Fainter and languishing

John Donne on climate change:
As the world is the whole frame of the world, God hath put into it a reproof, a rebuke, lest it should seem eternal, which is, a sensible decay and age in the whole frame of the world, and every piece thereof. The seasons of the year irregular and distempered; the sun fainter, and languishing; men less in stature, and shorter-lived. No addition, but only every year, new sorts, new species of worms, and flies, and sicknesses, which argue more and more putrefaction of which they are engendered. And the angels of heaven, which did so familiarly converse with men in the beginning of the world, though they may not be doubted to perform to us still their ministerial assistances, yet they seem so far to have deserted this world, as that they do not appear to us, as they did to those our fathers.

Julian the Apostate on racial differences and their consequences:
Come, tell me why it is that the Celts and the Germans are fierce, while the Hellenes and Romans are, generally speaking, inclined to political life and humane, though at the same time unyielding and warlike? Why the Egyptians are more intelligent and more given to crafts, and the Syrians unwarlike and effeminate, but at the same time intelligent, hot-tempered, vain and quick to learn?

As for men's laws, it is evident that men have established them to correspond with their own natural dispositions; that is to say, constitutional and humane laws were established by those in whom a humane disposition had been fostered above all else, savage and inhuman laws by those in whom there lurked and was inherent the contrary disposition. For lawgivers have succeeded in adding but little by their discipline to the natural characters and aptitudes of men. Accordingly the Scythians would not receive Anacharsis among them when he was inspired by a religious frenzy, and with very few exceptions you will not find that any men of the Western nations have any great inclination for philosophy or geometry or studies of that sort, although the Roman Empire has now so long been paramount. But those who are unusually talented delight only in debate and the art of rhetoric, and do not adopt any other study; so strong, it seems, is the force of nature. Whence then come these differences of character and laws among the nations?

And yet among mankind the difference between the customs and the political constitutions of the nations is in every way greater than the difference in their language. What Hellene, for instance, ever tells us that a man ought to marry his sister or his daughter or his mother? Yet in Persia this is accounted virtuous. But why need I go over their several characteristics, or describe the love of liberty and lack of discipline of the Germans, the docility and tameness of the Syrians, the Persians, the Parthians, and in short of all the barbarians in the East and the South, and of all nations who possess and are contented with a somewhat despotic form of government?

For different natures must first have existed in all those things that among the nations were to be differentiated. This at any rate is seen if one observes how very different in their bodies are the Germans and Scythians from the Libyans and Ethiopians. Can this also be due to a bare decree, and does not the climate or the country have a joint influence with the gods in determining what sort of complexion they have?


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