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Compendiously of the musical note of Swans before their death ; that the
flesh of Peacocks corrupteth not ; that they are ashamed of their legs ; that Storks will only live in republicks and free states ; of the noise of a Bittern by putting the bill in a reed ; that Whelps are blind nine days ; of the antipathy between a Toad and a Spider, a Lion and a Cock ; that an Earwig hath no wings ; of Worms; that Flies make that humming noise by their mouths or wings ; of the Tainct or small Red Spider ; of the Glow-worm ; of the providence of Pismires in biting off the ends of corn.
1. And first, from great antiquity, and before the melody of Syrens, the musical note of swans hath been commended, and that they sing most sweetly before their death: for thus we read in Plato, that from the opinion of Metempsychosis, or transmigration of the souls of men into the lies of beasts most suitable unto their human condition, after his death Orpheus the musician became a swan ; thus was it the bird of Apollo, the god of music, by the Greeks; and an hieroglyphick of music among the Egyptians, from whom the Greeks derived the conception ;- hath been the affirmation of many Latins, and hath not wanted assertors almost from every
nation. All which notwithstanding, we find this relation doubtfully received by Ælian, as an hearsay account by Bellonius, as a false one by Pliny, expressly refuted by Myndius in Athenæus, and severely rejected by Scaliger; whose words unto Cardan are these: De cygno verò cantu suavissimo quem cum parente mendaciorum Græcia jactare ausus es, ad Luciani tribunal apud quem novi aliquid dicas, statuo. Authors also that countenance it, speak not satisfactorily of it: some affirming they sing not till they die; some that they sing, yet die not. Some speak generally, as though this note were in all; some but particularly, as though it were only in some;
; some in places remote, and where we can have no trial of it; others in places where every experience can refute it; as
an hieroglyphick, &c.] In Horapollo. Neither Dr. Young nor Champollion speaks of it, though the latter mentions, as represented in hieroglyphicks, “many web-footed birds.”. Br.
Aldrovandus upon relation delivered concerning the music of the swans on the river of Thames, near London.
Now that which countenanceth and probably confirmeth this opinion, is the strange and unusual conformation of the windpipe, or vocal organ in this animal; observed first by
9 Aldrovandus, and conceived by some contrived for this intention. For in its length it far exceedeth the gullet, and hath in the chest a sinuous revolution, that is, when it ariseth from the lungs it ascendeth not directly unto the throat, but de
9 con formation of the wind pipe, &c.] The vast variety which exists, in quality and extent of tone, as well as in diversity of modulation in the cry and song of birds, arises from a corresponding variety in the structure of their organs of voice. This curious subject has been investigated with much diligence and ingenuity by various ornithologists ; especially by Dr. Latham some years ago, and more recently by Mr. Yarrell, Their papers, in the Linnaan Transactions, vols. iv. xv. and xvi., will afford much gratification to those readers who feel an interest in the subject. From the examination of these naturalists, it appears, that much of the strength, as well as perfection, of the song of birds, is attributable to the number and size of the muscles of the larynx. Those of the singing birds are the most numerous of any; and in the nightingale are stronger than in any other bird of the same size. The power and depth of tone in some birds will be found to increase with the elongation of the tube. On which principle it is, that the difference of the vocal powers of the mute swan and hooper, or wild swan, must be explained. The more complicated the structure of the tube, the more disagreeable the sound of the voice; the simple forms belonging to the most delightful of our singing birds. Again, shrill notes are produced by short tubes (as in the case of the singing birds), and deep tones by long tubes (as in the waders and swimmers). The substance of the tube itself is also to be considered : birds possessing strong and broad cartilages, or bony rings, have monotonous and loud voices, while the more slender rings allow a corresponding variety in the scale of tone. Mr. Yarrell concludes his second paper with the following observation :
" It will perhaps be objected, that the utmost extent of motion which birds appear to possess the power of exercising, over the various parts of their organ of voice, seems insufficient to account for the effects produced ; but it may in answer be urged, that the closest examination or most scientific demonstration of the chordæ vocales and muscles in man, with all the auxiliary appendages, afford but an imperfect illustration of the varied and extraordinary powers of the human voice.” It need scarcely be observed, that the peculiarity noticed by our author in the tracheæ of the wild swan, has nothing to do with any extraordinary powers of submersion : but is the occasion of the shrill, piercing, and harsh note which has obtained from him the name of the whistler or hooper ; an appellation far more applicable than that of the “musical” swan, for which he is indebted to fabulous antiquity.
scending first into a capsulary reception of the breast-bone, by a serpentine and trumpet recurvation it ascendeth again into the neck, and so by the length thereof a great quantity of air is received, and by the figure thereof a musical modulation effected. But to speak indifferently, this formation of the weazand' is not peculiar unto the swan, but common also unto the platea or shovelard, a bird of no musical throat; and, as Aldrovandus confesseth, may thus be contrived in the swan to contain a larger stock of air, whereby being to feed on weeds at the bottom, they might the longer space detain their heads under water. But were this formation peculiar, or had they unto this effect an advantage from this part, yet have they a known and open disadvantage from another, that is, a flat bill. For no latirostrous 2 animal (whereof nevertheless there are no slender numbers), were ever commended for their note, or accounted among those animals which have been instructed to speak.
When therefore, we consider the dissension of authors, the falsity of relations, the indisposition of the organs, and the immusical note of all we ever beheld or heard of, if generally taken, and comprehending all swans, or of all places, we cannot assent thereto. Surely he that is bit with a tarantula, shall never be cured by this music; and with the same hopes we expect to hear the harmony of the spheres.
2. That there is a special propriety in the flesh of peacocks roasted or boiled, to preserve a long time incorrupted, hath been the assertion of many; stands yet confirmed by Austin, De civitate Dei; by Gygas Sempronius in Aldrovandus; and the same experiment we can confirm ourselves, in the brawn or fleshy parts of peacocks so hanged up with thread, that they touch (no place whereby to contract a moisture; and hereof we have made trial both in summer and winter. The reason, some, I perceive, attempt to make out from the siccity and dryness of its flesh, and some are content to rest in a secret propriety hereof. As for the siccity of the flesh, it is more remarkable in other animals; as eagles, hawks, and birds of prey. That it is a propriety or agreeable unto none other, we cannot, with reason, admit; for the same preservation, or rather incorruption, we have observed in the flesh of turkeys, capons, hares, partridges, venison, suspended freely in the air, and after a year and a half, dogs have not refused to eat them.4
1 weazand.] Winde-pipe.-Wr.
3 siccity.] There is a siccity which is joynd more with raritye : and another which approaches nearer to solidity ; and of this kind are these 5 mentioned, especially 1, 3, 5. But the siccity of the peacock 3. That storks are to be found, and will only live in republicks or free states, is a petty conceit to advance the opinion of popular policies, and from antipathies in nature to disparage monarchical government. But how far agreeable unto truth, let them consider who read in Pliny, that among the Thessalians, who were governed by kings, and much abounded with serpents, it was no less than capital to kill a is accompanyed with an unwonted rarity, as appeares by his fethers, the largest and lightest of any other bird under heaven, which argues the drines of his natural temper, in extremo siccitatis; to which you may joyne the beauty of his colors, the whitenes, softnes, and tendernes of the pith in his wing and tayle fethers, proceeding (at a yard length) out of a quil, not an inche long, and soe thin and tender, that for want of substance and strength, are not so useful as a crowe's quil.-Wr.
As for the other conceit, that a peacock is ashamed when he looks on his legs, as is commonly held, and also delivered by Cardan; beside what hath been said against it by Scaliger; let them believe that hold specifical deformities, or that any part can seem unhandsome to their eyes, which hath appeared good and beautiful unto their Maker's.
The occasion of this conceit might first arise from a common observation, that when they are in their pride, that is advance their train, if they decline their neck to the ground, they presently demit, and let fall the same: which indeed they cannot otherwise do; for contracting their body, and being forced to draw in their fore-parts, to establish their hinder in the elevation of their train, if the fore-parts depart and incline to the ground, the hinder grow too weak, and suffer the train to fall. And the same in some degree is also observable in turkeys.
* the same preservation, dc.] “My pendent pantry, made of deal and fine fly wire, and suspended in the great walnut tree, proves an incomparable preservative for meat against flesh-flies. The flesh, by hanging in a brisk current of air, becomes dry on the surface, and keeps till it is tender without tainting.”—Rev. G. White's MSS. Jesse's 2nd Gleanings,
stork; that the ancient Egyptians honoured them, whose government was from all times monarchical; that Bellonius affirmeth men make them nests in France ;) that relations make them common in Persia, and the dominions of the great Turk ; and lastly, how Jeremy the prophet delivered himself* unto his countrymen, whose government was at that time monarchical ;-"the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; the turtle, crane, and swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgments of the Lord;”—wherein, to exprobrate their stupidity, he induceth the providence of storks. Now if the bird had been unknown, the illustration had been obscure, and the exprobration not so proper.
4. That a bittern maketh that mugient6 noise, or as we term it, bumping, by putting its bill into a reed, 'as most believe, or as Bellonius and Aldrovandus conceive, by putting the same in mud or water, and after awhile retaining the air by suddenly excluding it again, is not so easily made out. For my own part, though after diligent enquiry, I could never behold them in this motion. Notwithstanding, by others whose observations we have expressly requested, we are informed that some have bebeld them making this noise on the shore, their bills being far enough removed from reed or water; that is, first strongly attracting the air, and unto a manifest distention of the neck, and presently after with great contention and violence excluding the same again. As for what others affirm, of putting their bill in water or mud, it is also hard to make out. For what may be observed from any that walketh the fens, there is little intermission, nor any observable pause, between the drawing in and sending
, forth of their breath. And the expiration or breathing forth doth not only produce a noise, but the inspiration or haling
* Jer. viii. 7.
men make them nests, &c.] “There is a rich hospital at Fez, in Morocco, for the purpose of assisting and nursing sick cranes and storks, and of burying them when dead. They hold that storks are human beings in that form, from some distant islands.”-Queen Bee, iii. 18.-Jeff.
mugient.] Bellowing, or rather braying, like an asse : for soe his compound name (in the Greeke) signifies óvorpóralus, i.e. the harrishe noyse of an asse. - Wr.