As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Planta Tartarica
Borometz--which was so graphically delineated by Joannes Zahn in 1696.
Although this is by no means the first picture of it, yet it is the best
of any I have seen.
A most interesting book on the "Vegetable Lamb of Tartary" has been
written by the late Henry Lee, Esq., at one time Naturalist of the
Brighton Aquarium, and I am much indebted to it for matter on the
subject, which I could not otherwise have obtained.
The word Borometz is supposed to be derived from a Tartar word
signifying a lamb, and this plant-animal was thoroughly believed in,
many centuries ago--but there seem to have been two distinct varieties
of plant, that on which little lambs were found in pods, and that as
represented by Zahn, with a living lamb attached by its navel to a short
stem. This stalk was flexible, and allowed the lamb to graze, within
its limits; but when it had consumed all the grass within its reach, or
if the stalk was severed, it died. This lamb was said to have the actual
body, blood, and bones of a young sheep, and wolves were very fond of
it--but, luckily for the lamb-tree, these were the only carnivorous
animals that would attack it.
In his "Histoire Admirable des Plantes" (1605) Claude Duret, of Moulins,
treats of the Borometz, and says: "I remember to have read some time
ago, in a very ancient Hebrew book entitled in Latin the Talmud
Ierosolimitanum, and written by a Jewish Rabbi Jochanan, assisted by
others, in the year of Salvation 436, that a certain personage named
Moses Chusensis (he being a native of Ethiopia) affirmed, on the
authority of Rabbi Simeon, that there was a certain country of the earth
which bore a zoophyte, or plant-animal, called in the Hebrew Jeduah.
It was in form like a lamb, and from its navel, grew a stem or root by
which this Zoophyte, or plant-animal, was fixed attached, like a gourd,
to the soil below the surface of the ground, and, according to the
length of its stem or root, it devoured all the herbage which it was
able to reach within the circle of its tether. The hunters who went in
search of this creature were unable to capture, or remove it, until they
had succeeded in cutting the stem by well-aimed arrows, or darts, when
the animal immediately fell prostrate to the earth, and died. Its bones
being placed with certain ceremonies and incantations in the mouth of
one desiring to foretell the future, he was instantly seized with a
spirit of divination, and endowed with the gift of prophecy."
Mr. Lee then says: "As I was unable to find in the Latin translation of
the Talmud of Jerusalem, the passage mentioned by Claude Duret, and was
anxious to ascertain whether any reference to this curious legend
existed in the Talmudical books, I sought the assistance of learned
members of the Jewish community, and, amongst them, of the Rev. Dr.
Hermann Adler, Chief Rabbi Delegate of the United Congregations of the
British Empire. He most kindly interested himself in the matter, and
wrote to me as follows: 'It affords me much gratification to give you
the information you desire on the Borametz. In the Mishna Kilaim,
chap. viii. Sec. 5 (a portion of the Talmud), the passage occurs:
"Creatures called Adne Hasadeh (literally 'lords of the field') are
regarded as beasts." There is a variant reading, Abne Hasadeh (stones
of the field). A commentator, Rabbi Simeon, of Sens (died about 1235),
writes as follows, on this passage: 'It is stated in the Jerusalem
Talmud that this is a human being of the mountains: it lives by means of
its navel: if its navel be cut, it cannot live. I have heard in the name
of Rabbi Meir, the son of Kallonymos of Speyer, that this is the animal
called Jeduah. This is the Jedoui mentioned in Scripture (lit.
wizard, Lev. xix. 31); with its bones witchcraft is practised. A kind
of large stem issues from a root in the earth on which this animal,
called Jadua, grows, just as gourds and melons. Only the Jadua has,
in all respects, a human shape, in face, body, hands, and feet. By its
navel it is joined to the stem that issues from the root. No creature
can approach within the tether of the stem, for it seizes and kills
them. Within the tether of the stem it devours the herbage all around.
When they want to capture it, no man dares approach it, but they tear at
the stem until it is ruptured, whereupon the animal dies.' Another
commentator, Rabbi Obadja, of Berbinoro, gives the same explanation,
only substituting 'They aim arrows at the stem until it is ruptured,'
"The author of an ancient Hebrew work, Maase Tobia (Venice, 1705),
gives an interesting description of this animal. In Part IV. c. 10, page
786, he mentions the Borametz found in Great Tartary. He repeats the
description of Rabbi Simeon, and adds, that he has found, in 'A New Work
on Geography,' namely, that 'the Africans (sic) in Great Tartary, in
the province of Sambulala, are enriched by means of seeds, like the
seeds of gourds, only shorter in size, which grow and blossom like a
stem to the navel of an animal which is called Borametz in their
language, i.e. lamb, on account of its resembling a lamb in all its
limbs, from head to foot; its hoofs are cloven, its skin is soft, its
wool is adapted for clothing, but it has no horns, only the hairs of its
head, which grow, and are intertwined like horns. Its height is half a
cubit and more. According to those who speak of this wondrous thing, its
taste is like the flesh of fish, its blood as sweet as honey, and it
lives as long as there is herbage within reach of the stem, from which
it derives its life. If the herbage is destroyed or perishes, the animal
also dies away. It has rest from all beasts and birds of prey, except
the wolf, which seeks to destroy it.' The author concludes by expressing
his belief that this account of the animal having the shape of a lamb is
more likely to be true than it is of human form."
As I have said, there are several delineations of this Borametz or
Borometz, but there is one, a frontispiece to the 1656 edition of the
Paridisi in Sole--Paradisus Terrestris, of John Parkinson, Apothecary
of London, in which, together with Adam and Eve, the lamb-tree is
shown as flourishing in the Garden of Eden; and Du Bartas, in "His
divine WEEKES And WORKES" in his poem of Eden, (the first day of the
second week), makes Adam to take a tour of Eden, and describes his
wonder at what he sees, especially at the "lamb-plant."
"Musing, anon through crooked Walks he wanders,
Round-winding rings, and intricate Meanders,
Fals-guiding paths, doubtfull beguiling strays,
And right-wrong errors of an end-less Maze:
Not simply hedged with a single border
Of Rosemary, cut-out with curious order,
In Satyrs, Centaurs, Whales, and half-men-Horses,
And thousand other counterfaited corses;
But with true Beasts, fast in the ground still sticking,
Feeding on grass, and th' airy moisture licking:
Such as those Bonarets, in Scythia bred
Of slender seeds, and with green fodder fed;
Although their bodies, noses, mouthes and eys,
Of new-yean'd Lambs have full the form and guise;
And should be very Lambs, save that (for foot)
Within the ground they fix a living root,
Which at their navell growes, and dies that day
That they have brouz'd the neighbour grass away.
O wondrous vertue of God onely good!
The Beast hath root, the Plant hath flesh and blood
The nimble Plant can turn it to and fro;
The nummed Beast can neither stir nor go:
The Plant is leaf-less, branch-less, void of fruit;
The Beast is lust-less, sex-less, fire-less, mute;
The Plant with Plants his hungry panch doth feed;
Th' admired Beast is sowen a slender seed."
Of the other kind of "lamb-tree," that which bears lambs in pods, we
have an account, in Sir John Maundeville's Travels. "Whoso goeth from
Cathay to Inde, the high and the low, he shal go through a Kingdom that
men call Cadissen, and it is a great lande, there groweth a manner of
fruite as it were gourdes, and when it is ripe men cut it a sonder, and
men fynde therein a beast as it were of fleshe and bone and bloud, as
it were a lyttle lambe without wolle, and men eate the beaste and fruite
also, and sure it seemeth very strange."
And in the "Journall of Frier Odoricus," which I have incorporated in my
edition of "The Voiage and Travayle of Syr John Maundeville, Knight," he
says: "I was informed also by certaine credible persons of another
miraculous thing, namely, that in a certaine Kingdome of the sayd Can,
wherein stand the mountains called Kapsei (the Kingdomes name is Kalor)
there groweth great Gourds or Pompions, (pumpkins) which being ripe,
doe open at the tops, and within them is found a little beast like unto
a yong lambe."
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