Page images

which defect being observed, inclined some into thoughts, that the air was a sufficient maintenance for these exsanguinous parts. But this defect, or rather paucity of blood, is also agreeable unto many other animals, whose solid nutriment we do not controvert; as may be observed in other sorts of lizards, in frogs, and divers fishes; and therefore an horseleech will not readily fasten upon every fish; and we do not read of much blood that was drawn from frogs by mice, in that famous battle of Homer.4

The last and most common ground which begat or promoted this opinion is, the long continuation hereof without any visible food, which some observing, precipitiously conclude they eat not any at all. It cannot be denied it is (if not the most of any) a very abstemious animal, and such as by reason of its frigidity, paucity of blood, and latitancy in the winter (about which time the observations are often made), will long subsist without a visible sustentation. But a like condition

may be also observed in many other animals ; for lizards and leeches, as we have made trial, will live some months without sustenance; and we have included snails in glasses all winter, which have returned to feed again in the spring. Now these, notwithstanding, are not conceived to pass all their lives without food : for so to argue is fallacious, and is moreover sufficiently convicted by experience. And therefore probably other relations are of the same verity, which are of the like affinity; as is the conceit of the rhintace in Persia, the canis levis of America, and the manucodiata or bird of paradise in India.

* that famous battle of Homer.] This passage was but a friske of his stile.-- Wr.

5 leeches.] Leeches are kept by all apothecaryes in glasses of water, without any other nourishment; which can bee little, or none at all. The often change of the water serving for two intentions, and both contrary to the worke of nourishment ; viz., first to preserve itt from putrefaction, which is the principal aliment which they sucke from thick and muddye standing waters ; and secondly, to cleanse them from that venome, which they had formerlye contracted, which nothing could soe properly or speedily effect as the dailye supply of fresh cleere water; by which consequentially they become the more hungry, and apte to catche holde, and to holde the faster when they are on : evident arguments that from the pure water alone they drew no aliment, but fedd on that store which they had formerlye contracted in putrified standing waters.-. W r.


To assign a reason of this abstinence in animals, or declare how, without a supply, there ensueth no destructive exhaustion, exceedeth the limits and intention of


discourse. Fortunius Licetus, in his excellent tract, De his qui diu vivunt sine alimento, hath very ingeniously attempted it; deducing the cause hereof from an equal conformity of natural heat and moisture, at least no considerable exuperancy in either; which concurring in an unactive proportion, the natural heat consumeth not the moisture (whereby ensueth no exhaustion) and the condition of natural moisture is able to resist the slender action of heat, (whereby it needeth no reparation), and this is evident in snakes, lizards, snails, and divers insects, latitant many months in the year; which being cold creatures, containing a weak heat in a crass or copious humidity, do long subsist without nutrition : for, the activity of the agent being not able to over-master the resistance of the patient, there will ensue no deperdition. And upon the like grounds it is, that cold and phlegmatic bodies, and (as Hippocrates determineth) that old men will best endure fasting. Now the same harmony and stationary constitution, as it happeneth in many species, so doth it fall out sometimes in individuals. For we read of many who have lived long time without aliment; and beside deceits and impostures, there may be veritable relations of some, who without a miracle, and by peculiarity of temper, have far out-fasted Elias. Which notwithstanding, doth not take off the miracle ; for that may be miraculously effected in one, which is naturally causable in another. Some naturally living unto an hun. dred; unto which age others, notwithstanding, could not attain without a miracle.6

9. Which notwithstanding, &c.] This sentence first added in 2nd edition.

miracles.] The reader will have remarked in the course of this chapter, some false positions and unphilosophical observations, into which the author was led by the ignorance which at that time existed of some of those laws which modern discoveries have established in chemistry and physics ; more especially with reference to the compo. nents of air, and the nature of combustion.




That the Ostrich digesteth iron. The common opinion of the Ostrich, Struthiocamelus or Sparrow Camel, conceives that it digesteth iron, and this is confirmed by the affirmations of many : besides swarms of others, Rhodiginus in his prelections taketh it for granted, Johannes Langius in his epistles pleadeth experiment for it; the common picture also confirmeth it, which usually describeth this animal with an horseshoe in its mouth. Notwithstanding upon inquiry we find it very questionable, and the negative seems most reasonably entertained, whose verity indeed we do the rather desire, because hereby we shall relieve our ignorance of one occult quality, for in the list thereof it is accounted, and in that notion imperiously obtruded upon us. For my part, although I have had the sight of this animal, I have not had the opportunity of its experiment, but have received great occasion of doubt from learned discourses thereon.

For Aristotle and Oppianus, who have particularly treated hereof, are silent in this singularity, either omitting it as dubious, or as the comment saith, rejecting it as fabulous. Pliny, speaking generally, affirming only the digestion is wonderful in this animal; Ælian delivereth that it digested stones without any mention of iron; Leo Africanus, who lived in those countries wherein they most abound, speaketh diminutively, and but half way into this assertion, Surdum ac simplex animal est, quicquid invenit, absque delectu, usque ad ferrum devorat ; Fernelius in his second De Abditis rerum causis, extenuates it, and Riolanus in his comment thereof positively denies it. Some have experimentally refuted it, as Albertus Magnus, and most plainly Ulysses Aldrovandus, whose words are these, Ego ferri frusta devorare, dum Tridenti

essem, observavi, sed quæ incocta rursus excerneret, that is, “at my being at Trent, I observed the ostrich to swallow iron, but yet to exclude it undigested again.”

7 and most plainly, &c.] But though Aldrovandus saw this once, one swallow makes not a summer," says Master Ross, “who fully believes the iron to be digested ; he is satisfied that even in that one

[ocr errors]

Now beside experiment, it is in vain to attempt against it by philosophical argument, it being an occult quality, which contemns the law of reason, and defends itself by admitting no reason at all. As for its possibility we shall not at present dispute; nor will we affirm that iron ingested, receiveth in the stomach of the ostrich no alteration at all; but if any such there be, we suspect this effect rather (from some way of corrosion than any of digestion; not any liquid reduction or tendence to chylification by the power of natural heat, but rather some attrition from an acid and vitriolous humidity in the stomach, which may absterse and shave the scorious parts thereof. So rusty iron crammed down the throat of a cock, will become terse and clear again in its gizzard. So the counter, which, according to the relation of Amatus, remained a whole

year in the body of a youth, and came out much consumed at last, might suffer this diminution rather from sharp and acid humours, than the strength of natural heat, as he supposeth. So silver swallowed and retained for some time in the body will turn black, as if it had been dipped in aqua fortis, or some corrosive water, but lead will remain unaltered, for that metal containeth in it a sweet salt or sugar, whereby it resisteth ordinary corrosion, and will not easily dissolve even in aqua fortis. So when for medical uses we take down the filings of iron or steel, we must not conceive it passeth unaltered from us, for though the grosser parts be excluded again, yet are the dissoluble parts extracted, whereby it becomes effectual in deoppilainstance the stomach suckt something out of it!”

The ostrich is naturally herbivorous ; but though vegetable matter constitutes the basis of its food, and though it is often seen pasturing in the south of Africa, it is yet so voracious, and its senses of taste and smell are so obtuse, that it devours animal and mineral substances indiscriminately, until its enormous stomach is completely full. It swallows without any choice, and merely as it were for ballast, wood, stones, grass, iron, copper, gold, lime, or, in fact, any other substance equally hard, indigestible, and deleterious. The powers of digestion in this bird are certainly very great, but their operation is confined to matters of an alimentary character. But copper, far from being converted into nutriment, acts upon its stomach like poison, and nails very frequently pierce its coats and membranes. Vaillant mentions that one of these birds died in consequence of having devoured an immense quantity of quick lime.--Cuvier. In Loudon's Magazine of Natural History, No. 6, p. 62, is a relation of an ostrich having been killed by swallowing glass.


tions,& and therefore for speedier operation we make extinctions, infusions, and the like, whereby we extract the salt and active parts of the medicine, which being in solution, more easily enter the veins. And this is that the chemists mainly drive at in the attempt of their Aurum Potabile, that is, to reduce that indigestible substance into such a form as may not be ejected by siege, but enter the cavities, and less accessible parts of the body, without corrosion.

The ground of this conceit is its swallowing down fragments of iron, which men observing, by a froward illation, have therefore conceived it digesteth them, which is an inference not to be admitted, as being a fallacy of the consequent, that is, concluding a position of the consequent, from the position of the antecedent. For many things are swallowed by animals rather for condiment, gust or medicament, than any substantial nutriment. So poultry, and especially the turkey, do of themselves take down stones, and we have found at one time in the gizzard of a turkey no less than seven hundred. Now these rather concur unto digestion, than are themselves digested, for we have found them also in the guts and excrements; but their descent is very slow, for we have given them stones and small pieces of iron, which eighteen days after we have found remaining in the gizzard ; and therefore the experiments of Langius and others might be fallible, whilst after the taking they expected it should come down within a day or two after. Thus also we swallow cherry stones, but void them unconcocted, and we usually say they preserve us from surfeit, for being hard bodies they conceive a strong and durable heat in the stomach, and so prevent the crudities of their fruit: and upon the like reason do culinary operators observe, that flesh boils best when the bones are boiled with it. Thus dogs will eat grass, which they digest not; thus camels to make the water sapid, do raise the mud with their feet; thus horses will knable at walls, pigeons delight in salt stones; rats will gnaw iron, and Aristotle saith the elephant swalloweth stones; and thus may also the ostrich swallow iron, not as

8 deoppelations.] Clearing away obstructions. 9 knable.]

Probably to be found no where else,” says Johnson, “than in this passage.” Very probably; the fact is, that it is a frequent Norfolk vulgarization of the word nibóle.


« PreviousContinue »