« PředchozíPokračovat »
18. Beauties of Natural History..
ANIMATED being is that branch of natural history which possesses charms the most numerous and diversified, and is fraught with the most important consequences to man; but this division of nature cannot be comprised at a glance. It is advisable, that the student should begin with examining the nature and qualities of such quadrupeds as are most familiar to his observation. Even in the dog and horse, how many properties reside which are seldom considered with at tention! From such objects as are most obvious and inviting, he should gradually ascend by firm and patient steps to the knowledge of others.
The larger animals, and such as contribute to general pleasure and utility, will doubtless first engage his attention. After duly scanning their nature and instincts, their growth, their maturation, their increase, the care of their young, their selection of food, and the various means with which Provi. dence has endowed them for their preservation, the student should descend to an examination of such quadrupeds as are more minute, or retired from his notice; and, when he is tolerably well acquainted with those of his own country, should extend his views to the natives of foreign regions.
The sagacious docility of the elephant, the persevering fortitude of the camel, the generous magnanimity of the lion, and the savage fierceness of the hyena and the tiger, will supply abundant materials for reflection, and incentives to further and closer investigation. It will be thus discovered how the useful quadrupeds are wisely allotted to their respective-clinates, and to the exigencies of man; and how the noxious classes are generally restrained to haunts little frequented by our race, while their numbers are limited by the mosto admirable and benevolent economy of nature.
After this acquaintance with the history of quadrupeds, the student should proceed to birds, the most beautiful and innocent tribes of the creation; and learn the means by which they are enabled to subsist either on land or water ; examine the invariable structure of their nests, according to their respective kinds; and observe the fond affection they display for their young
He will find that those birds whose beauty of plumage excites his admiration, are generally destitute of harmonious voices; so that the parrot, the peacock, and pheasant, disgust by their screams, while the homely lark, the nightingale, and blackbird, delight by the sweetness of their melody
Reptiles, the next class in animated nature, are far less numerous, and less inviting. In the formidable alligator, in the poisonous serpent, in the harmless tortoise, and the lively frog, very opposite qualities will be discovered; but in all will still be discernible a perfect fitness to their respective situations in the scale of creation.
The next class to which the student should turn his atten. tion is that of fishes. The conformation of these, their wonderful adaptation to the element which they inhabit, their powers and faculties, though inferior to those of birds and beasts, will challenge his admiration, and animate his researches.
Entomology, or the natural history of insects, is so extensive as to baffle the most inquisitive investigator. Every plant, every leaf, is the abode or food of one or more species, some of which are imperceptible to the naked eye. All insects are propagated from eggs, and, by a wonderful law of nature, undergo several metamorphoses before they arrive at their perfect state. The caterpillar, the aurelia, and the butterfly, so distinguishable from each other, are but names for one and the same animal in different stages of its existence. Even the minutest insects are formed with as much skill as the most stately quadrupeds, and are equally qualified to enjoy life. A general knowledge, however, of this numerous class will be sufficient; and from insects he will extend his observa tion to the shelly trides, the beauty and the mechanism of which baffle all description.
In these, life seems to be scarcely active, and to many of them a locomotive power is denied; yet even the zoophyte, which connects the animal with the vegetable kingdom, eren • the animalcule, has its sphere of duties to fulfil, and its share of blessings to enjoy.
From the study of animated being, let the curious student direct his attention to vegetables ; from vegetables to minerals ; and from the garniture produce of the earth to the celestial orbs that roll in the abyss of space; the planets in their regular courses, the comets in their eccentric orbits, and the myriads of fixed stars that adorn the vaults of heaven. How amazing is the contemplation of the universe! Wonders crowd on wonders; and the mind is bewildered, till it recurs to the supreme universal Cause, and reposes on the bosom of Omnipotence.
There is a land, of every land the pride,
Here woman reigns; the mother, daughter, wife,
20. The Results of Misdirected and Guilty Ambition.'
To attain to their envied situation, the candidates for fortane too frequently abandon the paths of virtue; for, unhappily, the road which leads to the one, and that which leads to the other, lie sometimes in very opposite directions. But the ambitious man flatters himself that, in the splendid situation to which he advances, he will have so many means of commanding the respect and admiration of mankind, and will be enabled to act with such superior propriety and grace, that the lustre of bis future conduct will entirely cover or efface the foulness of the steps by which he arrived at that elevation.
In many governments, the candidates for the highest stations are above the law, and if they can attain the object of their ambition, they have no fear of being called to account for the means by which they acquired it. They often en deavor, therefore, not only by fraud and falsehood, the ordinary and vulgar arts of intrigue and cabal, but sometimes by the perpetration of the most enormous crimes, by murder and assassination, by rebellion and civil war, to supplant and destroy those who oppose or stand in the way of their greatness They more frequently miscarry than succeed, and commonly
gain nothing but the disgraceful punishment which is due to their crimes.
But though they should be so lucky as to attain that wished for greatness, they are always most miserably disappointed in the happiness which they expect to enjoy in it. It is not ease or pleasure, but always honor, of one kind or another, though frequently an honor very ill understood, that the ambitious man really pursues. But the honor of his exalted station appears, both in his own eyes and in those of other people, polluted and defiled by the baseness of the means through which he rose to it.
Though by the profusion of every liberal expense; though by 'excessive indulgence in every profligate pleasure, the wretched but usual resource of ruined characters; though by the hurry of public business, or by the prouder and more dazzling tumult of war, - he may endeavor to efface, both from his own memory and from that of other people, the remembrance of what he has done, that remembrance never fails to pursue him. He invokes in vain the dark and dismal powers of forgetfulness and oblivion. He remembers himself what he has done, and that remembrance tells him that other people must likewise remember it.
Amidst all the gaudy ponip of the most ostentatious grealness, amidst the venal and vile adulation of the great and of the learned, amidst the more innocent though more foolish acclamations of the common people, amidst all the pride of conquest and the triumph of successful war, he is still secretly pursued by the avenging furies of shame and remorse; and while glory seems to surround him on all sides, he himself, in his own imagination, sees black and foul infamy pursuing himn with impetuosity, and every moment ready to overtake him.
Even the great Cæsar, though he had the magnanimity to dismiss his guards, could not dismiss his suspicions. The remembrance of Pharsalia still haunted and pursued him. When, at the request of the senate, he had the generosity to pardon Marcellus, he told that assembly that he was not