Chap. XXVII.[1]

Compendiously of sundry Tenents concerning other Animals, which examined, prove either false or dubious.

1. AND first from great Antiquity, and before the Melody of Syrens, the Musical note of Swans hath been commended, and that they sing most sweetly before their death. For thus we read in Plato, that from the opinion of Metempsuchosis, or transmigration of the souls of men into the bodies of beasts most sutable unto their humane condition, after his death, Orpheus the Musician became a Swan. Thus was it the bird of Apollo the god of Musick by the Greeks; and an Hieroglyphick of music among the Egyptians, from whom the Greeks derived the conception; hath been the affirmation of many Latines, and hath not wanted assertors almost from every Nation.[2]

All which notwithstanding, we find this relation doubtfully received by Ælian, as an hear-say account by Bellonius, as a false one by Pliny, expresly refuted by Myndius in Athenæus;[3] and severely rejected by Scaliger; whose words unto Cardan are these.[4] De Cygni vero cantu suavissimo quem cum parente mendaciorum Græcia jactare ausus est, ad Luciani tribunal, apud quem novi aliquid dicas, statuo. Authors also that countenance it, speak not satisfactorily of it. Some affirming they sing not till they die; some that they sing, yet die not. Some speak generally, as though this note were in all; some but particularly, as though it were only in some; some in places remote, and where we can have no trial of it; others in places where every experience can refute it; as Aldrovandus upon relation delivered, concerning the Musick of the Swans on the river of Thames near London.

Now that which countenanceth, and probably confirmeth this opinion, is the strange and unusual conformation of the wind pipe, or vocal organ in this animal:5 observed first by Aldrovandus, and conceived by some contrived for this intention. For in its length it far exceedeth the gullet; and hath in the chest a sinuous revolution, that is, when it ariseth from the lungs, it ascendeth not directly unto the throat, but descending first into a capsulary reception of the breast bone; by a Serpentine and Trumpet recurvation it ascendeth again into the neck; and so by the length thereof a great quantity of air is received, and by the figure thereof a Musical modulation effected. But to speak indifferently, this formation of the Weazon, is not peculiar unto the Swan, but common also unto the Platea[6] or Shovelard, a bird of no Musical throat; And as Aldrovandus confesseth, may thus be contrived in the Swan to contain a larger stock of air, whereby being to feed on weeds at the bottom, they might the longer space detain their heads under water. But were this formation peculiar, or had they unto this effect an advantage from this part: yet have they a known and open disadvantage from another; that is, a flat bill. For no Latirostrous animal (whereof nevertheless there are no slender numbers) were ever commended for their note, or accounted among those animals which have been instructed to speak.

When therefore we consider the dissention of Authors, the falsity of relations, the indisposition of the Organs, and the immusical note of all we ever beheld or heard of; if generally taken and comprehending all Swans, or of all places, we cannot assent thereto. Surely he that is bit with a Tarantula, shall never be cured by this Musick;[7] and with the same hopes we expect to hear the harmony of the Spheres.

2. That there is a special propriety in the flesh of Peacocks, roast or boiled, to preserve a long time incorrupted, hath been the assertion of many; stands yet confirmed by Austin, De Civitate Dei; by Gygas Sempronius in Aldrovandus;[8] and the same experiment we can confirm our selves, in the brawn or fleshly parts of Peacocks so hanged up with thred, that they touch no place whereby to contract a moisture; and hereof we have made trial both in summer and winter. The reason, some, I perceive, attempt to make out from the siccity and driness of its flesh, and some are content to rest in a secret propriety thereof. As for the siccity of the flesh, it is more remarkable in other animals, as Eagles, Hawks, and birds of prey; That it is a propriety or agreeable unto none other, we cannot, with reason admit; for the same preservation, or rather incorruption we have observed in the flesh of Turkeys, Capons, Hares, Partridge, Venison, suspended freely in the air, and after a year and a half, dogs have not refused to eat them.[9]

As for the other conceit, that a Peacock is ashamed when he looks on his legs, as is commonly held, and also delivered by Cardan; beside what hath been said against it by Scaliger; let them believe that hold specificial deformities; or that any part can seem unhandsome to their eyes, which hath appeared good and beautiful unto their makers.[10] The occasion of this conceit, might first arise from a common observation, that when they are in their pride, that is, advance their train, if they decline their neck to the ground, they presently demit, and let fall the same: which indeed they cannot otherwise do; for contracting their body, and being forced to draw in their foreparts to establish the hinder in the elevation of the train; if the foreparts depart and incline to the ground, the hinder grow too weak, and suffer the train to fall.[11] And the same in some degree is also observable in the Turkeys.

3. That Storks are to be found, and will only live in Republikes or free States, is a petty conceit to advance the opinion of popular policies, and from Antipathies in nature, to disparage Monarchical government. But how far agreeable unto truth, let them consider who read in Pliny, that among the Thessalians who were governed by Kings, and much abounded with Serpents, it was no less then capital to kill a Stork.[12] That the Ancient Egyptians honoured them, whose government was from all times Monarchical. That Bellonius affirmeth, men make them nests in France.[13] That relations make them common in Persia, and the dominions of the great Turk.[14] And lastly, how Jeremy the Prophet delivered himself unto his countreymen,15 whose government was at that time Monarchical. The Stork in the heaven knowing her appointed time, the Turtile, Crane, and Swallow observe the time of their coming, but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. Wherein to exprobrate[16] their stupidity, he induceth the providence of Storks. Now if the bird had been unknown, the illustration had been obscure, and the exprobration not so proper.

4. That a Bittor maketh that mugient[17] noise, or as we term it Bumping,[18] by putting its bill into a reed as most believe, or as Bellonius and Aldrovandus conceive, by putting the same in water or mud, and after a while retaining the air by suddenly excluding it again, is not so easily made out. For my own part, though after diligent enquiry, I could never behold them in this motion; Notwithstanding by others whose observations we have expressly requested, we are informed, that some have beheld them making this noise on the shore, their bils being far enough removed from reed or water; that is, first strongly attracting the air, and unto a manifest distention of the neck, and presently after with great contention and violence excluding the same again. As for what Authors affirm of putting their bill in water or mud, it is also hard to make out. For what may be observed from any that walketh the Fens, there is little intermission, nor any observable pawse, between the drawing in and sending forth of their breath. And the expiration or breathing forth doth not only produce a noise, but the inspiration or hailing in of the air, affordeth a sound that may be heard almost a flight-shot.

Now the reason of this strange and peculiar noise, is deduced from the conformation of the wind-pipe, which in this bird is different from other volatiles. For at the upper extream it hath no fit Larinx, or throttle to qualify the sound, and at the other end, by two branches deriveth it self into the lungs. Which division consisteth only of Semicircular fibers, and such as attain but half way round the part; By which formation they are dilatable into larger capacities, and are able to contain a fuller proportion of air; which being with violence sent up the weazon, and finding no resistance by the Larinx, it issueth forth in a sound like that from caverns, and such as sometimes subterraneous eruptions, from hollow rocks afford.[19] As Aristotle observeth in a Problem,20 and is observable in pitchers, bottles, and that instrument which Aponensis[21] upon that Problem describeth, wherewith in Aristotles time Gardiners affrighted birds.

Whether the large perforations of the extremities of the weazon, in the abdomen, admitting large quantity of ayr within the cavity of its membrans, as it doth in Frogs; may not much assist this mugiency[22] or boation, may also be considered. For such as have beheld them making this noise out of the water, observe a large distention in their bodies; and their ordinary note is but like that of a Raven.

5. That whelps are blind nine days and then begin to see, is the common opinion of all, and some will be apt enough to descend unto oaths upon it. But this I find not answerable unto experience, for upon a strict observation of many, I have scarce found any that see the ninth day, few before the twelfth, and the eyes of some not open before the fourteenth day.[23] And this is agreeable unto the determination of Aristotle: who computeth the time of their anopsie or non-vision by that of their gestation. For some, saith he, do go with their young the sixt part of a year, two days over or under, that is, about sixty days or nine weeks; and the whelps of these see not till twelve days.[24] Some go the fifth part of a year, that is, seventy one days, and these saith he, see not before the fourteenth day. Others do go the fourth part of the year, that is, three whole months,[25] and these, saith he, are without sight no less then seventeen days.[26] Wherein although the accounts be different, yet doth the least thereof exceed the term of nine days, which is so generally received. And this compute of Aristotle doth generally overthrow the common cause alleadged for this effect, that is , a precipitation or over-hasty exclusion before the birth be perfect, according unto the vulgar Adage, Festinans canis cæcos parit catulos:[27] for herein the whelps of longest gestation, are also the latest in vision. The manner hereof is this. At the first littering, their eyes are fastly closed, that is, by coalition or joining together of the eyelids, and so continue untill about the twelfth day; at which time they begin to separate, and may be easily divelled or parted asunder; they open at the inward Canthis or greater Angle of the eye, and so by degrees dilate themselves quite open. An effect very strange, and the cause of much obscurity, wherein as yet mens enquiries are blind, and satisfaction not easily acquirable. What ever it be, thus much we may observe, those animals are only excluded without sight, which are multiparous and multifidous, that is, which have many at a litter, and have also their feet divided into many portions. For the Swine, although multiparous, yet being bisulcous, and only cloven hoofed, is not excluded in this manner, but farrowed with open eyes, as other bisulcous animals.

6. The Antipathy between a Toad and a Spider, and that they poisonously destroy each other, is very famous, and solemn stories have been written of their combats; wherein most commonly the victory is given unto the Spider.[28] Of what Toads and Spiders it is to be understood would be considered. For the Phalangium and deadly Spiders,[29] are different from those we generally behold in England. However the verity hereof, as also of many others, we cannot, but desire; for hereby we might be surely provided of proper Antidotes in cases which require them; But what we have observed herein, we cannot in reason conceal; who having in a Glass included a Toad with several Spiders, we beheld the Spiders without resistance to sit upon his head and pass over all his body; what at last upon advantage he swallowed down, and that in few hours, unto the number of seven.[30] And in the like manner will Toads also serve Bees, and are accounted enemies unto their Hives.[31]

7. Whether a Lion be also afraid of a Cock, as is related by many, and believed by most, were very easie in some places to make trial.[32] Although how far they stand in fear of that animal, we may sufficiently understand, from what is delivered by Camerarius,[33] whose words in his Symbola are these: Nostris temporibus in Aula serenissimi Principis Bavariæ, unus ex Leonibus miris saltibus in vicinam cujusdam domus aream sese dimisit, ubi Gallinaciorum cantum aut clamores nihil reformidans, ipsos una cum plurimis gallinis devoravit. That is, In our time in the Court of the Prince of Bavaria, one of the Lions leaped down into a Neighbours yard, where nothing regarding the crowing or noise of the Cocks, he eat them up with many other Hens.[34] And therefore a very unsafe defensative it is against the fury of this animal (and surely no better then Virginity or bloud Royal) which Pliny doth place in Cock broth:[35] For herewith, saith he whoever is anointed (especially if Garlick be boiled therein) no Lion or Panther will touch him. But of an higher nature it were, and more exalted Antipathy, if that were certain which Proclus delivers, that solary Dæmons, and such as appear in the shape of Lions, will disappear and vanish, if a Cock be presented upon them.36

8. It is generally conceived, an Ear-wig hath no Wings, and is reckoned amongst impennous insects by many; but he that shall narrowly observe them, or shall with a needle put a side the short and sheathy cases on their back, may extend and draw forth two wings of a proportionable length for flight, and larger then in many flies. The experiment of Pennius is yet more perfect, who with a Rush or Bristle so pricked them as to make them flie.[37]

9. That Worms are exanguious Animals, and such as have no bloud at all, is the determination of Phylosophy, the general opinion of Scholars, and I know not well to dissent from thence my self. If so, surely we want a proper term whereby to express that humour in them which so strictly resembleth bloud: and we refer it unto the discernment of others what to determine of that red and sanguineous humor, found more plentifully about the Torquis or carneous Circle of great Worms in the Spring, affording in Linnen or Paper an indiscernable tincture from bloud. Or wherein that differeth from a vein, which in an apparent blew runneth along the body, and if dexterously pricked with a lancet, emitteth a red drop, which pricked on either side it will not readily afford.[38]

In the upper parts of Worms, there are likewise found certain white and oval Glandulosities, which Authors term Eggs, and in magnifying Glasses, they also represent them; how properly, may also be enquired; since if in them there be distinction of Sexes, these Eggs are to be found in both. For in that which is presumed to be their coition, their usual complication, or lateral adhesion above the ground, dividing suddenly with two Knives the adhering parts of both, I have found these Eggs, in either.[39]

10. That Flies, Bees, &c. Do make that noise or humming sound by their mouth, or as many believe with their wings only, would be more warily asserted, if we consulted the determination of Aristotle, who as in sundry other places, so more expresly in his book of respiration, affirmeth this sound to be made by the illision of an inward spirit upon a pellicle or little membrane about the precinct or pectoral division of their body.[40] If we also consider that a Bee or Flie, so it be able to move the body, will buz, though its head be off; that it will do the like if deprived of wings, reserving the head, whereby the body may be the better moved. And that some also which are big and lively will hum without either head or wing.[41]

Nor is it only the beating upon this little membrane, by the inward and con-natural spirit as Aristotle determines, or the outward air as Scaliger conceiveth, which affordeth this humming noise, but most of the other parts may also concur hereto; as will be manifest, if while they hum we lay our finger on the back or other parts; for thereupon will be felt a serrous or jarring motion like that which happeneth while we blow on the teeth of a comb through paper; and so if the head or other parts of the trunk be touched with oyl, the sound will be much impaired, if not destroyed: for those being also dry and membranous parts, by attrition of the spirit do help to advance the noise: And therefore also the sound is strongest in dry weather, and very weak in rainy season, and toward winter; for then the air is moist, and the inward spirit growing weak, makes a languid and dumb allision upon the parts.

11. There is found in the Summer a kind of Spider called a Tainct, of a red colour, and so little of body that ten of the largest will hardly outway a grain; this by Country people is accounted a deadly poison unto Cows and Horses; who, if they suddenly die, and swell thereon, ascribe their death hereto, and will commonly say, they have licked a Tainct. Now to satisfie the doubts of men we have called this tradition unto experiment; we have given hereof unto Dogs, Chickens, Calves and Horses, and not in the singular in number; yet never could find the least disturbance ensue. There must be therefore other causes enquired of the sudden death and swelling of cattle; and perhaps this insect is mistaken, and unjustly accused for some other.[42] For some there are which from elder times have been observed pernicious unto cattle, as the Buprestis or Burstcow, the Pityocampe or Eruca Pinnum, by Dioscorides, Galen and Ætius, the Staphilinus described by Aristotle and others, or those red Phalangious Spiders like Cantharides mentioned by Muffetus. Now although the animal may be mistaken and the opinion also false, yet in the ground and reason which makes men most to doubt the verity hereof, there may be truth enough, that is, the inconsiderable quantity of this insect. For that a poison cannot destroy in so small a bulk; we have no reason to affirm. For if as Leo Africanus reporteth, the tenth part of a grain of the poison of Nubia,43 will dispatch a man in two hours; if the bite of a Viper and sting of a Scorpion, is not conceived to impart so much; if the bite of an Asp will kill within an hour, yet the impression scarce visible, and the poison communicated not ponderable; we cannot as impossible reject this way of destruction; or deny the power of death in so narrow a circumscription.

12. Wondrous things are promised from the Glow-worm;[44] from thence perpetual lights are pretended, and waters said to be distilled which afford a lustre in the night; and this is asserted by Cardan, Albertus, Gaudentinus, Mizaldus and many more. But hereto we cannot with reason assent: for the light made by this animal depends much upon its life. For when they are dead they shine not, nor alwaies while they live; but are obscure or light, according to the protrusion of their luminous parts, as observation will instruct us. For this flammeous light is not over all the body, but only visible on the inward side; in a small white part near the tail. When this is full and seemeth protruded, there ariseth a flame of a circular figure and Emerald green colour; which is discernable in any dark place in the day; but when it falleth and seemeth contracted, the light disappeareth, and the colour of the part only remaineth. Now this light, as it appeareth and disappeareth in their life, so doth it go quite out at their death. As we have observed in some, which preserved in fresh grass have lived and shined eighteen days; but as they declined, and the luminous humor dryed, their light grew languid, and at last went out with their lives. Thus also the Torpedo, which alive hath a power to stupifie at a distance, hath none upon contaction being dead, as Galen and Rondeletius particularly experimented. And this hath also disappointed the mischief of those intentions, which study the advancement of poisons; and fancy destructive compositions from Asps or Vipers teeth, from Scorpions or Hornet stings.[45] For these omit their efficacy in the death of the individual, and act but dependantly on their forms. And thus far also those Philosophers concur with us, which held the Sun and Stars were living creatures, for they conceived their lustre depended on their lives; but if they ever died, their light must also perish.

It were a Notable piece of Art to translate the light from the Bononian Stone[46] into another Body; he that would attempt to make a shining Water from Glow-worms, must make trial when the Splendent part is fresh and turgid. For even from the great American Glow-Worms, and Flaming Flies, the light declineth as the luminous humour dryeth.

Now whether the light of animals, which do not occasionally shine from contingent causes, be of Kin unto the light of Heaven; whether the invisible flame of life received in a convenient matter, may not become visible, and the diffused ætherial light make little Stars by conglobation in idoneous parts of the compositum: whether also it may not have some original in the seed and spirit analogous unto the Element of Stars, whereof some glympse is observable in the little refulgent humor, at the first attempts of formation: Philosophy may yet enquire.

True it is, that a Glow-worm will afford a faint light, almost a day's space when many will conceive it dead; but this is a mistake in the compute of death, and term of disanimation; for indeed, it is not then dead, but if it be distended will slowly contract it self again, which when it cannot do, it ceaseth to shine any more. And to speak strictly, it is no easie matter to determine the point of death in Insects and Creatures who have not their vitalities radically confined unto one part; for they are not dead when they cease to move or afford the visible evidences of life; as may be observed in Flies, who, when they appear even desperate and quite forsaken of their forms, by vertue of the Sun or warm ashes will be revoked into life, and perform its functions again.

Now whether this lustre, a while remaining after death, dependeth not still upon the first impression, and light communicated or raised from an inward spirit, subsisting a while in a moist and apt recipient, nor long continuing in this, or the more remarkable Indian Glow-worm; or whether it be of another Nature, and proceedeth from different causes of illumination; yet since it confessedly subsisteth so little a while after their lives, how to make perpetual lights, and sublunary moons thereof as is pretended, we rationally doubt, thought not so sharply deny, with Scaliger and Muffetus.

13. The wisdom of the Pismire is magnified by all, and in the Panegyricks of their providence we alwaies meet with this, that to prevent the growth of Corn which they store up, they bite off the end thereof: And some have conceived that from hence they have their name in Hebrew:47 From whence ariseth a conceit that Corn will not grow if the extreams be cut or broken. But herein we find no security to prevent its germination; as having made trial in grains, whose ends cut off have notwithstanding suddenly sprouted, and accordingly to the Law of their kinds; that is, the roots of barley and oats at contrary ends, of wheat and rye at the same. And therefore some have delivered that after rainy weather they dry these grains in the Sun; which if effectual, we must conceive to be made in a high degree and above the progression of Malt; for that Malt will grow, this year hath informed us, and that unto a perfect ear.

And if that be true which is delivered by many, and we shall further experiment, that a decoction of Toad-stools if poured upon earth, will produce the same again: If Sow-thistles will abound in places manured with dung of Hogs, which feeds much upon that plant: If Horse-dung reproduceth oats; If winds and rains will transport the seminals of plants; it will not be easie to determine where the power of generation ceaseth.[48] The forms of things may lie deeper then we conceive them; seminal principles may not be dead in the divided atoms of plants; but wandering in the ocean of nature, when they hit upon proportionable materials, may unite, and return to their visible selves again.

But the prudence of this animal is by knawing, piercing, or otherwise to destroy the little nebbe or principle of germination. Which notwithstanding is not easily discoverable; it being no ready business to meet with such grains in Ant-hils; and he must dig deep, that will seek them in Winter.[49]


* [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}. Alexander Ross defends many of the tenets discussed in this chapter; the passages are cited in the notes below.

1 [Was Chap. XXVI in 2nd (1650), XXV in 1st edition (1646)]

2 [Ross defends the swan's song (which, says Ross, the swam makes with its wings) Arcana Microcosmi, Book II, Chap. 10. On the swan's song, see Aristotle, History of Animals IX.12; Aelian, De Natura animalium II.xxxii (where the swan is called a bird of Apollo), V.xxxiv, X.xxxvi. Plato, Republic X, says that Orpheus chooses a swan out of hatred for women (and that the swan "and other musicians" choose to be men). In the Phaedo Socrates says that swans, sacred to Apollo, sing in joy rather than fear of death. On the "hieroglyphick" swan, see Pierius, Lib. XXIII, who begins "Aegyptii sacerdotes senem Musicae studiosum per hieroglyphicam Cygni effigiem significare consueverunt", mentions Orpheus, Plato, and the whole lot (and also mentions that some think the swan makes music with its feathers rather than its voice); Horapollo, Hieroglyphica, II.39 ; in the 1940 edition of Francesco Sbordone, page 160:

39. [Πῶς γέροντα μουσικόν.]

Γέροντα μουσικὸν βουλόμενοι σημῆωαι, κύκον ζωγραφοῦσιν· οὖτος γὰρ ἡδύτατον μελος ᾄδει γηράσκων.

A note by Brayley, in the Wilkin edition: "In Horapollo. Neither Dr. Young nor Champollion speaks of it, though the latter mentions, as represented in Hieroglyphicks, 'many web-footed birds'." The Italian translation of Horapollo says that the swan sings most sweetly when it has become old (as do the French and Latin translations of the same era: the 1543 French translation: "Quant ilz voulloient signifier ung viel musicien ils paignoient ung cigne pource que cest ung oyseau de telle nature que tant plus ils viellit tant mieulx il chante"; the 1493 Latin "Musicum senem cum volunt significare cygnum pingunt. hic enim senescens canit quam suavissime"); but Sbordone notes that "γηράσκων sta per « vicino alla morte »". For "Latine" authors, see Cicero, Tusculan Disputations I, XXX, 73, rehearsing Plato's Phaedo; de Oratore III.ii.6; Ovid, Heroides VII: 1-4, Metamorposes XIV:428-434, Fasti II: 108-110, etc.; Martial XIII: LXXVII; Statius, Silvae III.3:173-177,and so on.]

3 [Aelian expresses serious doubt in V.xxxiv and II.xxxii (cited above); Bellonius (1555) Histoire de la nature des oyseaux, Liv. III, Chap. I; Pliny rejects the story as false, H.N. x.63 (englished by Holland, X, xxiii (but they do, he says, devour one another); Athenaeus IX para. 49 (393c-d).]

4 [Thus Scaliger, Exot. Exercitat. CCXXXII, dismissing Cardan's De subtilitate, Lib. x:

Unde alas ingentes avibus esse necesse est, velut & oloribus, qui sola ferme magnitudine ab ansere distinguuntur, quamuis candidi toti sint, & inter omnes aves suavissime occinant: vox tamen, ut saepius audiens consideravi, anserina est. Atque hoc genus avium tam laudatum discerpit suos ac devorat, in morte vero dulce canit. Unde Ovidius:

Sic ubi fata vocant udis abiectus in herbis,
   Ad vada Mæandri concinit albus olor.]

5 The figuration to be found in Elkes [i.e., Whooping Swans], and not in common Swans.

6 [Platalea. Willoughby, in his Ornithology, III.i.2 chap. iv sect. 1, names it "The Spoon-bill. Platea sive Peleccanus of Gesner. Leucorodius sive Albardeola of Aldrovand. Lepelaer of the Low Dutch", and says that he did not "observe in our Bird those reflections of the Wind-pipe, which Aldrovandus mentions, describes, and figures". But he was describing a nestling of 45-1/2 ounces. Willoughby further remarks that the windpipe of what he calls the "tame Swan" does not enter the breast-bone; only that of the "wild Swan". For his remarks on that bird, which he takes, following Aldrovandus, to be the Swan of Aristotle, see Willoughby on the Swan.]

7 [Because there is no such music, not because music won't cure the bite of the tarantula, an idea Browne says he "will not question", III.28.]

8 [Augustine in Book I:

For who but God the Creator of all things has given to the flesh of the peacock its antiseptic property? This property, when I first heard of it, seemed to me incredible; but it happened at Carthage that a bird of this kind was cooked and served up to me, and, taking a suitable slice of flesh from its breast, I ordered it to be kept, and when it had been kept as many days as make any other flesh stinking, it was produced and set before me, and emitted no offensive smell. And after it had been laid by for thirty days and more, it was still in the same state; and a year after, the same still, except that it was a little more shrivelled, and drier.

Gygas Sempronius: Antonio Giggei (or Antonius Giggeius), Italian Orientalist who died in 1632, most noted for his Arabic-Latin dictionary. He gave to Aldrovandus a piece of dried peacock alleged to be more than six years old.]

9 [Wren: There is a siccity which is joynd more with raritye; and another which approaches nearer to solidity; and of this kind are these 5 mentioned, especially 1, 3, 5. But the siccity of the peacock is accompanyed with an unwonted rarity, as appeares by his fethers, the largest and lightest of any other bird under heaven, which argues the drines of his natural temper, in extremo siccitatis; to which you may joyne the beauty of his colors, the whitenes, softnes, and tendernes of the pith in his wing and tayle fethers, proceeding (at a yard length) out of a quill, not an inche long, and soe thin and tender, that for want of substance and strength, are not so useful as a crowe's quill.

Gilbert White, quoted in Wilkin from Jesse's 2nd Gleanings [in Natural History], p. 171: "My pendent pantry, made of deal and fine fly wire, and suspended in the great walnut tree, proves an incomparable preservative for meat against flesh-flies. The flesh, by hanging in a brisk current of air, becomes dry on the surface, and keeps till it is tender without tainting." Harmer, in his Observations on the Scriptures, remarks that travellers have seen similar devices for the storage of meat and of grain in Egypt and north Africa.]

10 [More properly, the peacock is said to be ashamed of his feet. Willoughby, following Aldrovandus, dismisses the story, and also remarks: "The Peacock (saith Aldrovandus) though he be a most beautiful bird to behold, yet that pleasure of the Eyes is compensated with many an ungrateful stroke upon the Ears, which are often afflicted with the odious noise of his horrid, or as he calls it, hellish ["Tartareous voice", says a marginal note] cry. Whence by the common people in Italy it is said to have the feathers of an Angel, but the voice of a Devil, and the guts of a Thief." Some versions of that saying have "feet of a thief", which seems to me to make less sense but ties in with the matter under discussion. Ross, Arcana Microcosmi II.10, defends the "ancient opinion", lukewarmly, as a symbol. Cardan, De subtilitate Liv. X: "Sentit ipse [pavo noster] pulchritudinem suam, examatque dum pedes intuetur, deformitatem eorum aspernatus, caudamque in rotam erigit, exponitque. Soli ut pulchrior videatur, gaudetque hominum admiratione, qui illam intuentur, ob id usque ad lassitudinem eam continet"; to which Scaliger responds, not in the very best of tempers (and extending the story to the legs), Exot. Exercit. CCXXXVIII, "De pavone nostro plebeia narras. Conspectis cruribus, quod ea turpia sint, vociferari. Quis hoc tibi, Cardane, palam fecit? Quoties ipse sibi crura obtuetur, quare non semper, sed aliquando luget invisum a Natura decus? Quotties evenit ei, ut pascatur, nec crura conspiciat sua? Ubi figat vestigium, nescit: nisi oculis captet locum, in quo ponat pedem. At ei spectaculo cum sit a primis assuetus annis, quid quid novi patitur in veteri memoria? Anicularum fabellae sunt hae, Cardane: a quibus, modo aliquid dicas, nusquam te abstinere video. Quid vero habeant eius pedes obscoenitatis, haud equidem scio. De eius quoque coloribus cum tolerabilia inculcares, candidum ab illis non bono consilio abstulisti. Ais enim, eo colore aliios obscurari. Quod ut verum sit, varietas vinceret tamen. Et aspectu sunt elegantiore Sebellinae pelles, quae sparsis pilis albicantibus argentantur. Albos Pavones duos vidi: unum in Vasconia, alterum in hac urbe, qui extat etiam. De eo, quem pullum vocant Indum, aliquid ut dicamus, admonet locus hic, & controversia non contemnenda. Pavonis esse congenerem, crura, pedes, caput, magnitudo, pennae alarum, caudae explicatio, persuadent."]

11 [1672 reads "when they are in their pride, that is, advance their train, if they decline their neck to the ground, the hinder grow too weak, and suffer the train to fall". The text is corrected from 1659.]

12 [Pliny, HNx.62 (englished by Holland); Browne refers to this story in Chapter 25 as well; and attributes to the Egyptians a similar story, Chapter 7. See also the next note.]

13 [France not notable for freedom at the time, and certainly not a republic. See Belon, Histoire des Oyseaux, who also tells us about the stork of the Egyptians. In his (1555) Observations de plusieurs singularitez & choses memorables, Liv. II, chap. xxx, Belon speaks of storks of the Nile and their useful dietary habits: "Le costé du senestre qui est bas & plat, inondé de l'eau du Nil, est rendu fertile & herbeux, ou les oiseaux de riviere se retirent l'hyver, desquels on en voit les champs & prairies blanchir, & principalement de Cigognes, que les Egyptiens à bon droict aiment, d'autant que les grenouilles s'y engendrent en si grande abondance, que sans elles on n'y verroit rien de plus frequent, & außi qu'elles destruisent les serpents d'Egypte, & les avallent tous entiers." (The other bank is rich in vultures and such-like birds.)]

14 [On storks in Turkey (as well as Russia and Tartary), Belon, Observations, Liv. II. chap. iv, speaking of Abydus and its environs: "Auquel lieu estants le mardy vingt & huictiesme iour d'Aoust, veismes voler une grand bende de Cigoignes, qui au iugement de plusieurs estoyent de trois à quatre mille. Elles venoyent de la partie de Rußie & Tartarie: car elles traversoyent le canal de l'Hellespont en croix Bourguignonne. Lesquelles quand furent comme au dessus de l'isle de Tenedo, alors tournoyerent longuement en limasson, suyvants les unes les autres: & se mirent en un rondeau ou cercle: & de là se distribuerent par petites bendes, avant que de s'eslongner de la bouche du Propontide: & ainsi esparses feirent plus de vingt bendes, partants les nes aprés les autres, tirants iustement au midy." Perhaps they were attracted by the black chamaeleons and the red serpents that Belon says populated the fields and streams thereabout. In Chap. CV, Belon says of Antioch that "les cigoignes qui sont l'esté en Europe, sont lá nourries partie de l'hyver, comme en Egypte".]

15 Ier. 8. 7.

16 [1672 exprobate, but other editions have the correct exprobrate. OED: "To make (a thing) a subject of reproach; to 'cast in one's teeth.' ". On the other hand, all editions have the (incorrect) exprobation in the next sentence.]

17 [Wren: Bellowing, or rather braying, like an ass: for soe his compound name (in the Greeke) signifies ὀνοκρότλος, i.e., the harrishe noyse of an asse.]

18 [Of echoic origin; cf. "boom". The OED quotes Skelton (from The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe): "The bitter with his bump, The crane with his trump." The Wife of Bath's bittern "bombleth in the myre". Willoughby's bittern "bombs". See Botaurus stellaris or Bittern for pictures; a sample of the bird's boom which clearly supports Browne's observation of the sound as both in- and exhalation used to be at but seems to have disappeared; Botaurus stellaris song at; etc. The bittern, while exceedingly audible, is shy, well-camouflaged and difficult to observe, even in the days when his numbers were not so drastically small as they are today. For Bellonius on the bittern, see Belon, IV.iv.]

19 [Wren: Yf you observe the geese in their lowd call (which is hearde very far) you shall observe a strong commotion of their lungs, rising to the bottom of the neck.]

20 Sect. 15.

21 [Petrus Aponensis, Pietro d'Abano (c. 1250-c. 1320) the "Great Lombard", who taught medicine at the University of Padua (one of Browne's almæ matres, so to speak).]

22 [1672 has magiency.]

23 [Wren: "Itt is probable, in hot, they saw after 9 dayes; in our clymate perhaps not til 12." Ross defends the tenet, weakly, in Arcana Microcosmi II.10, saying that "nine" means "mostly nine", but some a few days more.]

24 [Aristotle, History of Animals VI.20.]

25 [Wren: i.e. 91 dayes]

26 [Wren: 'Tis observable that the soonest bred see soonest; and the reason is naturall. The acceleration of the birthe and sighte from one and the same cause: viz. the activity of the spirits in the braine, which in some kinde of dogs is seen much more then in others: and in all the lesser kinds more then the greater: in these, the spirits (of the whelps) being drowned in a loade of fat and fleshe, which afterwards growing dryer, gives them leave to put for the spirits to an highth of strength, though not of such nimbleness as in the lesser kindes.]

27 [Erasmus, Adagia 2.2.35; cf. Pliny, HN x.177 (englished).]

28 [Two of them are recounted by Topsell (1608) Historie of Serpents. Ross defends the belief vehemently, Arcana Microcosmi, II.9.]

29 [Probably Browne is referring here not to the Phalangium as a proper name, but as a general classification of spiders, as in Topsell, Theatre of Insects, Book II, Chap. XII: "Of Spiders that are hurtful, or Phalangia", Moffet's "De araneis noxijs sive Phalangijs", contrasted with Chap. XIII: "Of the tame or house Spider", which is nonvenomous.]

30 [Wren: This is a remarkable experiment, whereon wee maye conclude against the old deception.]

31 [Wren: "Which the bees (who of all creatures have the most accurate smell) some perceive, and are poisoned with itt. That they never gather of more then one and the same flower in kinde, is manifest ad oculum; that by only flying swiftly over many they discerne that one kind, are arguments of their exquisite smell." For the evil effects of toads on bees, see xi.62 (englished); Aristotle, Hist. Animal. IX.40 says that toads feed on bees, stationing themselves at the entrances of hives and puffing themselves up. Topsell elaborates on this, saying that the toads blow into the hive, thus driving out the bees.]

32 [Ross defends the ancient tenet, most entertainingly, Arcana Microcosmi, II.9. On the antipathy of the lion and the cock, see Pliny, HN viii.52, (Englished by Holland), where the lion is said to be afraid of the cock's comb and of his crowing; HN x.47 (englished). Plutarch, de Sollertia animalium, 32 (981D-E); in Holland's (1603) translation, page 976:

But most admirable of all others, is the nature of the fish anthios, which Homer called the sacred fish; although some thinke that sacred in that place, is as much to say, as great: in which sense we tearme the great bone, ἱερὸν, that is to say, sacred; whereupon the ridge bone resteth [i.e., the os sacrum]: also the great maladie, called the falling sicknesse, is tearmed in Greeke ἱερα νοσος, that is to say, the sacred sicknesse: others interpret it after the common and vulgar maner, namely, for that which is vowed and dedicated to some god, or otherwise abandoned: but it seemeth that Eratosthenes so called the guilthead or golden-ey, as appeareth by this verse of his [Fr. 14H]:

Most swift of course, with browes as bright as golde,
This is the fish which I doe sacred holde.

but many take it for the elops; for rare he is to be found, and hard to be taken: howbeit, manie times he is seene about the coast of Pamphylia; and whensoever the fishers can meet with any of them, and bring them home, both they themselves weare chaplets of flowers for joy, and also they crowne and adorne their barques with garlands, yea, and at their arrivall they are received with much shouting and clapping of hands; but the most part are of opinion, that the anthios beforesaid, is he which they call the sacred fish; and so is he held to be; for that wheresoever he is, there may no hurtfull nor ravening monster be found there: insomuch as the Divers plunge downe into the sea for spunges, boldly in those coasts where these be; yea, and other fishes, both spawne and reare their yoong frie safely there, as having him for their pleadge and warrant of all safety and security, as in a priviledged place. The cause hereof is hardly to be rendred; whether it bee that such hurtfull fishes upon a secret antipathie in nature, doe avoid him as elephants a swine, and lions a cocke; or that there be some marks & signes of those coasts which are clere of such harmfull monsters, which he knoweh well and observeth, being a fish quicke of wit, and as good of memorie.

And in de Invidia et Odio, Plutarch writes (Holland, p. 234) that "the hatred that the lion hath to the cocke ... proceedeth from feare"; (also that "As for Germanicus Cæsar, he could not of all things abide either to see a cocke or to heare him crow", perhaps neither here nor there, but entertaining). Aelian writes of the hatred of the lion for the cock, as well as other animal antipathies, III.31 and VI.22; Erasmus, in "Amicitia", says that the rooster's cry scares lions (he also says that monkeys don't like tortoises, and that the swan and eagle, the crow and the oriole, the raven and the owl, the eagle and the wren, and a long list of other animal pairs are constantly at war).]

33 [Joachimus Camerarius, 1534-1598, son of the famous philologist. His last work, Symbolorum ac emblematum ethico-politicorum ..., was republished into the eighteenth century.]

34 [Wren: "The learned and Reverend Bishop Andrews was desirous to try this upon a young lyon, to whome hee cast in a young cock, whom (as he was crowing) the lyon seized on (as a cat on a mouse) and tare him and eate him up. Hee related this to mee for information against the fabulous conceyte, anno 1620, at his own table."

Wilkin continues: "Ross {loc. cit.}, rather than give up the old belief, accounts for the story of the Prince of Bavaria's lion, by supposing it must have been mad! The bishop did not probably dream of such a solution." To be fair, Ross also suggests that the lion may have been hungry rather than mad.]

35 [Pliny HN xxix(78); see also xxx(142). Topsell (1607) Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes, p. 475, credits the Lion with even more discernment: "It is also said they have understanding of the parts of men and Women, and diserne sexes, and are indeed with a naturall modesty, declyning the sight of womens prrivy parts. And unto this may be added the notable story of a Lion in England (declared by Crantzius) which by evident tokens was able to distinguish betwixt the Kings, nobles, and vulger sort of people"; but he does not tell us which if any the Lion preferred.]

36 De sacrificiis & magia. [Proclus de Sacrificio et Magia; in the English version on line, p. 150. The English says that the demon can be banished by the image of a cock, which seems unwarranted by the text in front of me: "Quibus cum gallus obiieceretur repente disparverunt."]

37 [Topsell, Theatre of Insects, I.27 translating Moffett, Insectorum Theatrum i.27:

The Northern English by an obscene name call it Twich-ballock, as if you would call it Scrotomordium, or ὀχεοδάκνον, for where ever it findes a rivled pleated skin, it will cause very great pain, either by biting with the mouth, or by winding about it with its forked tail; which Pennius saith once hapned to him being a boy. For we fell upon two sorts of Earwings, both were with wings, contrary to the opinion of many. For if you force them here and there back again with a bull-rush, when they are hem'd in in some place or upon a table, (which the most illustrious Knivet taught Pennius) they will presently open their wings that are hid under their covers, and fly away. But you must take diligent heed that you press not too hard with a straw or rush, or wound it, for then if it would never so fain it cannot fly away.]

38 [This section is an interesting example of Sir Thomas differing from his (contemporary) sources, based on his own observation. He is correct, of course, in saying that worms have blood. Yet his main sources, especially Aldrovandus, lump worms with insects and other "bloodless" creatures. Ross II.10 says that the red "humor" in worms is blood only "analogically".]

39 [Wren: "Itt seemes to have been in the very instant of coition, when the male emptyes himself of them, and was imparted before the full impletion of the female." Earthworms are bisexual or hermaphrodite, in the sense that they have both male and female reproductive organs (and use them both, though not at the same time).]

40 [Aristotle, On Breathing, 15. illision from L. illidere to strike against.]

41 [Wilkin: "This is not accurate. Dr. Geer tried it and found the sound continued, when the stumps of the wings remained, whose vibration occasioned the sound: but it ceased when he perfected the experiment by entirely removing the wings." The sound created by bumblebees is caused by movement of the flight muscles inside the metathorax (see Schneider, Zool. Jb. (Phys.) 79, 111-127 (1975).) Ergo, Aristotle (and Browne) beat Dr. Geer (and Wilkin). Ross defends the alternative (one cannot call it strictly the ancient) tenet, tepidly but from his own experience, Arcana Microcosmi, II.8.]

42 [The poor spider gets his name from being red or "tinctured". The disease from attaint. The similarity of names is no doubt the reason for the association. See the OED s.v. attain (vb.) for the rather complicated etymologies. As Browne points out, however, the exact identification of the creature in question is unclear.]

43 granum Nubiæ [See Leo Africanus, Of the kingdome of Nubia.]

44 [Wren: There is a glow-fly as well as a glow-worm. One of them flew about my face as I sate in my chamber at Bletchington, Oxon. Junio ineunte, 1650. See the particular narration in my notes on the Lorde Verulam's Naturall History, p. 180.

The male glow-worm is winged but does not glow (or at least the European male glow-worm). Various flying insects generally referred to as "fireflies" emit a light that is flashing rather than glowing. In all, the lighting action is controlled by nerves.]

45 [Wren: "The sting being secured from the bodye of a waspe as itt hung on the finger, turned itt selfe and rann (up to the roots) into the finger, and caused a very dolorous and great impostume. And one was bit by the head of a snake, after 6 hours amputation whereof hee was never totally cured to his death: me teste oculato. Whether there may be destructive compositions made of those parts is uncertain: thus far itt is improbable; bycause the teeth of vipers and stings of scorpions are but the outward instrumentall partes through which the poysonous spirit of those venemous creatures is ejaculated by them while they live: but being dead, there is no such active quality in those parts more then anye other, and that the poyson consistes in the vital spirits is manifest, for that wee see the vipers drownd in a sack butt, infuse their spirit into the wine, making itt become an excellent antedote: the great quantitye of wine overcoming the small quantitye of the poyson which comes from them. The like may bee sayde of the vertue which together with the spirits of the scorpion, drowned in oyle, is imprinted on the oyle, makinge itt the only cure of the scorpion's stinge: whereof the reason is manifest. Oyle by nature, abates, and duls, and retundes the fierceness and spreadinge of poyson injected into us by venemous creatures, where we may come to apply itt: but being dull of itt selfe, and not able to follow the swift spreading of the scorpions poyson, thro soe small a puncture, as soone as itt is felt, followes the poyson injected by the same waye; and soe making way for the oyle, wherein itt is caryed, caryes the balme that kils and deades the killing poyson before itt can seise on our vitall spirits to destroy them. And noe doubt but the oyle, wherein hornets are drowned, would cure their punctures alsoe; a thing worthe the tryall."

The poison of such creatures remains poisonous after their death, of course. Wilkin quotes as "well-known fact" a most improbable case of several persons meeting their deaths by wearing the same boot (successively) inside of which was eventually found a rattler's fang in a position that caused it to wound the leg when the boot was drawn on.]

46 [Or Bologna stone, the mineral barite. It is found on Mount Paderno near Bologna (Bononia); in 1603, Vicenzo Cascariolo made a material that glowed at night after being exposed to light during the day. See also The Bolognian Stone.]

47 Nemalah à Namal circumcidit.

48 [I once read a story about the Daffodil Mart in Virginia, which manured its fields with treated sewage and reaped an enormous crop of tomatoes which sprang up as the daffodils died back. It seems that the inhabitants of whatever areas the sewage came from were very fond of the vegetable, and that the treatment was not so complete as might be desired.]

49 [A footnote in the Wilkin edition points out that, far from being the far-seeing and prudent animals generally represented, European ants in fact do not store up food, and have no chambers in their hills for storage. It is further postulated that the "corn" of legend is in fact ant pupae.]

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

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