« AnteriorContinuar »
to the feeling. But in the midst of these melancholy prospects, let us still observe, that nature faithfully fulfils the eternal law prescribed to her, of being useful at all times and seasons of the year. Winter draws nigh; the flowers are going; and even when the sun shines, the earth no longer appears with its usual beauty. Yet the country, stripped and desert as it is, still presents to a feeling mind the image of happiness. We may recollect with gratitude to Heaven, that the fields which are now barren were once covered with corn and plentiful harvest. It is true, that the orchards and gardens are now stripped, but the remembrance of what they bestowed upon us may make us content to bear the northern blasts which at present we feel so sharp. The leaves are fallen from the fruit-trees; the grass of the field is withered ; dark clouds fill the sky, and fall in heavy rains. The unthinking man complains at this ; but the wise man beholds the earth moistened with rain with a sweet satisfaction. The dried leaves and the faded grass are prepared, by the autumnal rains, to form manure to enrich the ground. This reflection, with the pleasing expectation of spring, must naturally excite our gratitude for the tender mercies of our Creator,
There is not a creature on earth that has so many wants as man. We, come into the world naked, ignorant, and destitute, Nature has not endowed us with industry, and those instincts which the beasts have at their birth. Reason has been bestowed on us, that we should acquire the necessary knowledge and talents. They bring with them at their birth, clothes, arms, and all they want, or they have those natural instincts, which, by following blindly, procure it for them. If they require habitations, they know how to dig or build them; if they want beds, covering, or change of clothes, they know how to spin and weave them, and get rid of their old ones; if they have enemies, they are provided with arms to defend themselves; if they are sick or wounded, they know where to find proper remedies. And we, who are so superior to other animals, have more wants, and fewer means of supplying them, than they have. By not having their instinct to assist our many bodily wants, we make use of our reason, in order to acquire a knowledge of the world, and of ourselves. It is necessary to be active, vigilant, and laborious, to preserve us from poverty, pain, and vexation, and to make our lives pleasant and happy. Reason is, at the same time, the only means to subdue our strong passions, and to prevent us from running into excesses of pleasure, which might be fatal to us. A few examples may convince us of this. If we could obtain, without any trouble, all our food, &c. we should certainly become indolent and idle, and we should pass our lives in shameful sloth. The noblest faculties of man would weaken and grow dull. The bonds of society would be broken, because we should no longer depend on one another. Even children would be able to do without the assistance of their parents, and still less would they want it from others. All human kind would fall again into a state of barbarity. Wild and savage, every one would live, like the brutes, for themselves only. There would be no subordination, no mutual obligations or good offices. It is, then, to our wants that we owe the opening of our faculties, and the prerogatives of humanity. They awaken the mind, create activity and industry, and
make our lives more easy and pleasant than those of i other animals. Our wants have made uş sociable, rational, and regular in our manners; they have given rise to a multitude of useful arts and sciences. In general, an active and laborious life is beneficial and necessary to man. If his faculties and powers are not exercised, he becomes a load to himself, he falls gradually into a stupid ignorance, into gross excesses, and all the vices resulting from them. Labour, on the contrary, sets all the machine into a pleasing motion, and gives so much the more satisfaction and enjoyment, as it requires the more industry, reflection, understanding, and knowledge.
The wants of children, the destitute state in which they come into the world, oblige the parents, through pity and tenderness, to take care of them ; whilst the children, on their parts, are attached to their parents by a sense of their own helpless state and danger, and submit to be guided and formed by their instruction and example, how to make a proper use of their reason, and to respect morality. Thus they may become worthy men, and lead a virtuous and happy life. With such advantages, we may easily give up those which the animals appear to have over us. We require neither furs nor feathers to clothe us, no teeth nor claws to defend us, neither more cunning nor natural instinct to procure us necessaries. We find, then, that these wants are the true foundations of our happiness, and the best means which Divine Wisdom and goodness could make use of, in order to direct the faculties of man to the greatest advantage.
Every part of the world has animals of its own, and it is for very wise purposes that the Creator has placed them in one country rather than in another. The most remarkable animals in the southern countries are the elephant and camel.: They 'surpass all the quadrupeds in size. ..... ..
The elephant, in particular, appears like a moving mountain, and its bones are like pillars. Its head is joined to a very short neck, and armed with two tusks strong enough to tear up trees, or throw them down. A longer neck could not support the weight of the head, nor hold it up. But to make amends for the short neck, his trunk is very long. He uses it as a hand to convey food to his mouth, without being obliged to stoop for it. He moves, bends, and turns it all ways, at his pleasure, and makes use of it as an organ of smell. His eyes are small in proportion to the size of his body, but they are bright and full of fire. In a state of independence it is neither sanguinary nor fierce, but of a mild nature, and never makes use of its weapons but in its own defence. It seizes its enemy with its trunk; flings it like a stone at him, and then treads him to death. The elephant eats about 100 pounds weight of grass in a day; but its body being of an enormous weight, it crushes and destroys with its feet more than it consumes in food. Its chief enemy, and often its conqueror, is the rhinoceros, an animal very like the wild boar, that makes use of the horn which grows upon his nose to pierce the belly of the elephant. It requires very Jittle attention to perceive the wisdom of God in the production of the elephant. He has ordained that it should be born in countries' abounding with grass, and that it should not become a burden to the earth by multiplying too fast. """!!!
The camel is one of the most useful animals in the east; it is admirably adapted to bear the greatest fatigues in the midst of barren deserts and burning sands; being able sometimes to live four or five days without drink, and requiring but very little food in proportion to its size. It browses the few plants and shrubs that grow in the deserts; and when it
finds none, two measures of beans and barley serve for a whole day's subsistence. Besides the hump which grows on its back, there is still another singularity in its make: this is a double throat, one of which reaches to the stomach, and the other terminates in a bag, which serves him as a reservoir to keep water in. It remains there without corrupting; and when the animal is pressed by thirst, or has occasion to dilute its dry food, it draws up into its paunch part of this water, which moistens the throat, and goes afterwards into the stomach. The common load a camel will bear is from 700 to 800 pounds weight; and with this burden they go two German leagues and a half in one hour ; generally travelling twelve or fifteen hours a lay. The fleshy foot of the camel is made to walk on sand, while the horny hoof of the horse would be hurt or burnt by it,
The most remarkable quadrupeds in the southern countries are the elk, the sable, and the rein-deer. The first of these animals is large, strong, and finely shaped. Its head something resembles the mule in form, size, and colour; its legs are long and strong ; its hair of a light grey, This animal is simple, stupid, and timorous. It finds food every where; but it prefers bark, or the tender shoots of the wil. low, the birch, or the service-tree. It is extremely swift, and having long legs, goes a great way in a very short time. The sable wanders in the forests of Siberia, and is much sought on account of its beautiful fur. The hunting of this animal is generally the sad occupation of the wretches who are banished to those deserts. The rein-deer is an animal of a most elegant, pleasing form, very like a stag. It seeks its own food, which consists of moss, grass, leaves, and buds or shoots of trees. The northern nations draw many uses from them, as have been described in a former part of this work. 1
What has been said of these foreign beasts may give rise to important reflections, How surprising