E’en round the pole the flames of Love aspire,
And icy bosoms feel the secret fire!—280
Cradled in snow, and fann’d by arctic air;
Shines, gentle Barometz! thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth each cloven hoof descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she bends;
Crops the grey coral moss, and hoary thyme,285
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime;
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat a Vegetable Lamb.
Barometz. l. 282. Polypodium barometz. Tartarian Lamb. Clandestine Marriage. This species of Fern is native of China, with a decumbent root, thick, and every where covered with the most soft and dense wool, intensely yellow. Lin. Spec. Plant.
This curious stem is sometimes pushed out of the ground in its horizontal situation, by some of the inferior branches of the root, so as to give it some resemblance to a Lamb standing on four legs; and has been said to destroy all other plants in its vicinity. Sir Hans Sloane describes it under the name of Tartarian Lamb, and has given a print of it.... but thinks some art had been used to give it an animal appearance. Dr. Hunter, in his edition of the Terra of Evelyn, has given a more curious print of it, much resembling a sheep. The down is used in India externally for stopping haemorrhages, and is called golden moss.
The thick downy clothing of some vegetables seems designed to protect them from the injuries of cold, like the wool of animals. Those bodies, which are bad conductors of electricity, are also bad conductors of heat, as glass, wax, air. Hence either of the two former of these may be melted by the flame of a blow-pipe very near the fingers which hold it without burning them; and the last, by being confined on the surface of animal bodies, in the interstices of their fur or wool, prevents the escape of their natural warmth; to which should be added, that the hairs themselves are imperfect conductors.
All that is necessary for the pupil in that science is an acquaintance with an outline of the characters of the genera contained in the class Cryptogamia, of many of which a clear idea may be obtained by studying plates of their extraordinary structure given by various ingenious artists.... That great vegetable curiosity, the tartarian lamb, is now known to be the root of the polypodium barometz, which, being pushed out of the ground in iṯs horizontal situation by some of the inferior branches of the root, bears some resemblance to a lamb standing on four legs, which is increased by the thick yellow down, by which iṯs root is covered. And, indeed, stories so extraordinary of the appearance of this fern have gained admission into the works of authors of so much repute, as to have given the tale a degree of credibility far beyond iṯs deserts.
Many things have gained the character of monsters from want of that investigation, which ought always to be given to histories of a marvelous kind.
All the world have heard of the wonderful baronetze, philosophers and naturalists were divided in opinion about it, they could not adjuge it to be an animal, nor properly a vegetable: It was said that the baronetze grew in the kingdom of Astrachan, upon a stalk two foot high, from the top of which grew a lamb-like fruit, covered with a fine fur every way resembling that of a young lamb! Who are ignorant that the Armenian or other merchants sold one to the late King of Prussia, which he as a very great curiosity, made a present of it to the Royal Society? who suspecting a fraud, asked and obtained leave of the King to dissect it: within the skin, they discovered saw-dust or some other materials with which it was stuffed, and the navel pierced with a stick, which was so fixed, as to appearance, looked like a stalk. It was also said that no grass grew within some feet distance of this baronetze, because no doubt, it was supposed that the monster eat it up! for it had a mouth, nor could it miss; because it was only a lamb-skin stuffed. So full of this whim, was our Archiator [i.e., chief physician] Dr. Fisher, that he, at the desire of his corresopndents, wrote to Mr. Malloch, our field apothecary, Mr. Swartze, and me, to make all diligent search for this wonderful herb, tho’ it was then known the Royal Society had made the discovery I just now mentioned, but no doubt he imagined that though the King of Prussia had been imposed upon, yet such wonderful vegetables might exist. We, obedient to our Archiator, made search, we also asked all the different Tartars who inhabit the desserts of Astrachan, and were ridiculed and laughed at, as we very well deserved, these people justly wondering that men who were said to be very learned, could, upon such slight informations, be so very easily imposed upon; and from this, inferring, how properly I shall not say, that much of our learning was certainly chimerical.
|Class:||24. Cryptogamia (Clandestine Marriages)|
|Order:||I. Filices (Ferns)|
|Class:||Equisetopsida C. Agardh|
|Subclass:||Polypodiidae Cronquist, Takht. & W. Zimm.|
|Order:||Cyatheales A.B. Frank|
|Species:||Cibotium barometz (L.) J. Sm.|
Barometz, Borametz, Scythian lamb, Agnus scythicus or Tataricus. Hereunder one recognizes a not unfamous fabled creature of past natural history. At a time when this science was still much less cultivated, it was possible to actually believe in the existence of natural beings like the Scythian lamb. According to the reports provided to us by the ancient natural researcher, this lamb grew in Zenotha, a territory of the great Asiatic Tartary. It arose from a seed similar to that of the melon family, and was very similar in external appearance to a lamb. The stalk, which supported it, served in place of the umbilical cord, and from it the lamb moved in all directions, eating up the surrounding plants. According to some, the lamb is a fruit, which, when it becomes ripe, is covered with a thick full fur, but, inside, completely full of sweet flesh.
—from New lexicon of nature and art, containing the most important and publicly beneficial objects from natural history, natural science, chemistry, and technology: for convenient use, also in particular for the uneducated and for educated ladies (pp. 194—5)