Narco Culture

XlIX. (XLVI). The Electric Ray

Who has not heard of the invincible skill of the dread torpedo and of the powers that win it its name?

Its body is soft its motion slow. Scarcely does it mark the sand o’er which it crawls so sluggishly. But nature has armed its flanks with a numbing poison and mingled with its marrow chill to freeze all living creatures, hiding as it were its own winter heart. The fish seconds nature’s efforts with its own guilelessness: knowing its own ¬†capabilities, it employs cunning, and trusting to its power of touch lies stretched full length among the seaweed and so attacks its prey. It stays motionless; all that have touched it lie benumbed. Then, when success has crowned its efforts, it springs up and greedily devours without fear the living limbs of its victim.

Should it carelessly swallow a piece of bait that hides a hook of bronze and feel the pull of the jagged barbs, it does not swim away nor seek to free itself by vainly biting at the line: but artfully approaches the dark line and, though a prisoner, forgets not its skill, emitting from its poisonous veins an effluence which spreads far and wide through the water. The poisons bane leaves the sea and creeps up the line: it will soon prove too much for the distant fisherman.


Claudian, With An English Translation By Maurice Platnauer, New York, 1922


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