Imágenes de páginas


before seemed small and despicable, now“ appear the pride of Nature,” wherein she has bestowed more nice and delicate art, and displayed more profusely the rich embroidery and elegant beauties and garniture of colours, than in any of the larger species of animals. Even the dust that adheres to the butterfly's wing, and to which it owes the beautiful tints and variegated hues that adorn it, is said to be an innumerable collection of extremely small feathers, as perfect in the structure and symmetry of the arrangement, as they are beautiful in the colouring. But this is not all. The


circumstances adduced as marks of imperfection in the instinct tribes, viz., their being enabled to live for some time after being deprived of those organs necessary to life in the higher ranks, and their amazing numbers, ought rather to be considered as arguments to the contrary.

The former is, no doubt, essentially necessary to the preservation of a species exposed to so many casualties as those in particular who live on blood, and cannot, therefore, partake of a meal, without giving their enemies notice of their presence; and the latter, to prevent the extinction of a short-lived race, which come into existence at a time when there are

so many open mouths ready to devour them.

Without these two characteristic distinctions of the insect tribes, although they may be deemed imperfections by the more imperfect powers of shortsighted mortals, it is probable that, long ere now, some of those exquisite pieces of Nature's workmanship must have disappeared from the creation, and, for want of those connecting links, the whole beautiful fabric of the universe must have fallen to decay. For, trifling as some of these minute or

imperceptible objects may appear, the language of philosophy is


“ Each crawling insect holds a rank

Important in the plan of Him who framed
This scale of beings; holds a rank, which lost
Would break the chain, and leave a gap,
That Nature's self would rue.''

Instead, therefore, of having the presumption to stigmatise, in the most remote degree, this particular order of the creatures of the Almighty, as affording evidences of imperfection, let us rather, from similar considerations, adopt the words of the more judicious Swammerdam : After an attentive examination,” says he, "of the nature and anatomy of the smallest as well as the largest animals, I cannot help allowing the least an equal, or perhaps a superior, degree of dignity. If, while we dissect with care the larger animals, we are filled with wonder at the elegant disposition of their parts, to what a height is our astonishment raised when we discover all these parts arranged in the least, in the same regular manner! And to sum up the matter in the words of another naturalist (Bar), “ Of this dispute it is only necessary to observe, that the wisdom of the Creator is so conspicuous in all His works, and such surprising art is discovered in the mechanism the body of every creature, that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to say where it is most and where it is least to be observed.”

We have already pointed out the Mosaic distinction between clean and unclean insects, to which the reader is referred.

It is not necessary to notice the many insects merely referred to in the Bible. Two or three which illustrate particular passages will suffice.


The allusion of Moses to the attack of the Amorites, which involves a reference to the irritable and revengeful disposition of the BEE, is both just and beautiful: “ And the Amorites which dwelt in that mountain came out against you, and chased you as bees do, and destroyed you in Seir, even unto Hormah” (Deut. i. 44). Every person who has seen a swarm of disturbed bees will easily conceive the fierce hostility and implacable fury of the enemies of Israel, which this expression is intended to denote. The same remarks will apply to Psalm xviii. 12, in which there is a similar allusion.

The surprising industry of the bee has, from the earliest times, furnished mankind with a delicious and useful article, in the honey which it produces. This was very common in Palestine. In Exod. iii. 8, etc., the circumstance of its flowing with milk and honey is selected as a striking proof of its being the glory of all lands; and in Deut. xxxii. 13, and Ps. lxxxi. 16, the inhabitants are said to have sucked honey out of the rocks.

With this agree 2 Sam. xiv. 15; Matt. iii. 4, etc., and the testimony of intelligent travellers. Hasselquist says, that between Acra and Nazareth, great numbers of wild bees breed to the advantage of the inhabitants; and Maundrel observes, that, when in the great plain near Jericho, he perceived in many places a smell of honey and wax, as strong as if he had been in an apiary.

In Prov. xxx. 25, the Ant is spoken of as one of the four diminutive things upon earth, which are exceeding wise : “ The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;" an ex. pression usually understood of their laying up stores of provisions in summer against approaching winter;

an opinion generally entertained by the ancients, although modern naturalists question the fact.

Solomon's lesson to the sluggard, however, relates only to the species of ants in a warm climate, where their habits are different from those of a cold one; and his words, as commonly interpreted, are perfectly correct and consistent with nature, though not at all applicable to the species of ant indigenous to Europe.

The Locust has several names in the Hebrew Scriptures, each of which is characteristic of some feature in its nature or manners. Thus arbeh, has reference to its extraordinary fecundity ; gob, to its issuing from out of the earth, where the eggs are deposited; chegeb, to the cowl or hood with which some of them are furnished ; and seloom, to its rugged appearance. The great brown locust, which is the one with which we are best acquainted, is about three inches in length, has two horns or feelers about an inch long, and two pair of wings: the back is protected by a shield of a greenish colour, and its general form much resembles that of a common grasshopper.

On several occasions these formidable creatures have been used as a scourge in the hand of the incensed Majesty of heaven for chastising a guilty world. Among the plagues which the perverse and impious conduct of the haughty Pharaoh brought upon his country, was a swarm of locusts, which

covered the face of the whole land, so that the earth was darkened ; and they devoured every green herb of the earth, and the fruit of every tree which the hail had left. Nothing green remained either on the trees or on the herbs of the earth, throughout the whole land of Egypt” (Exod. x. 15). A similar


calamity happened to the Africans in the time of the Romans, and about one hundred and twentythree years before Christ. An immense number of locusts covered the whole country, consumed every plant and blade of grass in the fields, without sparing the roots, and the leaves of the trees, with the tendrils upon which they grew. These being exhausted, they penetrated with their teeth the bark, however bitter, and even corroded the dry and solid timber. After they had accomplished this terrible destruction, a sudden blast of wind dispersed them into different portions, and after tossing them awhile in the air, plunged their innumerable hosts into the

But the deadly scourge was not then at an end, the raging billows threw up enormous heaps of their dead and corrupted bodies, upon that longextended coast, which produced a most insupportable and poisonous stench. This soon brought on a pestilence, which affected every species of animals; so that birds, and sheep, and cattle, and even the wild beasts of the field perished in great numbers; and their carcases, being soon rendered putrid by the foulness of the air, added greatly to the general corruption.

The destruction of the human species was horrible; in Numidia, where at that time Micipsa was king, eighty thousand persons died ; and in that part of the sea-coast which bordered upon the region of Carthage and Utica, two hundred thousand are said to have been carried off by this pestilence.*

The immense numbers in which locusts migrate, is spoken of by several travellers of respectability. Mr. Brown, in his “ Travels in Africa,” says, “ An area of nearly two thousand square miles might be * “Orosius," quoted by Harmer.

« AnteriorContinuar »