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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 35

Of Prophecies.
1 I Meane not to speake of Diuine Prophecies; Nor of Heathen Oracles; Nor of Naturall Predictions; But only of Prophecies, that haue beene of certaine Memory, and from Hidden Causes. Saith the Pythonissa to Saul; To Morrow thou and thy sonne shall be with me. Homer hath these Verses. At Domus AEneæ cunctis dominabitur Oris, Et Nati Natorum, & qui nascentur ab illis: A Prophecie, as it seemes, of the Roman Empire. Seneca the Tragedian hath these Verses. --- Venient Annis Secula seris, quibus Oceanus Vincula Rerum laxet, & ingens Pateat Tellus, Typhisque nouos Detegat Orbes; nec sit Terris Vltima Thule: A Prophecie of the Discouery of America. The Daughter of Polycrates dreamed, that Iupiter bathed her Father, and Apollo annointed him: And it came to passe, that he was crucified in an Open Place, where the Sunne made his Bodie runne with Sweat, and the Raine washed it. Philip of Macedon dreamed, He sealed vp his Wiues Belly: Whereby he did expound it, that his Wife should be barren: But Aristander the Soothsayer, told him, his Wife was with Childe, because Men doe not vse to Seale Vessells that are emptie. A Phantasme, that appeared to M. Brutus in his Tent, said to him; Philippis iterùm me videbis. Tiberius said to Galba. Tu quoque Galba degustabis Imperium. In Vespasians Time, there went a Prophecie in the East; That those that should come forth of Iudea, should reigne ouer the World: which though it may be was meant of our Sauiour, yet Tacitus expounds it of Vespasian. Domitian dreamed, the Night before he was slaine, that a Golden Head was growing out of the Nape of his Necke: And indeed, the Succession that followed him, for many yeares, made Golden Times. Henry the Sixt of England, said of Henry the Seuenth, when he was a Lad, and gaue him Water; This is the Lad, that shall enioy the Crowne, for which we striue. When I was in France, I heard from one D+r+. Pena, that the Q. Mother, who was giuen to Curious Arts, caused the King her Husbands Natiuitie, to be Calculated, vnder a false Name; And the Astrologer gaue a Iudgement, that he should be killed in a Duell; At which the Queene laughed, thinking her Husband, to be aboue Challenges and Duels: but he was slaine, vpon a Course at Tilt, the Splinters of the Staffe of Mongomery, going in at his Beuer. The triuiall Prophecie, which I heard, when I was a Childe, and Queene Elizabeth was in the Flower of her Yeares, was; When Hempe is sponne; England's done. Whereby, it was generally conceiued, that after the Princes had Reigned, which had the Principiall Letters, of that Word Hempe, (which were Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth) England should come to vtter Confusion: Which, thankes be to God, is verified only, in the Change of the Name: For that the Kings Stile, is now no more of England, but of Britaine. There was also another Prophecie, before the yeare of 88. which I doe not well vnderstand. There shall be seene vpon a day, Betweene the Baugh, and the May,    The Blacke Fleet of Norway. When that that is come and gone, England build Houses of Lime and Stone For after Warres shall you haue None. It was generally conceiued, to be meant of the Spanish Fleet, that came in 88. For that the King of Spaines Surname, as they say, is Norway. The Prediction of Regiomontanus; Octogessimus octauus mirabilis Annus; Was thought likewise accomplished, in the Sending of that great Fleet, being the greatest in Strength, though not in Number, of all that euer swamme vpon the Sea. As for Cleons Dreame, I thinke it was a Iest. It was, that he was deuoured of a long Dragon; And it was expounded of a Maker of Sausages, that troubled him exceedingly. There are Numbers of the like kinde; Especially if you include Dreames, and Predictions of Astrologie. But I haue set downe these few onely of certaine Credit, for Example. My Iudgement is, that they ought all to be Despised; And ought to serue, but for Winter Talke, by the Fire side. Though when I say Despised, I meane it as for Beleefe: For otherwise, the Spreading or Publishing of them, is in no sort to be Despised. For they haue done much Mischiefe: And I see many seuere Lawes made to suppresse them. That, that hath giuen them Grace, and some Credit, consisteth in three Things. First, that Men marke, when they hit, and neuer marke, when they misse: As they doe, generally, also of Dreames. The second is, that Probable Coniectures, or obscure Traditions, many times, turne themselues into Prophecies: While the Nature of Man, which coueteth Diuination, thinkes it no Perill to foretell that, which indeed they doe but collect. As that of Seneca's Verse. For so much was then subiect to Demonstration, that the Globe of the Earth, had great Parts beyond the Atlanticke; which mought be Probably conceiued, not to be all Sea: And adding thereto, the Tradition in Plato's Timeus, and his Atlanticus, it mought encourage One, to turne it to a Prediction. The third, and Last (which is the Great one) is, that almost all of them, being infinite in Number, haue beene Impostures, and by idle and craftie Braines, meerely contriued and faigned, after the Euent Past.

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