[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
How admirable is nature! how extensive her power, and how various the forms with which she has surrounded the united elements of animated matter! From the uncouth shape of the wallowing whale, of the unwieldly hippopotamus, or ponderous elephant, to the light and elegant form of the painted moth or fluttering colibri; she seems to have exhausted all ideas, all conceptions, and not to have left a single figure untried. The fish correctly represented above is one of those in the outlines and decorations of which she appears to have indulged her fancy in one of the happiest hours of the creation, and yet the whimsicality of the result has stamped the individual with the discordant appanage of frightful beauty. Armed cap-a-pié, surrounded with spines and thorns, bristling on his back and fins, like an arined phalanx of lance bearers; and decorated on the body with yellow ribbands, interwoven with white fillets; and on the purple fins of his breast, with the milky dots of the pintado; the Scorpion presents a most extraordinary contrast. His eyes, like those of which poets sang when celebrating the Nereids and Nayads, consist in black pupils surrounded with a silver iris radiated with alternate divisions of blue and black compartments. The rays of the dorsal fin are spiny, spotted brown and yellow, conjoined below by a dark-brown membrane, and at liberty above; the ventral fins are violet with white drops, and the tail and anal ones are a sort of tesselated work of blue, black, and white united with the greatest symmetry, and not unlike those ancient fragments of Roman pavements often found in this island.
This variegated fish is found in the rivers of Amboyna and Japan, and even there it is scarce; its flesh is white, firm, and well tasted, like our perch, but it does not grow so large; it is of a very voracious stomach, feeding on the young of other fish, some of which, two inches in length, have been found in its craw. The skin has both the appearance and smoothness of parchment. To the tremendous armour of its back, fins, and tail, this fish owes the name of Scorpion.
The Butterfly Fish is about six or seven inches long, and inhabits the Adriatic sea. In October he is not uncommon at Venice, where he is offered to sale among the great quantity of various fish which the coasts of Italy afford. He has no apparent scales, and is of a faint blue or ash colour; the dorsal fin is elegantly spotted with black, and the flesh is well tasted and tender. This fish bears some resemblance and appearent affinity to the Scorpion, the Gurnard, and Father-Lasher.