Of the Dove.

THE Third assertion is somewhat like the second, that a Dove or Pigeon hath no gall; which is affirmed from very great antiquity; for as Pierius observeth from this consideration the Egyptians did make it the Hieroglyphick of Meekness. It hath been averred by many holy Writers, commonly delivered by Postillers and Commentators; who from the frequent mention of the Dove in the Canticles, the precept of our Saviour, to be wise as Serpents, and innocent as Doves:[1] and especially the appearance of the Holy Ghost in the similitude of this Animal,[2] have taken occasion to set down many affections of the Dove, and what doth most commend it, is, that it hath no gall. And hereof have made use not only Minor Divines, but Cyprian, Austin, Isidore, Beda, Rupertus, Jansenius, and many more.

Whereto notwithstanding we know not how to assent, it being repugnant unto the Authority and positive determination of ancient Philosophy. The affirmative of Aristotle in his History of Animals is very plain, Fel aliis ventri, aliis intestino jungitur: Some have the gall adjoined to the guts, as the Crow, the Swallow, Sparrow, and the Dove; the same is attested by Pliny,[3] and not without some passion by Galen, who in his Book De Atra bile, accounts him ridiculous that denies it.

It is not agreeable to the constitution of this Animal, nor can we so reasonably conceive there wants a Gall: that is, the hot and fiery humour in a body so hot of temper, which Flegm or Melancholy could not effect. Now of what complexion it is, Julius Alexandrinus declareth, when he affirmeth that some upon the use thereof, have fallen into Feavers and Quinsies.4 The temper of their Dung and intestinal Excretions do also confirm the same; which Topically applied become a Phænigmus or Rubifying Medicine, and are of such fiery parts, that as we read in Galen, they have of themselves conceived fire, and burnt a house about them. And therefore when in the famine of Samaria (wherein the fourth part of a Cab of Pigeons dung was sold for five pieces of silver,[5]) it is delivered by Josephus,[6] that men made use hereof in stead of common Salt: although the exposition seem strange, it is more probable then many other. For that it containeth very much Salt, as beside the effects before expressed, is discernable by taste, and the earth of Columbaries or Dove-houses, so much desired in the artifice of Salt-petre. And to speak generally, the excrement of Birds hath more of Salt and acrimony, then that of other pissing animals. Now if because the Dove is of a mild and gentle nature, we cannot conceive it should be of an hot temper; our apprehensions are not distinct in the measure of constitutions, and the several parts which evidence such conditions. For the Irascible passions do follow the temper of the heart, but the concupiscible distractions the crasis of the liver. Now many have hot livers, which have but cool and temperate hearts; and this was probably the temper of Paris, a contrary constitution to that of Ajax, and both but short of Medea,[7] who seemed to exceed in either.

Lastly, it is repugnant to experience, for Anatomical enquiry discovereth in them a gall: and that according to the determination of Aristotle, not annexed unto the liver, but adhering unto the guts: nor is the humour contained in smaller veins, or, obscurer capillations, but in a vescicle, or little bladder, though some affirm it hath no bag at all.[8] And therefore the Hieroglyphick of the Ægyptians, though allowable in the sense, is weak in the foundation: who expressing meekness and lenity by the portract of a Dove with a tail erected, affirmed it had no gall in the inward parts, but only in the rump, and as it were out of the body.[9] And therefore also if they conceived their gods were pleased with the sacrifice of this Animal, as being without gall, the ancient Heathens were surely mistaken in the reason, and in the very oblation. Whereas in the holocaust or burnt-offering of Moses, the gall was cast away:10 for as Ben Maimon instructeth, the inwards whereto the gall adhereth were taken out with the crop, according unto the Law: which the Priest did not burn, but cast unto the East, that is, behind his back, and readiest place to be carried out of the Sanctuary.[11] And if they also conceived that for this reason, they were the Birds of Venus, and wanting the furious and discording part, were more acceptable unto the Deity of Love, they surely added unto the conceit, which was at first venereal: and in this Animal may be sufficiently made out from that conception.[12]

The ground of this conceit is partly like the former, the obscure situation of the gall, and out of the liver, wherein it is commonly enquired. But this is a very injust illation, not well considering with what variety this part is seated in Birds. In some both at the stomach and the liver, as in the Capriceps; in some at the liver only, as in Cocks, Turkeys, and Pheasants; in others at the guts and liver, as in Hawks and Kites, in some at the guts alone, as Crows, Doves, and many more. And these perhaps may take up all the ways of situation, not only in Birds, but also in other Animals; for what is said of the Anchovie, that answerable unto its name,13 it carrieth the gall in the head, is farther to be enquired. And though the discoloured particles in the skin of an Heron, be commonly termed Galls, yet is not this Animal deficient in that part, but containeth it in the Liver. And thus when it is conceived that the eyes of Tobias were cured by the gall of the fish[14] Callyonimus, or Scorpius marinus, commended to that effect by Dioscorides, although that part were not in the liver, yet there were no reason to doubt that probability. And whatsoever Animal it was, it may be received without exception, when its delivered, the married couple as a testimony of future concord, did cast the gall of the sacrifice behind the Altar.[15]

A strict and literal acception of a loose and tropical expression was a second ground hereof. For while some affirmed it had no gall, intending only thereby no evidence of anger or fury; others have construed it anatomically, and denied that part at all. By which illation we may infer, and that from sacred Text, a Pigeon hath no heart, according to that expression,16 Factus est Ephraim sicut Columba seducta non habens Cor. And so from the letter of the Scripture we may conclude it is no mild, but a fiery and furious animal, according to that of Jeremy,17 Facta est terra in desolationum à facie iræ Columbæ: and again,18 Revertamur ad terram nativitatis nostræ à facie gladii Columbæ. Where notwithstanding the Dove is not literally intended; but thereby may be implied the Babylonians, whose Queen Semiramis was called by that name, and whose successors did bear the Dove in their Standard. So is it proverbially said, Formicæ sua bilis inest, habet & musca splenem; whereas we know Philosophy doubteth these parts, nor hath Anatomy so clearly discovered them in those insects.

If therefore any affirm a Pigeon hath no gall, implying no more thereby then the lenity of this Animall, we shall not controvert his affirmation. Thus may we make out the assertions of ancient Writers, and safely receive the expressions of Divines and worthy Fathers. But if by a transition from Rhetorick to Logick, he shall contend, it hath no such part or humour, he committeth an open fallacy, and such as was probably first committed concerning Spanish Mares, whose swiftness tropically expressed from their generation by the wind; might after be grosly taken, and a real truth conceived in that conception.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [6 "doves" and 1 "turtle" in Solomon; Matthew 10:16: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." (KJV).]

2 [Matthew 3:16 "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove"; Mark 1:10 "And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him"; Luke 3:22 "And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased"; John 1:32 "And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him."]

3 [Pliny HN XI.194; (englished by Holland, Chap. XXXVII)]

4 Salubrium 310.

5 [2 Kings 6:24-25: "And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.
     "And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was [sold] for fourscore [pieces] of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five [pieces] of silver." A cab is, according to the OED, "A Hebrew dry measure, according to the Rabbins the sixth part of a seah; about 2-5/6 imperial pints," or about 2.924 American (dry) pints.]

6 [In Antiq. Jud. 4:4: "But Benhadad supposed he should take the city, if not by his engines of war, yet that he should overcome the Samaritans by famine, and the want of necessaries, and brought his army upon them, and besieged the city; and the plenty of necessaries was brought so low with Joram, that from the extremity of want an ass's head was sold in Samaria for fourscore pieces of silver, and the Hebrews bought a sextary of dove's dung, instead of salt, for five pieces of silver."]

7 [Paris, who stole Helen, a better lover than a warrior; Ajax, after Achilles the bravest of the Greeks; Medea, who in her passion for Jason killed her brother, her children, and her rival in various gruesome manners.]

8 [Brayley in Wilkin makes what seems to me perhaps an overly refined distinction between a gall-bladder and a bladder for gall: "It is now known that the gall-bladder does not exist in the dove: the vessel mentioned by our author is merely a dilation of the hepatic or of the hepatocystic duct, serving to contain the bile. This fact is in agreement with the statements of Aristotle and Pliny, which are cited in this and the preceding page."]

9 [Thus Horapollo: [Italian] ii.48 (106).]

10 Levit. 1.

11 [Thus Maimonides, as quoted in Ainsworth's commentary on Levit. 1:15. Ainsworth's attribution therein, however, does not accord with the Maimonides I have been looking at.]

12 [See, for instance, Smith's Dictionary: Thronus for a representation of a throne for Venus, occupied by a dove. Are doves in fact more "venereal" than other birds?]

13 Ἐνκρασἰχολος.

14 [Tob 6:1-8; RSV: "Now as they proceeded on their way they came at evening to the Tigris river and camped there. Then the young man went down to wash himself. A fish leaped up from the river and would have swallowed the young man; and the angel said to him, 'Catch the fish.' So the young man seized the fish and threw it up on the land. Then the angel said to him, 'Cut open the fish and take the heart and liver and gall and put them away safely.' So the young man did as the angel told him; and they roasted and ate the fish. And they both continued on their way until they came near to Ecbatana. Then the young man said to the angel, 'Brother Azarias, of what use is the liver and heart and gall of the fish?' He replied, 'As for the heart and liver, if a demon or evil spirit gives trouble to any one, you make a smoke from these before the man or woman, and that person will never be troubled again. And as for the gall, anoint with it a man who has white films in his eyes, and he will be cured.' "]

15 [Plutarch Moralia; in Holland's translation (1603), from Precepts of wedlocke:

Those that sacrificed to Juno (surnamed Gametia, that is, Nuptiall) offered not the gall with the rest of the beast that was killed, but plucked it out of the body, cast it aside, and laid it by, about the altar; by which ceremonie, he whosoever he was that first instituted it, would give us to understand; that in matrimonie there ought to be no gall, that is to say, no bitter choler and anger at all; hee meant not thereby that a woman should not be grave, for a wife and matron that is mistresse of an house, must carie an austere countenance in some sort, but this austerity or tartnesse ought to be like that verdure which is in wine, that is to say, holsome and pleasant, not bitter or eager in any wise, as is Aloe Succotrine, nor resembling any such purgative drugs.]

16 Hosea 7. [:11, in the KJV: "Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria."]

17 Cap. 25 [:18, in the Vulgate: "dereliquit quasi leo umbraculum suum facta est terra eorum in desolationem a facie irae columbae et a facie irae furoris Domini"; in the KJV: "He hath forsaken his covert, as the lion: for their land is desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger."]

18 Cap. 46 [:16, in the Vulgate: "multiplicavit ruentes ceciditque vir ad proximum suum et dicent surge et revertamur ad populum nostrum et ad terram nativitatis nostrae a facie gladii columbae"; in the KJV: "He made many to fall, yea, one fell upon another: and they said, Arise, and let us go again to our own people, and to the land of our nativity, from the oppressing sword."]

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

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