Page images

sat quietly on a flowery bank by a calm river, and contemplated what I shall now relate to you.

And first concerning rivers; there be so many wonders reported and written of them, and of the several creatures that be bred and live in them, and those by authors of so good credit, that we need not to deny them an historical faith.

As namely of a river in Epirus that puts out any lighted torch, and kindles any torch that was not lighted. Some waters being drunk, cause madness, some drunkenness, and some laughter to death. The river Selarus in a few hours turns a rod or wand to stone and our Camden mentions the like in England, and the like in Lochmere in Ireland. There is also a river in Arabia, of which all the sheep that drink thereof have their wool turned into a vermilion colour. And one of no less credit than Aristotle, tells us of a merry river, the river Elusina, that dances at the noise of music, for with music it bubbles, dances, and grows sandy, and so continues till the music ceases, but then it presently returns to its wonted calmness and clearness. And Camden tells us of a well near to Kirby, in Westmoreland, that ebbs and flows several times every day: and he tells us of a river in Surrey, it is called Mole, that after it has run several miles, being opposed by hills, finds or makes itself a way under ground, and breaks out again so far off, that the inhabitants thereabout boast, as the Spaniards do of their river Anus, that they feed divers flocks of sheep upon a bridge. And lastly, for I would not tire your patience, one of no less authority than Josephus, that learned Jew, tells us of a river in Judea that runs swiftly all the six days of the week, and stands still and rests all their Sabbath.

But I will lay aside my discourse of rivers, and tell you some things of the monsters, or fish, call them what you will, that they breed and feed in them. Pliny the philosopher says, in the third chapter of his ninth book, that in the Indian Sea, the fish called the Balaena or Whirlpool, is so long and broad, as to take up more in length and breadth

than two acres of ground; and, of other fish of two hundred cubits long; and that in the river Ganges, there be Eels of thirty foot long. He says there, that these monsters appear in that sea, only when the tempestuous winds oppose the torrents of water falling from the rocks into it, and so turning what lay at the bottom to be seen on the water's top. And he says, that the people of Cadara, an island near this place, make the timber for their houses of those fish bones. He there tells us, that there are somtimes a thousand of these great Eels found wrapt or interwoven together. He tells us there, that it appears that dolphins love music, and will come when called for, by some men or boys that know, and use to feed them; and that they can swim as swift as an arrow can be shot out a bow; and much of this is spoken concerning the dolphin, and other fish, as may be found also in the learned Dr. Casaubon's Discourse of Credulity and Incredulity, printed by him about the year 1670.

I know, we Islanders are averse to the belief of these wonders; but there be so many strange creatures to be now seen (many collected by John Tradescant, and others added by my friend Elias Ashmole, Esq., who now keeps them carefully and methodically at his house near to Lambeth, near London), as may get some belief of some of the other wonders I mentioned. I will tell you some of the wonders that you may now see, and not till then believe, unless you think fit.

You may there see the Hog-fish, the Dog-fish, the Dolphin, the Cony-fish, the Parrot-fish, the Shark, the Poison-fish, Sword-fish, and not only other incredible fish, but you may there see the Salamander, several sorts of Barnacles, of Solan-Geese, the Bird of Paradise, such sorts of Snakes, and such Birds'-nests, and of so various forms, and so wonderfully made, as may beget wonder and amusement in any beholder; and so many hundred of other rarities in that collection, as will make the other wonders I spake of, the less incredible; for, you may note, that the waters are Nature's store-house, in which she locks up her wonders.

But, Sir, lest this discourse may seem tedious, I shall give it a sweet conclusion out of that holy poet, Mr. George Herbert, his divine 'Contemplation on God's Providence.'

Lord! who hath praise enough, nay, who hath any?
None can express thy works, but he that knows them;
And none can know thy works, they are so many,
And so complete, but only he that owes them.

We all acknowledge both thy power and love

To be exact, transcendent, and divine;
Who dost so strangely and so sweetly move,
Whilst all things have their end, yet none but thine.

Wherefore, most sacred Spirit! I here present,
For me, and all my fellows, praise to thee;
And just it is, that I should pay the rent,
Because the benefit accrues to me.

And as concerning fish, in that psalm (Psalm civ.), wherein, for height of poetry and wonders, the prophet David seems even to exceed himself, how doth he there express himself in choice metaphors, even to the amazement of a contemplative reader, concerning the sea, the rivers, and the fish therein contained! And the And the great naturalist Pliny says, 'That nature's great and wonderful power is more demonstrated in the sea than on the land.' And this may appear, by the numerous and various creatures inhabiting both in and about that element; as to the readers of Gesner, Rondeletius, Pliny, Ausonius, Aristotle, and others, may be demonstrated. But I will sweeten this discourse also out of a contemplation in divine Du Bartas, who says:

God quickened in the sea, and in the rivers,
So many fishes of so many features,
That in the waters we may see all creatures,
Even all that on the earth are to be found,
As if the world were in deep waters drown'd.
For seas as well as skies-have Sun, Moon, Stars;
As well as air-Swallows, Rooks, and Stares;
As well as earth-Vines, Roses, Nettles, Melons,
Mushrooms, Pinks, Gilliflowers, and many millions
Of other plants, more rare, more strange than these,
As very fishes, living in the seas;

As also Rams, Calves, Horses, Hares, and Hogs,
Wolves, Urchins, Lions, Elephants, and Dogs;
Yea Men and Maids; and, which I most admire,
The mitred Bishop and the cowled Friar:
Of which, examples, but a few years since,
Were shewn the Norway and Polonian prince.

(Dubartas in the Fifth Day). These seem to be wonders; but have had so many confirmations from men of learning and credit, that you need not doubt them. Nor are the number, nor the various shapes, of fishes more strange, or more fit for contemplation, than their different natures, inclinations, and actions; concerning which, I shall beg your patient ear a little longer.

The Cuttle-fish will cast a long gut out of her throat, which, like as an Angler doth his line, she sendeth forth, and pulleth in again at her pleasure, according as she sees some little fish come near to her; and the Cuttle-fish, being then hid in the gravel, lets the smaller fish nibble and bite the end of it; at which time she, by little and little, draws the smaller fish so near to her, that she may leap upon her, and then catches and devours her and for this reason some have called this fish the Sea-angler. And there is a fish called a Hermit, that at a certain age gets into a dead fish's shell, and, like a hermit, dwells there alone, studying the wind and weather; and so turns her shell, that she makes it defend her from the injuries that they would bring upon her.

There is also a fish called by Elian (in his 9. book of Living Creatures, Chap. xvi.) the Adonis, or Darling of the Sea; so called, because it is a loving and innocent fish, a fish that hurts nothing that hath life, and is at peace with all the numerous inhabitants of that vast watery element; and truly, I think most Anglers are so disposed to most of mankind.

And there are, also, lustful and chaste fishes; of which I shall give you examples.

And, first, what Du Bartas says of a fish called the Sargus; which, because none can express it better than he does, I shall give you in his own words, supposing it shall

not have the less credit for being verse; for he hath gathered this and other observations out of authors that have been great and industrious searchers into the secrets of nature.

The adult'rous Sargus doth not only change

Wives every day, in the deep streams, but, strange!
As if the honey of sea-love delight

Could not suffice his ranging appetite,

Goes courting she-goats on the grassy shore,

Horning their husbands that had horns before.

And the same author writes concerning the Cantharus,
that which you shall also hear in his own words:
But, contrary, the constant Cantharus

Is ever constant to his faithful spouse;
In nuptial duties, spending his chaste life;
Never loves any but his own dear wife.

Sir, but a little longer, and I have done.

VENATOR. Sir, take what liberty you think fit, for your discourse seems to be music, and charms me to an attention.

PISCATOR. Why then, Sir, I will take a little liberty to tell, or rather to remember you what is said of Turtledoves; first, that they silently plight their troth, and marry; and that then the survivor scorns, as the Thracian women are said to do, to outlive his or her mate; and this is taken for a truth; and if the survivor shall ever couple with another, then, not only the living, but the dead, be it either the he or the she, is denied the name and honour of a true Turtle-dove.

And to parallel this land-rarity, and teach mankind moral faithfulness, and to condemn those that talk of religion, and yet come short of the moral faith of fish and fowl, men that violate the law affirmed by St. Paul (Rom. ii. 14, 15) to be writ in their hearts, and which, he says, shall at the Last Day condemn and leave them without excusepray hearken to what Du Bartas sings, for the hearing of such conjugal faithfulness will be music to all chaste ears, and therefore I pray hearken to what Du Bartas sings of the Mullet.



« PreviousContinue »