Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

should be so violent while it lasts, and that it should last no longer than is necessary for the preservation of the young?

The violence of this natural love is exemplified by a very barbarous experiment; which I shall quote at length, as I find it in an excellent author, and hope my readers will pardon the mentioning such an instance of cruelty, because there is nothing can so effectually show the strength of that principle in animals of which I am bere speaking. “A person who was well skilled in dissections opened a bitch, and as she lay in the most exquisite tortures, offered her one of her young puppies, which she immediately fell a licking; and for the time seemed insensible of her own pain. On the removal, she kept her eye fixed on it, and began a wailing sort of cry, which seemed rather to proceed from the loss of her young one, than the sense of her own torments.”

But notwithstanding this natural love in brutes is much more violent and intense than in rational creatures, Providence has taken care that it should be no longer troublesome to the parent than it is useful to the young; for so soon as 'the wants of the latter cease, the mother withdraws her fondness, and leaves them to provide for themselves; and what is a very remarkable circumstance in this part of instinct, we find that the love of the parent may be lengthened out beyond its usual time, if the preservation of the species requires it: as we may sec in birds that drive away their young as soon as they are able to get their livelihood, but continue to feed them if they are tied to the nest, or confined within a cage, or by any other means appear to be out of a condition of supplying their own necessities.

This natural love is not observed in animals to ascend from the young to the parent, which is not at all necessary for the continuance of the species: por indeed in reasonable creatures does it rise in any proportion, as it spreads itself downwards; for in all family

affection, we find protection granted and favours bestowed, are greater motives to love and tenderness, than safety, benefits, or life received.

One would wonder to hear sceptical men disputing for the reason of animals, and telling us it is only our pride and prejudices that will not allow them the use of that faculty.

Reason shuws itself in all occurrences of life; whereas the brute makes no discovery of such a talent, but in what immediately regards bis own preservation, or the continuance of his species. Animals in their generation are wiser than the sons of men; but their wisdom is confined to a few particulars, and lies in a very narrow compass. Take a brute out of his instinct, and you find him wholly deprived of under. standing. To use an instance that comes often under observation :

With what caution does the hen provide herself a nest in places unfrequented, and free from noise and disturbance! When she has laid her eggs in such a manner that she can cover them, what care does she take in turning them frequently, that all parts may partake of the vital warmth! When she leaves them, to provide for her necessary sustenance, how punctually does she return before they have time to cool, and become incapable of producing an animal! In the summer you see her giving herself greater freedoms, and quitting her care for above two hours together ; but in winter, when the rigour of the season would chill the principles of life, and destroy the young one, she grows more assiduous in her attendance, and stays away but half the time. When the birth approaches, with bow much nicety and attention does she help the chick to break its prison ! not to take notice of her covering it from the injuries of the weather, providing it proper nourishment, and teaching it to help itself; nor to mention her forsaking the nest, if, after the usual time of reckoning, the yoang one does not make its appearance. A chymical operation could uot be followed with greater art or diligence, than is seen in the hatching of a chick; though there are many other birds that show an infinitely greater sagacity in all the forementioned particulars.

But at the same time the hen, that has all this seem. ing ingenuity (which is indeed absolutely necessary for the propagation of the species) considered in other respects, is without the least glimmerings of thought or common sense. She mistakes a piece of chalk for an egg, and sits upon it in the same manner. She is insensible of any increase or diminution in the number of those she lays. She does not distinguish between her own and those of another species; and when the birth appears of ever so different a bird, will cherish it for her own. In all these circumstances which do not carry an immediate regard to the subsistence of herself or her species, she is a very idiot.

There is not, in my opinion, any thing more mysterious in nature than this instinct in animals, which thus rises above reason, and falls infinitely short of it. It cannot be accounted for by any properties in matter, and at the same time works after so odd a manner, that one cannot think it the faculty of an intellectual being. For my own part, I look upon the principle of gravitation in bodies, which is not to be explained by any known qualities inherent in the bodies themselves, nor from any laws of mechanism, but, according to the best notious of the greatest philosophers, is an immediate impression from the First Mover, and the divine energy acting in the creatures.

As I was walking this morning in the great yard that belongs to my friend's country-honse, I was won. derfully pleased to see the different workings of instinct in a hen followed by a brood of ducks. The young, upon the sight of a pond, immediately ran into it; while the step-mother, with all imaginable anxiety, hovered about the borders of it, to call them out of an

element that appeared to her so dangerous and de. structive. As the different principle which acted in these different animals cannot be termed reason, so when we call it instinct, we mean something we have no knowledge of. To me, as I have hinted, it seems the immediate direction of Providence, and such an operation of the Supreme Being, as that which deter. mines all the portions of matter to their proper cen. tres. A modern philosopher, quoted by Monsieur Bayle in his learned dissertation on the Sonls of Brutes, delivers the same opinion, though in a bolder form of words, where he says Deus est anima brutorum, “ God himself is the soul of brutes.” Who can tell what to call that seeming sagacity in animals, which directs them to such food as is proper for them, and makes them naturally avoid whatever is noxious or unwholesome? Tully has observed, that a lamb no sooner falls from its mother, but immediately and of its own accord it applies itself to the teat. Dampier, in his travels, tells us, that when seamen are thrown upon any of the unknown coasts of America they never venture upon the fruit of any tree, how tempting soever it may appear, unless they observe that it is marked with the pecking of birds; but fall on without any fear or apprehension where the birds bave been before them.

But notwithstanding animals have nothing like the use of reason, we find in them all the lower parts of our nature, the passions and senses in their greatest strength and perfection. And here it is worth our observation, that all beasts and birds of prey are won. derfully subject to anger, malice, revenge, and all the other violent passions that may animate them in search of their proper food; as those that are incapable of defending themselves, or annoying others, or whose safety lies chiefly in their flight, are suspicious, fearful, and apprebensive of every thing they see or hear; whilst others, that are of assistance and use to man, bave their natures softened with something mild and

tractable, and by that means are qualified for a domestic life. In this case the passions generally correspond with the make of the body. We do not find the fury of a lion in so weak and defenceless an animal as a lamb, nor the meekness of a lamb in a creature so armed for battle and assault as the lion.

In the same manner, we find that particular animals have a more or less exquisite sharpness aud sagacity in those particular senses which most turn to their advantage, and in which their safety and welfare is the most con cerned.

Nor must we here omit that great variety of arms with which nature has differently fortified the bodies of several kind of animals, such as claws, hoofs, horns, teeth, and tusks, a tail, a sting, a trunk, or a proboscis. It is likewise observed by naturalists, that it must be some hidden principle distinct from what we call reason, which instructs animals in the ase of these their arms, and teaches them to manage them to the best advantage; because they naturally defend themselves with that part in which their strength lies, before the weapon be formed in it; as is remarkable in lambs, which, though they are bred within doors, and never saw the actions of their own species, push at those who approach them with their forehead, before the first budding of a horn appears.

I shall add to these general obervations an instance, which Mr. Locke has given us of Providence even in the imperfections of a creature which seems the meanest and most despicable in the whole animal world. “ We may,” says he, “ from the make of an oyster, or cockle, conclude, that it has not so many por so quick senses as a man, or several other animals : nor if it bad, would it, in that slate and incapacity of transferring itself from one place to another, be bettered by them. What good would sight or hearing do to a creature, that cannot move itself to or from the object, wherein at a distance it perceives good or evil? And would not quickness of sensation be an inconve.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »