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THE REMORA, OF WHICH THE STORY IS THAT IT STAYS SHIPS UNDER SAIL.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE doubts whether the story of the remora be not unreasonably amplified. But Alexander Ross, in his Refutation of the Doctor's Vulgar Errors, in his Arcana Microcosmi, cites Scaliger as saying that this is as possible as for the loadstone to draw iron : for neither the resting of the one, nor moving of the other, proceeds from an apparent but an occult virtue ; for as in the one there is an hid principle of motion, so there is in the other a secret principle of quiescence.
THAT THE CHAMELEON LIVES ON AIR ONLY.
ALEXANDER Ross, in his Refutation of Sir Thomas Browne's Vulgar Errors, asserts this to be true. However, the Doctor writes to the contrary for the following reasons : “1. The testimonies both of ancient and modern writers, except a few, and the witnesses of some yet living, who have kept camelions a long time, and never saw them feed but on air. 2. To what end hath Nature given it such large lungs beyond its proportion ! Sure not for refrigeration ; lesse lungs would serve for this use, seeing their heat is weak : it must be then for nutrition. 3. There is so little blood in it, that we may easily see it doth not feed on solid meat. 4. To what end should it continually gape more than other animals, but that it stands more in need of air than they, for nutrition as well as generation ? 5. He that kept the camelion which I saw, never perceived it to void excrements backwards : an argument it had no solid food.”
“That the bever being hunted and in danger to be taken biteth off his stones, knowing that for them his life only is sought, and so often escapeth: hence some have derived his
name, castor, a castrando seipsum ; and upon this supposition, the Egyptians in their hieroglyphicks, when they will signifie a man that hurteth himself, they picture a bever biting off his own stones, though Alciat, in his Emblems, turnes it to a contrary purpose, teaching us by that example to give away our purse to theeves, rather than our lives, and by our wealth to redeem our danger. But this relation touching the bever is undoubtedly false, as both by sense and experience and the testimony of Dioscorides, lib. iii. cap. 13, is manifested. First, because their stones are very small, and so placed in their bodies as are a bore’s; and therefore impossible for the bever himself to touch or come by them : and, secondly, they cleave so fast unto their back, that they cannot be taken away but the beast múst of necessity lose his life; and consequently most ridiculous is their narration who likewise affirm that when he is hunted, having formerly bitten off his stones, he standeth upright and sheweth the hunters that he hath none for them, and therefore his death cannot profit them, by means wherof they are averted and seek for another.” Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 89.
MOLE. ELEPHANT. In the Brief Natural History just quoted, p. 89, we are told: “That the mole hath no eyes, nor the elephant knees, are two well-known vulgar errors : both which, notwithstanding, by daily and manifest experience are found to be untrue.”
OVUM ANGUINUM. The ovum anguinum, or Druids egg, has been already noticed among the physical charms. The reputed history of its formation has been reserved for insertion among the Vulgar Errors. “Near Aberfraw, in the Isle of Anglesey," says Mr. Gough, in his Camden, edit. 1789, î. 571, "are frequently found the Glain Naidr, or Druid glass rings (Hist. of Anglesey, p. 41). Of these the vulgar opinion in Cornwall and
most parts of Wales is, that they are produced through all Cornwall by snakes joining their heads together and hissing, which forms a kind of bubble like a ring about the head of one of them, which the rest, by continual hissing, blow on till it comes off at the tail, when it immediately hardens and resembles a glass ring. Whoever found it was to prosper in all his undertakings. These rings are called glain nadroedh, or gemmæ anguinæ. Glûne in Irish signifies glass. In Monmouthshire they are called maen magl, and corruptly glaim for glain. They are small glass annulets, commonly about half as wide as our finger rings, but much thicker, usually of a green colour, though some are blue, and others curiously waved with blue, red, and white. Mr. Lluyd had seen two or three earthen rings of this kind, but glazed with blue, and adorned with transverse strokes or furrows on the outside. The smallest of them might be supposed to have been glass beads worn for ornaments by the Romans, because some quantities of them, with several amber beads, had been lately discovered in a stone pit near Garrord, in Berkshire, where they also dig up Roman coins, skeletons, and pieces of arms and
But it may be objected, that a battle being fought there between the Romans and Britons, as appears by the bones and arms, these glass beads might as probably belong to the latter. And, indeed, it seems very likely that these snake-stones, as we call them, were used as charms or amulets among our Druids of Britain on the same occasion as the snake-eggs l among the Gaulish Druids.
1 ! The following is Pliny's description of the snake-egg, a poetical version of part of which has been quoted in p. 148, from Mason's Caractacus :
:-“ Præterea est ovorum genus in magna Galliarum fama, omissum Græcis. Angues innumeri æstate convoluti, salivis faucium cor. porumque spumis artifici complexu glomerantur, anguinum appellatur. Druidæ sibilis id dicunt in sublime jactari, sagoque oportere intercipi, ne tellurem attingat. Profugere raptorem equo: serpentes enim insequi, donec arceantur amnis alicujus interventu. Experimentum ejus esse, si contra aquas fluitet vel auro vinctum. Atque, ut est magorum solertia uccultandis fraudibus sagax, certa luna capiendum censent, tanquam congruere operationem eam serpentium, humani sit arbitrii. Vidi equidem
ovum mali orbiculati modici magnitudine, crusta cartilaginis, velut acetabulis brachiorum polypi crebris, insigne Druidis. Ad victorias litium, ac regum aditus, mire laudatur: tantæ vanitatis, ut habentem id in lite in sinu equitem Romanum e Vecontiis, a Divo Claudio principe interemptum non ob aliud sciam.” Edit. Harduin, lib. xxix. 12.
Thus," continues Mr. Lluyd, “we find it very
evident that the opinion of the vulgar concerning the generation of these adder-beads, or snake-stones, is no other than a relic of the superstition or perhaps imposture of the Druids ; but whether what we call snake-stones be the very same amulets that the British Druids made use of, or whether this fabulous origin was ascribed formerly to the same thing and in after times applied to these glass beads, I shall not undertake to determine. As for Pliny's ovum anguinum, it can be no other than a shell (marine or fossil) of the kind we call echinus marinus, whereof one sort, though not the same he describes, is found at this day in most parts of Wales. Dr. Borlase, who had penetrated more deeply into the Druidical monuments in this kingdom than any writer before or since, observes that instead of the natural anguinum, which must have been very rare, artificial rings of stone, glass, and sometimes baked clay, were substituted as of equal validity."
The Doctor adds, from Mr. Lluyd's letter, March 10, 1701, at the end of Rowland's Mona Antiqua, p. 342, that "the Cornish retain variety of charms, and have still, towards the Land's End, the amulets of maen magal and glain-neider, which latter they call a melprev (or milprev, i. e. a thousand worms), and have a charm for the snake to make it, when they have found one asleep, and stuck a hazel wand in the centre of her spiræ.'
The opinion of the Cornish, Dr. Borlase continues, is somewhat differently given us by Mr. Carew.
“ The countrypeople have a persuasion that the snakes here breathing upon a hazel wand, produce a stone ring of blue colour, in which there appears the yellow figure of a snake, and that beasts bit and envenomed, being given some water to drink wherein this stone has been infused, will perfectly recover of the
These beads are not unfrequently found in barrows (see Stukeley's Abury, p. 44); or occasionally with skeletons, whose nation and age are not ascertained. Bishop Gibson engraved three : one, of earth enamelled with blue, found near Dol Gelhe in Merionethshire; a second, of green glass, found at Aberfraw; and a third, found near Maes y Pandy, co. Merioneth.
“THERE is a vulgar error,” says the author of the Brief Natural History, p. 91, “that a salamander lives in the fire. Yet both Galen and Dioscorides refute this opinion; and Mathiolus, in his Commentaries upon Dioscorides, a very famous physician, affirms of them, that by casting of many a salamander into the fire for tryal he found it false.
The same experiment is likewise avouched by Joubertus.”!
PEACHAM, in his Truth of our Times, 1638, p. 174, tells
“There are many that believe and affirm the manna which is sold in the shoppes of our apothecaries to be of the same which fell from heaven, and wherewith the Israelites were fedde.” He then proceeds to give reasons why this cannot be. See also Browne's Vulgar Errors, fol. edit. p. 299.
TENTH WAVE AND TENTH EGG.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us, " that fluctus decumanus, or the tenth wave, is greater or more dangerous than any other, some no doubt will be offended if we deny; and hereby we shall seem to contradict antiquity : for, answerable unto the literal and common acceptation, the same is averred by many writers, and plainly described by Ovid :
«Qui venit hic fiuctus, fluctus supereminet omnes
Posterior nono est, undecimoque prior.' Which, notwithstanding, is evidently false; nor can it be
I “Should a glass-house fire be kept up, without extinction, for a longer term than seven years, there is no doubt but that a salamander would be generated in the cinders. This very rational idea is much more generally credited than wise men would readily believe.” Anecdotes, &c., Ancient and Modern, by James Petit Andrews, p. 359.