Cornhill Magazine,  8 (1863), 203–07.

Of Geese

[Archer Polson]




Natural History, Ornithology, Animal Behaviour, Anthropomorphism, Ancient Authorities, Nutrition, Medical Treatment, Astronomy, Comparative Anatomy

    Observes that there are 'certain animals [...] in the lower orders of creation, who, by the general, nay the almost universal, assent of mankind, have obtained, and often very undeservedly, the character of being, beyond their fellows, silly and foolish', and defends geese, those 'luckless creatures', against this erroneous charge. Although this 'despised and decried bird' is 'judged of by the world [...] —with the same injustice which condemned Socrates', it has not always been viewed in this way, and the ancient authority 'Pliny observes that modesty is the attribute which, in the view of many persons, is most conspicuous in this maligned biped, and, from his mode of expressing himself, one might almost infer the old naturalist shared in this belief'. (203) Cites a wide variety of sources, including 'Batchelor's Bedfordshire', which seem to suggest that 'a goose can cure hydrophobia' and do 'a great deal more than our faculties of medicine have ever yet achieved with all their efforts'. Also states, 'In the Philosophical Transactions it is asserted that, of all animals the goose is most prescient of earthquakes—all animals, of course include astronomers royal and their assistants, so let Mr. Airy and Mr. Glaisher look to it; what prescience have they of earthquakes?'. (205) Referring to certain 'Writers on psychology [who] lead us to believe that animals greatly given to sleep are usually inferior in sagacity', comments that 'Amongst the lower animals the monkey has been considered the most closely to approximate to man in his organisation, and, as man is the least sleepy of all animals, so in a minor degree is the monkey less prone to slumber than most other animals'. In the light of these findings, the 'proverbial [...] wakefulness of the goose' affords 'an additional reason for our protest against the calumnies to which the highly gifted and singularly endowed subject of these remarks has been ruthlessly exposed'. (206)

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