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For affirming it happeneth before the Nones, he alloweth but one day, that is the Calends; for in the Roman account, the second day is the fourth of the Nones of June.9
Again, were the day definitive, it had prevented the delusion of the devil, nor could he have gained applause by its prediction; who, notwithstanding (as Athanasius in the life of Anthony relateth), to magnify his knowledge in things to come, when he perceived the rains to fall in Ethiopia, would presage unto the Egyptians the day of its inundation. And this would also make useless that natural experiment observed in earth or sand about the river; by the weight whereof (as good authors report) they have, unto this day, a knowledge of its increase.1
Lastly, it is not reasonable from variable and unstable causes to derive a fixed and constant effect, and such are the causes of this inundation, which cannot indeed be regular, and therefore their effects not prognosticable, like eclipses. For, depending upon the clouds and descent of showers in Ethiopia, which have their generation from vaporous exhalations, they must submit their existence unto contingencies, and endure anticipation and recession from the moveable condition of their causes. And therefore some years there hath been no increase at all, as some conceive in the years of famine under Pharaoh ; as Seneca and divers relate of the eleventh year of Cleopatra; nor nine years together, as is testified by Calisthenes. Some years it hath also retarded, and come far later than usually it was expected, as according
9 June.] Reckoning the nones as they doe the calends a retro.— Wr. 1 increase.] They have now a more certain way, for all the ancients agree that Nilus begins to flow about the beginning of July (the sonn going out of Cancer into Leo), and about the end of September returnes within his bankes againe. From the first rise to his wonted level are commonly 100 days: the just hight is 16 cubits. In 12 cubits they are sure of a famine, in 13 of scarcitye and dearthe, 14 cubits makes them merye, 15, secure, and 16, triumphe, beyonde this (which is rare) they looke sad agen, not for feare of want, but lest the slow fall of the waters should defer the seed-time to longe; which usually begins in 9ber, and the harvest is in Maye. But of this you may read at large in Plinye's Natural Historye, lib. v. cap. 9, and lib. xviii. cap. 18. But most excellently in Seneca's iv. lib. of natural quæstions, which is worthe the reading. Itt seems that in the 7 yeares of famine wherof Joseph (instructed by God) prophesyed, there had noe rain faln in Æthiopia, and that therefore Nilus had not overflowed.-- Wr.
to Sozomen and Nicephorus it happened in the days of Theodosius; whereat the people were ready to mutiny, because they might not sacrifice unto the river, according to the custom of their predecessors.
Now this is also an usual way of mistake, and many are deceived who too strictly construe the temporal considerations of things. The oks will tell us, and we are made to believe, that the fourteenth year males are seminifical and pubescent; but he that shall enquire into the generality, will rather adhere unto the cautelous assertion of Aristotle, that is, bis septem annis exactis, and then but magna ex parte. That whelps are blind nine days, and then begin to see, is generally believed; but as we have elsewhere declared, it is exceeding rare, nor do their eyelids usually open until the twelfth, and sometimes not before the fourteenth day. And to speak strictly, an hazardable determination it is, unto fluctuating and indifferent effects to affix a positive type or period. For in effects of far more regular causalities, difficulties do often arise, and even in time itself, which measureth all things, we use allowance in its commensuration. Thus while we conceive we have the account of a year in 365 days, exact enquirers and computists will tell us, that we escape six hours,2 that is, a quarter of a day. And so in a day, which every one accounts twenty-four hours, or one revolution of the sun; in strict account we must allow the addition of such a part as the sun doth make in his proper motion, from west to east, whereby in one day he describeth not a perfect circle.
Fourthly, it is affirmed by many, and received by most, that it never raineth in Egypt, the river supplying that defect, and bountifully requiting it in its inundation: but this must also be received in a qualified sense, that is, that it rains but seldom at any time in the summer, and very rarely in the winter. But that great showers do sometimes fall
2 escape six hours.] Lege overreckon every common yeare 10′ 44′′ according to Alphonsus, and every 4th yeare, 42′ 56′′. But Tycho by long and exact observation sayes the retrocession made by this overreckoninge is now but 41', precisely so that in 300 yeares to come the retrocession of the æquinoxes in the Julian kalendar (for in heaven they are fixed) cannot bee above one day: soe that the kalendar reformed would remaine to all times.-Wr.
upon that region, beside the assertion of many writers, we can confirm from honourable and ocular testimony,* and that not many years past it rained in Grand Cairo divers days together.
The same is also attested concerning other parts of Egypt, by Prosper Alpinus, who lived long in that country, and hath left an accurate treatise of the medical practice thereof. Cayri rarò decidunt pluvia; Alexandria, Pelusiique et in omnibus locis mari adjacentibus, pluit largissime et sæpe; that is, it raineth seldom at Cairo, but at Alexandria, Damietta, and places near the sea, it raineth plentifully and often. Whereto we might add the latter testimony of learned Mr. Greaves, in his accurate description of the Pyramids.4
Beside, men hereby forget the relation of Holy Scripture. "Behold I will cause it to rain a very great hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof, even until now." Wherein God threatening such a rain as had not happened, it must be presumed they had been acquainted with some before, and were not ignorant of the substance, the menace being made in the circumstance. The same concerning hail is inferrible from Prosper Alpinus, Rarissimè nix, grando, it seldom snoweth or haileth: whereby we must concede that snow and hail do sometimes fall, because they happen seldom,6
Now this mistake ariseth from a misapplication of the bounds or limits of time, and an undue transition from one unto another; which to avoid, we must observe the punctual differences of time, and so distinguish thereof, as not to confound or lose the one in the other. For things may come to pass, semper, plerumque, sæpe; aut nunquam, aliquando, raro; that is, always, or never, for the most part, or sometimes, oft-times, or seldom. Now the deception is usual which is made by the mis-application of these; men pre
* Sir William Paston, Baronet.
† Exod. ix.
4 The same is also, &c.] First added in 2nd edition.
5 rain-hail.] Haile is raine as itt fals first out of the clowde, but freeses as itt fals, and turnes into haile-stones, yf the lower ayre bee colder then that from whence it fals.- Wr.
• The same concerning hail, &c.] First added in 2nd edition.
sently concluding that to happen often, which happeneth but sometimes: that never, which happeneth but seldom; and that always, which happeneth for the most part. So is it said, the sun shines every day in Rhodes, because for the most part it faileth not. So we say and believe that a chameleon never eateth, but liveth only upon air; whereas indeed it is seen to eat very seldom, but many there are who have beheld it to feed on flies. And so it is said, that children born in the eighth month live not, that is, for the most part, but not to be concluded always: nor it seems in former ages in all places, for it is otherwise recorded by Aristotle concerning the births of Egypt.
Lastly, it is commonly conceived that divers princes have attempted to cut the isthmus or tract of land which parteth the Arabian and Mediterranean seas. But upon enquiry I find some difficulty concerning the place attempted; many with good authority affirming, that the intent was not immediately to unite these seas, but to make a navigable channel between the Red Sea and the Nile, the marks whereof are extant to this day. It was first attempted by Sesostris, after by Darius, and in a fear to drown the country, deserted by them both, but was long after re-attempted and in some manner effected by Philadelphus. And so the Grand Signior, who is lord of the country, conveyeth his galleys into the Red Sea by the Nile; for he bringeth them down to Grand Cairo, where they are taken in pieces, carried upon camels' backs, and rejoined together at Suez, his port and naval station for the sea; whereby in effect he acts the design of Cleopatra, who after the battle of Actium in a different way would have conveyed her galleys into the Red Sea.
And therefore that proverb to cut an isthmus, that is, to take great pains, and effect nothing, alludeth not unto this attempt, but is by Erasmus applied unto several other; as that undertaking of the Cnidians to cut their isthmus, but especially that of Corinth so unsuccessfully attempted by many emperors. The Cnidians were deterred by the peremptory dissuasion of Apollo, plainly commanding them to desist, for if God had thought it fit, he would have made that country an island at first. But this, perhaps, will not be thought a reasonable discouragement unto the activity of
those spirits which endeavour to advantage nature by art, and upon good grounds to promote any part of the universe; nor will the ill success of some be made a sufficient determent unto others, who know that many learned men affirm, that islands were not from the beginning, that many have been made since by art, that some isthmuses have been eat through by the sea, and others cut by the spade. And if policy would permit, that of Panama, in America, were most worthy the attempt, it being but few miles over, and would open a shorter cut unto the East Indies and China.5
Of the Red Sea.
CONTRARY apprehensions are made of the Erythræan or Red Sea, most apprehending a material redness therein, from whence they derive its common denomination; and some so lightly conceiving hereof, as if it had no redness at all, are fain to recur unto other originals of its appellation. Wherein to deliver a distinct account, we first observe that without
5 China.] Betweene Panama and the Nombre de Dios, which lyes on bothe sides that strip of lande, the Spaniards accompte about 40 miles at most; but the Spaniard enjoying both those havens, and consequentlye having the free trade of both seas without corrivalitye of other nations (which yf that passage were open would not longe bee his alone), will never endure such an attempt, and for that cause hath fortified bothe those havens soe stronglye that hee may enjoye this proprietye without controule. But itt withall supposes that to cutt through the ridge of mountains which lies betweene those 2 havens is impossible, and would prove more unfecible then that of Ægypt, which yf itt might be compassed would be of more advantage to these 3 parts of the world than that of Panama, and nearer by 1000 leagues to us, the remotest kingdome trading to the East Indyes.- Wr.
This long projected intercourse with the East Indies seems-under the present enterprising Pacha of Egypt, to be in a fair way of accomplishment. Letters thither having been actually sent off by the Mediterranean mail in the spring of 1835. The Pacha has sent to M. Brunel requesting his assistance in carrying on the great work of improvement in the channel of the Nile; and one of our British engineers, Mr. Galloway, who has the conduct of a railway constructing between Cairo and Suez, has been created a Bey of Egypt.