BOOK I, CHAPTER XXIII
aid of time, she then displays a fierce and tyrannical countenance, in opposition to which we no longer have liberty even to lift up our eyes. We see her do violence constantly to the laws of nature. (c) Usus efficacissimus rerum omnium magister. (a) I believe, about this, (c) Plato’s cavern in his “Republic,” and I believe (c) the physicians who so often relinquish to her authority the logic of their art; and that king who, by her means, trained his stomach to feed on poison; and the girl who, as Albert tells, was wont to feed on spiders. (c) And in this new world of the Indies there were prosperous races, and in very different climates, who lived on them, and laid in supplies of them, and fed them; and the same with grasshoppers, ants, lizards, bats; and a toad was sold for ten crowns when provisions were scarce. They cook them and dress them with different sauces. There were found there other peoples, to whom our meats and viands were poisonous and fatal. (c) Consuetudinis magna vis est. Pernoctant venatores in nive; in montibus uri se patiuntur. Pugiles cœstibus contusi ne ingemiscunt quidem.
These foreign examples are not foreign to our comprehension, if we consider — a common experience — how accustomedness dulls our senses. We need not go in search of what is said about those who live near the cataracts of the Nile; and what the philosophers think about celestial music, that the bodies in those spheres, being solid and polished, and slipping and rubbing against one another as they revolve, can not fail to produce harmonies by whose
- Custom is the most powerful master of all things. — Pliny, Natural History, XXVI, 2; taken by Montaigne from the Politiques of J. Lipsius.
- Book VII, at the beginning.
- Mithridates, King of Pontus. See Aulus Gellius, XVII, 16.
- D’araignées (spiders’ webs); but the context shows that it must have been spiders. See below, les apastoient (“and fed them”). See Messie, Diverses Leçons, I, 26.
- This and the following particulars are found in Lopez de Gomara, Histoire Générale des Indes. It was written in Spanish, and a French translation by Martin Fumée was published in 1569.
- Great is the power of custom; huntsmen pass the night in the snow and endure the sun’s heat in the mountains; boxers, when bruised by the gloves, do not even utter a groan. — Cicero, Tusc. Disp., II, 17.
- See Idem, Somnium Scipionis, VI, 19.