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made out by observation either upon the shore or the ocean, as we have with diligence explored in both. And surely in vain we expect a regularity in the waves of the sea, or in the particular motions thereof, as we may in its general reciprocations, whose causes are constant and effects therefore correspondent. Whereas its fluctuations are but motions subservient, which winds, storms, shores, shelves, and every interjacency irregulates. Of affinity hereto is that conceit of ovum decumanum, so called because the tenth egg is bigger than any other, according to the reason alledged by Festus, decumana ova dicuntur, quia ovum decimum majus nascitur.' For the honour we bear unto the clergy, we cannot but wish this true; but herein will be found no more verity than the other.” He adds, “the conceit is numeral.”
THE SWAN SINGING BEFORE DEATH.
It is said “ that swans, a little before their death, sing most sweetly, of which, notwithstanding, Pliny, Hist. x. 23, thus speaks: Olorum morte narratur flebilis cantus, falsò ut arbitror aliquot experimentis.' Swans are said to sing sweetiy before their death, but falsely, as I take it, being led so to think by some experiments.
“And Scaliger, Exercitat. 23, to the like purpose : *De cygni vero cantu suavissimo quem cum mendaciorum parente Græcia jactare ausus es, ad Luciani Tribunal, apud quem aliquid novi dicas, statuo te.' Touching the sweet singing of the swan, which with Greece, the mother of lies, you dare to publish, I cite you to Lucian's Tribunal, there to set abroach some new stuff. And Ælian, lib. x. c. 14 : Cantandi studiosos esse jam communi sermone pervulgatum est. Ego, vero, cygnum nunquam audivi canere, fortasse neque alius. That swans are skilful in singing is now rife in every man's mouth, but, for myself, I never heard them sing, and perchance no man else.”
Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes,
BASILISK, OR COCKATRICE.
Sir Thomas BROWNE informs that the generation of a basilisk is supposed to proceed from a cock's egg hatched under a toad or serpent-a conceit which he observes is as monstrous as the brood itself. This learned writer accounts, or rather endeavours to account, for its killing at a distance. “It killeth at a distance—it poisoneth by the eye, and by priority of vision.
Now that deleterious it may be at some distance, and destructive without corporal contaction, what uncertainty soever there be in the effect, there is no high improbability in the relation. For, if plagues or pestilential atomes have been conveyed in the air from different regions : if men at a distance have infected each other: if the shadowes of some trees be noxious : if torpedoes deliver their opium at a distance, and stupifie beyond themselves : we cannot reasonably deny that there may proceed from subtiller seeds more agile emanations, which contemn those laws, and invade at distance unexpected. Thus it is not impossible what is affirmed of this animal: the visible rayes of their eyes carrying forth the subtilest portion of their poison, which received by the eye of man or beast, infecteth first the brain, and is from thence communicated unto the heart.” He adds: “Our basilisk is generally described with legs, wings, a serpentine and winding taile, and a crist or comb somewhat like a cock. But the basilisk of elder times was a proper kind of serpent, not above three palmes long, as some account, and differenced from other serpents by advancing his head and some white marks or coronary spots upon the crown, as all authentic writers have delivered.”
In Andrews's Anecdotes, p. 359, is given, from “a folio book of some price,” a receipt “how to make a basiliske.” It is too ridiculous to merit a place even in a collection of vulgar errors
The original word rem, translated unicorn in our version of the book of Job, xxxix. 9, is by Jerome or Hierome, Montanus, and Aquila rendered rhinoceros ; in the Septuagint, monoceros, which is nothing more than “ one horn." I have no doubt but that the rhinoceros is the real unicorn of antiquity. The fabulous animal of heraldry so called, is nothing more than a horse with the horn of the pristis or sword fish stuck in his forehead.
It is a vulgar error “that the mandrakes represent the parts and shape of a man; yet Mathiolus, in his Commentary upon Dioscorides, affirms of them, “Radices porro mandragoræ humanam effigiem representare, ut vulgo creditur, fabuTosam est : that the roots of the mandrake represent the shape of a man, as is commonly believed, is fabulous, calling them cheating knaves and quacksalvers that carry them about to be sold, therewith to deceive barren women. Brief Natural History, by Eugenius Philalethes, p. 92.
ROSE OF JERICHO-GLASTONBURY THORN.
SIR THOMAS BROWNE tells us : The rose of Jericho, that flourishes every year just about Christmas Eve, is famous in Christian reports. Bellonius tells us it is only a monastical imposture. There is a peculiarity in this plant; though it be dry, yet, on imbibing moisture, it dilates its leaves and explicates its flowers, contracted, and seemingly dried up, which is to be effected not only in the plant yet growing, but also in some measure may be effected in that which is brought exsuccous and dry unto us; which quality being observed, the subtlety of contrivers did commonly play this shew upon the eve of our Saviour's Nativity; when by drying the plant again,
it closed the next day, referring unto the opening and closing of the womb of Mary. Suitable to this relation is the thorn of Glastonbury, and perhaps the daughter thereof. Strange effects are naturally taken for miracles by weaker heads, and artificially improved to that apprehension by wiser. Certainly many precocious trees, and such as spring in the winter, may be found in England. Most trees sprout in the fall of the leaf, or autumn, and if not kept back by cold and outward causes, would leaf about the solstice. Now if it happen that any be so strongly constituted as to make this good against the power of winter, they may produce their leaves or blossoms at that season, and perform that in some singles which is observable in whole kinds : as in ivy, which blossoms and bears at least twice a year, and once in the winter; as also in furze, which flowereth in that season.
Walsingham has the following passage, Historia Brevis, 1574, p. 119. Anno 1336. In multis locis Angliæ salices in Januario flores protulerunt, rosis in quantitate et colore persimiles.”
I have no doubt but that the early blossoming of the Glastonbury thorn was owing to a natural cause. It is mentioned by Gerard and Parkinson in their Herbals. Camden also notices it. Ashmole tells us that he had often heard it spoken of, “and by some who have seen it whilst it flourished at Glastonbury.” He adds : “ Upon St. Stephen's day, anno 1672, Mr. Stainsby (an ingenious inquirer after things worthy memorial) brought me a branch of hawthorne having green leaves, faire buds, and full flowers, all thick and very beautifull, and (which is more notable) many of the hawes and berries upon it red and plump, some of which branch is yet preserved in the plant booke of my collection. This he had from a hawthorne tree now growing at Sir Lancelote Lake's house, near Edgworth, in Middlesex, concerning which, falling after into the company of the said knight, 7th July, 1673, he told me that the tree, whence this branch was plucked, grew from a slip taken from the Glastonbury thorn about sixty years since, which is now a bigg tree, and flowers every winter about Christmas. E. Ashmole.” See the Appendix to Hearne's Antiquities of Glastonbury, p. 303.
A pleasant writer in the World, No. 10 (already quoted in this work), has the following irony on the alteration of the
style in 1752.
is dated March the 8th, 1753. “It is well known that the correction of the calendar was enacted by Pope Gregory the Thirteenth, and that the reformed churches have, with a proper spirit of opposition, adhered to the old calculation of the Emperor Julius Cæsar, who was by no means a Papist. Near two years ago the Popish calendar was brought in (I hope by persons well affected). Certain it is that the Glastonbury thorn has preserved its inflexibility, and observed its old anniversary. Many thousand spectators visited it on the parliamentary Christmas Day-not a bud was to be seen! -on the true Nativity it was covered with blossoms. One must be an infidel indeed to spurn at such authority.”
The following is from the Gent. Mag. for January, 1753, xxiii. 49, dated Quainton in Buckinghamshire, Dec. 24 : “Above two thousand people came here this night with lanthorns and candles, to view a black thorn which grows in this neighbourhood, and which was remembered (this year only) to be a slip from the famous Glastonbury thorn, that it always budded on the 24th, was full blown the next day, and went all off at night; but the people finding no appearance of a bud, 'twas agreed by all that Dec. 25th, N.S., could not be the right Christmas Day, and accordingly refused going to church, and treating their friends on that day as usual ; at length the affair became so serious, that the ministers of the neighbouring villages, in order to appease the people, thought it prudent to give notice, that the old Christmas Day should be kept holy as before. Glastonbury.—A vast concourse of people attended the noted thorns on Christmas Eve, new style ; but to their great disappointment, there was no appearance of its blowing, which made them watch it narrowly the 5th of January, the Christmas Day, old style, when it blowed as usual.”
Millar, in bis Dictionary, observes on this Glastonbury thorn, that the fabulous story of its budding on Christmas Day in the morning, flowering at noon, and decaying at night, is now with great reason disbelieved ; for, although it may sometimes happen that there may be some bunches of flowers open on the day, yet for the most part it is later in the year before they appear ; but this in a great measure depends on the mildness of the season.”
Collinson, in his History of Somersetshire, ii. 265, speaking of Glastonbury, says: “South-west from the town is Wearya!