The Circhos

"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos, which

hath a crusty and soft Skin, partly black, partly red, and hath two

cloven places in his Foot, that serve for to make three Toes. The right

foot of this Animal is very small, but the left is great and long; and,

therefore, when he walks all his body leans on the left side, and he

draws his right foot after him: When the Ayr is calm he walketh, but

he Wind is high, and the Sky cloudy, he applies himself to the

Rocks, and rests unmoved, and sticks fast, that he can scarce be pulled

off. The nature of this is wonderful enough: which in calm Weather is

sound, and in stormy Weather is sick."

The Northern Naturalists did not enjoy the monopoly of curious fish,

for Zahn gives us a very graphic picture of the different sides of two

small fish captured in Denmark and Norway (i.e., presumably in some

northern region) with curious letters marked on them. He does not

attempt to elucidate the writing; and as it is of no known language, we

may charitably put it down to the original "Volapuek." He also favours us

with the effigies of a curious fish found in Silesia in 1609, also

ornamented with an inscription in an unknown tongue.

He also supplies us with the portrait of a pike, which was daintily

marked with a cross on its side and a star on its forehead.

But too much space would be taken up if I were to recount all the

piscine marvels that he relates.

Aristotle mentions that fish do not thrive in cold weather, and he says

that those which have a stone in their head, as the chromis, labrax,

sciaena, and phagrus, suffer most in the winter; for the refrigeration of

the stone causes them to freeze, and be driven on shore.

Sir John Mandeville, speaking of the kingdom of Talonach, says:--"And

that land hath a marvayle that is in no other land, for all maner of

fyshes of the sea cometh there once a yeare, one after the other, and

lyeth him neere the lande, sometime on the lande, and so lye three

dayes, and men of that lande come thither and take of them what he will,

and then goe these fyshes awaye, and another sort commeth, and lyeth

also three dayes and men take of them, and do thus all maner of fyshes

tyll all have been there, and menne have taken what they wyll. And men

wot not the cause why it is so. But they of that Countrey saye, that

those fyshes come so thyther to do worship to theyr king, for they say

he is the most worthiest king of the worlde, for he hath so many wives,

and geateth so many children of them." (See next page.)

I know of no other fish of such an accomodating nature, except it be

those of whom Ser Marco Polo speaks, when writing of Armenia:--"There is

in this Country a certain Convent of Nuns called St. Leonard's about

which I have to tell you a very wonderful circumstance. Near the church

in question there is a great lake at the foot of a mountain, and in this

lake are found no fish, great or small, throughout the year till Lent

come. On the first day of Lent they find in it the finest fish in the

world, and great store, too, thereof; and these continue to be found

till Easter Eve. After that they are found no more till Lent come round

again; and so 'tis every year. 'Tis really a passing great miracle!"

Edward Webbe, "Master Gunner," whose travels were printed in 1590,

informs us that in the "Land of Siria there is a River having great

store of fish like unto Samon-trouts, but no Jew can catch them, though

either Christian and Turk shall catch them in abundance, with great


Pliny has some curious natural phenomena to tell us about, of showers of

Milk, Blood, Flesh, Iron, and Wool; nay, he even says that, the year of

this woolly shower, when Titus Annius Milo was pleading his own cause,

there fell a shower of baked tiles!

After this we can swallow Olaus Magnus's story of a rain of fishes very

comfortably, especially as he supplements it with showers of frogs and


He gives a curious story of the black river at the New Fort in

Finland:--"There is a Fort in the utmost parts of Finland that is

under the Pole, and it belongs to the Kingdom of Sweden, and it is

called the New-Fort, because it was wonderfull cunningly built, and

fortified by Nature and Art; for it is placed on a round Mountain,

having but one entrance and outlet toward the West; and that by a ship

that is tyed with great Iron Chains, which by strong labour and benefit

of Wheels, by reason of the force of the Waters, is drawn to one part

of the River by night, by keepers appointed by the King of Sweden, or

such as farm it. A vast river runs by this Castle, whose depth cannot be

found; it ariseth from the White Lake, and falls down by degrees: at the

bottome it is black, especially round this Castle, where it breeds and

holds none but black Fish, but of no ill taste, as are Salmons, Trouts,

Perch, Pikes, and other soft Fish. It produceth also the Fish Trebius,

that is black in Summer, and white in Winter, who, as Albertus saith,

grows lean in the Sea; but when he is a foot long, he is five fingers

fat: This, seasoned with Salt, will draw Gold out of the deepest waters

that it is fallen in, and make it flote from the bottome. At last, it

makes the black Lake passing by Viburgum, as Nilus makes a black

River, where he dischargeth himself.

"When the Image of a Harper, playing, as it were, upon his Harp, in the

middle of the Waters above them appears, it signifies some ill Omen,

that the Governor of the Fort, or Captain shall suddenly be slain, or

that the negligent and sleepy Watchman shall be thrown headlong from

the high walls, and die by Martial Law. Also this water is never free

from Ghosts and Visions that appear at all times; and a man may hear

Pipes sound, and Cymbals tinkle, to the shore."

Aristotle mentions a fish called the Meryx that chewed the cud, and

Pliny speaks of the Scarus, which, he says, "at the present day is the

only fish that is said to ruminate, and feed on grass, and not on other

fish." But he seems to have forgotten that in a previous place in the

same book, he speaks of a large peninsula in the Red Sea, on the

southern coast of Arabia, called Cadara, where "the sea monsters, just

like so many cattle, were in the habit of coming on shore, and after

feeding on the roots of shrubs, they would return; some of them, which

had the heads of horses, asses, and bulls, found a pasture in the crops

of grain."