Of the Deer.

THE common Opinion concerning the long life of Animals, is very ancient, especially of Crows, Choughs and Deer; in moderate accounts exceeding the age of man, in some the days of Nestor,[1] and in others surmounting the years of Artephius[2] or Methuselah.[3] From whence Antiquity hath raised proverbial expressions,[4] and the real conception of their duration, hath been the Hyperbolical expression of many others. From all the rest we shall single out the Deer, upon concession a long-lived Animal, and in longævity by many conceived to attain unto hundreds; wherein permitting every man his own belief, we shall our selves crave liberty to doubt, and our reasons are those ensuing.

The first is that of Aristotle, drawn from the increment and gestation of this Animal, that is, its sudden arrivance unto growth and maturity, and the small time of its remainder in the Womb.[5] His words in the translation of Scaliger are these; De ejus vitæ longitudine fabulantur; neque enim aut gestatio aut incrementum hinnulorum ejusmodi sunt, ut præstent argumentum longævi animalis; that is, Fables are raised concerning the vivacity of Deer; for neither are their gestation or increment, such as may afford an argument of long life. And these, saith Scaliger, are good Mediums conjunctively taken, that is, not one without the other.[6] For of Animals viviparous such as live long, go long with young, and attain but slowly to their maturity and stature. So the Horse that liveth above thirty, arriveth unto his stature about six years, and remaineth above ten moneths in the womb; so the Camel that liveth unto fifty, goeth with young no less then ten moneths, and ceaseth not to grow before seven; and so the Elephant that liveth an hundred, beareth its young above a year, and arriveth unto perfection at twenty. On the contrary, the Sheep and Goat, which live but eight or ten years, go but five moneths,[7] and attain to their perfection at two years: and the like proportion is observable in Cats, Hares, and Conies. And so the Deere that endureth the womb but eight moneths, and is compleat at six years, from the course of Nature, we cannot expect to live an hundred; nor in any proportional allowance much more then thirty. As having already passed two general motions observable in all animations, that is, its beginning and encrease; and having but two more to run thorow, that is, its state and declination; which are proportionally set out by Nature in every kind: and naturally proceeding admit of inference from each other.

The other ground that brings its long life into question, is the immoderate salacity, and almost unparallel'd excess of venery, which every September may be observed in this Animal: and is supposed to shorten the lives of Cocks, Partridges, and Sparrows. Certainly a confessed and undeniable enemy unto longævity, and that not only as a sign in the complexional desire and impetuosity, but also as a cause in the frequent act, or iterated performance thereof. For though we consent not with that Philosopher, who thinks a spermatical emission unto the weight of one drachm, is æquivalent unto the effusion of sixty ounces of bloud; yet considering the exolution and languor ensuing that act in some, the extenuation and marcour in others,[8] and the visible acceleration it maketh of age in most: we cannot but think it much abridgeth our days. Although we also concede that this exclusion is natural, that Nature it self will finde a way hereto without either act or object: And although it be placed among the six Non-naturals,[9] that is, such as neither naturally constitutive, nor meerly destructive, do preserve or destroy according unto circumstance; yet do we sensibly observe an impotency or total privation thereof, prolongeth life: and they live longest in every kind that exercise it not at all. And this is true not only in Eunuchs by Nature, but Spadoes by Art: for castrated Animals in every species are longer lived then they which retain their virilities. For the generation of bodies is not meerly effected as some conceive, of souls, that is, by Irradiation, or answerably unto the propagation of light, without its proper diminution: but therein a transmission is made materially from some parts, with the Idea of every one: and the propagation of one, is in a strict acception, some minoration of another. And therefore also that axiom in Philosophy, that the generation of one thing, is the corruption of another:[10] although it be substantially true concerning the form and matter, is also dispositively verified in the efficient or producer.

As for more sensible arguments, and such as relate unto experiment: from these we have also reason to doubt its age, and presumed vivacity: for where long life is natural, the marks of age are late: and when they appear, the journey unto death cannot be long. Now the age of Deer (as Aristotle not long ago observed) is best conjectured, by view of the horns and teeth. From the horns there is a particular and annual account unto six years: they arising first plain, and so successively branching: after which the judgment of their years by particular marks becomes uncertain. But when they grow old, they grow less branched, and first do lose their ἀμθντῆες, or propugnacula; that is, their brow-antlers, or lowest furcations next the head, which Aristotle saith the young ones use in fight: and the old as needless, have them not at all. The same may be also collected from the loss of their Teeth, whereof in old age they have few or none before in either jaw.[11] Now these are infallible marks of age, and when they appear, we must confess a declination: which notwithstanding (as men inform us in England, where observations may well be made,) will happen between twenty and thirty. As for the bone, or rather induration of the Roots of the arterial vein and great artery, which is thought to be found only in the heart of an old Deer, and therefore becomes more precious in its Rarity; it is often found in Deer much under thirty, and we have known some affirm they have found it in one of half that age.[12] And therefore in that account of Pliny, of a Deer with a Collar about his neck, put on by Alexander the Great, and taken alive an hundred years after, with other relations of this nature, we much suspect imposture or mistake.[13] And if we grant their verity, they are but single relations, and very rare contingencies in individuals, not affording a regular deduction upon the species. For though Ulysses his Dog lived unto twenty, and the Athenian Mule unto fourscore, yet do we not measure their days by those years, or usually say, they live thus long.[14] Nor can the three hundred years of John of times[15], or Nestor, overthrow the assertion of Moses,16 or afford a reasonable encouragement beyond his septuagenary determination.

The ground and authority of this conceit was first Hierogliphical, the Ægyptians expressing longævity by this Animal; but upon what uncertainties, and also convincible falsities they often erected such Emblems, we have elsewhere delivered.[17] And if that were true which Aristotle delivers of his time,18 and Pliny was not afraid to take up long after,[19] the Ægyptians could make but weak observations herein; for though it be said that Æneas feasted his followers with Venison,[20] yet Aristotle affirms that neither Deere nor Boar were to be found in Africa. And how far they miscounted the lives and duration of Animals, is evident from their conceit of the Crow, which they presume to live five hundred years; and from the lives of Hawks, which (as Ælian delivereth) the Ægyptians do reckon no less then at seven hundred.[21]

The second which led the conceit unto the Grecians, and probably descended from the Egyptians was Poetical; and that was a passage of Hesiod, thus rendered by Ausonius.[22]

Ter binos deciesque novem super exit in annos,
Justa senescentum quos implet vita vivorum.
Hos novies superat vivendo garrula cornix,
Et quater egreditur cornicis sæcula cervus,
Alipidem cervum ter vincit corvus. —

To ninety six the life of man ascendeth,
Nine times as long that of the Chough extendeth,
Four times beyond the life of Deer doth go,
And thrice is that surpassed by the Crow.

So that according to this account, allowing ninety six for the age of Man, the life of a Deer amounts unto three thousand four hundred fifty six. A conceit so hard to be made out, that many have deserted the common and literal construction. So Theon in Aratus would have the number of nine not taken strictly, but for many years. In other opinions the compute so far exceedeth the truth, that they have thought it more probable to take the word Genea, that is, a generation consisting of many years, but for one year, or a single revolution of the Sun; which is the remarkable measure of time, and within the compass whereof we receive our perfection in the womb. So that by this construction, the years of a Deer should be but thirty six, as is discoursed at large in that Tract of Plutarch, concerning the cessation of Oracles; and whereto in his discourse of the Crow, Aldrovandus also inclineth. Others not able to make it out, have rejected the whole account, as may be observed from the words of Pliny,[23] Hesiodus qui primus aliquid de longævitate vitæ prodidit, fabulose (reor) multa de hominum ævo referens, cornici novem nostras attribuit ætates, quadruplum ejus cervis, id triplicatum corvis, & reliqua fabulosius de Phoenice & nymphis. And this how slender soever, was probably the strongest ground Antiquity had for this longævity of Animals; that made Theophrastus expostulate with Nature concerning the long life of Crows;24 that begat that Epithete of Deer25 in Oppianus, and that expression of Juvenal,[26]

——— Longa & cervina senectus.

The third ground was Philosophical, and founded upon a probable Reason in Nature, that is, the defect of a Gall, which part (in the opinion of Aristotle and Pliny) this Animal wanted,[27] and was conceived a cause and reason of their long life: according (say they) as it happeneth unto some few men, who have not this part at all. But this assertion is first defective in the verity concerning the Animal alledged: for though it be true, a Deer hath no Gall in the Liver like many other Animals, yet hath it that part in the Guts, as is discoverable by taste and colour: and therefore Pliny doth well correct himself, when having affirmed before it had no Gall, he after saith, some hold it to be in the guts; and that for their bitterness, dogs will refuse to eat them.[28] The assertion is also deficient in the verity of the Induction or connumeration of other Animals conjoined herewith, as having also no Gall; that is, as Pliny accounteth, Equi, Muli, &c. Horses, Mules, Asses, Deer, Goats, Boars, Camels, Dolphins, have no Gall. In Dolphins and Porpoces I confess I could find no Gall. But concerning Horses, what truth there is herein we have declared before;[29] as for Goats we find not them without it; what Gall the Camel hath, Aristotle declareth:[30] that Hogs also have it, we can affirm; and that not in any obscure place, but in the Liver, even as it is seated in man.

That therefore the Deer is no short-lived Animal, we will acknowledge: that comparatively, and in some sense long-lived we will concede; and thus much we shall grant if we commonly account its days by thirty six or forty: for thereby it will exceed all other cornigerous Animals. But that it attaineth unto hundreds, or the years delivered by Authors, since we have no authentick experience for it, since we have reason and common experience against it, since the grounds are false and fabulous which do establish it: we know no ground to assent.

Concerning Deer there also passeth another opinion, that the Males thereof do yearly lose their pizzel. For men observing the decidence of their horns, do fall upon the like conceit of this part, that it annually rotteth away, and successively reneweth again.[31] Now the ground hereof was surely the observation of this part in Deer after immoderate venery, and about the end of their Rut, which sometimes becomes so relaxed and pendulous, it cannot be quite retracted: and being often beset with flies, it is conceived to rot, and at last to fall from the body. But herein experience will contradict us: for Deer which either die or are killed at that time, or any other, are always found to have that part entire. And reason will also correct us: for spermatical parts, or such as are framed from the seminal principles of parents, although homogeneous or similary, will not admit a Regeneration, much less will they receive an integral restauration, which being organical and instrumental members, consist of many of those. Now this part, or Animal of Plato, containeth not only sanguineous and reparable particles: but is made up of veins, nerves, arteries, and in some Animals, of bones:[32] whose reparation is beyond its own fertility, and a fruit not be expected from the fructifying part it self. Which faculty were it communicated unto Animals, whose originals are double, as well as unto Plants, whose seed is within themselves: we might abate the Art of Taliacotius,[33] and the new in-arching of Noses. And therefore the fansies of Poets have been so modest, as not to set down such renovations, even from the powers of their deities: for the mutilated shoulder of Pelops was pieced out with Ivory,[34] and that the limbs of Hippolitus were set together, not regenerated by Æsculapius, is the utmost assertion of Poetry.[35]


* [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}. Ross defends the ancient opinion, Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chapter V, sect. 4 (where the argument amounts to reiterating that the ancients said it) and Chapter IV, sect. 2.

1 [Homer, Iliad I, 250, says Nestor lived through two generations of men, and was king in the third. This seems an achievable age; Homer calls him "old" from time to time, mostly in Book XI, and in the Odyssey. Other Greek writers, notably Pausanias, who describes a number of portraits and statues of Nestor, say nothing of any unusual age; rather, it is his virtue or his wisdom that is outstanding. But Ovid, Metam. XII, 186-187, makes two generations into two centuries and "now I've entered the third of my life," and then makes age the outstanding characteristic of Nestor (cf. Met. 15. The age became legendary, and yielded the Latin "nestoreus" and the phrases "Nestoris aeta": e.g., Martial Epigram. II:64:3, VII:96:7, V:58:5, XIII (Xenia):117:1; Juvenal Sat. XII:128; Statius Silvae I:3:110, I:4:126-7.]

2 [Legendary alchemist: over 1000 years. His "Book of Secrets" is to be found all over the web. (It's really quite astonishing what is out there: no Knolles on the history of the Turks; no Theophrastus, no Deipnosophist, but fifty copies of unlikely alchemical-hermetic mumbo-jumbo, in a 17th-century translation. But back to our muttons.) Therein Artephius says, or is made to say, "But when I had for the space of a Thousand Years, or there abouts (which are now passed over my Head, since the time I was born to this day, through the alone goodness of God Almighty ..." (pp. 486-487 of the 1692 edition, "translated out of the best Latin Editions" by William Salmon). The same edition, pp. 435-436, quite reasonably not quite believing "Artephius" himself, adduces the testimony of Roger Bacon: "But to what purpose should we enlarge any farther concerning this most excellent Author; it is enough to let you understand, that by the good pleasure of God, and the use of this wonderful Arcanum, he lived a thousand Years, as Roger Backon testifies in Libro de Mirabilibus Naturae Operibus." (I should think that last bit of translation should give Salmon's readers pause. Perhaps Salmon himself thinks so; in this book of Artephius alone does he give the Latin, in facing columns.) "And also the most learned Theophrastus Paracelsus in Libro de vita longa, (speaking of long Life,) saith, To which term of a Thousand Years, none of the other Philosophers, no not Hermes himself, the Father of them, ever attained, but only Artephius our Author: See then whether it be not doubtless, that this great Man knew this Stone, and understood the Virtues thereof, better than all others." In his Letter on Art and Nature, Bacon is more precise on Artephius's age, if bald statement can be called precision: "And hence is it, that Artephius in his Booke, intituled the Wisedome of Secretes, diligently observing the force and power of living creatures and stones, and such like things, to the end that he might be acquainted with Natures Secrets, but especially to attaine the knowledge howe to lengthen the life, boasteth of himselfe that he lived a thousande and five and twentie yeares" (p. 71 of the 1597 translation, "The Mirror of Alchimy").]

3 [Gen. 5:27: 969 years.]

4 [E.g., Juvenal XIV: 251 "cervina senuctus", assuming we understand what it means, and cf. Cicero: Tusculan Disputations III(28)69.]

5 [Hist. Animal. VI.29]

6 [Medium: the middle term of a syllogism; hence, a ground for a proof; here, says Browne, only the two conditions taken together, as a pair, form a good medium.]

7 [Wren: The 1st of August was (of old) cal'd Lammas day, bycause the rams, going then to the flocks, made the fall of the lambs alwayes about the nativitye; the 19th of December terminating the full time of gestation, i.e. five months, or twenty weekes.]

8 [Exolution: "The action of loosening or setting free; the state of being loosened or set free; esp. the emission or escape of 'animal spirits' formerly assumed as the cause of swooning" (Oxford English Dictionary), hence "faintness" in general; extenuation and marcour, both meaning "emaciation", the first the process, the second the result.]

9 [In medieval and renaissance medical theory, there were seven "naturals": elements, temperaments, humors, members, faculties, functions, spirits; and six "non-naturals": air, aliment, movement, sleep, excretion, passion (movement, sleep and excretion have their opposites in repose, wake, and retention, so that the number of non-naturals is sometimes given as nine). Sex is put under "excretion", "passions" being those "of the soul". For a modern resumé, see this course page at Cambridge. The term "non-natural" is explained by Browne in the next clause.]

10 [As Aristotle, amongst the other pish-tosh, in On Generation and Corruption I, part 3; St. Thomas Aquinas, I, Quaestio LXXII, ad quintum dicendum...; etc.]

11 [Arist. History of Animals, IX, part 5.]

12 [This "bone" (and, incidentally, the use of deer as calendars) is described by Topsell (1607) Historie of Foure-footed Beastes, p. 133:

Pliny and Sextus affirme, that when a Hind perceiveth her selfe to be with young, she devoureth or eateth up a certaine stone, which is afterward found either in her excrements or ventricle, and is profitable for all Women with childe and in travell, for by that onely fact, the Hinde is most speedily delivered without great paine, and sildome or never suffering abortment; and there is also a little bone found in the heart of every one of these beastes, which performeth the same qualities, instead whereof they have such a thing to sell at Venice, holding it at a great price: but Brasavola affirmeth, that he opened the hearts of two Harts, and found in them a little gristle not much unlike to a crosse, whereof th eone being of a Beast new killed, was very soft, but the other was much harder, because the beast was slain about six daies before.

This bone is in the left side of the Hart, upon which, the Spleene moveth and sendeth forth her excrements by vapours, which by reason of their drines are there turned into a bone, and being firste of all of the substaunce of the Hartes bloode; and it is good against the trembling of the Hart, and the Hæmorrhoides, but this bone cannot bee found in any, except he be killed betwixt the middle of August and the twelfth of September.]

13 [Pliny HN viii(119) (Englished by Holland, VIII, Chapter 32).]

14 [On Ulysses' dog, Argos: Odyssey, xvii 300-326; Aristotle, History of Animals Book VI, part 20, approves of Homer:

The dog of the Laconian breed lives ten years, and the bitch twelve. The bitch of other breeds usually lives for fourteen or fifteen years, but some live to twenty; and for this reason certain critics consider that Homer did well in representing the dog of Ulysses as having died in his twentieth year.

On the Athenian mule, Aristotle, HA VI Part 24 (translation D. W. Thompson):

The mule lives for a number of years. There are on record cases of mules living to the age of eighty, as did one in Athens at the time of the building of the temple; this mule on account of its age was let go free, but continued to assist in dragging burdens, and would go side by side with the other draught-beasts and stimulate them to their work; and in consequence a public decree was passed forbidding any baker driving the creature away from his bread-tray.

Pliny tells the same story, out of the "chronicles of Athens", HN viii(175) (Englished by Holland, Book VIII, chapter 44).]

15 [John of Times, soldier of Charles the Great, who lived three hundred years. Verstegan gives his story (A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence: In antiquities, p. 323 of the 1634 edition):

Here by the way I must note unto the reader that Ioannes de temporibus, that is to say John of the times, who so was called for the sundry times or ages he lived, was Shield-knave unto the Emperour Charles the great, of whom he also was made knight. This man being of great temperancce, sobriety, and contentment of mind in his condition of life, but above all of a most excelling constitution of nature, residing partly in Germany where he was borne, and partly in France, lived unto the ninth yeere of the raigne of the Emperour Conrade, and died at the age of three hundreth threescore, and one yeere, seeming thereby a very miracle of nature, and one in whom it pleased God to represent unto later ages the long yeeres, and temperate lives of the ancient Patriarches.

Francis Bacon, History of Life and Death. (p. 107 of the 1638 edition), makes Iohn of Times a Frenchman, "accounted in those latter times the longest liver, being three hundred yeeres old" (although he mentions, p. 105, the Indians called Pandoræ, who regularly reach two hundred years, among other peculiarities. Bacon, after further remarks on the various factors prolonging life, finally proclaims that excluding air is one such factor (by precluding dryness), and returns to John of Times (pp. 187-188):

Iohn of Times living to 300. yeeres of Age, being asked what Preservativs had made him live so long? answered, Oyle without, Honey within.

The wild Irish also live very long, being used to annoynt themselves naked before the fire with old salt-peeter: And the Countesse of Desmond bred teeth thrice, and lived to 140. yeeres of Age.

The last paragraph is not germane, but is presented in the public service.]

16 Psalm 90. [:10. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.]

17 [In Book I, Chapter IX and in Book V, Chapter XX. Pierius Lib. VII, the deer as a sign of "Vivacitas".]

18 Histor. animal. lib. 8 [Part 28: no stags, no goats, no boars in Africa. It goes,or should go, without saying that this is not true, and there is very little chance that it was true in Aristotle's time. In any case, Aristotle's "Libya" probably did not include Egypt.]

19 [Pliny HN viii(120), who leaves out the goats and the pigs. (Englished by Holland, Book VIII, Chap. 33) Pliny is more nearly accurate than Aristotle, asserting only that there are no deer in Africa.]

20 [Virgil, Virgil: Aeneid I; the deer, 184-189, 210-215 (three of them, on the beach, so perhaps, as Ross might argue, they had washed up from some other shore).]

21 [Aelian, lib. x, cap. xiv, but he doesn't believe it:

Hujus alitis vitam Aegyptii dicunt ad annos usque septingentos pertingere, quibus ego non facile crediderim; ea autem, quae audivi, refero.]

22 [Hesiod, Precepts of Chiron, Frag. 3, in Plutarch de defectu Oraculorum; Pliny's paraphrase (vii(153)) is quoted by Browne a little further down; Austonius, Eclogues 5, 1-5.]

23 [Pliny HN vii(153).]

24 [As in Cicero, Tusculan Disputations III.69.]

25 Τετρακόρωνος. [Oppian, Cynegeticon ii.292]

26 [Juvenal XIV, line 251, cited above.]

27 [Aristotle, History of Animals II, Part 15; Pliny, HN xi(191) (englished by Holland, Book 11, Chap. 37).]

28 [Pliny HN xi(192); englished, Book XI, Chap. 37.]

29 [In Chapter II.]

30 [In On the Parts of Animals, IV, part 2: not a distinct bladder, but vessels "of a biliary character".]

31 [Wren: Itt may sometimes rott, as the deers often doe; yf a sharpe and stervinge winter take them before they can repaire the strength lost by immoderate rutt: whence it seemes the terme (rott) first came: but that part wherein the rott always beginnes to appeare, is never renewed.]

32 [Wren: As in poll-cats and ferrets, which I caused to bee dissected, and found in one a bone as big as a walnut shaled.]

33 [An early form of plastic surgery, as it were: surgical grafting, especially of noses. Such operations were fairly common and quite successful, although Sir Kenelm Digy says that when a man was supplied with a nose made of the flesh of some other person, "his new nose would putrify as soon as the person, out of whose substance it was taken, came to die".]

34 [According to Vergil; Georgics iii.7.]

35 [Ovid, Metamorphoses XV, 533 ff, does not specify exactly what arts were used.]

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

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