The Viper, pp.305-306.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

   IS a venomous animal, a species of serpent that seldom exceeds the length of two or three feet; it is of a dirty yellow colour with black spots, and the belly entirely black; the head is nearly figured in the shape of a lozenge. Unlike all others of the serpent kind, the Viper is viviparous, yet it is said, and ascertained, that the eggs are produced and hatched in the body of the mother. This creature feeds on frogs, toads, lizards, and animals of the kind; it is even asserted that they catch mice and small birds, a food of which they seem very fond. The teeth of the Viper are surrounded with a small bladder containing the poison. There is no doubt but this poison which appears to have been infused in the jaws of the Viper and other serpents, by Providence, as a means of revenge upon their enemies, is so harmless to the animal himself that when swallowed by him it only serves to accelerate his digestion; and indeed if the venom was hurtful to the Viper when he swallows it, how could he masticate frogs and mice without breaking the baneful bladder, and be injured by the poisonous liquor? The Viper is very patient of hunger, and may be kept more than six months without food. When in confinement, the Viper requires, or tastes, no food, and the sharpness of its poison decreases in proportion. 

   It is a native of many parts of this island, chiefly in the dry and chalky counties. The flesh of the Viper is often used for broth, which in many cases is a very wholesome medicine, particularly to restore debilitated constitutions. Here we cannot help admiring the wisdom of Providence, that knows how to extract out of a salubrious, healing substance, so keen, so mortal a venom as that of the Viper. The best remedy against the bite, is to suck the wound, which may be done without danger, and after that to rub it with sweet oil and poultice it with bread and milk. 

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