Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

As a means of intellectual improvement, we might recommend the study of some foreign language. French or German has become almost a sine quâ non in more polite and intelligent circles. But apart from the embellishment which it may give to the character, it is desirable as a mere exercise of mind. It induces fixedness of thought and power of application. Burns, when a mere ploughboy, acquired a considerable knowledge both of French and Latin ; and in English composition his epistolary correspondence is perhaps unequalled. An acquaintance with other tongues will enlarge our acquaintance with our own; and if called to fill one of the higher situations which are not so rare even in commercial life, their acquisition will prove no common recommendation. Besides, rich as our English literature is, it is not the only literature which has existence. Other nations have laboured in the same department, and in their languages are to be found stores of knowledge. How full of great thoughts and sound philosophy are some of the ancient classics! Or, if these would deter you, take the British classics in your mother tongue; seek to catch their purest inspiration ; not only admire the sublime and beautiful--lay hold of the solid and the true.

Man is a social being ;-he cannot live without society;-hence all the companionships and relations of life. But, in entering on a course of self-culture, it is of vast moment with whom you associate. Horace says, “ fortes creantur fortibus et bonis." It is a true saying, and confirmed by Solomon himself in his inspired aphorism :-“ He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” Seek the society of those who are superior to yourselves who are both wiser and better. Let mind ascend; and to do this, you must place before you some higher standard. Resolve to rise. You will find every encouragement both in the effort you make, and in the confidence and commendations of those who are watching your course. The class in advance of you will cheerfully beckon you on, and lead the way to still greater progress. If you even make upon them, it will create no jealousy-no alienation. Much you may attempt much accomplish. Look at the author of the Hours of Thought. He is a man “engaged in the manual labours of the field in a remote district of Scotland," and with this fact revealed, who is not surprised at the productions of his pen? Here is the fruit of mental cultivation, and proves what may be done by habits of thought and application in the most disadvantageous circumstances. It is into this path we would conduct you. Discipline your minds. Avail yourselves of every means of information within your reach. Leave the grosser pursuits of sense to those who have neither intellectual power nor taste. Devotedness to amusements and indulgences of whatever kind generates a mental dissipation, and in proportion as this obtains, disqualifies for all profitable exercise of mind. “ One thing which appears indispensable to the attainment of intellectual eminence, is an unconquerable spirit of inquiry, impelling the mind in the pursuit of knowledge, and making it work its way in search of the firm foundations of truth. * * * * It has ever been regarded a spectacle peculiarly interesting, to behold a powerful mind bursting by its native energies the stiff incrustations of rudeness and ignorance, and pushing its way upwards to honourable and beneficial eminence;-privations, discouragements, and repulses, only enhancing its determination and ardour."* Never forget that a diamond of the first water may be found incrusted in the coarsest earth.

* Hours of Thought, pp. 9, 11.

IN THE ORGANIZATION OF ANIMALS.

BY A LECTURER ON PHYSIOLOGY. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead."--Rom. i.

We have often regretted, when contemplating the exquisite beauty and perfection displayed in the formation of animals, that so much which is calculated to instruct the mind and elevate the soul, remains for the great mass of mankind a sealed book. And yet there are no pursuits, no amusements which are at once so accessible and so inexpensive as those of natural history. For those who reside in large cities, there are collections and museums, which we earnestly trust will, with an improved mode of conducting business, become more available than heretofore; and for those who live in smaller towns and villages, there are the ever fresh and varying objects of nature. The railway, the steam-boat, nay, even a stout pair of legs, and a willing heart, will, on a summer's evening, and on a holiday, carry the denizen of our modern Babylon so far into the pure air of the country as to afford occasional opportunities for watching the habits of animals, and for obtaining interesting specimens, especially of insects and the fresh-water mollusca.

No part of the great book of Nature can be opened without meeting with proofs of the perfect adjustment of organized bodies to the offices they are designed to fulfil. We will, in the present paper, give some account of the external coverings of animals. Of these, perhaps, the most interesting are feathers, each of which is composed of a quill or barrel for attachment to the skin- of a shaft, and a rane or beard, the latter of which consists of a vast number of thin horny plates, called barbs, and which can be well seen in a common writing pen. Although all feathers consist of these parts, yet they differ very much according to their use, and the class of birds in which they are examined.

Feathers, we may remark, have three offices:--they are instruments for flight, for promoting warmth, and for keeping the animal dry. Those of the first order, or the large feathers of the wing, are attached to the bones which correspond to the hand and fore-arm of man ; and in order that they may offer a sufficiently resistant surface to the air in the downward impulse of the wing, it is seen that each of the barbs, in addition to being grooved on the surface, is attached to its neighbour by a number of small hooks, called barbules, a structure readily recognised by holding a pen up to the light, and slightly separating the pieces forming the vane. Were it not for this mechanism, for mechanism it is, and of the most perfect kind, in striking the air the same thing would happen as if we were to attempt to swim with the fingers separated from each other.

In order to maintain the animal heat, the feathers next the skin are of a totally different nature. Instead of the barbs being locked together, they are all loose, and form the doun, which, consisting of a multitude of fine filaments, entangle a large quantity of air; and this being like all gaseous bodies a bad conductor of heat, the warmth, which is constantly being generated by the process of respiration, is retained. The temperature of birds is higher than that of quadrupeds, varying from 103° to 107°, that of man being from 970 to 999, This use of down is strikingly shown by contrasting aquatic birds, and particularly those of our cold northern climates, with those of warmer regions. In the various kinds of divers, for example, the body is very thickly covered beneath the more superficial feathers, by a kind of soft wadding; and this is more abundant on the breast, exposed to the water, than on the back: eider-down and swan's-down consist of this kind of feathers.

Here, then, is a beautiful and effective provision for keeping the animal warm; and now we shall find there is a contrivance, as perfect for defence against moisture. Lying over the down and covering all the exposed parts of the body are feathers, which so far resemble those of the wings, as to have the barbs of their vane held together by barbules, so that the whole exterior is protected by a kind of horny tunic, impervious to wet. In order to render this covering yet more effective, all birds, but especially the aquatic tribes, as the natatores (swimmers), and the grallatores (the waders, as the heron), are provided with a supply of oil, prepared in a particular gland placed on the back near the rump. We constantly see birds engaged in arranging and oiling their feathers-carrying the beak to the oil-gland-passing each individual feather through the bill-rubbing the back over with the oil, and then carrying the head and neck, which the beak cannot reach, in that direction.

And here let us pause to admire the beneficence of the Almighty : these birds are engaged in an occupation which is essential to their well-being, and which therefore must be performed ; but it is apparent that this essential office is also one of pleasure and delight. No one can have seen a water-fowl preening its feathers—ruffling them-flapping the wings in the water-diving here and again, without being pleasingly convinced that the creature is entirely enjoying itself. Then consider how the water runs off, not a drop touches the skin ; so that we have here the instance of an animal whose dwelling is in the lake, the river, and the ocean, and yet preserved by the providence of God, as dry as if it were the constant inhabitant of the sunny glade or the verdant meadow.

The economy of feathers is, perhaps, as strikingly displayed in the young of different orders. In gallinaceous birds, such as the common fowl, pheasant, quail, partridge, &c. the young are able to run as soon as they quit the egg; they are also, to a certain extent, able to maintain the animal heat required for the support of life, partly in consequence of the activity of their respiration, which process is immediately connected with the production of warmth, and partly because they are provided with a covering of down. But there are others, as the blackbird, thrush, titmice, and other insectivorous birds, in which the callow brood are hatched nearly naked, and, in consequence of this, and their imperfect respiration, are unable to support the animal heat. In these cases, the parent birds, by the instinct with which they are provided, construct those beautiful nests we so mach admire, and which form a perfect defence against the cold and rain.

If we turn to another class, more strictly aquatic, namely, fishes, we shall find all their wants equally well supplied, but evincing the evervarying modifications of animal organization in a manner totally different. Fishes being cold-blooded animals, do not need the same provision for warmth, and therefore they do not possess the mechanism for its production; for, although Nature deals with a liberal hand, nothing is given in excess. But the creature must be defended from the contact of the water, and so it is covered by a beautiful species of enamel, consisting of horny, insensible scales, and these, as in the case of the feathers, are incessantly bedewed with an oily fluid, oozing out from a series of small preparing organs, or glands, as they are called, placed on each side of the body, and extending from the head to the tail. But here there is no beak to collect and apply the lubricating fluid. How is this, then, effected? by the mere motion of the fish in swimming, in which the rapid passage of the body through the water effects the necessary object. There can be no doubt that this defensive fluid is furnished according to the demand; so that in such an instance as that of the eel, which possesses, indeed, scales, but most minute in size, and so requires a larger supply, this is given in abundance, as those of our readers will remember who have ever handled one of these creatures just as it is caught, the body becoming immediately covered with a quantity of slimy matter.

We conclude our paper with an enumeration of the technical classification of feathers, of which the accompanying figure will serve as an illustration.

[graphic][subsumed]

Those which surround the external opening of the ear are called auriculars (1). Those which lie on the back, between the wings, are the scapulars: the figure does not show this class. A large number of feathers lying along the wing, and covering the great quill-feathers, are named coverts (tectrices), and are classed as “ lesser coverts" (2); “ middle coverts” (3); and “ greater coverts” (4). There are also corresponding feathers on the inner surface of the wing, the “under coverts ;” and others, again, lying above and below the tail, the “upper tail-coverts,” and “under tail-coverts.” The quill-feathers of the wing (5), those employed in flight, are divided into three classes: the largest, arising from the bones of the hand, are termed “ primaries;” those which proceed from the distal end of the bone of the fore-arm, called ulna, are the “secondaries ;” and those attached to the proximal end of the same bone are the " tertiaries.” There is a tuft of feathers, at the point of the wing, attached to the bone corresponding to the thumb, forming what is termed the “ bastard wing” (ala spuria). The tail feathers (6) are, in texture, similar to those of the wing; they are called, from their office of guiding the flight, “rectrices.”

SKETCHES OF ENGLISH SCENERY.—No. III.

NETLEY ABBEY.

“Hail to thy pile! more honoured in thy fall

Than modern mansions in their pillar'd state."

[graphic]

NETLEY ABBEY, the vastest of our abbey ruins, is situated in the most beautiful part of Hampshire,

about four miles from Southampton. It stands on the declivity of a hill, rising gently from the water, but is so environed by thickly-wooded scenery, that a distant view is altogether shut out. This structure is supposed to have been founded by Henry III. about the middle of the thirteenth century. Its inmates were of the Cistercian order, and had been originally brought from the Abbey of Beaulieu, in the New Forest. They were only thirteen in number, and we may infer that the revenue of the abbey was proportionably small, as the library consisted of one book only, viz., the Rhetorica Ciceronis. As in other monkish establishments, much hospitality was exercised towards strangers, who were received here and entertained as if the abbey had been an hotel ; but such ill-judged benevolence disappears as civilization increases, and we might travel far in the present day without finding so convenient an institution. One esta

this kind, however, still exists near Winchester, where any

[graphic]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »