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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pleasing of any single tone to the ear ; but the pleas-
ing of order doth symbolize with harmony. And there-
fore we see in garden-knots, and the frets of houses, and
all equal and well answering figures, as globes, pyramids,
cones, cylinders, etc. how they please; whereas unequal
figures are but deformities. And both these plea-
sures, that of the eye, and that of the ear, are but the
effects of equality, good proportion, or correspondence:
so that, out of question, equality and correspondence
are the causes of harmony. But to find the propor-
tion of that correspondence, is more abstruse ; whereof
notwithstanding we shall speak somewhat, when we
handle tones, in the general enquiry of sounds.

112. Tones are not so apt altogetlier to procure
sleep as some other sounds ; as the wind, the purling
of water, humming of bees, a sweet voice of one that
readeth, etc. The cause whereof is, for that tones,
because they are equal and slide not, do more strike
and erect the sense than the other. And overmuch
attention hindereth sleep.

113. There be in music certain figures or tropes,
almost agreeing with the figures of rhetoric, and with
the affections of the mind, and other senses. First,


the division and quavering', which please so much in
music, have an agreement with the glittering of light;
as the moon-beams playing upon a wave. Again, the
falling from a discord to a concord, which maketh
great sweetness in music, hath an agreement with the
affections, which are reintegrated to the better^ after
some dislikes ; it agreeth also with the taste, which is
soon glutted with that which is sweet alone. The sli-
ding from the close or cadence, hath an agreement
with the figure in rhetoric, which they call prczter
expect atuvi ; for there is a pleasure even in being de-
ceived . The reports, and fuges, have an agreement with
the figures in rhetoric, of repetition and traduction.
The triplas, and changing of times, have an agreement
with the changes of motions ; as when galliard time,
and measure time, are in the medley of one dance.

114. It hath been anciently held and observed, that
the sense of hearing, and the kinds of music, have
most operation upon manners ; as, to encourage men,
and make them warlike ; to make them soft and effe-
minate ; to make them grave ; to make them light ;
to make them gentle and inclined to pity, etc. The
cause is, for that the sense of hearing striketh the
spirits more immediately than the other senses ; and
more incorporeally than the smelling ; for the sight,
taste, and feeling, have their organs not of so present
and immediate access to the spirits, as the hearing hath.
And as for the smelling, which indeed worketh also
immediately upon the spirits, and is forcible while the
object remaineth, it is with a communication of the
breath or vapour of the object odorate ; but harmony
entering easily, and mingling not at all, and coming
with a manifest motion, doth by custom of often af-
fecting the spirits, and putting them into one kind of
posture, alter not a little the nature of the spirits, even
when the object is removed. And therefore we see,
that tunes and airs, even in their own nature, have in
themselves some affinity with the affections ; as there
be merry tunes, doleful tunes, solemn tunes ; tunes
inclining mens minds to pity ; warlike tunes, etc. 80
as it is no marvel if they alter the s})irits, considering
that tunes liave a predis])osition to the motion of the


spirits in themselves. But yet it hath been noted, that
though this variety of tunes doth dispose the spirits to
variety of passions, conform unto them, yetgenerally mu-
sic feedeth that disposition of the spirits, which it find-
eth. We see also, that several airs and tunes do please
several nations and persons, according to the sympa-
thy they have with their spirits.

Experiments in consort touching sounds ; and first touching
the nullity and entity oj' sounds.

Perspective hath been with some diligence enquired;
and so hath the nature of sounds, in some sort, as far
as coucerneth music : but the nature of sounds in ge-
neral hath been superficially observed. It is one of
the subtilest pieces of nature. And besides, I prac-
tise, as I do advise ; which is, after long enquiry of
things immersed in matter, to interpose some subject
which is immateriatc, or less matoriate ; such as this
of sounds ; to the end, that the intellect may be recti-
fied, and become not partial.

115. It is first to be considered, what great motions
there arc in nature, which pass without sound or noise.
The heavens turn about in a most rapid motion, with-
out noise to us perceived ; though in some dreams
they have been said to make an excellent music. 80
the motions of the comets, and fiery meteors, as Stella
cadens, etc. yield no noise. And if it be thought,
that it is the greatness of distance from us, whereby
the sound cannot be heard ; we see that lightnings^
and coruscations, which arc near at hand, yield no
sound neither : and yet in all these, there is a per-
cussion and division of the air. The winds in the
up])er region, which move the clouds above, wliicli we
call the rack, and are not perceived below, pass with-
out noise. The lower winds in a plain, except they
be strong, make no noise ; but amongst trees,
the noise of such winds will be perceived. And the
winds, generally, when they make a noise, do ever
make it unequally, rising and falling, and sometimes,
when they are vehement, trembling at the height of
their blast. Rain or hail falling, though vehemently,
yieldeth no noise in passing througli tlie air, till it fall


uix)n the ground, water, houses, or the like. Water
in a river, though a swift stream, is not heard in the
channel, but runneth in silence, if it be of any depth ;
but the very stream upon shallows, of gravel, or peb-
ble, will be heard. And waters, when they beat upon
the shore, or are straitened, as in the falls of bridges,
or are dashed against themselves, by winds, give a
roaring noise. Any piece of timber, or hard body,
being thrust forwards by another body contiguous, with-
out knocking, giveth no noise. And so bodies in
weighing one upon another, though the upper body
press the lower body down, make no noise. So the
motion in the minute parts of any solid body, which
is the principal cause of violent motion, though un-
obsen-ed, passeth without sound ; for that sound that
is heard sometimes, is produced only by the breaking
of the air ; and not by the impulsion of the parts. So
it is manifest, that where the anterior body giveth
way, as fast as the posterior cometh on, it maketh no
noise, be the motion never so great or swift.

116. Air open, and at large, maketh no noise, ex-
cept it be sharply percussed ; as in the sound of a
string, where air is percussed by a hard and stiff body,
and with a sharp loose: for if the string be not strained,
it maketh no noise. But where the air is pent and strait-
ened, there breath or other blowing, which carry but a
gentle percussion, suffice to create sound ; as in pipes
and wind-instruments. But then you must note, that
in recorders, which go with a gentle breath, the concave
of the pipe, were it not for the fipple that straiteneth
the air, much more than the simple concave, would
yield no sound. For as for other wind-instruments,
they require a forcible breath ; as trumpets, cornets,
hunters horns, etc. which appeareth by the blown
cheeks of him that windcth them. Organs also are
blown with a strong wind by the bellows. And note
again, that some kind of wind-instruments are blown
at a small hole in the side, which straiteneth the breath
at the first entrance; the rather, in respect of their tra-
verse and stop above tlie hole, which performeth the
fipples part ; as it is seen in flutes and fifes, which will
not give sound by a blast at the end, as recorders, etc.


do. Likewise in all whistling, yon contract the month :
and to make it more sharp, men sometimes use their
finger. )^nt in open air, if you tlirov/ a stone or a
dart, they give no sound ; no more do bullets, except
tliey happen to l)c a little hollowed in the casting ;
which hollowness pcniicth the air : nor yet arrows,
except they be ruffled in their feathers, which like-
wise penneth the air. As for sniall whistles or shep-
herds oaten pipes, tliey give a sound because of their
extreme slcnderness, whereby tlie air is more pent
than in a wider pipe. Again, the voices of men and
living creatures pass through the throat, which pen-
nctli the breath. As for the Jews-liarp, it is a sharp
percussion ; and, besides, hath the advantage of pen-
ning the air in the mouth.

117. Solid bodies, if they be very softly percussed,
give no sound ; as when a man treadeth very softly
upon boards. So chests or doors in fair weather, when
they open easily, give no sound. And cart-wheels
squeak not when they are liquored.

118. Tiie (lame of tapers or candles, though it be
a swift motion and bveaketh the air, yet passeth with-
out sound. Air in ovens, though, no doubt, it dotli,
as it were, boil and dilate itself, and is repercussed ;
yet it is without noise.

119. Flame percussed by air giveth a noise: as in
blowing of the five by bellov.'s ; greater than if the
bellows should blow upon the air itself. And so like-
wise flame percussing the air strongly, as when flame
suddenly takcth andopcneth, giveth a noise ; so great
flames, while the one impellcth the other, give a bel-
lowing sound.

120. There is a conceit runiieth abroad, that there
should 1)0 a white powder, which will discharge a piece
without noise ; which is a dangerous experiment if it
should be true : for it may cause secret murders. But
it seemeth to me impossible ; for, if tiie air pent be
driven forth and strike the air open, it will certainly
make a noise. As for the white powder, if any such
thing be, that may extinguish or dead the noise, it
is like to b:> a mixture of petre and sulphur, without

VOL. I. u


coal. For petre alone will not take lire. And if any
man think, that the sound may be extinguished or
deaded by discharging the pent air, before it cometh
to the mouth of the piece and to the open air, that is
not probable ; for it will make more divided sounds ;
as if you should make a cross-barrel hollow through
the barrel of a piece, it may be it would give several
sounds, both at the nose and at the sides. But I
conceive, that if it were possible to bring to pass, that
there should be no air pent at the mouth of the piece,
the bullet might fly with small or no noise. For first it
is certain, there is no noise in the percussion of the
flame upon the bullet. Next the bullet, in piercing
through the air, maketh no noise ; as hath been said.
And then, if there be no pent air that striketh upon
open air, there is no cause of noise ; and yet the fly-
ing of the bullet will not be stayed. For that mo-
tion, as hath been oft said, is in the parts of the bul-
let, and not in the air. So as trial must be made by
taking some small concave of metal, no more than you
mean to fill with powder, and laying the bullet in the
mouth of it, half out in the open air.

121. I heard it affirmed by a man that was a great
dealer in secrets, but he was but vain, that there was
a conspiracy, which himself hindered, to have killed
queen Mary, sister to queen Elizabeth, by a burning-
glass, when she walked in Saint James's park, from
the leads of the house. But thus much, no doubt, is
true ; that if burning-glasses could be brought to a
great strength, as they talk generally of burning-
glasses that are able to burn a navy, the percussion of
the air alone, by such a burning-glass, would make no
noise; no more than is found in coruscations and
lightnings without thunders.

122. I suppose that impression of the air with
sounds asketh a time to be conveyed to the sense, as
well as the impressing of species visible ; or else they
will not be heard. And therefore, as the bullet moveth
so swift that it is invisible : so the same swiftness of
motion maketh it inaudible : for we see, that the ap-
prehension of the eye is quicker than that of the ear.


123. All eruptions of air, though small and slight,
give an entity of sound, which we call crackling, puf-
fing, spitting, etc. as in bay-salt, and bay-leaves, cast
into the fire ; so in chestnuts, when they leap forth of
the ashes ; so in green wood laid upon the fire, especi-
ally roots ; so in candles, that spit flame if they be wet;
so in rasping, sneezing, etc. so in a rose leaf gathered
together into the fashion of a purse, and broken upon
the forehead, or back of the hand, as children use.

Experiments in consort touching production, conservation, and
delation of sounds ; and the office of the air therein.

124, The cause given of sound, that it should be an
elision of the air, whereby, if they mean any thing,
they mean a cutting or dividing, or else an attenuating
of the air, is but a term of ignorance ; and the notion
is but a catch of the wit upon a few instances ; as the
manner is in the philosophy received. And it is com-
mon with men, that if they have gotten a pretty ex-
pression by a word of art, that expression goeth cur-
rent ; though it be empty of matter. This conceit of
elision appeareth most manifestly to be false, in that
the sound of a bell, string, or the like, continueth
melting some time after the percussion ; but ceaseth
straightw^ays, if the bell, or string, be touched and stay-
ed : whereas, if it were the elision of the air that made
the sound, it could not be that the touch of the bell
or string should extinguish so suddenly that motion
caused by the elision of the air. This appeareth yet
more manifestly by chiming with a hammer upon the
outside of a bell : for the sound will be according to
the inward concave of the bell : whereas the elision or
attenuation of the air cannot be but only between the
hammer and the outside of the bell. So again, if it
were an elision, a broad hammer, and a bodkin, struck
upon metal, would give a diverse tone, as well as a
diverse loudness : but they do not so ; for though the
sound of the one be louder, and of the other softer, yet
the tone is the same. Besides, in echoes, w'hereof some
are as loud as the original voice, there is no new^ eli-
sion, but a repercussion only. But that which con-
vinceth it most of all is, that sounds are generated

u 2


where there is no air at all. . But these and the like
conceits, when men have cleared their understanding
by the light of experience, will scatter and break up
like a mist.

125. It is certain, that sound is not produced at the
first, but with some local motion of the air, or flame,
or some other medium ; nor yet without some resist-
ance, either in the air or the body percussed. For if
there be a mere yielding or cession, it produceth no
sound ; as hath been said. And therein sounds differ
from light and colours, which pass through the air, or
other bodies, without any local motion of the air ;
either at the first, or after. But you must attentively
distinguish between the local motion of the air, which
is but vehiciilum causce, a carrier of the sounds, and
the sounds themselves, conveyed in the air. For as
to the former, we see manifestly, that no sound is pro-
duced, no not by air itself against other air, as in or-
gans, etc. but with a perceptible blast of the air ; and
with some resistance of the air strucken. For even all
speech, which is one of the gentlest motions of air, is
with expulsion of a little breath. And all pipes have
a blast, as well as a sound. We see also manifestly,
that sounds are carried with wind: and therefore
sounds will be heard further with the wind, than
against the wind ; and likewise do rise and fall with
the intension or remission of the wind. But for the
impression of the sound, it is quite another thing, and
is utterly without any local motion of the air, percep-
tible ; and in that resembleth the species visible : for
after a man hath lured, or a bell is rung, we cannot
discern any perceptible motion at all in the air along
as the sound goeth ; but only at the first. Neither
doth the wind, as far as it carrieth a voice, with the
motion thereof, confound any of the delicate and arti-
culate figurations of tlic air, in variety of words. And
if a man speak a good loudness against the flame of a
candle, it will not make it tremble much ; though
most wlicn tliose letters arc pronounced which con-
tract tlic mouth ; as F, S, V, and some others. But
gentle breathing, or blowing without speaking, will


move the caiulle far more. And it is tlie move pro-
bable, tbat sound is witliout any local motion of the
air, because as it differctli from tbe sight, in that it
necdeth a local motion of the air at first ; so it paral-
leleth in so many other things with the sight, and ra-
diation of things visible; which, without all question,
induce no local motion in the air, as hath been said.

126. Nevertheless it is true, tluit upon the noise of
thunder, and great ordnance, glass windows will shake;
and lislies are thought to be frayed with the motion
caused by noise upon the water. But these effects are
from the local motion of the air, which is a concomi-
tant of the sound, as hath been said, and not from
the sound.

127. It hath been anciently reported, and is still
received, that extreme applauses and shouting of peo-
ple assembled in great multitudes, have so rarified and
broken the air, that birds flying over have fallen down,
the air being not able to support them. And it is be-
lieved by some, that great ringing of bells in populous
cities hath chased away thunder ; and also dissipated
pestilent air : all which may be also from the concus-
sion of the air, and not from the sound.

128. A very great sound, near hand, hath strucken
many deaf; and at the instant they have found, as it
were, the breaking of a skin or parchment in their ear :
and myself standing near one that lured loud and shrill,
had suddenly an offence, as if somewhat had broken
or been dislocated in my ear ; and immediately after
a loud ringing, not an ordinary singing or hissing, but
far louder and differing, so as I feared some deafness.
J5ut after some half quarter of an hour it vanished.
This effect may be truly referred unto the sound : for,
as is commonly received, an over-potent object doth
destroy the sense ; and spiritual species, both visible
and audible, will work upon the sensories, though they
move not any other body.

129. In delation of sounds, the inclosure of them
preserveth them, and causeth them to be heard farther.
And we find in rolls of parchment or trunks, the mouth
being laid to the one end of the roll of parchment or


truiikj and the ear to the other, the sound is heard
much farther than in the open air. The cause is, for
that the sound spendeth, and is dissipated in the open
air ; but in such concaves it is conserved and con-
tracted. So also in a piece of ordnance, if you speak
in the touch-liole, and another lay his ear to the mouth
of the piece, the sound passeth and is far better heard
than in the open air.

130. It is further to be considered, how it proveth
and worketh when the sound is not inclosed all the
length of its way, but passeth partly through open air ;
as where you speak some distance from a trunk ; or
where the ear is some distance from the trunk at the
other end ; or where both mouth and ear are distant
from the trunk. And it is tried, that in a long trunk
of some eight or ten foot, the sound is holpeu, though
both the mouth and the ear be a handful or more from

• the ends of the trunk ; and somewhat more holpen,
when the ear of the hearer is near, than when the mouth
of the speaker. And it is certain, that the voice is bet-
ter heard in a chamber from abroad, than abroad from
within the chamber.

131. As the inclosure that is round about and en-
tire, preserveth the sound ; so doth a semi-concave,
though in a less degree. And therefore, if you divide
a trunk, or a cane into two, and one speak at the one
end, and you lay your ear at the other, it will carry the
voice further, than in the air at large. Nay further,
if it be not a full semi-concave, but if you do the like
upon the mast of a ship, or a long pole, or a piece of
ordnance, though one speak upon the surface of the
ordnance, and not any of the bores, the voice will be
heard farther tlian in the air at large.

132. It would be tried, how, and with what propor-
tion of disadvantage the voice will be carried in an
horn, which is a line arched ; or in a trumpet, which
is a line retorted ; or in some pipe that were sinuous.

n 133. It is certain, howsoever it cross the received
opinion, that sounds may be created without air, though
air be the most favourable deferent of sounds. Take
d vessel of water, and knap a pair of tongs some depth


within the water, and you shall hear the sound of the
tongs well, and not much diminished ; and yet there
is no air at all present.

134. Take one vessel of silver, and another of wood,
and fill each of them full of water, and then knap the
tongs together, as heforc, ahout an handful from the
bottom, and you shall find the sound much more re-
sounding from the vessel of silver, than from that of
wood : and yet if there be no water in the vessel, so
that you kna}) the tongs in the air, you shall find no
difference between the silver and the wooden vessel.
Whereby, beside the main point of creating sound
without air, you may collect two things : the one, that
the sound communicateth with the bottom of the ves-
sel ; the other, that such a communication passeth far
better through water than air.

I'd 5. Strike any hard bodies together in the midst
of a flame ; and you shall hear the sound with little
difference from the sound in the air,

136. The pneumatical part which is in all tangible
bodies, and hath some affinity with the air, performeth,
in some degree, the parts of the air ; as when you
knock upon an empty barrel, the sound is in part creat-
ed by the air on the outside ; and in jmrt by the air in
the inside : for the sound will be greater or lesser, as
the barrel is more empty or more full ; but yet the
sound participateth also with the spirit in the wood
through which it passeth, from the outside to the in-
side : and so it cometh to pass in the chiming of bells
on the outside ; where also the sound passeth to the
inside : and a number of other like instances, whereof
we shall speak more when we handle the communica-
tion of sounds.

137. It were extreme grossness to think, as we have
partly touched before, that the sound in strings is
made or produced between the hand and the string, or
the quill and the string, or the bow and the string, for
those are but ve/iicula motiis, passages to the creation
of the sound, the sound being produced between the
string and the air ; and that not by any impulsion of
the air from the first motion of the string ; but by the


return or result of tlie string, wliicli was strained by
the touch, to his former place : which motion of result
is quick and sliarp ; whereas the first motion is soft and
dull. So the bow tortureth the string continually,
and thereby holdeth it in a continual trepidation.

Experiments in consort touching the viagnitiale and exility
and damps of sounds.

138. Take a trunk, and let one whistle at the one
end, and hold your ear at the other, and you shall find
the sound strike so sharp as you can scarce endure it.
The cause is, for that sound diffuscth itself in round,
and so spendeth itself; but if the sound, which w^ould
scatter in open air, be made to go all into a canal, it
must needs give greater force to the sound. And so
you may note, that inclosurcs do not only preserve
sound, l3ut also increase and sharpen it.

139. A hunter's horn being greater at one end than
at the other, doth increase the sound more than if the
horn were all of an equal bore. The cause is, for that
the air and sound being first contracted at the lesser
end, and afterwards having more room to spread at
the greater end, do dilate themselves ; and in coming
out strike more air ; whereby the sound is the greater
and baser. And even hunters horns, which are some-

Online LibraryFrancis BaconThe works of Francis Bacon, baron of Verulam, viscount St. Alban, and lord high chancellor of England (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 52)