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CHAP. 2. Of Serpents and Insects. Our readers may rely upon all our author chuses to impart upon: the subjects of this chapter, since he assures us, that "he writes only what he knows by experience;” therefore it may be received as an undeniable article in the creed of every orthodox naturalist, “ that snakes are often found in dunghills, lying upon a great number of eggs, to hatch them as birds do; and some have observed, that they made the great flat toad lie upon them, whilst they have thrown themselves round the nest to keep him close to his duty :” and, moreover, that the rector of the parish of Tymes and dean of Sunhordlehn had a small serpent " with two heads on one body and tail, so that each head had a moderate part of the body divided for it;" that the said dignitary had long preserved it, and had, indeed, only thrown it away at the request of his wife, who had an aversion to it, fearing if she saw it unawares, she might be terrified. All this is certainly very marvellous; but with that impartiality which behoves us to give evidence on all sides to elicit truth, it is but right to add, that Aristotle, Elian, Aldrovandus, Licetus, Langoni, and many others, mention instances of serpents with double heads. On the authority of the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, (vol. iv., p. 211,) Redi, the celebrated anatomist, is said to bave kept a two-headed snake for a considerable time; and, very lately, Dr. Corradori, at Ruto in Tuscany, saw a snake with two heads, which differed as to the use of their faculties, for one would eat while the other was asleep.
But what are serpents with two heads to serpents (or young dragons, as the Bishop more aptly designates them) with seven heads and necks, with four legs, and pointed tails, two German ells long, which he saw with his own eyes !!! Such a monster being no every day wonder, he throws out a hint as to the propriety of classing, if not identifying it with that "emblematic Dragon with seven heads, which the Scripture takes notice of;" and further, to allude to the possibility of a fact mentioned by Olaus Magnus, that birch trees are sometimes seen green, winter and summer, from the number of “ snakes that have made their nests under the roots, and so keep them warm.' We, in our ignorance of amphibiology, always thought that serpents, cum multis aliis of that class, were cold in body and blood; but it must be allowed, that a seven-headed dragon upsets all preconceived prejudices, and is entitled to any measure of temperature sanctioned by such names as Olaus and Pontoppidan.
In speaking of the honey-dew as a disease of plants, in p. 43, he tells us that the farmers employ, as a remedy, ants boiled inwater; and thatin their billocks there is sometimes found what is called norsk virak, a substance which is but little inferior to
the oriental resins. Without pledging ourselves to the efficacy of the remedy or nature of this substance, we suggest, as a hint to farmers and chemists, how far the formic acid might be applied in cases of blight, or be occasionally collected in the various haunts of the Genus Formica.
In page 30, part 1, it is asserted, that a species of maggots fell along with the snow; and in page 45, part 2, the mystery is not unphilosophically attempted to be cleared up by an opinion of Counsellor Detharding, preceptor of physic in the university of Copenhagen, that they were the productions of those eggs which had remained from the last summer in the cracks, and on the branches, of the adjoining trees, from whence they fell with the snow. We would recommend to our curious readers to illustrate the truth of this for themselves, by selecting a small branch from any tree (we have usually found the lime tree the best) which they have noticed in the preceding year as much infected with grubs and caterpillars. It may be cut off at any time (even in the middle of winter), before the leaves appear, and placed in a hot-house or warm room exposed to the sun, when, as soon as the leaves, by this forced process, have attained a certain size, they will be found to be covered more or less with small caterpillars, particularly the grubs of the geometræ genus, so accurately described by Pontoppidan. With respect to the theory of their being snow-born, it is not a little singular that Bacon advances a similar opinion, as one of long standing ; (fol. edit. v. iii. 138.) . It bath been observed by the ancients, that there is a worm that breedeth in old snow, which should shew that snow hath in it a secret warmth, for, else, it could hardly vivify; and the reason of the dying of the worm may be the sudden exhaling of that little spirit, as soon as it cometh out of the cold which had shut it in.' But, whether lemmings drop from the sky, or blights are generated by snow, it is some satisfaction to find that both are under the controul of the church. We have presented our readers with the exorcism over the former; and, as to the latter, the Bishop informs us, that in “ Stokke parish, after they had put up public prayers in the church against these pernicious worms, they were seen to gather in great heaps, and crawl to the nearest waters and drown themselves; and, from that time, there was not one found.”
CHAPTERS' 3 and 4. Of Birds. Our first ornithological notice shall be for the information of those sportsmen, who wish for a good day's sport on the moors, in a deep snow; for, when this is the case, the grouse take care of themselves “in this manner; they first fill their craw with as much food as it will hold; then they'll drop them
selves down in the soft snow, and don't stay in their first hole, but undermine and burrow in the snow, some fathoms from it; and there they make a small opening for the bill; and there they lie warm and comfortable together.” A benevolent trait in the habits of the duck tribe ought to increase our attachment to the web-footed tenants of our poultry yard ; we should premise, however, that it relates only to the wild species. When the young ones are hatched, the drake, we are “informed, flies away, and if, by accident, they become motherless, too, it has been observed, that others of the same kind have taken care of the
poor forlorn young ones, as if they were their own ;-a good lesson for us human creatures.” It is, perhaps, because they live amongst us unnatural creatures, that tame ducks will not adopt this excellent example. The drakes, indeed, are not by any means to be compared with the ducks, either in their character of husbands, or parents. As parents, we see they are apt to desert their families, leaving the mother in full possession of the domestic establishment; as husbands, they are equally reprehensible, (the instance quoted is the eider-duck;) for, when danger approaches, he gives his consort, it is true, due notice “ by crying, hu hu,” when, covering and concealing her eggs, “she comes down to her mate in the water, but he does not receive her very kindly; and if her eggs are lost, by any accident, he gives her many blows with his wings, which she must take patiently; and, after this, he entirely deserts her, and she is obliged to join the flock of her kind, under the same disgrace.” When her young ones are hatched, she appears in a most amiable point of view, “ for she lays herself down for them to climb on her back, and carries them away by an even flight.” No doubt, it is from observing this interesting fact, that Peter Nonsmad, for so the wren is called by the farmers, took his idea of seating himself on the backs of eagles : and so “flying up with them so high, as he otherwise could not possibly soar.”
We have seen that Norwegian oats occasionally convert themselves into barley: it is but fair, therefore, that birds should now and then have a similar privilege; consequently, we ought not to be surprised in hearing, that, according to some, a cuckoo the following year becomes a kite. We always knew that the great northern diver visited the land as seldom as he could ; there is, however, an annual exception to this general rule, in the week before Christmas, with which we were not till now acquainted, from whence the fourth Sunday in Advent is called by the people, after his name, Ommer Sandag. Of another curious fact, connected with those birds, we were also ignorant, namely, that “ under their wings, in their body, there are two pretty deep holes, big enough to put one's fistin, in each of which they hide an egg, and hatch their young ones there as perfect and
with less trouble than others do on shore.” Of another species of this genus, which he erroneously calls a northern diver, (it being the Colymbus Septentrionalis, or red-throated diver,) he says, “ when this bird is in a sportive humour, it makes a frightful ugly noise, just like the cries of a human creature in imminent danger and calling for relief.” To the truth of this we can bear testimony, having often heard them disturb the stillness of a summer's night off the Orkneys and Northern Hebrides, the note painfully resembling the incessant wailings and screams of infant children in a state of extreme suffering.
Every tourist who has steamed his way by the coasts of Anglesey, has heard of Puffin Island, and how these birds bur. row and live in rabbit-holes; but we venture to say, he has never heard how they are extracted en masse from their lurking places, in Norway. We will, therefore, tell them, that the most approved mode is to break in a little dog, and send him into the cracks and openings in the rocks (for they prefer these to rabbit-holes in Norway,) " when he will pull out the first he can lay hold of, by the wings, where they are together in scores, sometimes one or two hundred together; and their way is, when one is laid hold of, and drawn out, he bites fast hold of his next neighbour, and draws him with him; and all laying hold in the same manner, that they must all be drawn out and killed."
Norwegian eagles we find, also, adopting a very curious and easy mode of providing themselves with venison. “He soaks his wings in water, and then covers them with sand or gravel, with which he flies against the deer's face, and blinds him for a time; the pain of this sets him running about like a distracted creature; and frequently he tumbles down a rock, and breaks his neck; thus he becomes a prey to the eagle.”. Like the bears, too, they are fond of children; but prefer them in a more matured state, catching up fine boys of from two to five years of age, the poor parents beholding them“ with inexpressible grief and anguish.” One instance in Orkney is related of a mother's finding her child unhurt in an eagle's nest, after an aërial voyage of four miles. These are, very properly, given as “warnings to careless parents.” But a per contra anecdote is added, with which every voracious eagle ought to be made acquainted, as a caution how he uses his claws, for it so happened, that one day, "an eagle, standing on the bank of a river, saw a large salmon, as if it were just under him; he struck, instantly, one of his talons into the root of an elm just by, and partly hanging over the other, he struck into the salmon, which was very large and in his proper element, which doubled his strength; so that he swam away, and split the eagle to his neck, making literally a spread eagle of him,” a creature, " as the Bishop properly oberves, " otherwise known in heraldry."
CHAPTERs 5 and 6.-Concerning Fish and Fishermen.
The Bishop suggests the possibility, though he is cautious in affirming it as a positive fact, that the Sclavirn, which, in the Scriptures, are construed into quails, might have been flying-fish, according to the opinion of some very competent commentators; and he assigns several sound and excellent reasons for this new version : for instance, that they were said to have been spread and hung up about the camp, which seems to agree best with the manner of curing fish, that is to be dried.”
Under the head of turbots, those who fearlessly encounter them as a top dish, are cautious how they allow a full-fed fish of this species to come in contact with them at the bottom of their element; for “a fisherman striking at a turbot, missed his aim and fell overboard: he came upon a clear sandy bottom, wbere he was seen by bis companions, with the huge turbot spreading himself upon him to press him down.”
A whale, we are informed,' is sometimes a sad gourmand, and, consequently, deservedly suffers Aatulency and indigestion; for he now and then swallows such vast quantities of fish and insects, that his belly will hardly contain them, and is even ready to burst, which causes him to set up a “hideous roar;" indeed, according to some accounts, “ they often lose their lives by violent distention,” the immediate effect of which is a noise so loud,“ that one would imagine it to be a long clap of thunder. The same unaccountable noise,” the Bishop adds, “is heard when he is much affected by fright.”
There is a queer sort of fish, called the sea-devil, (lophius piscatorius,) which we were aware lurked amongst rocks and weeds at the bottom ; acting the part of a sort of marine ogre, enticing little fish to play round his lips for the purpose of ma king a meal of the unsuspecting fry; but for the precise mode of operation we are indebted to the Bishop. It is this; " he will get upon the end of a rock, and open his jaws very wide; this vast mouth the other little fish, who are striving to get the supposed floating worms,” (pendant, gristly, thread-like substances, arranged round the under jaw-bone,) "take to be an opening, or crack, in the rock, so fall a prey to this fish, and are devoured unawares." This reminds us of a boatswain's mate, in a line-of-battle ship much infested with rats, who used to stretch himself on his back in the gun-room at night, with his mouth wide open, and a piece of toasted cheese on the tip of his tongue; by which ingenious device, he succeeded in snapping up a considerable number of these noxious animals.
In Chapter 7, we shall only notice one passage, which