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preserved by some covering; therefore it is wisely ordered, that the rain, which in summer cools and revives the plants, should in winter fall in the form of soft wool, to cover the vegetables, and to guard them from the inclemency of frost and winds. The snow has a degree of warmth in it; but not too much, so as to choak the grain. As, like all other vapours, it contains different salts, which it leaves in the ground when it melts, this much enriches the earth. The melted snow not only moistens the earth, but washes every thing hurtful away from the winter seeds and plants. What remains of the snow-water helps to fill up the springs and rivers which had diminished during the winter.
These reflections may convince us, that winter has its advantages, and is not so melancholy a season as many imagine. Let us look up with joy and gratitude towards that beneficent Being who causes blessings to flow even from the clouds of snow upon the earth.
Sleep of Animals during Winter. There are many animals, during winter, which continue in a state of inactivity or sleep. This is the case with the snails, the ants, flies, spiders, caterpillars, frogs, lizards, and serpents. It is a mistake to suppose that the ants lay up provisions for the whole winter: they lay up a store for autumn, but the least frost benumbs them, and they remain in that state till the return of spring. Great part of what they collect in summer, with so much care, is not for their subsistence only, they use it as materials to build their habitations. There are also many birds, which, when food begins to fail, hide themselves underground, or in caves, to sleep all the winter. The shore-swallows hide underground, the wallswallows in the hollows of trees or old buildings, and the common swallows go to the end of ponds, and fasten themselves in pairs to some reeds, where they remain lifeless and motionless till they are revived by the return of fine weather. There are also some beasts which bury themselves in the ground at the end of summer. The most remarkable of them is the mountain rat, which generally makes its abode in the Alps. Though it loves to be on the highest mountains, in the region of ice and snow, it is sooner benumbed with cold than any other animal; for which reason it retires in autumn into its subterraneous lodging, to remain there till spring. Their winter residence has two branches, both terminating in a place without any opening. One of these two wings goes sloping underneath their dwelling-place, where they leave their excrement, which the wet carries away. The other wing is the highest, and is their place of going in and coming out. They make no provision for winter, as it would be useless to them; but before they enter, they each prepare themselves a bed of moss and hay; and then, having closed the entrance into their houses, they compose themselves to sleep. As long as this state of insensibility lasts, they live without eating. At the beginning of winter they are so fat, that some of them weigh twenty pounds; and by degrees they fall away, and are very thin in spring. It is said, that as soon as these animals begin to feel the cold, they go to some spring, and drink copiously for a long time, till what they discharge is as clear and as pure as when they drank it. A natural instinct prompts them to it, in order to prevent the corruption which the accumulated matter in their stomachs might occasion during their long sleep. When these rats are discovered in their retreats, they are found rolled up round, and sunk into
the hay. Their nose is laid on their belly, that they may not breathe a damp air. During their torpid state, they are carried away without being awakened, and they may even be killed without appearing to feel it. There is another sort of rats, whose sleep is equally long and sound as these, and they are therefore called the sleepers.
The bears eat more at the beginning of winter, which enables them to bear their abstinence during their winter's repose. The badgers prepare for their retreat into their burrows in the same manner. The instinct of these and many other animals, teaches them thus to dispense with food for a considerable time. In their peaceable retreats, they know not what want, hunger, or cold is; they know no season but summer. But all animals do not sleep thus in winter : it is only those which, with the severe cold, can also support an abstinence of several months. If winter was to come upon them unprepared, and that suddenly, weakened and benumbed with want of food and the cold air, they would still survive it: the only thing we could wonder at would be the strength of their constitution. But as they know how to prepare in time for their sleep, with much care and precaution, it must be imputed to a wonderful instinct bestowed
upon them by the universal Creator,
The Use of Wood.
HOWEVER great and numerous the advantages we derive from every part of a tree, yet there is none to be compared to the use we make of the wood itself. It grows m great abundance, and answers every purpose we wish. It is soft enough to take any form we please, and hard enough to keep that which is once given to it; and as it is easily sawed, bent, and polished, it furnishes us with many utensils, conveniences, and ornaments. It is true, that nature furnishes a great quantity of heavy, compact bodies; yet we have wants still more indispensable, which we could scarcely supply without solid, thick wood. We have stones and marble, of which we make many uses; but it is such labour to get them out of their quarries, to convey them to any distance, or to work them, that it is very expensive; whereas we may make use of the largest trees, with very little trouble or expence in comparison. By sinking into the ground wooden piles of sixty or ninety feet long, a sure foundation is made for walls, even in loose sand or mud, which would otherwise fall in. These piles, strongly driven down, and made firm, form a forest immovable and sometimes incorruptible, in the ground or water, able to sustain the largest and heaviest buildings. It is wood or timber that supports the brickwork, and weight of tiles and lead, of which the roofs of our houses are composed. Wood is also a preservative of life, as it is in many places our chief fuel.
The long winter nights, the cold fogs, and the north wind, would freeze
our blood, if we were deprived of the comfortable warmth of fires. How necessary, therefore, is fuel to us! Was it not for the wisest purposes that the Creator of the world covered one half of the surface of our globe with wood, and yet are we not apt to forget this? Do we always consider as a favour the many uses it is of to us?
Are we sensible how much it contributes to our welfare? Or because these blessings are too common, do we therefore think them of less importance? It is true, it is easier to acquire wood than gold or diamonds; but, is it therefore less a peculiar blessing of Providence? Is it not the plenty of wood, and the ease with which we acquire it, that ought so much the more to excite our gratitude, and lead us to bless the Creator of this invaluable gift, the measure of which is so well proportioned to our wants ? Such reflections would prove constant subjects for thanksgiving, if we accustomed ourselves to this pleasing, though serious turn of mind. Particularly at this season we are furnished with many occasions to bless God for the mercies he grants to us, and which we ought never to forget.
An Exhortation to remember the Poor at the
Season of Winter.
THOSE who are quietly sitting in convenient, cheerful houses, and who hear the whistling of the sharp north wind, let them reflect on their unhappy fellow-creatures, many of whom are suffering the utmost severity of poverty and cold. “Happy those who at this season have a house'to shelter them, clothes to cover them, bread and the fruit of the vine to refresh them, with a bed of down on which they may repose and yield to pleasing dreams. But there are some poor persons without even the necessaries of life! without shelter, without clothes, often stretched upon a bed of pain, and too modest to proclaim their wants." We ought all to be touched with the misery of this order of people. How many poor creatures distressed with cold and hunger! How many old people with scarcely any thing to cover them! How many sick are there, without food or nourishment, lying on straw, in miserable huts, where the wind, the cold, and the snow penetrate ! Winter renders benevolence to the poor more necessary, because it increases their wants. Is it not the time in which nature itself is poor? and is it not adding double value to our benefactions to bestow