Home Philosophy The fathers of the church
One inquires further about something said in the text, namely, that rainwater is sweeter than other water.
And it seems not. Because rainwater is generated from vapors from the sea and from marshes that rise to the middle interstices of the air. These vapors are salty, and therefore so too is rainwater.
Second, one inquires whether rainwater causes constipation.
And it seems not, because every like increases like, and rainwater is fluid and moist, and therefore, etc.
Moreover, salt is astringent whereas rainwater is sweet; therefore, etc.
One inquires third why it injures birds more than fish even though birds receive less of it and for a briefer period of time.
To the first question one must reply that sweetness arises from moist air. Thus, those things that are initially sweet, through the exhalation of the moist air, later increase and grow bitter. But rainwater descends through the air and frequently swirls in the air while it falls. Thus it has a great deal of moist air mixed in with it and this is why it is sweeter than other water.
To the argument one must respond that when the sun raises and evaporates the vapors from the sea and the marshes, it raises the subtle portion and leaves the gross and earthy portion below in the sea. And this is one cause for the saltiness of the sea.
Thus the vapor is not salty, although it is raised up from the sea, because what is sweeter and subtler is raised up. Or, given that something bitter may be raised up, nevertheless when it passes through the sphere of the air, its bitterness is removed and it is sweetened.
To the second question one must reply that rainwater does cause constipation both because it is subtle and because it is sweet. For it is subtle on account of its frequent swirling through the air, and it is sweet for the reason already mentioned. Since it is subtle, it penetrates the individual members easily, and it leads the gross humors that are in the members along with itself to the bladder, and this is the reason for the increase in the urine and, as a result, for the reduction in the excrement, because an increase in one is a cause for the reduction in the other, and when the excrement is reduced, the constipation is relieved.
Moreover, only the sweet nourishes. Thus, the individual members attract this water owing to its sweetness, and all the powers are strengthened by it as well and, as a consequence, the retentive power. The expulsive power, however, is weakened because everything that is amicable to nature resists those that impede nature, promotes those promoting it, or aids those contributing to it. And since the increase in the expulsive power during diarrhea is inimical to nature, whereas the retentive power is well disposed and friendly to nature, rainwater therefore strengthens the retentive but weakens the expulsive power.
To the argument one must reply that although rainwater is fluid and moist, still it causes constipation for the reasons already mentioned. Or one can say that diarrhea, when it arises from a cold and moist cause, like slimy plants, is intensified by rainwater. But when the diarrhea arises from a warm cause, such as from an abundance of blood and bile, rainwater is good for this. Thus physicians specify that all the medications that should be taken with liquid for this illness must be taken with rainwater, if they can get it.
To the third question one must reply that fish live in water and that sweet water particularly benefits them because only the sweet nourishes. Thus some fish are nourished solely on water mixed with mud, like eels. But birds live in the air, and they seek nutriment by extending their wings and feathers, and these get stuck together by rainwater, and this is why water of this sort injures them more than it does fish. And another reason is that birds do not require drink as often, and because when they do they drink avidly. Thus, they incur a flux like lienteric flux, and this is why, etc.
Or one can say otherwise that overabundant rains injure them both because they suffer a swelling of the nutritive members owing to the sweetness of the water, because sweet things inflate the nutritive power, according to the interpretation of the physicians and especially Galen. And this is why, etc.
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