirits are nothing else but
a natural body, rarified to a proportion, and included
in the tangible parts of bodies, as in an integument.
And they be no less differing one from the other, than
the dense or tangible parts ; and they are in all tangible
bodies whatsoever, more or less ; and they are never
almost at rest; and from them, and their motions,
principally proceed arefaction, colliquation, concoction,
maturation, putrefaction, vivification, and most of the
effects of nature : for, as we have figured them in our
*' Sapientia Veterum," in the fable of Proserpina, you
shall in the infernal regiment hear little doings of
Pluto, but most of Proserpina : for tangible parts in
bodies are stupid things ; and the spirits do in effect
all. As for the differences of tangible parts in bodies,
the industry of the chemists hath given some light, in
discerning by their separations the oily, crude, pure,
impure, fine, gross parts of bodies, and the like. And
the pliysicians are content to acknowledge, that herbs
and drugs have divers j)arts ; as tliat opium hath a
stupefactive part, and a heating part ; the one moving
sleep, tile other a sweat following ; and that rhubarb
hath purging parts, and astringent })avts, &c. But this
whole inquisition is weakly and negligently handled.


And for the more subtle differences of the minute parts,
and tlie posture of them in the body, which also hath
great effects, they are not at all touched : as for the
motions of the minute parts of bodies, which do so great
effects, they have not been observed at all ; because
they are invisible, and incur not to the eye ; but yet
they are to be deprehendcd by experience : as Demo-
critus said well, when they charged him to hold, that
the world was made of such little motes, as were seen
in the sun : " Atomus," saith he, " necessitate rationis
et cxperientiae esse convincitur ; atomum enim nemo
unquam vidit." And therefore the tumult in the
parts of solid bodies, when they are compressed, which
is the cause of all flight of bodies through the air, and
of other mechanical motions, as hath been partly
touched before, and shall be throughly handled in due
place, is not seen at all. But nevertheless, if you know
it not, or inquire it not attentively and diligently, you
shall never be able to discern, and much less to produce,
a number of mechanical motions. Again, as to the
motions corporal, within the inclosures of bodies,
whereby the effects, which were mentioned before, pass
between the spirits and the tangible parts, which are
arefaction, coUiquation, concoction, maturation, &c.
they are not at all handled. But they are put off by
the names of virtues, and natures, and actions, and
passions, and such other logical words.

Experiment solitary touching the pouer of heat.

99. It is certain, that of all powers in nature heat
is the chief ; both in the frame of nature, and in the
works of art. Certain it is likewise, that the effects
of heat are most advanced, when it worketh upon a body
without loss or dissipation of the matter ; for that ever
betray etli the account. And therefore it is true, that
the power of heat is best perceived in distillations,
which are performed in close vessels and receptacles.
But yet there is a higher degree ; for howsoever dis-
tillations do keep the body in cells and cloisters, mth-
out going abroad, yet they give space unto bodies to
turn into vapour ; to return into liquor ; and to sepa-


rate one part from another. t>o as nature doth expa-
tiate, although it hath not full liberty ; whereby the
true and ultimate operations of heat are not attained.
But if bodies may be altered by heat, and yet no such
reciprocation of rarefaction, and of condensation, and
of separation, admitted; then it is like that this Proteus
of matter, being held by the sleeves, will turn and
change into many metamorphoses. Take therefore a
square vessel of iron, in form of a cube, and let it have
good thick and strong sides. Put into it a cube of
w ood, that may fill it as close as may be ; and let it
have a cover of iron, as strong at least as the sides ; and
let it be well luted, after the manner of the chemists.
Then place the vessel within burning coals, kept quick
kindled for some few hours space. Then take the
vessel from the fire, and take off the cover, and see
what is become of the wood. I conceive, that since
all inflammation and evaporation are utterly prohibited,
and the body still turned upon itself, that one of these
two effects will follow : either that the body of the wood
will be turned into a kind of amalgama^ as the che-
mists call it ; or that thefi' erpart will be turned into
air, and the grosser stick as it were baked, and incrus-
tate upon the sides of the vessel, being become of a
denser matter than the wood itself crude. And for
another trial, take also water, and put it in the like
vessel, stopped as before ; but use a gentler heat, and
remove the vessel sometimes from the fire ; and again,
after some small time, when it is cold, renew the heat-
ing of it ; and repeat this alteration some few times :
and if you can once bring to pass, that the water, which
is one of the simplest of bodies, be changed in colour,
odour, or taste, after the manner of compound bodies,
you may be sure that there is a great work wrought in
nature, and a notable entrance made into strange
changes of bodies and productions ; and also a way
' made to do that by fiie, in small time, which the sun
and age do in long time. But of tlie admirable effects
of this distillation in close, for so we will call it, which
is like the wombs and matrices of living creatures,
where nothing expireth nor scparateth, we will speak


fully, in the due place ; not that we aim at the making
of Paracelsus's pygmies, or any such prodigious follies ;
but that we know the effects of heat will be such, as
will scarce fall under the conceit of man, if the force
of it be altogether kept in.

Experiments solitary touching the impossibility of annihilation.

100. There is nothing more certain in nature than
that it is impossible for any body to be utterly anni-
hilated ; but that as it was the work of the omnipo-
tency of God to make somewhat of nothing, so it re-
quireth the like omnipotency to turn somewhat into
nothing. And therefore it is well said by an obscure
writer of the sect of the chemists, that there is no such
way to effect the strange transmutations of bodies, as
to endeavom* and urge by all means the reducing of
them to nothing. And herein is contained also a great
secret of preservation of bodies from change ; for if you
can prohibit, that they neither turn into air, because
no air cometh to them ; nor go into the bodies adja-
cent, because they are utterly heterogeneal ; nor make
a round and circulation within themselves ; they will
never change, though they be in their nature never so
perishable or mutable. We see how flics, and spiders,
and the like, get a sepulchre in amber, more durable
than the monument and embalming of the body of
any king. And \ conceive the like will be of bodies
put into quicksilver. But then they must be but
thin, as a leaf, or a piece of paper or parchment ; for
if they have a greater crassitude, they will alter in
their own body, though they spend not. But of this
we shall speak more when we handle the title of con-
servation of bodies.



Experiments in consort touching Music.

Music, in the practice, hath been well pursued,
and in good variety ; but in the theory, and especially
in the yielding of the causes of the practic, very
weakly ; being reduced into certain mystical subtilties
of no use and not much truth. We shall, therefore,
after our manner, join the contemplative and active
part together.

101. All sounds are either musical sounds, which
we call tones ; whereunto there may be an harmony ;
which sounds are ever equal ; as singing, the sounds
of stringed and wind instruments, the ringing of bells,
etc. or immusical sounds, which are ever unequal ;
such as are the voice in speaking, all whisperings, all
voices of beasts and birds, except they be singing-
birds, all percussions of stones, wood, parchment, skins,
as in drums, and infinite others.

102. The sounds that produce tones, are ever from
such bodies as are in their parts and pores equal ; as
well as the sounds themselves are equal ; and such are
the percussions ofmetal, asin bells; of glass, as in the
fiUipping of a drinking glass ; of air, as in mens voices
whilst they sing, in pipes, whistles, organs, stringed
instruments, etc. and of water, as in the nightingale
pipes of regals, or organs, and other hydraulics ; which
the ancients liad, and Nero did so mucli esteem, but
are now lost. And if any man think, that the string
of the bow and the string of the viol are neither of
them equal bodies, and yet produce tones, he is in an
error. For the sound is not created between the bow
or plect?ii7n and the string ; but between the string
and the air ; no more tlian it is between the finger or


quill, and the string in other intruments. So there
are, in effect, but three percussions that create tones;
percussions of metals, comprehending glass and the
like, percussions of air, and percussions of water.

103. The diapason or eight in music is the sweet-
est concord, in so much as it is in effect an unison; as
we see in lutes that are strung in the base strings with
two strings, one an eight above another ; which make
but as one sound. And every eighth note in ascent,
as from eight to fifteen, from fifteen to twenty-two,
and so in injinititm, are but scales of diapason. The
cause is dark, and hath not been rendered by any; and
tlierefore would be better contemplated. It seemeth
that air, which is the subject of sounds, in sounds that
are not tones, which are all unequal, as hath been said,
admitteth much variety ; as we see in the voices of
living creatures ; and likewise in the voices of several
men, for we are capable to discern several men by their
voices ; and in the conjugation of letters, whence arti-
culate sounds proceed ; which of all others are most
various. But in the sounds which we call tones, that
are ever equal, the air is not able to cast itself into
any such variety ; but is forced to recur into one and
the same posture or figure, only differing in greatness
and smallness. So we see figures may be made of lines,
crooked and straight, in infinite variety, where there is
inequality ; but circles, or squares, or triangles equi-
lateral, which are all figures of equal lines, can differ
but in greater or lesser.

104. It is to be noted, the rather lest any man should
think, that there is any thing in tliis number of eight,
to create the diapason, that this computation of eight
is a thing rather received, than any true computation.
For a true computation ought ever to be by distribu-
tion into equal portions. Now there be intervenient
in the rise of eight, in tones, two bemolls, or half-notes:
so as if you divide the tones equally, the eight is but
seven whole and equal notes ; and if you subdivide
that into half-notes, as it is in the stops of a lute, it
maketli the number of thirteen.

105. Yet this is true, that in the ordinary rises


and falls of the voice of man, not measuring the tone
by whole notes, and half-notes, which is the equal
measure, there fall out to he two bemolls, as hath been
said, between the unison and the diapason : and this
varying is natural. For if a man would endeavour to
raise or fall his voice, still by half-notes, like the stops
of a lute ; or by whole notes alone without halfs, as
far as an eight ; he will not be able to frame his
voice unto it. Which sheweth, that after every three
whole notes, nature requireth, for all harmonical use,
one half-note to be interposed.

106. It is to be considered, that whatsoever virtue
is in numbers, for conducing to concent of notes, is
rather to be ascribed to the ante-number, than to the
entire number ; as namely, that the soimd returneth
after six or after twelve ; so that the seventh or the
thirteenth is not the matter, but the sixth or the
twelfth ; and the seventh and the thirteenth are but
the limits and boundaries of the return.

107. The concords in music which are perfect or
semiperfect, between the unison and the diapason, are
the fifth, which is the most perfect ; the third next ;
and the sixth, which is more harsh : and, as the
ancients esteemed, and so do myself and some other
yet, the fourth which they call diatessaron. As for
the tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, and so in infinitum ;
they be but recurrences of the former, viz. of the
third, the fifth, and the sixth ; being an eight re-
spectively from them.

108. For discords, the second and the seventh are
of all others the most odious, in harmony, to the sense;
whereof the one is next above the unison, the other
next under the diapason : which may shew, that har-
mony requireth a competent distance of notes.

109. In hannony, if there be not a discord to the
base, it doth not disturb the harmony, though there
be a discord to the higher parts ; so the discord be not
of the two that are odious ; and therefore the ordinary
concent of four parts consistcth of an eight, a fifth, and
a third to the base ; but that fifth is a fourth to the
treble, and the third is a sixth. And the cause is, for
that the base striking more air, doth overcome and


drown the treble, unless the discord be very odious ;
and so hideth a small imperfection. For we see, that
in one of the lower strings of a lute, there soundeth not
the sound of the treble, nor any mixt sound, but only
the sound of the base.

110. We have no music of quarter^ notes ; and it
may be they are not capable of harmony : for we see
the half-notes themselves do but interpose sometimes.
Nevertheless we have some slides or relishes of the
voice or strings, as it were continued without notes,
from one tone to another, rising or falling, which are

111. The causes of that which is pleasing or ingrate
to the hearing, may receive light by that which is
pleasing or ingrate to the sight. There be two things
pleasing to the sight, leaving pictures and shapes aside,
which are but secondary objects ; and please or dis-
please but in memory ; these two are colours and or-
der. The pleasing of colour symbolizeth with the

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 32 of 52)