BOOK I, CHAPTER XXI
But to my mind magicians are poor sureties. However, we know by experience that women transmit to the bodies of children in their womb the marks of their fantasies — witness her who gave birth to the Moor. And there was brought to Charles, King of Bohemia and Emperor, a girl from near Pisa, all hairy and rough, whom her mother declared to have been so conceived because of an image of St. John the Baptist that hung by her bed. With animals it is the same; witness Jacob’s sheep, and the partridges and hares turned white by the snow on the mountains. Some one saw lately at my home a cat watching a bird at the top of a tree; and after they had gazed fixedly at each other for some time, the bird let itself drop as if dead into the cat’s paws, either bewildered by its own imagination, or drawn by some power of attraction in the cat. Those who like hawking have heard the story of the falconer who, fixing his eyes persistently on a kite in the air, wagered that he would bring it down simply by the power of his eyes, and did it, so they say.
For the anecdotes that I borrow, I refer them to the consciences of those from whom I receive them; (b) the inferences are my own, and are derived from the evidence of common sense, not of experience; every one can add his own examples, and let him who has none not fail to believe that
- De la seule veue. See Pliny, Natural History, IX, 12.
- See Pierre Messie, Diverses Leçons, II, 7.
- I know not whose evil eye bewitches my tender lambs. — Virgil, Eclogues, III, 103.
- This refers to an anecdote told by St. Jerome, and repeated in all the sixteenth-century dissertations on the force of the imagination, almost always accompanied by the two facts that follow it in Montaigne, the “girl from near Pisa” and “Jacob’s sheep.”
- See Genesis, XXX, 38 ff.
- See Ambroise Paré, Des Monstres.
- In 1580: Mon père vit un jour.
- The Essay ended here in the editions previous to 1588.