Page images

Frosts and suns, water and air, equally promote fructification in their respective ways; and the termes, or white ant, the mole, the hamster, and the earth-worm, break up the ground, or delve into it, that it may enjoy their salubrious influences. In like manner, they are equally the ministers of putrefaction and decomposition; and liverworts and funguses, the ant and the beetle, the dew-worm, the ship-worm, and the woodpecker, contribute to the general effect, and soon reduce the trunks of the stoutest oaks, if lying waste and unemployed, to their elementary principles, so as to form a productive mould for successive progenies of animal or vegetable existence. Such is the simple but beautiful circle of nature. Every thing lives, flourishes, and decays: every thing dies, but nothing is lost; for the great principle of life only changes its form, and the destruction of one generation is the vivification of the next.* Hence, the Hindu mythologists, with a force and elegance peculiarly striking, and which are nowhere to be paralleled in the theogonies of Greece and Rome, describe the Supreme Being, whom they denominate Brahm, as forming and regulating the universe through the agency of a triad of inferior gods, each of whom contributes equally to the general result, under the names of Brahma, Visnu, and Iswara; or the generating power, the preserving or consummating power, and the decomposing power. And hence the Christian philosopher, with a simplicity as much more

* See upon this subject the Swedish Amonitates Academicæ, vol, v. art. 80. by J. H. Hagen, 1757, entitled Natura Pelagi,

sublime than the Hindu's, as it is founded on principles more firm and correct, exclaims, on contemplating the regular confusion, the intricate harmony, of the scenes that rise before him—

These, as they change, Almighty Father! these
Are but the varied God. The rolling year
Is full of Thee!




(The subject continued.)

THE perfection of an art consists in the employment of a comprehensive system of laws, commensurate to every purpose within its scope, but concealed from the eye of the spectator; and in the production of effects that seem to flow forth spontaneously, as though uncontrolled by their influence, and which are equally excellent, whether regarded individually, or in reference to the proposed result.

Such is the great art of nature: and he who would study it with success must, as far as he is able, trace out its various laws, and reduce them to general principles, and collect its separate phænomena, and digest them into general classes. This, in many instances, we are able to do; and in such cases we obtain a tolerable insight into the nature of things. But so vast, so unbounded is the theatre before us, so complicated is its machinery, and so closely does one fact follow up and press upon another, that we are often bewildered and lost in the mighty maze, and are incapable of determining the laws by which it is regulated, or of arranging the phænomena of which it is composed.

The zoologist, in order to assist his enquiries, divides the whole animal creation into six general

heads or classes: as those of mammals, birds, amphibials, fishes, insects, and worms. Each of these classes he subdivides into orders; of each of his orders he makes a distinct section, for a multitude of kinds or genera; and each of his kinds becomes a still more subordinate section, for the species or individuals of which the separate kinds consist. But he is perpetually finding, not only that many cases in each of his inferior divisions are so equally allied to other divisions that he knows not how to arrange them, but that even his classes or first divisions themselves labour under the same difficulty; since he occasionally meets with animals that by the peculiarity of their construction seem equally to defy all artificial method and all natural order. Thus, the myxine glutinosa, which by Linnæus was regarded and ranked as a worm, has been introduced by Bloch into the class of fishes, and is now known by the name of gastrobranchus cæcus, or hag-fish. The siren lacertina, which was at first contemplated by Linnæus as an amphibious animal of a peculiar genus, was afterwards declared by Camper and Gmelin to be a fish approaching the nature of an eel, and was arranged accordingly. It has since, however, been restored from the class of fishes to that of amphibials, and is in the present day believed by various zoologists to be nothing more than a variety of the lizard. And thus the hippopotamus, the tapir, and the swine, which by Linnæus were ranked in the fifth order of mammals with the horse, are arranged by Cuvier with the rhinoceros and the sokotyro, that have hitherto formed a part of the second order.

The eel, in its general habits and appearance, has

a near similitude to the serpent; many of its species live out of the water as well as in it; and, like the serpent, hunt for worms, snails, and other food, over meadows and marshes.

The platypus anatinus, or duck-bill (the ornithorhyncus paradoxus of Blumenbach), one of the many wonders of New South Wales, unites in its form and habits the three classes of birds, quadrupeds, and amphibials. Its feet, which are four, are those of a quadruped; but each of them is palmate or webbed like a wildfowl's; and instead of lips it has the precise bill of a shoveler or other broadbilled water bird; while its body is covered with a fur exactly resembling an otter's. Yet it lives, like a lizard, chiefly in the water, digs and burrows under the banks of rivers, and feeds on aquatic plants and aquatic animals. The viverra, or weasel, in several of its species approaches the monkey and squirrel tribes; is playful, a good mimic, and possesses a prehensile tail. The flying squirrel, the flying lizard, or draco volans, and especially the bat, approach the buoyancy of birds, and are able to fly by winged membranes instead of by feathers. Their expanded membranes, however, except those of the bat, do not act as wings, but only serve, like a parachute, to lessen the rapidity of their descent, as they leap from the branches of trees. The exocetus volitans, or flying-fish, and several other fishes, derive a similar power from their long pectoral fins; while the trochilus, or humming-bird, has been thought to unite the class of birds with that of insects. It is in one of its species, T. minimus, the least of the feathered tribes; feeds, like insects, on the nectar of flowers alone, and, like the bee or butterfly,

« PreviousContinue »