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Sir Francis Bacon

Essay 58

Of Vicissitude of Things.
1 SALOMON saith; There is no New Thing vpon the Earth. So that as Plato had an Imagination; That all Knowledge was but Remembrance: So Salomon giueth his Sentence; That all Noueltie is but Obliuion. Whereby you may see, that the Riuer of Lethe, runneth as well aboue Ground, as below. There is an abstruse Astrologer that saith; If it were not, for two things, that are Constant; ( The one is, that the Fixed Starres euer stand at like distance, one from another, and neuer come nearer together, nor goe further asunder; The other, that the Diurnall Motion perpetually keepeth Time: ) No Indiuiduall would last one Moment. Certain it is, that the Matter, is in a Perpetuall Flux, and neuer at a Stay. The great Winding-sheets, that burie all Things in Obliuion, are two; Deluges, and Earth-quakes. As for Confragrations, and great Droughts, they doe not meerely dispeople, and destroy. Phaetons Carre went but a day. And the Three yeares Drought, in the time of Elias, was but Particular, and left People Aliue. As for the great Burnings by Lightnings, which are often in the West Indies, they are but narrow. But in the other two Destructions, by Deluge, and Earth-quake, it is further to be noted, that the Remnant of People, which hap to be reserued, are commonly Ignorant and Mountanous People, that can giue no Account, of the Time past: So that the Obliuion is all one, as if none had beene left. If you consider well, of the People of the West Indies, it is very probable, that they are a Newer, or a Younger People, then the People of the Old World. And it is much more likely, that the Destruction, that hath heretofore been there, was not by Earth-quakes, (As the AEgyptian Priest told Solon, concerning the Island of Atlantis; That it was swallowed by an Earth-quake; ) But rather, that it was desolated, by a Particular Deluge. For Earth-quakes are seldome in those Parts. But on the other side, they haue such Powring Riuers, as the Riuers of Asia, and Affrick, and Europe, are but Brookes to them. Their Andes likewise, or Mountaines, are farre higher, then those with vs; Whereby it seemes, that the Remnants of Generation of Men, were, in such a Particular Deluge, saued. As for the Obseruation, that Macciauel hath, that the Iealousie of Sects, doth much extinguish the Memory of Things; Traducing Gregory the Great, that he did, what in him lay, to extinguish all Heathen Antiquities; I doe not finde, that those Zeales, doe any great Effects, nor last long: As it appeared in the Succession of Sabinian, who did reuiue the former Antiquities.
2 The Vicissitude or Mutations, in the Superiour Globe, are no fit Matter, for this present Argument. It may be, Plato's great Yeare, if the World should last so long, would haue some Effect; Not in renewing the State of like Indiuiduals ( for that is the Fume of those, that conceiue the Celestiall Bodies, haue more accurate Influences, vpon these Things below, then indeed they haue ) but in grosse. Comets, out of question, haue likewise Power and Effect, ouer the Grosse and Masse of Things: But they are rather gazed vpon, and waited vpon in their Iourney, then wisely obserued in their Effects; Specially in their Respectiue Effects; That is, what Kinde of Comet, for Magnitude, Colour, Version of the Beames, Placing in the Region of Heauen, or Lasting, produceth what Kinde of Effects.   
3 There is a Toy, which I haue heard, and I would not haue it giuen ouer, but waited vpon a little. They say, it is obserued, in the Low Countries ( I know not in what Part ) that Euery Fiue and Thirtie years, The same Kinde and Sute of Years and Weathers, comes about againe: As Great Frosts, Great Wet, Great Droughts, Warme Winters, Summers with little Heat, and the like: And they call it the Prime. It is a Thing, I doe the rather mention, because computing backwards, I haue found some Concurrence.
4 But to leaue these Points of Nature, and to come to Men. The greatest Vicissitude of Things amongst Men, is the Vicissitude of Sects, and Religions. For those Orbs rule in Mens Minds most. The True Religion is built vpon the Rocke; The Rest are tost vpon the Waues of Time. To speake therefore, of the Causes of New Sects; And to giue some Counsell concerning them; As farre, as the Weaknesse of Humane Iudgement, can giue stay to so great Reuolutions.
5 When the Religion formerly receiued, is rent by Discords; And when the Holinesse of the Professours of Religion is decayed, and full of Scandall; And withall the Times be Stupid, Ignorant, and Barbarous; you may doubt the Springing vp of a New Sect; If then also there should arise, any Extrauagant and Strange Spirit, to make himselfe Authour thereof. All which Points held, when Mahomet published his Law. If a New Sect haue not two Properties, feare it not: For it will not spread. The one is, the Supplanting, or the opposing, of Authority established: For Nothing is more Popular then that. The other is, the Giuing Licence to Pleasures, and a Voluptuous Life. For as for Speculatiue Heresies (such as were in Ancient Times the Arrians, and now the Arminians) though they worke mightily vpon Mens Wits, yet they doe not produce any great Alterations in States; except it be by the Helpe of Ciuill Occasions. There be three Manner of Plantations of New Sects. By the Power of Signes and Miracles: By the Eloquence and Wisedome of Speech and Perswasion: And by the Sword. For Martyrdomes, I reckon them amongst Miracles; Because they seeme to exceed, the Strength of Human Nature: And I may doe the like of Superlatiue and Admirable Holinesse of Life. Surely, there is no better Way, to stop the Rising of New Sects, and Schismes; then To reforme Abuses; To compound the smaller Differences; To proceed mildly, and not with Sanguinary Persecutions; And rather to take off the principall Authours, by Winning and Aduancing them, then to enrage them by Violence and Bitternesse.
6 The Changes and Vicissitude in Warres are many: But chiefly in three Things; In the Seats or Stages of the Warre; In the Weapons; And in the Manner of the Conduct. Warres in ancient Time, seemed more to moue from East to West: For the Persians, Assyrians, Arabians, Tartars, ( which were the Inuaders ) were all Easterne People. It is true, the Gaules were Westerne; But we reade but of two Incursions of theirs; The one to Gallo-Grecia, the other to Rome. But East and West haue no certaine Points of Heauen: And no more haue the Warres, either from the East, or West, any Certainty of Obseruation. But North and South are fixed: And it hath seldome or neuer been seene, that the farre Southern People haue inuaded the Northern, but contrariwise. Whereby it is manifest, that the Northern Tract of the World, is in Nature the more Martiall Region: Be it, in respect of the Stars of that Hemisphere; Or of the great Continents that are vpon the North, whereas the South Part, for ought that is knowne, is almost all Sea; Or ( which is most apparent) of the Cold of the Northern Parts, which is that, which without Aid of Discipline, doth make the Bodies hardest, and the Courages warmest.
7 Vpon the Breaking and Shiuering of a great State and Empire, you may be sure to haue Warres. For great Empires, while they stand, doe eneruate and destroy the Forces of the Natiues, which they haue subdued, resting vpon their owne Protecting Forces: And then when they faile also, all goes to ruine, and they become a Prey. So was it, in the Decay of the Roman Empire; And likewise, in the Empire of Almaigne, after Charles the Great, euery Bird taking a Fether; And were not vnlike to befall to Spaine, if it should break. The great Accessions and Vnions of Kingdomes, doe likewise stirre vp Warres. For when a State growes to an Ouer-power, it is like a great Floud, that will be sure to ouerflow. As it hath been seene, in the States of Rome, Turky, Spaine, and others. Looke when the World hath fewest Barbarous Peoples, but such as commonly will not marry or generate, except they know meanes to liue; ( As it is almost euery where at this day, except Tartary) there is no Danger of Inundations of People: But when there be great Shoales of People, which goe on to populate, without foreseeing Meanes of Life and Sustentation, it is of Necessity, that once in an Age or two, they discharge a Portion of their People vpon other Nations: Which the ancient Northern People, were wont to doe by Lot: Casting Lots, what Part should stay at home, and what should seeke their Fortunes. When a Warre-like State growes Soft and Effeminate, they may be sure of a Warre. For commonly such States are growne rich, in the time of their Degenerating; And so the Prey inuiteth, and their Decay in Valour encourageth a Warre.
8 As for the Weapons, it hardly falleth vnder Rule and Obseration: yet we see, euen they haue Returnes and Vicissitudes. For certain it is, that Ordnance was known in the Citty of the Oxidrakes in India; And was that, which the Macedonians called Thunder and Lightning, and Magicke. And it is well knowne, that the vse of Ordnance hath been in China, aboue 2000. yeares. The Conditions of Weapons, & their Improuement are; First, The Fetching a farre off: For that outruns the Danger: As it is seene in Ordnance and Muskets. Secondly, the Strength of the Percussion; wherin likewise Ordnance doe exceed all Arietations, and ancient Inuentions. The third is, the commodious vse of them: As that they may serue in all Wethers; That the Carriage may be Light and Manageable; and the like.
9 For the Conduct of the Warre: At the first, Men rested extremely vpon Number: They did put the Warres likewise vpon Maine Force, and Valour; Pointing Dayes for Pitched Fields, and so trying it out, vpon an euen Match: And they were more ignorant in Ranging and Arraying their Battailes. After they grew to rest vpon Number, rather Competent, then Vast: They grew to Aduantages, of Place, Cunning Diuersions, and the like: And they grew more skilful in the Ordering of their Battailes.
10 In the Youth of a State, Armes doe flourish: In the Middle Age of a State, Learning; And then both of them together for a time: In the Declining Age of a State, Mechanicall Arts and Merchandize. Learning hath his Infancy, when it is but beginning, and almost Childish: Then his Youth, when it is Luxuriant and Iuuenile: Then his Strength of yeares, when it is Solide and Reduced: And lastly, his old Age, when it waxeth Dry and Exhaust. But it is not good, to looke too long, vpon these turning Wheeles of Vicissitude, lest we become Giddy. As for the Philology of them, that is but a Circle of Tales, and therefore not fit for this Writing.

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