Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon eBook

J. Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 590 pages of information about Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon.

[Footnote 3:  See a disquisition on the origin of the story of Sinbad, by M. REINAUD, in the introduction prefixed to his translation of the Arabian Geography of Aboulfeda, vol. i. p. lxxvi.]

* * * * *


* * * * *

As AElian’s work on the Nature of Animals has never, I believe, been republished in any English version, and the passage in relation to the training and performance of elephants is so pertinent to the present inquiry, I venture to subjoin a translation of the 11th Chapter of his 2nd Book.

“Of the cleverness of the elephant I have spoken elsewhere, and likewise of the manner of hunting.  I have mentioned these things, a few out of the many which others have stated; but for the present I purpose to speak of their musical feeling, their tractability, and facility in learning what it is difficult for even a human being to acquire, much less a beast, hitherto so wild:—­such as to dance, as is done on the stage; to walk with a measured gait; to listen to the melody of the flute and to perceive the difference of sounds, that, being pitched low lead to a slow movement, or high to a quick one:  all this the elephant learns and understands, and is accurate withal, and makes no mistake.  Thus has Nature formed him not only the greatest in size, but the most gentle and the most easily taught.  Now if I were going to write about the tractability and aptitude to learn amongst those of India, AEthiopia, and Libya, I should probably appear to be concocting a tale and acting the braggart, or to be telling a falsehood respecting the nature of the animal founded on a mere report, all which it behoves a philosopher, and most of all one who is an ardent lover of truth, not to do.  But what I have seen myself, and what others have described as having occurred at Rome, this I have chosen to relate, selecting a few facts out of many, to show the particular nature of those creatures.  The elephant when tamed is an animal most gentle and most easily led to do whatever he is directed.  And by way of showing honour to time, I will first narrate events of the oldest date.  Caesar Germanicus, the nephew of Tiberius, exhibited once a public show, wherein there were many full-grown elephants, male and female, and some of their breed born in this country.  When their limbs were beginning to become firm, a person familiar with such animals instructed them by a strange and surpassing method of teaching; using only gentleness and kindness, and adding to his mild lessons the bait of pleasant and varied food.  By this means he led them by degrees to throw off all wildness, and, as it were, to desert to a state of civilisation, conducting themselves in a manner almost human.  He taught them neither to be excited on hearing the pipe, nor to be disturbed by the beat of drum, but to be soothed by the sounds

Project Gutenberg
Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook