[These poems on the panther and the whale (and also a fragmentary poem on a bird -- perhaps a partridge) follow The Phoenix in the Exeter Book, and resemble it in their use of natural history for purposes of moral instruction. These poems belong to a very popular branch of medieval literature. The earliest form of these accounts of birds and beasts was probably in Greek, but the original Greek Physiologus or Bestiary, as it is usually called, has been lost. There are versions in many languages. The work probably originated in Egypt, and was the result of a genuine, if not very critical, interest in the facts and marvels of nature. The allegorical applications were, it would seem, added later. The excuse for comparing the panther to Christ was found in Hosea v. 14, where the Septuagint version reads: '1 am become as a panther to Ephraim.' The whale is called Fastitocalon in the English poem. In earlier versions the creature was a turtle and was named Aspidochelone. In course of time the name became corrupted, and the whale replaced the turtle. The rough surface of the animal, mentioned in the poem, better suits the turtle. These strange old beliefs about birds and beasts are referred to by some Elizabethan and later writers. Dryden reminds us that
'The Panther's breath was ever fam'd for sweet';
and Milton compares the fallen Satan to
'that sea beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished mom delays.'
Sindbad's adventure on the whale island will, of course, be remembered.]
MANY are the kinds of creatures beyond count throughout the world, of whom we cannot rightly tell the lineage or know the number, so widely are the numerous multitudes of birds and beasts which move on the earth scattered through the world, even as the water, the roaring sea, the swell of the salt waves, girds this glorious earth. We heard tell of the strange nature of one of the beasts, that he bides in distant lands, in a dwelling very famous among men, holds his domain amid the mountain caves. That beast is called Panther by name, as the sons of