PARTRIDGE >> Knowledges without Use
Partridges and quails are closely akin to our domestic fowls, being scratchers, and living upon the ground; but they are wild, and love their freedom. They represent a kindred love of knowledge, but natural, and for the sake of knowing, without regard to useful ends. Therefore it is said in the Bible, “As the partridge sitteth upon eggs and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool” (Jeremiah 17:11). Swedenborg explains that the partridge here means “those who procure to themselves knowledges without any other use . . . than that they may know them” (Apocalypse Explained #236). Yet partridges are among the birds useful for food; the stores which they collect are serviceable, though this is no part of their intention.
Of quails, we read in the Bible that during the journey of the Israelites through the wilderness of Sinai, though the Lord fed them with manna from heaven, they complained and wept, saying:
“Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons, the leeks and the onions and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all besides this manna before our eyes.” . . .
And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high above the face of the earth. And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails. (Numbers 11:4, 5, 31, 32)
The manna which the people despised represents the delight of being taught by the Lord. The quails which they desired represent the desire for the natural pleasure of learning for themselves; a desire which, in conflict with the duty of being led by the Lord, was evil, and brought a plague; but which is good in its right place, in time of rest and recreation.
It seems to me that as the common fowls are, in the line of birds, correlative with the kine among quadrupeds, so the partridges and quails, which are their wild and natural relatives, are correlative with the deer and antelopes: the partridges with the deer, because they are more lonely, and endure the northern winters; the quails with antelopes, because they are smaller, more social, and usually migratory. The knowledge which spiritual partridges love is certainly a knowledge of the winters as well as the summers of life; but the quails, as a rule, seek that of perpetual summer.
Author: JOHN WORCESTER 1875