Fantastic Fish of the Middle Ages
Here after followeth of the natures of the fisshes of the See whiche be right profitable to be vnderstande. Wherof I wyll wryte be the helpe and grace of almighty god, to whose laude & prayse this mater ensueth.
- Lawrens Andrewe



"Delphinus is a monster of the see..."

Delphinus is a monster of the see, & it hath no voyce, but it singeth lyke a man / and towarde a tempest it playeth vpon the water. Some say whan they be taken that they wepe. The Delphin hath none eares for to here / nor no nose for to smelle / yet it smelleth very well & sharpe. And it slepeth vpon the water very hartely, that thei be hard ronke a farre of / and thei leue C.xl. yere. & they here gladly playnge on instrumentes, as lutes / harpes / tabours / and pypes. They loue their yonges very well, and they fede them longe with the mylke of their pappes / & they haue many yonges, & amonge them all be .ij. olde ones, that yf it fortuned one of the yonges to dye, than these olde ones wyll burye them depe in the gorwind of the see / because othere fisshes sholde nat ete thys dede delphyn; so well they loue theyr yonges. There was ones a kinge that had taken a delphin / whyche he caused to be bounde with chaynes fast at a hauen where as the shippes come in at / & there was alway the pyteoust wepynge / and lamentynge, that the kinge coude nat for pyte / but let hym go agayne.

The Dolphin is a monster of the sea; it has no voice, but sings like a man, and just before a storm it plays upon the water. Some say that when they are captured they weep. The Dolphin has no ears to hear with, nor nose to smell with, yet it can smell very well and sharply. And it sleeps upon the water very heartily, so that it can be far from hard rocks. They live 140 years, and they gladly listen to the playing of musical instruments, such as lutes, harps, tabors, and pipes. They love their young very well, and breast-feed them for a long time. They have many young, and among them there are always 2 old ones, so that if it happened that one of the young were to die, then these old ones will bury them deep in the ground of the sea so that other fish will not eat the dead dolphin, so well they love their young. There was once a king that had captured a dolphin which he caused to be bound fast with chains at a haven where ships come in at, but there was always the most pitiful weeping and lamenting that the king, in pity, let him go again.

The above illustration is from Konrad Gesner's Historia Animalia (Second edition, 1604) and shows a "Delphin."

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© James L. Matterer

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