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will move both ways, and so will most of those animals whose bodies consist of round and annulary fibres, and move by undulation; that is, like the waves of the sea, the one protruding the other, by inversion whereof they make a backward motion.
Upon the same ground hath arisen the same mistake concerning the scolopendra or hundred-footed insect, as is delivered by Rhodiginus from the scholiast of Nicander: Dicitur à Nicandro, aupukapis, id est, dicephalus aut biceps fictum vero, quoniam retrorsum (ut scribit Aristotles) arrepit, observed by Aldrovandus, but most plainly by Muffetus, who thus concludeth upon the text of Nicander: Tamen pace tanti authoris dixerim, unicum illi duntaxat caput, licèt pari facilitate, prorsum capite, retrorsum ducente cauda, incedat, quod Nicandro aliisque imposuisse dubito: that is, under favour of so great an author, the scolopendra hath but one head, although with equal facility it moveth forward and backward, which I suspect deceived Nicander and others.
And therefore we must crave leave to doubt of this double-headed serpent until we have the advantage to behold, or have an iterated ocular testimony concerning such as are sometimes mentioned by American relators, and also such as Cassianus Puteus showed in a picture to Joannes Faber, and that which is set down under the name of amphisbæna europea, in his learned discourse upon Hernandez's History of America.6
That young Vipers force their way through the bowels of their Dam. That the young vipers force their way through the bowels of their dam, or that the female viper, in the act of generation, bites off the head of the male, in revenge whereof the young ones eat through the womb and belly of the female, is a very ancient tradition ; in this sense entertained in the hieroglyphicks of the Egyptians ;' affirmed by Herodotus, Nicander, Pliny, Plutarch, Ælian, Jerome, Basil, Isidore;
6 And therefore, &c.] First added in 6th edition. ? in this sense, &c.] Also from Pierius, 143, c. and Horapollo, 115.
seems countenanced by Aristotle and his scholar Theophrastus: from hence is commonly assigned the reason why the Romans punished parricides by drowning them in a sack with a viper. And so perhaps, upon the same opinion, the men of Melita, when they saw a viper upon the hand of Paul, said presently, without conceit of any other sin, “ No doubt this man is a murderer, who, though he have escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth him not to live :” that is, he is now paid in his own way, the parricidous animal and punishment of murderers is upon him. And though the tradition were current among the Greeks, to confirm the same, the Latin name is introduced, Vipera quasi vi pariat. That passage also in the gospel, “ O ye generation of vipers !" hath found expositions which countenance this conceit, Notwithstanding which authorities, transcribed relations and conjectures, upon enquiry we find the same repugnant unto experience and reason.8
And first, it seems not only injurious unto the providence of nature, to ordain a way of production which should destroy the producer, or contrive the continuation of the species by the destruction of the continuator, but it overthrows and frustrates the great benediction of God, “ God blessed them, saying, be fruitful and multiply.” Now, if it be so ordained that some must regularly perish by multiplication, and these be the fruits of fructifying in the viper, it cannot be said that God did bless, but curse, this animal ; “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all thy life," was not so great a punishment unto the serpent after the fall, as “increase, be fruitful, and multiply," was, before. This were to confound the maledictions of God, and translate the curse of the woman upon the serpent; that is, in dolore paries, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth ;" which, being proper unto the woman, is verified best in the viper, whose delivery is not only accompanied with pain, but also
8 and reason.] Honest master Ross is very pertinacious in his opposition to the arguments of our author, as to the improbability and unreasonableness of the vulgar tenet respecting the viper—that it loses its own life in giving life to its progeny ; and in some respects he opposes them with some plausibility. (See Arcana, page 149.) For there are not wanting parallels and well-authenticated cases in which the act of propagation is fatal : though in the present case it is not so.
with death itself. And lastly, it overthrows the careful course and parental provision of nature, whereby the young ones newly excluded are sustained by the dam, and protected until they grow up to a sufficiency for themselves. All which is perverted in this eruptive generation ; for the dam being destroyed, the younglings are left to their own protection; which is not conceivable they can at all perform, and whereof they afford us a remarkable confirmance many days after birth : for the young ones, supposed to break through the belly of the dam, will, upon any fright, for protection run into it; for then the old one receives them in at her mouth, which way, the fright being past, they will return again ;' which is a peculiar way of refuge, and although it seem strange, is avowed by frequent experience and undeniable testimony.
9 will upon any fright, &c.] This is admitted to be true of the rattlesnake, but denied of the viper. I subjoin two passages from Cuvier, by Griffith, vol. ix. pp. 344, 356.
“The crotali are viviparous ; at Martinique it is the general persuasion that the offspring are eaten by the vipers when they are very young, and a little after their birth. According to M. Palisot de Beauvois, this prejudice derives its origin from a fact wrongly interpreted. In the first journey made by this naturalist, in the country of the native Teharlokee, he saw a crotalus horridus in a path, and approached it as softly as possible. At the moment when it was about to be struck, the animal agitated its rattles, opened a wide throat, and received into it five little ones, about as thick each as a goose-quill. But at the end of ten minutes, believing itself out of danger, it opened its mouth again and let the young ones out, which, however, entered there again, on the appearance of a new danger. M. Guillemart, a countryman of our own, has verified the same fact.”
“In the fine days of early spring, the vipers may be seen basking in the morning sun, on little hills exposed to an eastern aspect, and they speedily occupy themselves in the great work of propagating their species. The act of generation takes a very long time in its accomplishment, and its result is the vivification of from twelve to twenty-five eggs, almost as large as these of wrens or titmice. These exclude the young, in the womb of the mother, and there they remain coiled up, and come to the length of three or four inches before they issue forth, which they generally do in the course of the fourth month after fecundation. Having thus, by a sort of parturition, quitted their mother, the young vipers, for some time after, carry with them the remains of the egg which enclosed them, and which then have the appearance of irregularly torn membranes. But from that time they are entirely strangers to the being which gave them birth, and do not seek refuge in her mouth, on the approach of danger, as the ancients erroneously imagined.'
This resemblance of the remains of the egg which the young vipers
As for the experiment, although we have thrice attempted it, it hath not well succeeded; for though we fed them with milk, bran, cheese, &c. the females always died before the young ones were mature for this eruption; but rest sufficiently confirmed in the experiments of worthy enquirers. Wherein to omit the ancient conviction of Apollonius, we shall set down some few of modern writers. The first, of Amatus Lusitanus, in his comment upon Dioscorides, Vidimus nos viperas prægnantes inclusas pixidibus parere, quæ
carry about with them, to “irregularly torn membranes,” may possibly have promoted the popular error under discussion. White has the following remarks.
Though they are oviparous, yet they are viviparous also, hatching their young within their bellies, and then bringing them forth. Whereas snakes lay chains of eggs every summer in my melon-beds, in spite of all that my people can do to prevent them; which eggs do not hatch till the spring following, as I have often experienced. Several intelligent folks assure me that they have seen the viper open her mouth and admit her helpless young down her throat on sudden surprises, just as the female opossum does her brood into the pouch under her belly, upon the like emergencies ; and yet the London viper-catchers insist on it, to Mr. Barrington, that no such thing ever happens."
“On August the 4th, 1775, we surprised a large viper, which seemed very heavy and bloated, as it lay in the grass basking in the sun. When we came to cut it up, we found that the abdomen was crowded with young, fifteen in number ; the shortest of which measured full seven inches, and were about the size of full-grown earth-worms. This little fry issued into the world with the true viper-spirit about them, showing great alertness as soon as disengaged from the belly of the dam : they twisted and wriggled about, and set themselves up, and gaped very wide when touched with a stick, showing manifest tokens of menace and defiance, though as yet they had no manner of fangs that we could find, even with the help of our glasses.”
“There was little room to suppose that this brood had ever been in the open air before ; and that they were taken in for refuge, at the mouth of the dam, when she perceived that danger was approaching; because then probably we should have found them somewhere in the neck, and not in the abdomen."
I undeniable testimony.) Particularly by Scaliger, Exercit. 101, E avroyiq. The like is sayde of the weasel, that shee brings forth at the mouth, bycause they saw her remove her young ones with her mouth. And that Juno turned Galanthis, Alcmena's mayd, into a weasel, eis tnv yalny, bycause shee had cousened her with a lye, that her mistress was brought a bed.— Wr.
inde ex partu nec mortua, nec visceribus perforatæ manserunt. The second is that of Scaliger, Viperas ab impatientibus more foetibus numerosissimis rumpi atque interire, falsum esse scimus, qui in Vincentii Camerini circulatoris lignea theca vidimus enatas_viperellas, parente salva.
The last, and most plain of Franciscus Bustamantinus, a Spanish physician of Alcala de Henares, whose words, in his third De Animantibus Scripturæ, are these : Cùm verò per me et per alios hæc ipsa disquisissem servatâ viperina progenie, &c. that is, when by myself and others, I had enquired the truth hereof, including vipers in a glass, and feeding them with cheese and bran, I undoubtedly found, that the viper was not delivered by the tearing of her bowels ; but I beheld the young ones excluded by the passage of generation, near the orifice of the siege. Whereto we might also add the ocular confirmation of Lacuna upon Dioscorides, Ferdinandus Imperatus, and that learned physician of Naples, Aurelius Severinus.3
Now, although the tradition be untrue, there wanted not many grounds which made it plausibly received. The first was, a favourable indulgence and special contrivance of nature, which was the conceit of Herodotus, who thus delivereth himself: -“ Fearful animals, and such as serve for food, nature hath made more fruitful; but upon the offensive and noxious kind she hath not conferred fertility. So the hare, that becometh a prey unto man, unto beasts, and fowls of the air, is fruitful even to superfætation; but the lion, a fierce and ferocious animal, hath young ones but seldom, and also but one at a time. Vipers indeed, although destructive, are
, fruitful; but, lest their numbers should increase, Providence hath contrived another way to abate it; for in copulation the female bites off the head of the male, and the young ones destroy the mother.” But this will not consist with reason, as we have declared before. And if we more nearly consider the condition of vipers and noxious animals, we shall discover another higher provision of nature: how, although in their paucity she hath not abridged their malignity, yet hath she notoriously effected it by their secession or latitancy. For not
? I undoubtedly found, &c.] This is perfectly correct. See note 9,
3 Whereto, &c.] First added in 3rd edition.