The Works of Aristotle - Of the Tongue.

Of the Tongue.

WHY is the tongue full of pores?

According to Aristotle de animal, because the tongue is the means whereby we taste; and through the mouth, in the pores of the tongue, the taste doth come into the sense of tasting. Otherwise it is answered, that frothy spittle is sent into the mouth by the tongue from the lungs moistening the meat, and making it ready for the first digestion: and therefore the tongue is full of pores because many have passage through it.

Why doth the tongue of such as are sick of agues judge all things bitter?
Because the stomach of such persons is filled with choleric humours, and choler is very bitter, as it appeareth by the gall, and therefore this bitter fume doth infect their tongue, and so the tongue being full of these tastes, doth judge them bitter, although the bitterness be not in the meat but in the tongue.

Why doth the tongue water when we hear sour and sharp things named?
Because the imaginative virtue or power is of greater force than the power and faculty of tasting; and when we imagine a taste, we conceive it by the power of tasting as by a mean, because there is nothing felt by the taste, but by means of that spittle the tongue doth water.

Why doth some stammer and lisp?
This happeneth from many causes, sometimes through the moistness of the tongue and brain, as in children, which cannot speak plainly, nor pronounce many letters. Sometimes it happeneth by reason of the shrinking of certain sinews, which are corrupted with phlegm; for such sinews there be which go to the tongue.

Why are the tongues of serpents and mad dogs venomous?
Because of the malignity of the venomous humour which doth predominate in them.

Why is a dog's tongue fit and apt for medicine, and contrariwise an horse's tongue pestiferous?
'Tis by reason of some secret property, or else it may be said the tongue of a dog is full of pores and so doth draw and take away the viscosity of the wound. Some say that a dog hath by nature some humour in his tongue, with the which by licking he doth heal; the contrary is in a horse.

Why is spittle white?

By reason of the continual moving of the tongue whereof heat is engendered, which doth make white the superfluity, which is spittle, as it is seen in the froth of water.

Why is spittle unsavoury and without taste?
If it had a certain determinate taste, then the tongue would not taste at all, but should only have the taste of spittle, and so could not receive other tastes.

Why doth the spittle of one that is fasting heal an imposthume?
Because (according to Avicen) it is well digested, and made subtile.

Why doth some abound in spittle more than others?
This doth proceed of a phlegmatic complexion, which doth predominate in them and therefore the physicians doth say, that such should take care of a quotidian ague, which ariseth from the predomination of phlegm: the contrary in those that spit little, because heat abounds in them, which consumes the humidity of the spittle; and so the defect of spittle is a sign of fever.

Why is the spittle of a man that is fasting more subtile than one who is full?
Because that the spittle is without the viscosity of meat, which is wont to make the spittle of one who is full gross and thick.

From whence proceedeth the spittle of man?
From the froth of the lungs, which, according to the physicians are the seat of the phlegm.

Why are such beasts as often go together for generation very full of froth and foam?
Because that then the lights and the heart are in a great motion of lust, therefore there is engendered in them much frothy matter.

Why have not birds spittle?
Because they have dry lungs, according to Aristotle in the fifth book de Animal.

Why do such as are called Epileprici, that is, such as are overwhelmed, and as it were drowned in their own blood, and are diseased, savour badly and corruptly?
The answer, according to the physician, is, because the pecant matter lieth in the head; but if he do vomit, then the matter is in the stomach; but if he piss much, then the matter is in the passage of the urine; but if they begin to have seed, then it is in the vessels of the seed, and according to this physicians do purge them.

Why doth the tongue lose sometimes the use of speaking?
The answer is out of Hippocrates, That this doth happen through a palsy or apoplexy, that is a sudden effusion of blood, and of a gross humour, and sometimes also by infection of spiritus animalis in the middle cell of the brain, which hinders the spirits from being carried to the tongue; and so is Galen's meaning, for by the expression of the tongue many actions of divers passions are made manifest.


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