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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of a stronger and a weaker, like unto masculine and
feminine, doth hold in all living bodies. It is con-
founded sometimes ; as in some creatures of putrefac-
tion, wherein no marks of distinction appear : and it
is doubled sometimes, as in hermaphrodites : but ge-
nerally there is a degree of strength in most species.

609. The participles or confiners between plants
and living creatures, are such chiefly as are fixed, and
have no local motion of remove, though they have a
motion in their parts ; such as are oisters, cockles, and
such like. There is a fabulous narration, that in the
northern countries there should be an herb that
groweth in the likeness of a lamb, and feedeth upon
the grass, in such sort as it will bare the grass round
about. But I suppose that the figure maketh the
fable ; for so, we see, there be bee-flowers, etc. And
as for the grass, it seemeth the plant having a great
stalk and top doth prey upon the grass a good way
about, by drawing the juice of the earth from it.

Experiments promiscuous touching plants.

610. The Indian fig boweth its roots down so low
in one year, as of itself it taketli root again : and so
multiplieth from root to root, making of one tree a
kind of wood. The cause is the plenty of the sap,
and the softness of the stalk, which maketh the bough,
being over-loaden, and not stiffly upheld, weigh down.
It hath leaves as broad as a little target, but the fruit
no bigger than beans. The cause is, for that the
continual shade incrcaseth the leaves, and abateth the
fruit, which nevertheless is of a pleasant taste. And
that no doubt is caused by the suppleness and gentle-
ness of the juice of that plant, being that which
maketh the boughs also so flexible.

611. It is reported by one of the ancients, that there
is a certain Indian tree, having few but very great
leaves, three cubits long and two broad ; and that the
fruit, being of good taste, groweth out of the bark.


It may be, there be plants that pour out the sap so
fast, as they have no leisure either to divide into many
leaves, or to put forth stalks to the fruit. With us,
trees, generally, have small leaves in comparison.
The fig hath the greatest ; and next it the vine, mul-
berry, and sycamore ; and the least are those of the
willow, birch, and thorn. But there be found herbs
with far greater leaves than any tree; as the bur,
gourd, cucumber, and colewort. The cause is, like
to that of the Indian fig, the hasty and plentiful put-
ting forth of the sap.

612. There be three things in use for sweetness ;
sugar, honey, manna. For sugar, to the ancients it
was scarce known, and little used. It is found in
canes : Query, whether to the first knuckle, or further
up ? And wliether the very bark of tlie cane itself do
yield sugar or no ? For honey, the bee maketh it,
or gathereth it ; but I have heard from one that was
industrious in husbandry, that the labour of the bee
is about the wax ; and that he hath known in the
beginning of JMay honeycombs empty of honey ; and
within a fortnight, v^^hen the sweet dews fall, filled
like a cellar. It is reported also by some of the an-
cients, that there is a tree called Occhns, in the valleys
of Hyrcania, that distilleth honey in the mornings.
It is not unlike that the sap and tears of some trees
may be sweet. It may be also, that some sweet juices,
fit for many uses, may be concocted out of fruits, to
the thickness of honey, or perhaps of sugar : the like-
liest are raisins of the sun, figs, and currants ; the
means may be inquired.

613. Tlie ancients report of a tree by the Persian
sea, upon the shore sands, which is nomished Adth the
salt water ; and when tlie tide cbbeth, you shall see
the roots as it were bare without bark, being as it
seemeth corroded by the salt, and grasping the sands
like a crab ; which nevertheless beareth a fruit. It
were good to try some hard trees, as a service-tree,
or fir-tree, by setting them within the sands.

614. There be of plants which they use for gar-
ments, these that follow : hemp, fiax, cotton, nettles,


whereof they make nettle-cloth, sericum, which is a
growing silk ; they make also cables of the bark of
lime trees. It is the stalk that maketh the filaceous
matter commonly ; and sometimes the down tliat
groweth above.

615. They have in some countries a plant of a
rosy colour, which shutteth in the night, openeth in
the morning, and openeth wide at noon ; which the
inhabitants of those countries say is a plant that
sleepeth. There be sleepers enough then ; for almost
all flowers do the like.

61 6. Some plants there are, but rare, that have a
mossy or downy root ; and likewise that have a num-
ber of threads, like beards ; as mandrakes ; whereof
witches and impostors make an ugly image, giving
it the form of a face at the top of the root, and leav-
ing those strings to make a broad beard down to the
foot. Also there is a kind of nard in Crete, being a
kind of phu, that hath a root hairy, Hke a rough-
footed dove's foot. So as you may see, there are of
roots, bulbous roots, fibrous roots, and hirsute roots.
And, I take it, in the bulbous, the sap hasteneth
most to the air and sun ; in the fibrous, the sap de-
lighteth more in the earth, and therefore putteth
downward ; and the hirsute is a middle between both,
that besides the putting forth upwards and down-
wards, putteth forth in round.

617- There are some tears of trees, which are
combed from the beards of goats : for when the goats
bite and crop them, especially in tlie mornings, the
dew being on, the tear cometh forth, and hangeth
upon their beards : of this sort is some kind of lau-

618. The irrigation of the plane-tree by wine, is
reported by the ancients to make it fruitful. It would
be tried likewise witli roots; for upon seeds it worketli
no great effects.

619. The way to carry foreign roots a long way
is to vessel tlicm close in earthen vessels. But if the
vessels be not very great, you nuist niake some holes
in the bottom, to give some refreshment to the roots ;


which otherwise, as it seemeth, will decay and suf-

620. The ancient cinnamon was, of all other plants,
while it grew, the driest ; and those things which are
known to comfort other plants, did make that more
steril ; for in showers it prospered worst ; it grew also
amongst bushes of other kinds, where commonly plants
do not thrive ; neither did it love the sun. There
might be one cause of all those effects ; namely, the
sparing nourishment which that plant required.
Query, how far cassia, which is now the substitute of
cinnamon, doth participate of these things ?

621. It is reported by one of the ancients, that
cassia, when it is gathered, is put into the skins of
beasts newly flayed ; and that the skins corrupting
and breeding worms, the worms do devour the pith
and marrow of it, and so make it hollo^v ; but meddle
not with the bark, because to them it is bitter.

622. There were in ancient time vines of far greater
bodies than we know any ; for there have been cups
made of them, and an image of Jupiter. But it is
like they w^ere wild vines ; for the vines that they use
for wine, are so often cut, and so much digged and
dressed, that their sap spendeth into the grapes, and
so the stalk cannot increase much in bulk. The wood
of vines is very durable, without rotting. And that
which is strange, though no tree hatli the twigs, while
they are green, so brittle, yet the wood dried is ex-
treme tough ; and was used by the captains of armies
amongst the Romans for tlieir cudgels.

62^. It is reported, that in some places vines are
suffered to grow like herbs, spreading upon the ground;
and that the grapes of those vines arc very great. It
were good to make trial, whether plants that use to
be borne up by props, will not put forth greater leaves
and greater fruits if they be laid along the ground ;
as hops, ivy, woodbine, etc.

624. Quinces, or apples, etc. if you will keep them
long, drown them in honey ; but because honey, per-
haps, will give them a taste over-luscious, it were
good to make trial in powder of sugar, or in syrup of


wine, only boiled to height. Both these would like-
wise be tried in oranges, lemons, and pomegranates ;
for the powder of sugar, and syrup of wine, will serve
for more times than once.

625. The conservation of fruit would be also tried
in vessels filled with fine sand, or with powder of
chalk : or in meal and flour ; or in dust of oak wood ;
or in mill.

626. Such fruits as you appoint for long keeping,
you must gather before they be full ripe ; and in a
fair and dry day towards noon ; and when the wind
bloweth not south ; and when the moon is under the
earth, and in decrease.

627. Take grapes, and hang them in an empty
vessel well stopped ; and set the vessel not in a cellar,
but in some dry place ; and it is said they will last
long. But it is reported by some, they will keep
better in a vessel half full of wine, so that the grapes
toucii not the wine.

628. It is reported, that the preserving of the stalk
helpeth to preserve the grape ; especially if the stalk
be put into the pith of elder, the elder not touching
the fruit.

629. It is reported by some of the ancients, that
fruit put in bottles, and the bottles let down into wells
under water, will keep long.

630. Of herbs and plants, some are good to cat
raw; as lettuce, endive, purslane, tarragon, cresses,
cucumbers, musk-melons, radish, etc. others only after
they are boiled, or have passed the fire ; as parsley,
clary, sage, parsnips, turnips, asparagus, artichokes,
though they also being young are eaten raw : but a
number of herbs are not esculent at all ; as worm-
wood, grass, green corn, centaury, hyssop, lavender,
balm, etc. The causes arc, for tliat the herbs tliat
are not esculent, do want the two tastes in which
nourishment resteth ; which are fat and sweet ; and
have, contrariwise, bitter and over-strong tastes, or
a juice so crude as cannot be ripened to the degree of
nourishment. Herbs and plants tliat are esculent raw,
have fatness, or sweetness, as all esculent fruits ; such


are onions, lettuce, etc. But then it must be such
a fatness, (for as for sweet things, they are in effect
always esculent,) as is not over-gross, and loading of
the stomach : for parsnips and leeks have fatness ; but
it is too gross and heavy without boiling. It must be
also in a substance somewhat tender ; for we see
wheat, barley, artichokes, are no good nourishment
till they have passed the fire ; but the fire doth ripen,
and maketh them soft and tender, and so they become
esculent. As for radish and tarragon, and the like,
they are for condiments, and not for nourishment.
And even some of those herbs which are not esculent,
are notwithstanding poculent ; as hops, broom, etc.
Query, what herbs are good for drink besides the two
aforenamed ; for that it may perhaps ease the charge
of brewing, if they make beer to require less malt, or
make it last longer.

631. Parts fit for the nourishment of man in plants
are, seeds, roots, and fruits ; but chiefly seeds and
roots. For leaves, they give no nomishment at all,
or very little : no more do flowers, or blossoms, or
stalks. The reason is, for that roots, and seeds, and
fniits, inasmuch as all plants consist of an oily and
watery substance commixed, have more of the oily
substance ; and leaves, flowers, etc. of the watery.
And secondly, they are more concocted ; for the root
which continueth ever in the earth, is still concocted
by the earth ; and fruits and grains we see are half a
year or more in concocting ; whereas leaves are out
and perfect in a month.

632. Plants, for the most part, are more strong
both in taste and smell in the seed, than in the leaf
and root. The cause is, for that in plants that are
not of a fierce and eager spirit, the virtue is increased
by concoction and maturation, which is ever most in
the seed ; but in plants that are of a fierce and eager
spirit, they are stronger whilst the spirit is inclosed in
the root ; and the spirits do but weaken and dissipate
when they come to the air and sun ; as we see it in
onions, garlick, dragon, etc. Nay, there be plants
that have their roots very hot and aromatical, and


their seeds rather insipid ; as ginger. The cause is, -
as was touched before, for that the heat of those
plants is very dissipable ; which under the earth is
contained and held in ; but when it cometh to the
air it exhaleth.

633. The juices of fruits are either watery or oily.
I reckon among the watery, all the fruits out of which
drink is expressed ; as the grape, the apple, the pear,
the cherry, the pomegranate, etc. And there are some
others which, though they be not in use for drink, yet
they appear to be of the same nature ; as plums, ser-
vices, mulberries, rasps, oranges, lemons, etc. and for
those juices that are so fleshy, as they cannot make
drink by expression, yet, perhaps, they may make
di'ink by mixture of water :

Poculaque admistis imitantur vitea sorbis.

And it may be hips and brier-berries would do the
like. Those that have oily juices, are olives, almonds,
nuts of all sorts, pine-apples, etc. and their juices are
all inflammable. And you must observe also, that
some of the watery juices, after they have gathered
spirit, will burn and inflame ; as wine. There is a
third kind of fruit that is sweet, without either sharp-
ness or oiliness : such as is the fig and the date.

634. It hath been noted, that most trees, and
specially those that bear mast, are fruitful but once
in two years. The cause, no doubt, is the expence
of sap ; for many orchard trees, well cultured, will
bear divers years together.

635. There is no tree, which besides the natural
fruit doth bear so many bastard fruits as the oak doth :
for besides the acorn, it beareth galls, oak apples, and
certain oak nuts, which are inflammable ; and certain
oak berries, sticking close to the body of the tree
without stalk. It beareth also misseltoe, though
rarely. The cause of all these may be the closeness
and solidness of the wood, and pith of the oak, which
makcth several juices find several cru2)tions. And
therefore if you will devise to make any super-plants,


you must ever give the sap plentiful rising and hard

636. There are two excrescences whicli grow upon
trees ; both of them in tlie nature of mushrooms : the
one the Romans call boletus ; which growcth upon
the roots of oaks ; and was one of the dainties of
their table ; the other is medicinal, that is called
agaric, whereof we have spoken before, which grow-
eth upon the to])s of oaks ; though it be affirmed by
some, that it groweth also at the roots. I do con-
ceive, that many excrescences of trees grow chiefly
where the tree is dead or faded ; for that the natural
sap of the tree corrupteth into some preternatural

637. The greater part of trees bear most and best
on the lower boughs ; as oaks, figs, walnuts, pears,
etc. but some bear best on the top boughs ; as crabs,
etc. Those that bear best below, are such as shade
doth more good to than hurt. For generally all
fruits bear best lowest ; because the sap tireth not,
having but a short way ; and therefore in fruits spread
upon walls, the lowest are the greatest, as was for-
merly said : so it is the shade that hindereth the
lower boughs ; except it be in such trees as delight
in shade, or at least bear it well. And therefore they
are cither strong trees, as the oak ; or else they have
large leaves, as the walnut and fig ; or else they grow
in pyramis, as the pear. But if they require very
much sun, they bear best on the top ; as it is in crabs,
apples, plums, etc.

638. There be trees that bear best when they be-
gin to be old ; as almonds, pears, vines, and all trees
that give mast. The cause is, for that all trees that
bear mast have an oily fruit ; and young trees have
a more watery juice, and less concocted ; and of the
same kind also is the almond. The pear likewise,
though it be not oily, yet it requireth much sap, and
well concocted ; for we see it is a heavy fruit and
solid ; much more than apples, plums, etc. As for
the vine, it is noted, that it beareth more grapes when


it is young ; but grapes that make better wine when
it is old ; for that the juice is better concocted : and
we see that wine is inflammable ; so as it hath a kind
of oiliness. But the most part of trees, amongst
which are apples, plums, etc. bear best when they
are young.

639. There be plants that have a milk in them
when they are cut ; as figs, old lettuce, sow-thistles,
spurge, etc. The cause may be an inception of putre-
faction : for those milks have all an acrimony : though
one would think they should be lenitive. For if you
write upon a paper with the milk of a fig, the letters
will not be seen, until you hold the paper before the
fire, and then they wax bro^vn : which sheweth that
it is a sharp or fretting juice: lettuce is thought poison-
ous, when it is so old as to have milk ; spurge is a
kind of poison in itself; and as for sow-thistles, though
coneys eat them, yet sheep and cattle will not touch
them : and besides, the milk of them rubbed upon
warts, in short time weareth them away; which shew-
eth the milk of them to be corrosive. We see also that
wheat and other corn, sown, if you take them forth
of the ground before they sprout, are full of milk ;
and the beginning of germination is ever a kind of
putrefaction of the seed. Euphorbium also hath a
milk, though not very white, which is of a great acri-
mony : and saladine hath a yellow milk, which hath
likewise much acrimony ; for it cleanseth the eyes. It
is good also for cataracts.

640. Mushrooms are reported to grow, as well upon
the bodies of trees, as upon their roots, or upon the
earth ; and especially upon the oak. The cause is,
for that strong trees are towards such excrescences in
the nature of earth ; and therefore put forth moss,
mushrooms, and the like.

641. There is hardly found a plant that yioldeth
a red juice in the blade or ear ; except it be the tree
that beareth sa?iguis dracovis ; which growetli chiefly
in the island Socotra : the herb aniaran thus indeed is
red all over ; and brazil is red in the wood : and so
is red sandcrs. Tlie tree of the sanguis draconis


groweth in the form of a sugar-loaf. It is like the
sap of that plant concocteth in tlie body of the tree.
For we see that grapes and pomegranates are red in
the juice, but are green in the tear : and this maketh
the tree of saiiguis dracoms lesser towards the top ;
because the juice hasteneth not up ; and besides, it
is very astringent ; and therefore of slow motion.

642. It is reported, that sweet moss, besides that
upon the apple trees, groweth likewise sometimes
upon po])lars ; and yet generally the poplar is a smooth
tree of bark^ and hath little moss. The moss of the
larix-trec burnetii also sweet, and sparkleth in the
burning. Query of the mosses of odorate trees ; as
cedar, cypress, lignum alots, etc.

643. The death that is most without pain, hath
been noted to be upon the taking of the potion of
hemlock ; which in humanity was the form of exe-
cution of capital offenders in Athens. The poison of
the asp, that Cleopatra used, hath some affinity with
it. The cause is, for that the torments of death are
chiefly raised by the strife of the spirits ; and these
vapours quench the spirits by degrees ; like to the
death of an extreme old man. I conceive it is less
painful than opium, because opium hath parts of heat

644. There be fruits that arc sweet before they be
ripe, as myrobalanes : so fennel seeds are sweet before
they ripen, and after grow spicy. And some never
ripen to be sweet ; as tamarinds, barberries, crabs,
sloes, etc. The cause is, for that the former kind
have much and subtle heat, which causeth early sweet-
ness ; the latter have a cold and acid juice, which no
heat of the sun can" sweeten. But as for the myro-
balane, it hath parts of contrary natures ; for it is
sweet and yet astringent.

645. There be fcv/ herbs that have a salt taste ;
and contrariwise all blood of living creatures hath a
saltness. The cause may be, for that salt, though it
be the rudiment of life, yet in plants the original taste
remaineth not ; for you shall have them bitter, sour,
sweet, biting, but seldom salt ; but in living creatures.


all those high tastes may happen to be sometimes in
the humours, but are seldom in the flesh or substance,
because it is of a more oily nature ; which is not very
susceptible of those tastes ; and the saltness itself of
blood is but a light and secret saltness : and even
among plants, some do participate of saltness, as alga
marina, samphire, scurvy grass, etc. And they report,
there is in some of the Indian seas a swimming plant,
which they call salgazus, spreading over the sea in
such sort, as one would think it were a meadow,
is certain, that out of the ashes of all plants they ex-
tract a salt which they use in medicines.

646. It is reported by one of the ancients, that
there is an herb growing in the water, called lincostis,
which is full of prickles : this herb putteth forth an-
other small herb out of the leaf; which is imputed to
some moisture that is gathered between the prickles,
which putrified by the sun germinateth. But 1 re-
member also I have seen, for a great rarity, one rose
grow out of another like honeysuckles, that they call
top and top-gallants.

647. Barley, as appeareth in the malting, being
steeped in water three days, and afterwards the water
drained from it, and the barley turned upon a dry
floor, will sprout half an inch long at least : and if it
be let alone, and not turned, much more ; until the
heart be out. Wheat will do the same. Try it also
with peas and beans. This experiment is not like
that of the orpine and semper-vive : for there it is of
the old store, for no water is added : but here it is
nourished from the water. The experiment would
be farther driven : for it appeareth already, by that
which hath been said, that earth is not necessary to
the first sprouting of plants ; and we see that rose-
buds set in water will blow : therefore try whether
the sprouts of such grains may not be raised to
a farther degree, as to an herb, or flower, with water
only, or some small commixture of earth : for if they
will, it should seem by the experiments before, both
of the malt and of the roses, that they will come far
faster on in water than in earth ; for the nourishment


is casilier drawn out of water than out of earth. It
may give some light also, that (h-ink infused with
flesh, as that with the capon, etc. will nourish faster
and easilier than meat and drink together. Try the
same experiment with roots as well as with grains ; as
for example, take a turnip, and steep it a while, and
then dry it, and see whether it will sprout.

648. JMalt in the drenching will swell ; and that
in such a manner, as after the putting forth in sprouts,
and the drying U])on the kiln, there will be gained at
least a bushel in eight, and yet the sprouts are rubbed
off; and there will be a bushel of dust besides the
malt ; which I suppose to be, not only by the loose
and open lying of the parts, but by some addition of
substance drawn from the water in which it was

649. ]\f alt gathereth a sweetness to the taste, which
appearcth yet more in the wort. The dulcoration of
things is worthy to be tried to the full ; for that dul-
coration importeth a degree to nourishment : and the
making of things inalimental to become alimental,
may be an experiment of great profit for making new

650. ]\Iost seeds in tlie gromng, leave their husk or
rind about the root ; but the onion will carry it up, that
it will be like a cap upon the top of the young onion.
The cause may be, for that the skin or husk is not
easy to break ; as we see by the pilling of onions, what
a holding substance the skin is.

651. Plants, that have curled leaves, do all abound
with moisture ; which comcth so fast on, as they can-
not spread themselves plain, but must needs gather
together. The weakest kind of curling is roughness ;
as in clary and burr. The second is curling on 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 46 of 52)