ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
usual appearance outside, a clever man, having concluded that it was only fancy, an idea suggested by a piece of crust that had pricked her as it went down, made her vomit, and stealthily tossed a bent pin into what she threw up. Believing that she had thrown it up, the woman immediately felt relieved of her pain. I know that a gentleman who had entertained a large company at his house bragged three or four days afterward — by way of jest, for there was no truth in it — that he had made them eat a cat in a pasty; at which a young lady of the party was so horror-struck that she fell into such great weakness of the stomach and fever, that it was impossible to save her.
The very beasts are seen to be subject, like ourselves, to the power of the imagination: witness the dogs who die of grief for the loss of their masters; we see that they, too, bark and tremble when dreaming, and that horses whinny and struggle.
But all this may be attributed to the close connection between the mind and the body, interchanging their conditions. It is another matter that the imagination may sometimes act, not only against its own body, but against the body of another; and just as one body passes a disease on to its neighbour as is seen in the plague, in small-pox, and sore eyes, which are communicated from one to another,—
Dum spectant oculi læsos, læduntur et ipsi,
Multaque corporibus transitione nocent, —
so the imagination, being violently roused, launches shafts which may hit a distant object. In ancient times it was believed that certain women in Scythia, being aroused and angered against some one, killed him with a single look. Tortoises and ostriches hatch their eggs by only looking at
- See Lucretius, III, 493, and passim. Cf. Book II, chap. 12, infra: car un cheval accustumé aux trompettes, aux harquebusades, et aux combats, que nous voyons tremousser et fremir en dormant, estendu sur sa litiere, comme s’il estoit en la meslée, il est certain qu’il conçoit en son ame un son de tambourin sans bruict, une armée sans armes et sans corps.
- When eyes behold eyes in pain, they become painful themselves; and many things harm our bodies by contagion. — Ovid, Remedium Amoris, 615.
- See Pliny, Natural History, VII, 2.