Nonfiction > Francis Bacon > Of the Wisdom of the Ancients

Francis Bacon (1561–1626).  Of the Wisdom of the Ancients.  1857.
XX. Ericthonius
Or Imposture
THE POETS tell us that Vulcan wooed Minerva, and in the heat of desire attempted to force her; that in the struggle which followed his seed was scattered on the ground; from which was born Ericthonius, a man well made and handsome in the upper parts of the body, but with thighs and legs like an eel, thin and deformed: and that he, from consciousness of this deformity, first invented chariots, whereby he might shew off the fine part of his body and hide the mean.  1
  This strange and prodigious story seems to bear this meaning: that Art (which is represented under the person of Vulcan, because it makes so much use of fire) when it endeavours by much vexing of bodies to force Nature to its will and conquer and subdue her (for Nature is described under the person of Minerva, on account of the wisdom of her works) rarely attains the particular end it aims at; and yet in the course of contriving and endeavouring, as in a struggle, there fall out by the way certain imperfect births and lame works, specious to look at but weak and halting in use: yet impostors parade them to the world with a great deal of false shew in setting forth, and carry them about as in triumph. Such things may often be observed among chemical productions, and among mechanical subtleties and novelties; the rather because men being too intent upon their end to recover themselves from the errors of their way, rather struggle with Nature than woo her embraces with due observance and attention.  2
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