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IN THREE PARTS, &c.
BIRDS OF PREY.
The Eagle. THE
He eagle is the strongest, the fiercest, and the most rapacious of the feathered race. He dwells alone in the desert, and on the summits of the highest mountains; and suffers no bird to come with impunity within the range of his flight. His eye is dark and piercing, his beak and talons are hooked and formidable, and his cry is the terror of every wing. His figure answers to his nature; independently of his arms, he has a robust and compact body, and very powerful limbs and wings; his bones are hard, his flesh is firm, his feathers are coarse, his attitude is fierce and erect, his motions are lively, and his flight is extremely rapid. Such is the golden eagle, as described by the most accurate observers of nature. To this noble bird the prophet Ezekiel evidently refers, in his parable to the house of Israel: “ A great eagle, with great wings, long winged,
full of feathers which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar *." In this parable, a strict regard to physical truth is discovered, in another respect; for the eagle is known to have a predilection for cedars, which are the loftiest trees in the forest, and therefore more suited to his daring temper than any other. La Roque found a number of large eagle's feathers, scattered on the ground beneath the lofty cedars which still crown the summits of Lebanon, on the highest branches of which, that fierce destroyer occasionally. perches.
The extraordinary length of his wings, and the manner in which he stretches them as he flies, have been celebrated by many ancient writers. Hesiod calls him the bird with extended wings; Pindar asserts, that in the length and extension of his wings, he surpasses all the birds of heaven t; and Homer, with his usual force and beauty, compares the wings of the eagle to the doors of a splendid apartment, closely shut and skilfully made.
Οσση δε υψοροφοιο θυρα θαλαμοιο τετυκται. II. 1. 24. 1. 317. On these great and expanded wings, the eagle darts with amazing swiftness and impetuosity through the voids of heaven, especially when in pursuit of his prey. He rushes, says Apuleius, upon the devoted victim, like a flash of lightning; and Cicero avers, that no bird flies with greater vehemence. The Greeks gave him the appropriate name of astos, from a verb which signifies to rush with great impetuosity. This remarkable trait in his character, did not escape the keen observation of Homer : he compares the rapid and furious onset of Achilles, to the violent pursuit of that bird, which he characterizes the strongest and the swiftest of the winged tribes.
Αετ8, oιματ’ εχων μελανος, τα θηρητηρος
Ος θ αμα καρτιςος τε και ωκιςος πετεηνων. . n. b. 21. l. 253. He describes, in nearly the same terms, the career of the amiable and ill-fated Hector : * Ezek. xvii. 3.
+ Hes. Theog. b. 523. Pindar. Pyth. 5.
Oιμησεν δε αλείς ως τ' αετός ύψιπετήεις. .
n. 6. 22. 1. 308. “ Turning, he rushed upon him like a high-soaring cagle, which descends into the plain through the obscure clouds, to seize the tender lamb or trembling hare.” Equally striking and beautiful are the allusions in the sacred oracles: “ The Lord'shall bring a nation against thee,” said Moses to his people, “from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth*." In the affecting lamentation of David over Saul and Jonathan, their impetuous and rapid career is celebrated in more forcible terms, than the great master of Grecian song presumed to use: “ They were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions t." “ Behold," cried Jeremiah, when he beheld in vision the march of Nebuchadnezzar, “ he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us, for we are spoiled 1.” To the wide expanded wings of the eagle, and the rapidity of his flight, the same prophet beautifully alludes in a subsequent chapter, where he describes the subversion of Moab, by the same ruthless conqueror : “ For thus saith the Lord, Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moabg.” In the same manner, he describes the sudden desolations of Ammon in the next chapter ; but when he turns his eye to the ruins of his own country, he exclaims in still more energetic language, “ Our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heavens.”
Under the same comparison, the patriarch Job describes the rapid flight of time: “My days are passed away, as the eagle that hasteth to the prey TT;” no part of them remains, and no trace of them can be discovered. The surprising rapidity, with which the blessings of common providence sometimes vanish from the grasp of the possessor, is thus described by Solomon : “ Riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle towards heaven**"
• Deut. xxviii. 49.
Lam. iv, 19.
+ 2 Sam. i. 23.
Job ix, 26.
#Jer. iv. 13. ☆ Chap. xlviii. 40. ** Prov. xxx. 19.