1.12.2022 – ill discoverers

ill discoverers
that think there is no land, when
see nothing but sea

Francis Bacon wrote in his The Advancement of Learning (1605 – bk. 2, ch. 7, sect. 5) that “they are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.”

The complete line is, “As for the possibility, they are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.”

As for the possibility …

That they might be giants.

Mr. Bacon warns, “But if any man shall keep a continual watchful and severe eye upon action, operation, and the use of knowledge, he may advise and take notice …”

Take notice of what?

I offer, in answer, the short story, The Glass in the Field, by James Thurber from his Fables for Our Time.

A short time ago some builders, working on a studio in Connecticut, left a huge square of plate glass standing upright in a field one day. A goldfinch flying swiftly across the field struck the glass and was knocked cold. When he came to he hastened to his club, where an attendant bandaged his head and gave him a stiff drink. “What the hell happened?” asked a sea gull. “I was flying across a meadow when all of a sudden the air crystallized on me,” said the goldfinch. The sea gull and a hawk and an eagle all laughed heartily. A swallow listened gravely. “For fifteen years, fledgling and bird, I’ve flown this country,” said the eagle, “and I assure you there is no such thing as air crystallizing. Water, yes; air, no.” “You were probably struck by a hailstone,” the hawk told the goldfinch. “Or he may have had a stroke,” said the sea gull. “What do you think, swallow?” “Why, I–I think maybe the air crystallized on him,” said the swallow. The large birds laughed so loudly that the goldfinch became annoyed and bet them each a dozen worms that they couldn’t follow the course he had flown across the field without encountering the hardened atmosphere. They all took his bet; the swallow went along to watch. The sea gull, the eagle, and the hawk decided to fly together over the route the goldfinch indicated. “You come, too,” they said to the swallow. “I–I–well, no,” said the swallow. “I don’t think I will.” So the three large birds took off together and they hit the glass together and they were all knocked cold.

Moral: He who hesitates is sometimes saved.

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