A Curious Prophesy from 1683

The following curious prophesy appeared among miscellaneous tracts published by Sir Thomas Browne in 1683 (Some of you know Browne as author of Religio Medici)

When New England shall trouble New Spain.
When Jamaica shall be Lady of the Isles and the Main.

In the first line Brown prophesies that New England will in time “set forth great armies” and “seek for new possessions . . . either in the dominions or frontiers of the Spaniards.”  Check!

In the second he prophesies that the mainland will one day be a “receptacle for colonies,” not only from  Jamaica, but also from “Barbados and the neighboring isles” Check!

When Spain shall be in America hid,
And Mexico shall prove a Madrid.

Spain has been in America hid, although Mexico City is not yet the seat of a great empire.

When Mahomet’s Ships on the Baltic shall ride,
And Turks shall labor to have Ports on that side.

Wouldn’t Brown be surprised to learn that Mahomet’s ships are, indeed, airships, and that they are piloted and paid for by the people of the Baltics.  Talk about dhimmitude.

When Africa shall no more sell out their Blacks
To make Slaves and Drudges to the American Tracts.

It took two hundred years for this astonishing prophesy to come true

When Batavia the Old shall be contemn’d by the New.
When a new Drove of Tartars shall China subdue.

Batavia the old is Holland; Batavia the new is Jakarta, or the capital of the Dutch colonies in the East Indies.  If we take this as a prophesy of post-colonial international relations, I’d say we have another check

When America shall cease to send out its Treasure,
But employ it at home in American Pleasure.

We’ve gone beyond this prophesy, and are now borrowing treasure to pay for American pleasure.

When the new World shall the old invade,
Nor count them their Lords but their fellows in Trade.

New World invade the old!  I wonder what he was thinking.

When Men shall almost pass to Venice by Land,
Not in deep Water but from Sand to Sand.

As they can indeed do nowadays

When Nova Zembla shall be no stay
Unto those who pass to or from Cathay.

Yes, the Soviets did this with icebreakers

Then think strange things are come to light,
Whereof but few have had a foresight.

Strange things indeed are come to light!  I wonder how he knew.

7 thoughts on “A Curious Prophesy from 1683

  1. People who are good at thinking about the past — see Browne’s magisterial “Urn Burial” — are naturally sensitive to the vibrations of the future.

  2. Pingback: A Curious Prophesy from 1683 | @the_arv

  3. Pingback: A Curious Prophesy from 1683 | Reaction Times

  4. New world to invade the Old World, American culture. Of course, we also have two World Wars. Mexicans see themselves as Spanish, not Mexicans, per say. Mexico City is Madrid. Bribes, the corruption, all the evils and good things, as well. The ugly and the beauty of Madrid are in the capital of New Spain. I have no idea what Nova Zembla is, but China has long had her eyes on taking over the world, and Russia is a part she sees are theirs. Word is, China has attempted to invade Siberia, but was driven back by armed citizens. And, with 15% more men than women, they need a war. This would also boost them out of their financial straights.


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