Imágenes de páginas


bulk. Job the celebrated African, assured me, that one of them carried away a live cow in its mouth, before his face.” But on this serpent's ejection of water, he professes his “ignorance of any fact to illustrate it.” I shall observe on the particulars of this dragon in their order.

ist, The dimensions of this dragon,“ great.” We may, 1 presume, seek the counterparts of this reptile among serpents of the largest size, for which we shall look to that class called by naturalists, boa.

The dragon is frequently mentioned by ancient naturalists: by Aristotle, lib. ix. Diod. Sicul. lib. ii. &c. St. Ambrose, de Mor. Brach. p. 63. says, there were dragons seen in the neighbourhood of the Ganges near seventy cubits in length.* Alexander and his army saw one of this size in a cave, to their great terror, Elian, lib. xv. cap. 21.

Three kinds of dragons were formerly distinguished in India. 1st, Those of the hills and mountains ; 2dly, those of the vallies and caves ; 3dly, those of the fens and marshes. The first is the largest, and covered with scales, as resplendent as burnished gold. They have a kind of beard hanging from their lower jaw, their aspect is frightful, their cry loud and shrill, their crest bright yellow, and they have a protuberance on their heads, the colour of a burning coal. 2dly, Those of the flat country are of a silver colour, and frequent rivers, to which the former never come. 3dly, Those of the marshes are black, slow, and have no crest. Strabo says, the painting serpents with wings is contrary to truth ; but other naturalists and travellers, ancient and modern, affirm that some species are winged. [There is much confusion on this subject. Some have mistaken the hood of the naja for wings; others for a crest; others have confounded the innocent lizarddragon with flying serpents ; and therefore report, as Pliny does, that their bite is not venomous, though the creatures be dreadful, which indeed is true of the boa, or proper dragon.]

The following is mostly translated, or abstracted, from count de la Cepede : The boa is among serpents, what the lion or the elephant is among quadrupeds ; he usually reaches twenty feet in length, and to this species we must refer those described by travellers, as lengthened to forty or fifty feet, as related by Owen, Nat. Hist. Serp. p. 15. Kircher mentions a serpent forty palms in leogth ; and such a serpent is referred to by Job Ludolph, p. 166. as extant in Ethiopia. St. Jerom, in his life of Hilarion, denominates such a serpent, draco, a dragon ; saying, that they were called boas, because they could swallow, boves, beeves, and waste whole provinces. Bosman says, entire men have, fre. : quently, been found in the gullets of serpents, on the Gold Coast;:

* About 105 feet.


: but the longest serpent I have read of, is that mentioned by Livy,

and by Pliny, which opposed the Roman army under Regulus, at the river Bagrada in Africa. It devoured several of the soldiers; and so hard were its scales, that they resisted darts and spears; at length it was, as it were, besieged, and the military engines were employed against it, as against a fortified city. It was an hundred and twenty feetin length. Its skin was sent to Rome as a trophy, and was preserved in one of the temples there, Pliny, lib. xviii. capt. 14. Add the following testimonies :

“At Batavia was once taken a serpent, which had swallowed an entire stag of a large size : one taken at Bauda had done the same by a negro woman,” Baldeus, in Churchill, vol. iii. p. 782.

. Leguat in his travels says, there are serpents fifty feet long in the island of Java. At Batavia they still keep the skin of one, which though but twenty feet in length, is said to have swallowed a young maid whole,” Barbot, in Churchill, vol. v. p. 560.

“ The serpent guaku, or liboya, [boa] is questionless the big. gest of all serpents; some being eighteen, twenty-four, nay, thirty feet long, and of the thickness of a man in the middle. The Portuguese call it kobre de hado, or the roebuck serpent, because it will swallow a whole roebuck, or other deer; and this is performed by sucking it through the throat, which is pretty narrow; but the belly vastly big. Such an one Isaw near Pariba, which was thirty feet long, and as big as a barrel. Some negroes accidentally saw it swallow a roebuck, whereupon thirteen musketeers were sent out, who shot it and cut the roebuck out of its belly.. It is not venomous . . . This serpent being a very devouring creature, greedy of prey, leaps from among the hedges and woods, and standing upright on its tail, wrestles both with men and wild beasts ; sometimes it leaps from the trees upon the travellers, whom it fastens on, and beats the breath out of his body with its tail," Nieuhoff, in Churchill, vol. ii. p. 13.

2dly, I would call the attention of the reader to the immense serpent of Regulus, especially because there is a strong probability that it might have been in the mind of the writer of the Revelations ; who, as we have seen, describes a power most terribly distressing, under the figure of a dragon: a red dragon.. On which observe, 1st, That the dragon of antiquity was, no doubt, a prodigious serpent, such as is described in our extracts above; for which acceptation Jerom's authority may be at present sufficient. 2dly, That the colour most conspicuous in the great boa is red, which is very handsomely formed into figures, and composes a beautiful maculated pattern; so that the idea of red, but not exclusively blood red, in this instance, is drawn from nature; and perhaps the colour of some individuals of this species may be of a deeper red than those of others. It is impossible to conver the idea of this redness, and its application to the boa, with




out colours, but, so far as I recollect, the redness is rather that of brick than of blood. Our extracts assert, that this serpent strikes vehemently with his tail; which is according to the representation of the apocalyptie writer.

3dly, As to the seven heads of the great red dragon, it is well known, that there is a species of snake amphisbenæ, or double headed, but, the apparent heads of this snake are, one at each end of him, and one of these is apparent only, not real. There is, indeed, a kind of serpent which is so often found with two heads growing from one neck, that some have fancied it might form a species, but we have as yet no authority adequate to that effect. It follows, that the number of beads is entirely allegorical. I only remark, that this dragon of the apocalypse is not absolutely singular, if the fable of the dragon having seven heads, compared with the dragon having seven tails, was extant anciently.

4thly, The tenhorns of this dragon must be allegorical also.

As to the flood of water ejected by this dragon, I do not know of any receptacle which serpents have for containing such a provision ; and the nearest approach toward it, which I have been able to find, is the following :

Beverly, in his account of Virginia, mentions, pressing the roof of the mouth of a rattlesnake, whose head was recentiy cut off, and the venom spirited out like the curreni of blood in blood letting.

Gregory, the friend of Ludolph, says, Hist. Eth. lib. i. cap. 13. “We have in our province a sort of serpent as long as the arm. He is of a glowing red colour, but somewhat brownish ; he hides himself under bushes and grass. This animal has an offensive breath ; and he breathes out (spirts oat, ejects, I rather think] a poison so venomous and stinking, that a man or beast within reach of it, is sure to perish quickly by it unless immediate assistance be given."

“At Mouree, a great snake being half under a heap of stones, and the other half out, a man cut it in two at the part which was out from among the stones ; and as soon as the heap was removed, the reptile, turning, made up to the man, and spit such renom into his face as quite blinded him, and so he continued some days, but at last recovered his sight,” Barbot, in Churchill, vol.

'This history is remarkable, because the renom of poisonous serpents is usually ejected by a perforation in their cheek teeth, or fångs; this ejection accompanies the act of biting: and it does not appear that this man was biten. Moreover, whether the matter spirted by this serpent was venom, does not appear, nor what effect it had, or might have had on parts not so tender as the eye. Nevertheless, we learn from this instance, that serpents have a power of throwing out from their mouth a quantity


v. p. 213.

« AnteriorContinuar »