The Celts that once lived near the Rhine—they are our noble valiant French—in ancient times were also afraid of the sky’s falling; for being asked by Alexander the Great what they feared most in this world, hoping well they would say that they feared none but him, considering his great achievements, they made answer that they feared nothing but the sky’s falling; however, not refusing to enter into a confederacy with so brave a king, if you believe Strabo, lib. 7, and Arrian, lib. I.
Plutarch also, in his book of the face that appears on the body of the moon, speaks of one Phenaces, who very much feared the moon should fall on the earth, and pitied those that live under that planet, as the Aethiopians and Taprobanians, if so heavy a mass ever happened to fall on them, and would have feared the like of heaven and earth had they not been duly propped up and borne by the Atlantic pillars, as the ancients believed, according to Aristotle’s testimony, lib. 5, Metaphys. Notwithstanding all this, poor Aeschylus was killed by the fall of the shell of a tortoise, which falling from betwixt the claws of an eagle high in the air, just on his head, dashed out his brains.
Neither ought you to wonder at the death of another poet, I mean old jolly Anacreon, who was choked with a grape-stone. Nor at that of Fabius the Roman praetor, who was choked with a single goat’s hair as he was supping up a porringer of milk. Nor at the death of that bashful fool, who by holding in his wind, and for want of letting out a bum-gunshot, died suddenly in the presence of the Emperor Claudius. Nor at that of the Italian buried on the Via Flaminia at Rome, who in his epitaph complains that the bite of a she-puss on his little finger was the cause of his death. Nor of that of Q. Lecanius Bassus, who died suddenly of so small a prick with a needle on his left thumb that it could hardly be discerned. Nor of Quenelault, a Norman physician, who died suddenly at Montpellier, merely for having sideways took a worm out of his hand with a penknife. Nor of Philomenes, whose servant having got him some new figs for the first course of his dinner, whilst he went to fetch wine, a straggling well-hung ass got into the house, and seeing the figs on the table, without further invitation soberly fell to. Philomenes coming into the room and nicely observing with what gravity the ass ate its dinner, said to the man, who was come back, Since thou hast set figs here for this reverend guest of ours to eat, methinks it is but reason thou also give him some of this wine to drink. He had no sooner said this, but he was so excessively pleased, and fell into so exorbitant a fit of laughter, that the use of his spleen took that of his breath utterly away, and he immediately died. Nor of Spurius Saufeius, who died supping up a soft-boiled egg as he came out of a bath. Nor of him who, as Boccaccio tells us, died suddenly by picking his grinders with a sage-stalk. Nor of Phillipot