Page:Sir Thomas Browne's works, volume 4 (1835).djvu/67

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
41
LETTER TO A FRIEND.

singular animadversion; but that he should also take King Francis prisoner upon that day, was an unexpected coincidence, which made the same remarkable. Antipater who had an anniversary feast every year upon his birth-day, needed no astrological revolution to know what day he should die on. When the fixed stars have made a revolution unto the points from whence they first set out, some of the ancients thought the world would have an end; which was a kind of dying upon the day of its nativity. Now the disease prevailing and swiftly advancing about the time of his nativity, some were of opinion that he would leave the world on the day he entered into it: but this being a lingering disease, and creeping softly on, nothing critical was found or expected, and he died not before fifteen days after. Nothing is more common with infants than to die on the day of their nativity, to behold the worldly hours, and but the fractions thereof; and even to perish before their nativity in the hidden world of the womb, and before their good angel is conceived to undertake them. But in persons who out-live many years, and when there are no less than three hundred and sixty-five days to determine their lives in every year; that the first day should make the last, that the tail of the snake should return into its mouth precisely at that time, and they should wind up upon the day of their nativity,[B 1] is indeed a remarkable coincidence, which, though astrology hath taken witty pains to salve, yet hath it been very wary in making predictions of it.

In this consumptive condition and remarkable extenuation, he came to be almost half himself, and left a great part behind him, which he carried not to the grave. And though that story of Duke John Ernestus Mansfield[B 2] be not so easily swallowed, that at his death his heart was found not to be so big as a nut; yet if the bones of a good skeleton weigh little more than twenty pounds, his inwards and flesh remaining could make no bouffage,[B 3] but a light bit for the grave. I never more lively beheld the starved characters of Dante[B 4] in any living face; an aruspex might have read a lecture upon

  1. nativity.] According to the Egyptian hieroglyphic.
  2. John Ernestus Mansfield.] Turkish History.
  3. bouffage.] Probably from bouffée, inflation.
  4. Dante.] In the poet Dante's description.