Page images


On Swimming and Floating. That men swim naturally, if not disturbed by fear; that men being drowned and sunk do float the ninth day, when their gall breaketh; that women drowned swim prone, but men supine, or upon their backs, are popular affirmations whereto we cannot assent. And first that man should swim naturally, because we observe it is no lesson unto other animals, we are not forward to conclude ; for other animals swim in the same manner as they go, and need no other way of motion for natation in the water, than for progression upon the land. And this is true, whether they move per latera, that is, two legs of one side together, which is tolutation or ambling, or per diametrum, lifting one foot before, the cross foot behind, which is succussation or trotting; or whether, per frontem, or quadratum, as Scaliger terms it, upon a square base, the legs of both sides moving together, as frogs and salient animals, which is properly called leaping. For by these notions they are able to support and impel themselves in the water, without alteration in the stroke of their legs, or position of their bodies.

But with man it is performed otherwise : for in regard of site he alters his natural posture and swimmeth prone, whereas he walketh erect. Again, in progression, the arms move parallel to the legs, and the arms and legs unto each other; but in natation they intersect and make all sorts of angles.

also to its progress through the aorta and its ramifications.” The editor goes on to observe, that the prevalence of the arterial system in the left side of the body renders this opinion quite plausible: and the painful sensations we experience, when we agitate greatly the left arm, or attempt to run while carrying a weight in the left hand, proves in a certain manner the truth of Signor Z.'s assertion.

Dr. A. Clarke, on Gen. xlviii. 18, remarks, that “the right hand of God,” in the heavens, expresses the place of the most exalted dignity. But among the Turks, and in the north of China, the left hand is most honourable.

3 he alters, &c.] “ This is no reason,” says Ross ; “for man alters his natural posture when he crawls ; will it follow, therefore, that this motion is not natural to man ?"--See Arcana, p. 155.

And lastly, in progressive motion, the arms and legs do move successively, but in natation both together; all which aptly to perform, and so as to support and advance the body, is a point of art, and such as some in their young and docile years could never attain. But although swimming be acquired by art, yet is there somewhat more of nature in it than we observe in other habits, nor will it strictly fall under that definition; for once obtained, it is not to be removed; nor is there any who from disuse did ever yet forget it.

Secondly, that persons drowned arise and float the ninth day, when their gall breaketh, is a questionable determination both in the time and cause. For the time of floating, it is uncertain, according to the time of putrefaction, which shall retard or accelerate according to the subject and season of the year; for as we observed, cats and mice will arise unequally, and at different times, though drowned at the same. Such as are fat do commonly float soonest, for their bodies soonest ferment, and that substance approacheth nearest unto air : and this is one of Aristotle's reasons why dead eels will not float, because saith he, they have but slender bellies and little fat.

As for the cause, it is not so reasonably imputed unto the breaking of the gall as the putrefaction or corruptive fermentation of the body, whereby the unnatural heat prevailing, the putrefying parts do suffer a turgescence and inflation and becoming aery and spumous affect to approach the air, and ascend unto the surface of the water; and this is also evidenced in eggs, whereof the sound ones sink, and such as are addled swim, as do also those which are termed hypenemia or wind eggs, and this is also a way to separate seeds, whereof such as are corrupted and sterile swim, and this agreeth not only unto the seeds of plants locked up and capsulated in their husks, but also unto the sperm and seminal humour of man, for such a passage hath Aristotle upon the inquisition and test of its fertility.

That the breaking of the gall is not the cause hereof, experience hath informed us. For opening the abdomen, and taking out the gall in cats and mice, they did notwithstanding arise. And because we had read in Rhodiginus of a tyrant, who to prevent the emergency of murdered bodies, did use to cut off their lungs, and found men's minds possessed


with this reason, we committed some unto the water without lungs, which notwithstanding floated with the others; and to complete the experiment, although we took out the guts and bladder, and also perforated the cranium, yet would they arise, though in a longer time. From these observations in other animals, it may not be unreasonable to conclude the same in man, who is too noble a subject on whom to make them expressly, and the casual opportunity too rare almost to make any. Now if any shall ground this effect from gall or choler, because it is the highest humour, and will be above the rest, or being the fiery humour, will readiest surmount the water, we must confess in the common putrescence it may promote elevation, which the breaking of the bladder of gali

, so small a part in man, cannot considerably advantage. Lastly, that women drowned float prone, that is, with their bellies downward, but men supine or upward, is an assertion wherein the orl or point itself is dubious, and, were it true, the reason alleged for it is of no validity. The reason yet current was first expressed by Pliny, veluti pudori defunctorum parcente natura, nature modestly ordaining this position to conceal the shame of the dead, which hath been taken up by Solinus, Rhodiginus, and many more. This indeed (as Scaliger termeth it) is ratio civilis non philosophica, strong enough for morality or rhetoricks, not for philosophy or physicks. For first, in nature the concealment of secret parts is the same in both sexes, and the shame of their reveal equal: so Adam upon the taste of the fruit was ashamed of his nakedness as well as Eve. And so likewise in America and countries unacquainted with habits, where modesty conceals these parts in one sex, it doth it also in the other, and therefore had this been the intention of nature, not only women but men also had swimmed downwards; the posture in reason being common unto both, where the intent is also


Again, while herein we commend the modesty, we condemn the wisdom of nature: for that prone position we make her contrive unto the women, were best agreeable unto the man, in whom the secret parts are very anterior and more discoverable in a supine and upward posture; and therefore Scaliger declining this reason, hath recurred unto another from the difference of parts in both sexes ; Quod ventre vasto


[ocr errors]

sunt mulieres plenoque intestinis, itaque minus impletur et subsidet, inanior maribus quibus nates præponderant ; if so, then men with great bellies will float downward, and only Callipyga, and women largely composed behind, upward. But anatomists observe, that to make the larger cavity for the infant, the haunch-bones in women, and consequently the parts appendent, are more protuberant than they are in men. They who ascribe the cause unto the breasts of


take not away the doubt, for they resolve not why children float downward, who are included in that sex, though not in the reason alleged. But hereof we cease to discourse, lest we undertake to afford a reason of the golden tooth,* that is, to invent or assign a cause, when we remain unsatisfied or unassured of the effect.

That a mare will sooner drown than a horse, though commonly opinioned, is not I fear experienced; nor is the same observed in the drowning of whelps and kitlings. But that a man cannot shut or open his eyes under water, easy experiment may convict. Whether cripples and mutilated persons, who have lost the greatest part of their thighs, will not sink but float, their lungs being abler to waft up their bodies, which are in others overpoised by the hinder legs; we have not made experiment. Thus much we observe, that animals drown downwards, and the same is observable in frogs, when the hinder legs are cut off; but in the air most seem to perish headlong from high places : however Vulcan thrown from heaven be made to fall on his feet.4

[ocr errors]


That Men weigh heavier dead than alive, and before meat than after.

That men weigh heavier dead than alive, if experiment hath not failed us, we cannot reasonably grant. For though the trial hereof cannot so well be made on the body of man, nor will the difference be sensible in the debate of scruples or drachms, yet can we not confirm the same in lesser animals, from whence the inference is good, and the affirmative of Pliny saith, that it is true in all. For exactly weighing and strangling a chicken in the scales, upon an immediate ponderation, we could discover no sensible difference in weight, but suffering it to lie eight or ten hours, until it grew perfectly cold, it weighed most sensibly lighter; the like we attempted and verified in mice, and performed their trials in scales that would turn upon the eighth or tenth part of a grain.

* Of the cause whereof much dispute was made, and at last proved an imposture

* That a mare, &c.] This paragraph added in 2nd edition.

5 That men weigh heavier, &c.] What shall be said of the man who can use such an argument as the following: - “Why doth a man fall down in his sleep, who stood upright when he was awake, if he be

Now whereas some allege that spirits are lighter substances, and naturally ascending, do elevate and waft the body upward, whereof dead bodies being destitute contract a greater gravity; although we concede that spirits are light, comparatively unto the body, yet that they are absolutely so, or have no weight at all, we cannot readily allow. For since philosophy affirmeth that spirits are middle substances between the soul and body, they must admit of some corporeity, which supposeth weight or gravity. Beside in carcasses warm, and bodies newly disanimated, while transpiration remaineth, there do exhale and breathe out vaporous and fluid parts, which carry away some power of gravitation. Which though we allow we do not make answerable unto living expiration, and therefore the chicken or mice were not

not heavier than he was ?" —Ross, Arcana, p. 100. Truly we may say, “Every man is not proper champion for truth, nor fit to take up the gauntlet in the cause of verity !"---Rel. Med.


9. The result of modern investigation seems to confirm the opinion so preposterously advocated by Ross ; at least it shows that the specific gravity of the human body is in reality greater after death than it was while living. Dalton, in an interesting paper on the Effects of Atmospheric Pressure on the Animal Frame, published in the 10th vol. of the Manchester Memoirs, thus sums up: Upon the whole I am inclined to believe the true explanation of the difficulty will be found in this, that the whole substance of the body is pervious to air, and that a considerable portion of it constantly exists in the body during life subject to increase and diminution according to the pressure of the atmosphere, in the same manner as it exists in water, and further, that when life is extinct, this air in some degree escapes, and renders the parts specifically heavier than when the vital functions were in a state of activity.”


« PreviousContinue »