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Of the Wish of Philoxenus to have the Neck of a Crane.
THAT relation of Aristotle, and conceit generally received, concerning Philoxenus, who wished the neck of a crane, that thereby he might take more pleasure in his meat, although it pass without exception, upon enquiry I find not only doubtful in the story, but absurd in the desire or reason alleged for it. For though his wish were such as is delivered, yet had it not perhaps that end to delight his gust in eating, but rather to obtain advantage thereby in singing, as is declared by Mirandula. Aristotle, saith he, in his Ethicks and Problems, accuseth Philoxenus of sensuality, for the greater pleasure of gust desiring the neck of a crane, which desire of his (assenting unto Aristotle), I have formerly condemned. But since I perceive that Aristotle for his accusation hath been accused by divers writers;-for Philoxenus was an excellent musician, and desired the neck of a crane, not for any pleasure at meat, but fancying thereby an advantage in singing or warbling, and dividing the notes in music:-and many writers there are which mention a musician of that name; as Plutarch in his book against Usury, and Aristotle himself, in the eighth of his Politicks, speaks of one Philoxenus, a musician, that went off from the Dorick dithyrambics unto the Phrygian harmony.
Again, be the story true or false, rightly applied or not, the intention is not reasonable, and that perhaps neither one way nor the other. For if we rightly consider the organ of
2 That relation, &c.] Our author's observations on this absurd story are quoted by Dr. John Bulwer, in his Anthropometamorphosis, &c. p. 276.
Ross goes into the history of Philoxenus at great length, and adheres, as usual, most tenaciously to the legend. He contends, and with some reason, that the absurdity of the wish, if granted, were no argument against its having been expressed, seeing that many have entertained wishes far more so. But he even asserts its reasonableness, "that there is much pleasure in deglutition of sweet meats and drinks, is plain by the practice of those who, to supply the want of long necks, used to suck their drink out of long small cranes, or quills, or glasses with long narrow snouts, &c. &c. !!
taste, we shall find the length of the neck to conduce but little unto it; for the tongue being the instrument of taste, and the tip thereof the most exact distinguisher, it will not advantage the gust to have the neck extended; wherein the gullet and conveying parts are only seated, which partake not of the nerves of gustation, or appertaining unto sapor, but receive them only from the sixth pair; whereas the nerves of taste descend from the third and fourth propagations, and so diffuse themselves into the tongue; and therefore cranes, herons, and swans, have no advantage in taste beyond hawks, kites, and others of shorter necks.
Nor, if we consider it, had nature respect unto the taste in the different contrivance of necks, but rather unto the parts contained, the composure of the rest of the body, and the manner whereby they feed. Thus animals of long legs have generally long necks, that is, for the conveniency of feeding, as having a necessity to apply their mouths unto the earth. So have horses, camels, dromedaries, long necks, and all tall animals, except the elephant, who in defect thereof is furnished with a trunk, without which he could not attain the ground. So have cranes, herons, storks, and shovelards long necks; and so even in man, whose figure is erect, the length of the neck followeth the proportion of other parts; and such as have round faces or broad chests and shoulders, have very seldom long necks. For the length of the face twice exceedeth that of the neck, and the space between the throat-pit and the navel, is equal unto the circumference thereof. Again, animals are framed with. long necks, according unto the course of their life or feeding; so many with short legs have long necks, because they feed in the water, as swans, geese, pelicans, and other fin-footed animals.3 But hawks and birds of prey have short necks and trussed legs; for that which is long is weak and flexible, and a shorter figure is best accommodated unto that intention. Lastly, the necks of animals do vary, according to the parts that are contained in them, which are the weazand and the gullet. Such as have no weazand and breathe not, have
3 3 fin-footed animals.] Wee usually call them lether-footed,* but this terme suites with the use more significantlye.- Wr.
scarce any neck, as most sorts of fishes; and some none at all, as all sorts of pectinals, soles, thornback, flounders, and all crustaceous animals, as crevises, crabs, and lobsters.
All which considered, the wish of Philoxenus will hardly consist with reason. More excusable had it been to have wished himself an ape,5 which if common conceit speak true, is exacter in taste than any. Rather some kind of granivorous bird than a crane, for in this sense they are so exquisite, that upon the first peck of their bill, they can distinguish the qualities of hard bodies, which the sense of man discerns not without mastication. Rather some ruminating animal, that he might have eat his meat twice over; or rather, as Theophilus observed in Athenæus, his desire had been more reasonable, had he wished himself an elephant or a horse; for in these animals the appetite is more vehement, and they receive their viands in large and plenteous manner. And this had een more suitable, if this were the same Philoxenus whereof Plutarch speaketh, who was so uncivilly greedy, that, to engross the mess, he would preventively deliver his nostrils in the dish.7
4 crevises.] Now called cray-fish.
5 an ape.] I thinke an ape is more exacte in the smel then in the taste for he never tastes that which hee first smels not too. And how pleasant soever any food seeme to us, yf itt displease his smel, he throws it away with a kind of indignation.-Wr.
6 to engross the mess.] I was assured by a friend that the following somewhat similar exploit was performed in a commercial traveller's A dish of green peas was served very early in the season. One of the party, who preferred high-seasoned peas to most other vegetables, and himself to everybody besides, took an early opportunity of offering his services to help the peas, but he began by peppering them so unmercifully, that it was not very probable they would suit any other palate than his own. His neighbour, perceiving his own chance thus demolished, expostulated; and was told in reply of the virtues of pepper, as the only thing to make green peas wholesome. He instantly drew forth his snuff-box, and dextrously scattered its contents over the dish, as the most summary means which occurred to him of defeating such palpable selfishness and gluttony, observing drily that he thought snuff an excellent addition to the pepper.
7 dish.] There have been some whose slovenleyeness and greedines have æqualed his, by throwing a candles end into a messe of creame. But, more ingenious, frame a peece of aple like a candle, and therein stick a clove to deceave others of their deyntyes, in fine eating the counterfet candle.—Wr.
As for the musical advantage, although it seem more reasonable, yet do we not observe that cranes and birds of long necks have any musical, but harsh and clangous throats. But birds that are canorous, and whose notes we most commend, are of little throats and short necks, as nightingales, finches, linnets, Canary birds, and larks. And truly, although the weazand, throttle, and tongue be the instruments of voice, and by their agitations do chiefly concur unto these delightful modulations, yet cannot we distinctly and peculiarly assign the cause unto any particular formation: and I perceive the best thereof, the nightingale, hath some disadvantage in the tongue, which is not acuminates and pointed as the rest, but seemeth as it were cut off, which perhaps might give the hint unto the fable of Philomela, and the cutting off her tongue by Tereus.
Of the Lake Asphaltites.
CONCERNING the Lake Asphaltites, the Lake of Sodom, or the Dead Sea, that heavy bodies cast therein sink not, but by reason of a salt and bituminous thickness in the water float and swim above, narrations already made are of that variety, we can hardly from thence deduce a satisfactory determination, and that not only in the story itself, but in the cause alleged. As for the story, men deliver it variously.9
Counterfeit candles' ends are now made of peppermint, which are admirable imitations of the attractive originals, and would have perfectly supplied the occasion related by the Dean.
8 acuminate.] Yf the acuminate did any thinge to the songe or speech of birds, how comes itt that the blunt toung in the parat and the gaye [jay?] speake best, and in the bulfinch expresses the most excellent whistle.-Wr.
9 As for the story itself, &c.] It is to be reckoned among the many strange and incredible stories, which both ancients and moderns have told respecting this lake. Dr. Pococke swam in it for nearly a quarter of an hour, and felt no inconvenience. He found the water very clear, and contain no substances besides salt and alum. The fact is, that its waters are very salt, and therefore bodies float readily in it; and probably on that account few fish can live in it. Yet the monks of St. Saba assured Dr. Shaw that they had seen fish caught in the lake. -See Dr. Adam Clarke's note in loc.
Some I fear too largely, as Pliny, who' affirmeth that bricks will swim therein. Mandevil goeth further, that iron swimmeth, and feathers sink. Munster in his Cosmography hath another relation, although perhaps derived from the poem of Tertullian, that a candle burning swimmeth, but if extinguished sinketh. Some more moderately, as Josephus, and many others, affirming that only living bodies float, nor peremptorily averring they cannot sink, but that indeed they do not easily descend. Most traditionally, as Galen, Pliny, Solinus, and Strabo, who seems to mistake the Lake Serbonis for it. Few experimentally, most contenting themselves in the experiment of Vespasian, by whose command some captives bound were cast therein, and found to float as though they could have swimmed. Divers contradictorily, or contrarily, quite overthrowing the point.2 Aristotle, in the second of his Meteors, speaks lightly thereof, Ep μvloλoyouσ, which word is variously rendered, by some as a fabulous account, by some as a common talk. Biddulphus* divideth the common accounts of Judea into three parts; the one, saith he, are apparent truths, the second apparent falsehoods, the third are dubious or between both, in which form he ranketh the relation of this lake. But Andrew Thevet, in his Cosmography, doth ocularly overthrow it, for he affirmeth he saw an ass with his saddle cast therein and drowned. Now of these relations so different or contrary unto each other, the second is most moderate and safest to be embraced, which saith that living bodies swim therein, that is, they do not easily sink, and this, until exact experiment further determine, may be allowed as best consistent with this quality, and the reasons alleged for it.
As for the cause of this effect, common opinion conceives it to be the salt and bituminous thickness of the water. This indeed is probable, and may be admitted as far as the second opinion concedeth. For certain it is that salt water * Biddulphi Itinerarium, Anglicè.
sinketh.] Soe it will doe in anye water, if kept upright.— Wr. 2 divers contradictorily. This diversity may proceed from the diverse experiments that have been made on severall sides of the lake, which have not all the like effecte: in some partes it beares that which in another part will sinke, as hath been experimented by some late travelers.- Wr.