The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

THE PILGRIM STUDIES MEDICINE

(Anatomia.)

Then my guides, leading me between the physical and the chemical lecture-rooms, along some small streets, place me in another open space, where I beheld a fearful sight. They stretched a man out, and cutting off one of his limbs after the other, they examined all his intestines, and with great pleasure showed one another what they found discovered there. Quoth I: "What cruelty, then, is this, to deal with a man as if he were a beast?" "It must be thus," said the interpreter. "This is their school."

(Botanografia.)

2. But these men had meanwhile abandoned this work, and they now ran in divers directions through gardens, meadows, fields, and hills; whatever things they found growing there they plucked, and they carried together such heaps that many years would not have sufficed for merely sifting and examining them. And each one seized out of them what he thought good, or what came in his way, and then ran back to the bodies which had been cut up, and spread the herbs over the limbs, measuring them together according to length, width, breadth. One said that this fitted that, another that it did not; then they wrangled about this with much screaming—nay, even as to the very names of these herbs there was much dispute. Him who knew most names of herbs, and was able to measure and weigh them, they crowned with a garland of such herbs; and they ordered that he should be called doctor of this science.

(Praxis Medendi.)

3. Then I perceive that they bring and carry to these men many who, either inwardly or outwardly, had wounds, and were purulent and rotten. Stepping towards them, they looked at their putrefied limbs, smelt the stench that proceeded from them, handled the filth that leaked out from above and below till it was loathsome to behold. And this they called examination. Then they immediately cooked, stewed, roasted, broiled, cauterised, cooled, burnt, hacked, sawed, pricked, sewed together, bound up, greased, hardened, softened, wrapped up, poured out medicines; and I know not what other things they did not. Meanwhile, the patients none the less perished under their hands, many railing at them, and saying that it was either through their ignorance or their carelessness that they had come to ruin. I saw generally that though their science awarded these good healers some gain, it also constrained them (if they wished to fulfil their duties) to much—indeed, very much—hard and, in some cases, also disgusting work, and that it brought them as much disfavour as favour; and this pleased me not.