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Still thy finny tribes possessing,
Take my blessings, breath'd in truth.
Ye at Tredagh of the sails!
Though far hence I must remove me,
From the stately muse of the Latin tongue, we will seek our next flower, the snow-flake,-not the wintry snowdrop, (Galanthus nivalis,) but the Leucoion aestivum that waves the pure white bells, whence it derives its popular name, to the zephyrs of May.
ON SEEING SOME BEAUTIFUL GIRLS PLAYING WITH SNOW.
Cum nive ludetis, pura nive candidiores.
With snow ye sport, nymphs fairer than the snow!
The sunny-haired muse of ancient Greece opens to us the pages of her varied anthology; we will take from it a simple and touching epitaph; let it twine in our wreath as an asphodel, such as the Greeks of old loved to strew on the graves of their dead.
a Nestorian age, to which immunity from sudden changes of temperature, as well as a secured sufficiency of wholesome diet, together with their well-known habit of taking things coolly, no doubt materially contribute. So long a period allowed for growth, and such a fine field too for developement as the open sea affords, readily explain the enormous size reached by some fish of rapacity in their vast domains, and particularly by those ocean pirates, the dreaded and dreadful sharks; who, according to the authorities, though 'overwhelmed with cruelty,' yet 'come to no misfortune like other' fish; whose eyes swell with fatness; who do even as they list; growing up like wild beasts, αποθηριούντες, the terror of navigators and the scourge of the deep!
The ancients have left us many lively representations of the sanguinary proceedings of these illomened Squali, whose reign of terror, after four thousand years of historical renown, remains as firmly established over the waters as ever. In early times, several different species of sharks were confounded, and supposed identical, but as knowledge of the sea and its marine stores has increased, it is now ascertained beyond controversy that these cartilaginous monsters, all of whom are the same in daring and voracity, and terrible according to their size and strength, are of various species. Under the heading Canicula, Pliny relates, in his usual pleasant style, the proceedings of one of these, evidently our Tope, the Squalus milandra of the French, La Samiola of the Mediterranean, where, by the way, they still abound, to the terror and detriment alike of Italian and Maltese boatmen. Though this Canicula averages but twelve feet, he is equal to the gigantic white shark in cynopic impudence and rapacity; he has often been known to seize sailors standing beside their craft, and tardy bathers still in their shirts. The poor pearl divers of the Indian seas have particular reason to dread his approach; and the method anciently adopted by them to evade his jaws is very similar to what the black population of the east follow to the present day, and generally with complete success.
The dyvers, says Pliny, that use to
plunge down into the sea, are annoyed very much with a number of Sea-hounds that come about them, and put them in great jeopardie. . . . much ado they fishes, for they lay at their bellies and have and hard hold with these hound
loines, at their heeles, and snap at everie part of their bodies that they can perceive to be white. The onely way and remedie is to make head directly affront them, and to begin with them first, and so to terrifie them; for they are not so terrible to a man as they are as fraid of him againe. Thus within the deepe they be indifferently even matched; but when the dyvers mount up and rise againe, above water, then there is some odds betweene, and the man hath the disadvantage, and is in the most daunger, by reason that whiles he laboureth to get out of the water he faileth of meanes to encounter with the beast against the streame and sourges of the water, and therefore his only recource is to have helpe and aid from his fellowes in the ship; for having a cord tied at one end about his shoulders, he straineth it with his left hand to give signe of what daunger he is in, whiles he maintaineth fight with the right, by taking into it his puncheon with a sharp point, and so at the other end they draw him to them; and they need otherwise to pull and hale him but softly; marry, when he is neere once to the ship, unless they give him a sodaine jerke, and snatch him up quickly, they may be sure to see him worried and devoured before their face; yea, and when he is at the point to be plucked up, and even now ready to go abourd, he is many times caught away out of his fellowes hands, if he bestir himself not the better, and put his own good will to the helpe of them within the ship, by plucking up his legges and gathering his body nimbly togither, round as it were in a ball. Well may some from shipbourd proke at the dogges aforesaid with forkes; others thrust at them with trout speares and such like weapons, and all never the neare; so crafty and cautelous is this foule beast, to get under the very belly of the bark, and so feed upon their comrade in safetie.
The portraits of two other species besides the Canicula have been so well delineated by the ancients, as to render the recognition of the originals perfectly easy, and exempt from any possibility of mistake. One of these is the Saw-fish of modern writers, described by Aristotle under the name of Pristis, and by Pliny under the Latin synonym Serra. The saw, or rake, of this shark is at first a supple cartilaginous body,
porrect from the eyes, and extending sometimes fifteen feet beyond them. In the earlier stages of development it is protected in a leathery sheath, but hardening gradually as the ossific deposition proceeds, its toothedsides at length pierce the tough integument; the Serra flings away the scabbard, and, after a very little practice, becomes a proficient in the use of his weapon, and always ready for instant assault upon anybody or anything that may or may not offer molestation. Thus formidably armed, and nothing daunted, the larger and fiercer the adversary, the more ardently the Serra desires to join battle; above all, the destruction of the whale seems to occupy every thought, and to stimulate to valorous deeds; no sooner is one of these unwieldy monsters descried rolling through the billows, than our expert Sea-fencer rushes to the conflict, and, taking care to avoid the sweep of his opponent's tremendous tail, soon effects his purpose, by stabbing the luckless leviathan at all points, till he, exhausted by loss of blood, dies at last anemic, like Seneca in the bath. Martyns relates a fight off the Shetland Isles, which he witnessed from a distance; not daring to approach the spot, while the factitious rain, spouted up from the vents of the enraged sea mammal, poured down again, in torrents sufficient to swamp a boat, over the liquid battle field. He watched them a long time as they feinted, skirmished, or made an onslaught; now wheeling off, but only to turn and renew the charge with double fury. Foul weather however coming on, he did not see the final result of
the fray; but the sailors affirmed that such scenes were common enough to them, and generally ended in the death of the whale; that when he was in extremis, the victor would tear out and carry away the tongue-the only part he cared forand that on his departure they themselves drew near, and enjoyed undisputed possession of the huge carcase.
The other well-defined Squalus of the ancients is the zygana of Oppian, the Marseilles Jew-fish, the Balancefish, the Hammer-fish, and were these not aliases enough already, the T-fish might be suggested as an appropriate synonym to add to the rest, the form of this letter suiting the outline of the fish to a tittle. The down stroke represents the body, and the horizontal bar at top the singular transverse head, at the opposite extremes of which two very salient yellow eyes are situated, commanding from their position an extensive field of vision. When anything occurs to ruffle the temper of the savage monster, these jaundiced eye-balls suddenly change to a bloodred hue, and roll, furiously glaring, in their projecting orbits; the portal of the mouth opens, and a huge human tongue, swollen, inflamed, and papillated, surrounded by a whole armoury of rending teeth, is thrust forth, presenting to view a creature so strange, hideous, and malevolent, that nothing in nature can be compared to him. The domestic circle of the Squalus zygona numbers every year twenty-four new members; this fearful fecundity of the mother is providentially kept in check by the violent decease of most of the young in cunabulis,† for
* So called from a supposed resemblance to the head-dress worn by the Jews of that place.
This tender period of life seems in all creatures one of extreme danger. The melancholy theme of baby mortality has been finely touched upon by Virgil :—
'Sudden there rose along the Stygian coasts,
The sadly wailing cry of infant ghosts;
From warm and milky bosoms rudely torn,
And life's young hopes, who wandered there forlorn.
Nipt in their prime, the days of darkness came,
And gave their slender bodies to the flame.'-MS. Translation.
In Virgil's time there were no statistical reports, and the per centage of infant mortality was, doubtless, far greater than in our own; yet, even now, the reader will be startled to learn, that full thirty-five per cent, of all that are born die under ten years of age. Well, then, may society bless the efforts of those useful and philanthropic men of a noble profession who have at length succeeded in establishing a hospital‡ in London expressly for sick children, and are now looking to the public for funds to support and maintain it. May some who read our trifling article not forget this seriously suggestive note! and may their pious labours prosper!
+ Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond-street.
these little cacodemons, untaught by their parents or Dr. Watts to consider it at alla shameful sight for Squali of one family to snarl, and snap, and bite,' commit the most cold-blooded fratricides, and even eat one another, proh pudor! without any remorse; besides this, when grown-up relations come on a visit, the young set are not secure from ‘battle, murder, and sudden death,' for a single moment, "save when directly under the paternal nose; as a natural consequence, few of the nefarious brood survive childhood, or ever attain to full maturity of size and malice. Of such as escape infantine dangers, many in after-life fall victims in hostile encounters with larger congeners; in particular with the white shark. The average length of the S. zygana is only eight or nine feet, but he does not fear to confront the powerful Requin himself, and fight him too, with such pluck, resolution, and fury, that though the greatly superior weight of the other at length prevails, the victor does not leave the bloody battle-field scatheless, but like a second Pyrrhus, with the conviction that one more such conquest would undo him. We never saw any of these sea-termagants alive and in action, and must therefore refer the reader for full particulars to M. Lacepède, who had that advantage; but to judge from sundry recently dead specimens, with fins down, tail at rest, the hammer head resting on the pavement, and one eye only to be seen at a time, she was quite ill-looking enough to justify belief in all that biographers have recorded against
These are the only three sharks of which the ancients have left us any discriminative account, though they doubtless were acquainted with many others frequenting southern seas. It must have been one of this gigantic race, and probably the white shark, to which Oppian refers in the latter part of the fifth Halieatic.
The gashed and gory carcase, stretched at full length, a ghastly spectacle! is even yet an object of recoil and superstitious dread. A vague fear of vengeance keeps awhile the most curious of the captors aloof; at length some venture to approach; one man looks into the gigantic jaws, and sees a triple tier of polished and pointed teeth; another wonders at the width of back: a third admires the herculean mould of the lately terrible tail; but a landsman, beholding the unsightly fish at a distance, exclaims May the earth, which I now feel under me, and which has hitherto supplied my daily wants, receive when I yield it, my latest breath, from her bosom. Preserve me, oh Jupiter! from such perils as this, and be pleased to accept my offerings to thee from dry land. May no thin plank interpose an uncertain protection between me and the boisterous deep. Preserve me, Oh Neptune! from the terrors of the rising storm, and may I not, as the surge dashes over the deck, be ever cast out amidst the unseen perils that people the abyss; 'twere punishment enough for a mortal to be tossed about unsepulchred of a fish, and to fill the foul maw of such on the waves, but to become the pasture
a ravenous monster as I now behold, would add tenfold horror to such a lot!"*
We participate entirely with this landsman in hearty detestation of sharks, well remembering the mixed awe, interest and disgust inspired by the view of a white shark, albeit, a small one for the species, captured after a furious resistance off the Thunny fishery of Palermo in the night, and brought in next morning by the sailors, at the market hour. Dozens of colossal thunnies, alalongas, pelamyds, and sword-fish, lay that morning scarcely noticed: the object of general attraction was the dread Canesca, whose mangled body was stretched by itself in the middle of the Place, surrounded by an appalled yet admiring throng, all loud in exclamations and inquiries. The men who had secured the fish, perfectly satisfied with the results of the night's toil, smoked their pipes
There was no museum at Padua in Oppian's day, or he would, after such a recital as the above, no doubt have introduced his readers to the shark chamber of this institution; a long, lofty saloon, exclusively appropriated to the reception of the different species which infest the Mediterranean. The visitor's first sensations on entering this Salle des Requins are not comfortable. A whole troop of these fell creatures, admirably preserved, and suspended by slight invisible wires from the ceiling, appear alive each hungry claimant eyeing the intruder's person for a moment 'in grim repose,' before he makes a sudden dash, and swallows him up quick.'
complacently, and gave the particulars of the capture to those who pressed round eagerly to hear the exciting tale. Women, of course, mingled largely in the crowd-when were they, of the lower class, ever absent from any spectacle of horror? and accordingly, with either an infant in arms, or clutching a child by the hand, they pointed out the fish to their equally excited neighbours, and with many fierce gesticulations called him bruto,' 'scelerato,' 'il Nerone dei pesci,' and other conventional names of abuse for a shark in Sicily; everybody was exclaiming, everybody rejoicing over his destruction. Eccola Beppo; we have him, you see at last,' said one of the crew to a nearing boatswain, just come into the market. Buon giorno a lei, I make you my bow, sir,' said the other, doffing his red worsted cap to the fish; we are all happy to see you on shore; after this you will not invade la camera della morte and make a way for the thunny to slip through our fingers again. No, indeed, my lads, now we really have him, you may mend your nets with something like a sense of security.' Par Bacco and St. Anthony! will you tell me, sir, where you have put the flannel drawers you took from out of my felucca, as they were drying on Sunday last, five minutes after Giuseppe's legs were out of them?' Cane maledetto-accursed hound-where's my brother's hand you snapped off as he was washing it over the side of his boat, not a week ago?' Caro lei! did you now chance to swallow Padre Giaccomo's poodle, which disappeared so suddenly the day before yesterday, as he was swimming to shore with his master's stick ?''Gentlemen,' said the master boatman, and proprietor of the Canesca, 'you will get more out of him by looking into him, than by asking unanswered questions; so here, my lads,' addressing two of his men, 'wash his head and gills well, and show that gentleman-ourself-he is not so small a Canesca as he is pleased to think.'
The clean water soon brought out the features, as the blood and ooze
were removed; and though the collapsed eye-balls, unsupported as in life, no longer shot menacing glances from their cartilaginous pivots, but fell back opaque and dimmed into the sockets, an expression anything but amiable was still exhibited in their barred pupils of Minerva gray. The whole forehead was bathed with that phosphorescent mucus or jelly which gives this fish its luminous and spectral appearance, when seen in the dusk, and adds new terrors to the ill-omened apparition. The aspect of the face was malign enough; but when the den of his mouth was forced open, and we ventured to peep in, and saw there three rows of sharp and pointed teeth, that alive in one effort of volition might have been brought to bear all at once upon the largest prey, and made him spout blood at every pore, it became apparent that a fish, even like this of only eight or nine feet long, with such a jaw to tear, such a trunk to smash, and such a tail to stun, must have been capable of destroying the life of almost any creature he might encounter; and we entered readily into the feelings of delight and triumph expressed by the fishermen at the capture of so thoroughly a mauvais sujet. Besides the jeopardy in which he places life, the mischief a single shark will occasion to the thunny and cod fisheries is incalculable; two or three of these marauders suffice to interrupt, and sometimes effectually to disconcert all the operations of the poor fishermen. The blue shark in particular, during the pilchard season, will hover about the tackle, clear the long lines of every hook, biting them off above the bait-break through the newly shot nets, or fairly swallow the distended mesh-work and its draught together.
Nor is this all, nor yet the worst mischief recorded of sharks; fond as they are of fish, they greatly prefer flesh, and, unfortunately for man, his flesh before that of beast or bird. Acutely discriminative, too, in taste, their partiality is decidedly for a European rather than an Asiatic -for a fair rather than a dark skin:
* The last compartment of the complicated network called a mandrague, in which the thunny are harpooned and slain.