46. Solan Geese.


A very odd argument was invented, to show that Solan Geese might lawfully be eaten on fast days; and a still more extraordinary one was used in reply to it. It is scarcely necessary to premise that these Barnacles were, according to common opinion, “fowles lyke to wylde ghees, which growen wonderly upon trees, as it were nature wrought agayne kynde. Men 80of relygyon, (continues the Polycronycon,) ete bernacles on fastynge dayes, by cause they ben not engendred of flesshe, wherin as me thynketh they erre. For reason is agaynste that. For yf a man had eten of Adam’s legge, he had eten flesshe, and yet Adam was not engendred of fader and moder, but that flesshe came wonderly of the erthe, and so this flesshe cometh wonderly of the tree.” Polycronycon, Lib. i. cap. 32.

This argument however does not satisfy my old friend Stanihurst. “The Irish clergy” he says, “did not so far stray in their opinion, as Cambrensis and Polycronycon in their reproof. For the framing of Adam and Eve was supernatural, only done by God, and not by the help of angels or any other creature. But the ingendering of barnacles is natural, and therefore the examples are not like. Now it should seem that the Irish clergy builded their reason upon this plot: whatsoever is flesh, is naturally begotten 81or engendered of flesh; barnacles are not naturally engendered of flesh, but only of timber and wood; barnacles therefore are not flesh, unless you would have them to be wooden flesh. And if the reason be so knit it may not be disjointed by Cambrensis his example…If any be desirous to know my mind herein, I suppose, according to my simple judgement, (under the correction of both parties) that the barnacle is neither fish nor flesh, but rather a mean between both. As, put the case it were enacted by Parliament that it were high treason to eat flesh on Friday, and fish on Sunday; truly, I think that he that eateth barnacles both these days, should not be within the compass of the estatute. Yet I would not wish my friend to hazard it, least the barnacle should be found in law fish or flesh; yea, and perhaps fish and flesh.— But some will peradventure marvel that there should be any living thing that were not fish nor flesh; but they have 82no such cause at all. Nits, fleshworms, bees, butterflies, caterpillers, snails, grasshoppers, beetles, earwikes, reremice, frogs, toads, adders, snakes, and such others, are living things and yet neither fish, flesh, nor yet red-herring, …as they that are trained in scholastical points may easily judge. And so I think that if any were so sharp set (the estatute above rehearsed, presupposed) as to eat fried flies, buttered bees, stewed snails, either on Friday or Sunday, he could not be therefore indicted of haulte treason; albeit I would not be his guest, unless I took his table to be furnished with more wholesome and licorous viands.

Holinshed. vol. 6. p. 19, 20.

Most usually, Stanihurst tells us, the religious of strictest abstinence eat the Solan Goose upon fish days. So the French, according to Ledwich,eat the macreuse, or sea duck, as being fish and not fowl. It is a remark, he adds, of the honest Quaker, Dr. Rutty, that they who can 83believe bread to be flesh, may well be excused for believing flesh to be fish.


Icon for the Public Domain license

This work (Omniana by Robert Southey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge) is free of known copyright restrictions.

Share This Book