Therefore measure not thine advancements, by quantity, but frame them by measure: and defer not charities till death; for, certainly, if a man weigh it rightly, he that doth so, is rather liberal of another man's, than of his own.

Of Prophecies

I MEAN not to speak of divine prophecies; nor of heathen oracles; nor of natural predictions; but only of prophecies that have been of cer- tain memory, and from hidden causes. Saith the Pythonissa to Saul, To-morrow thou and thy son shall be with me. Homer hath these verses:

At domus AEneae cunctis dominabitur oris, Et nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis.

A prophecy, as it seems, of the Roman empire. Seneca the tragedian hath these verses:

--Venient annis Saecula seris, quibus Oceanus Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens Pateat Tellus, Tiphysque novos Detegat orbes; nec sit terris Ultima Thule:

a prophecy of the discovery of America. The daugh- ter of Polycrates, dreamed that Jupiter bathed her father, and Apollo anointed him; and it came to pass, that he was crucified in an open place, where the sun made his body run with sweat, and the rain washed it. Philip of Macedon dreamed, he sealed up bis wife's belly; whereby he did expound it, that his wife should be barren; but Aristander the soothsayer, told him his wife was with child, because men do not use to seal vessels, that are empty. A phantasm that appeared to M. Brutus, in his tent, said to him, Philippis iterum me videbis. Tiberius said to Galba, Tu quoque, Galba, degusta- bis imperium. In Vespasian's time, there went a prophecy in the East, that those that should come forth of Judea, should reign over the world: which though it may be was meant of our Savior; yet Tacitus expounds it of Vespasian. Domitian dreamed, the night before he was slain, that a golden head was growing, out of the nape of his neck: and indeed, the succession that followed him for many years, made golden times. Henry the Sixth of England, said of Henry the Seventh, when he was a lad, and gave him water, This is the lad that shall enjoy the crown, for which we strive. When I was in France, I heard from one Dr. Pena, that the Queen Mother, who was given to curious arts, caused the King her husband's nativity to be calculated, under a false name; and the astrologer gave a judgment, that he should be killed in a duel; at which the Queen laughed, thinking her hus- band to be above challenges and duels: but he was slain upon a course at tilt, the splinters of the staff of Montgomery going in at his beaver. The trivial prophecy, which I heard when I was a child, and Queen Elizabeth was in the flower of her years, was,

When hempe is spun

England's done:

whereby it was generally conceived, that after the princes had reigned, which had the principal letters of that word hempe (which were Henry, Edward, Mary, Philip, and Elizabeth), England should come to utter confusion; which, thanks be to God, is verified only in the change of the name; for that the King's style, is now no more of Eng- land but of Britain. There was also another proph- ecy, before the year of '88, which I do not well understand.

There shall be seen upon a day, Between the Baugh and the May, The black fleet of Norway. When that that is come and gone, England build houses of lime and stone, For after wars shall you have none.

It was generally conceived to be meant, of the Spanish fleet that came in '88: for that the king of Spain's surname, as they say, is Norway. The pre- diction of Regiomontanus,

Octogesimus octavus 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 ever swam upon the sea. As for Cleon's dream, I think it was a jest. It was, that he was devoured of a long dragon; and it was expounded of a maker of sausages, that troubled him exceedingly. There are numbers of the like kind; especially if you include dreams, and predictions of astrology.

Please Support the Classic Literature Library

Buy Francis Bacon Books from Amazon.com

The Essays Page 47

Francis Bacon

16th Century Literature

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Francis Bacon
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book