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THE BIRDS OF THE BIBLE.
NO. XVIII.-THE HERON.
Dropped as a trophy at his master's feet.” THE Heron is a bird of singular appearance, whether sitting, standing, or on the wing. It is light in proportion to its bulk, weighing only from three to four pounds, though it is able to extend its wings five feet from tip to tip. Its bill is about five inches long; it has also long sharp claws, toothed like a saw, that it may the better hold fast its slippery prey. When it stands waiting for its prey, it gives a singular curve to its neck, erects its body, draws its wings down and forward, while its head is almost between the top of its wings, resting entirely upon its shrugged shoulders, looking somewhat like a little stoop-shouldered man, drawing his head down, and his cloak up, to shelter himself against the cold. In general, it presents a kind of timorous, indolent, and irresponsible appearance.
The Hebrew word ANAPHAH designates the bird which, in our English translation, is denominated Heron. "A wide latitude has been taken,” we read in Calmet, "in the rendering of the Hebrew word; some critics interpreting it of the crane, others of the curlew; others of the kite, others of the woodcock; some of the peacock, some of the parrot, and some of the falcon. But let not the reader be alarmed at this diversity of rendering, since it is the necessary consequence of the scantiness of references to the bird in the sacred text, and the absence of a description of its character and qualities, in those passages in which it is spoken of. The truth is, it is only referred to in the catalogue of birds prohibited by the Mosaic code, and it is only from the import of its name, or the known character of the birds with which it is grouped, that we can form any opinion of its specific character. That the creature intended is some species of water-bird, there can be little doubt, if we give the sacred writer any credit for propriety in his grouping, or system in his arrangement.”
It will be found, however, we think, that a little close investigation will afford another evidence of the great accuracy which characterizes the work of the learned and pious translators of the Bible into English, by convincing us that they have given us the true bird intended by the original. The word in its root, we are
told, “signifies to breathe short through the nostrils, to snuff, as in anger; hence, to be angry.” Now it is known that the heron is a very irritable bird. This is of great weight, when we consider how frequently the Hebrew names are derived from some prominent characteristic of the creature named.
Moreover, the bird designated by the name of heron, is placed among those unclean and prohibited in the Jewish law. This also confirms us in the belief that the right name has been given to this bird by our translators. The heron has about it all those traits and qualities which fit it for a place in this catalogue. It is a bird of prey.
On account of its destructive habits it has been called the fresh-water tyrant. It is a terror to all frogs, lizards, reptiles, and fishes. There is scarce a fish so large that it will not strike at and wound, even though it be unable to carry it away. Of all other birds, says Goldsmith, this commits the greatest devastation in fresh water. He wades into the water as far as he can, and there patiently awaits his victim, and when he discovers one near enough, he darts upon it with inevitable aim. In this way, it is said, he destroys more fish in a week than another in three months.
The heron is not only very destructive as a bird of prey, but he is also an enormous glutton. “I have seen a heron,” says Willoughby, “that had been shot, that had sixteen' carps in him at once, which he will digest in six or seven hours, and then go to fishing in
. I have seen a carp taken out of a heron nine inches and a waif long. Several gentlemen who kept tame herons, to try what quantity one of them would eat in a day, have put several smaller roach and dace in a tub, and they have found him eat fifty in a day, one day with another. In this manner a single heron will destroy fifteen thousand carp in half a year.” What unparalleled epicurianism is this ! Goldsmith
says of this bird: “In general, he is seen taking his gloomy stand by the lake's side, as if meditating mischief, motionless and gorged with plunder. His usual attitude on this occasion is to sink his long neck between his shoulders, and keep his head turned on one side, as if eyeing the pool more intently. When the call of hunger returns, the toil of an hour or two is generally sufficient to fill his capacious stomach, and he retires long before night to his retreat in the woods. Early in the morning, however, he is seen assiduous at his usual occupation.” Thus he lives to eat; and all his labors and cares arise from and centre in his stomach. It is easy to see the propriety of prohibiting as unclean the flesh of a bird that lives on such prey, and at such a rate. How admirably has an old poet, in a list of unclean birds, drawn the portrait of the heron :
“ And the still Herne, arresting fishes meeke." What is the strangest of all is, that notwithstanding the extra
" It is
ordinary quantity of food which he devours, he is always lean and emaciated. It is as if, for his wantonness, his food was cursed to him; for, though his crop is usually found full, he is so poor that his flesh is scarce sufficient to cover his bones. This is the case even in times of plenty; but when, in cold and stormy seasons, his prey disappears, and he has nothing to depend upon but the weeds that grow upon the water, he becomes pitifully meagre and consumptive in his appearance; “so that the wanton glutton spends his time between want and riot, and feels alternately the extremes of famine and excess. What a lesson of reproof do the habits of this unclean bird read to a certain class of beings belonging to a higher order of creation, though scarcely higher in their modes and manners of life!
With all these unprepossessing features of his character, the heron is not without some interest. Goldsmith tells us that in England they often build in groves not far from residences, and become favorites of the owners, who gladly tolerate them. certain, that by their cries, their expansive wings, their bulk and wavy motion, they add no small solemnity to the forest, and give a pleasing variety to a finished improvement.' It is said that they generally live long, and sometimes attain to more than half a century.
Goldsmith tells us that the heron was once highly valued among the higher classes in England. “It was once the amusement of the great to pursue this timorous creature with the falcon; and heron-hawking was so favorite a diversion among our ancestors, that laws were enacted for the preservation of the species; and the person who destroyed their eggs was liable to a penalty of twenty shillings for each offence. Now, since this amusement has been cast aside, and the more useful habit of having and stocking fish-ponds has gotten into vogue, the heron, as if to draw credits on an old debt, calls upon the fish-pools of gentlemen, and, unasked, helps himself to such a portion as his appetite demands. We suppose a law offering a reward for the destruction of their eggs would now be regarded a blessing to the great. Thus do circumstances alter cases—and thus may things be done or not, just as it suits the caprice and convenience of those who have the greatest amount of influence with the law-making power. This is not the case with the Mosaic law-there the use of the bird for food is prohibited upon principles which remain in force in all ages and in all places. The nature of the bird, and not the caprices of men, gives occasion for the law.
BIRDS OF PREY PROHIBITED IN THE LAW.
When birds of prey are by the Lord forbid,
And not to Israel allowed as food :
By them, at least in part, well understood.
The Lord would teach them thus to dread and hate
The spoiler, and the preying life he leads ;
By fondness for the spoiler, hankering for his deeds.
And as the Lord designed they should pursue
The husbandman's and shepherd's quiet way,
From barbarous and uncertain wanderings after prey.
And thus did Israel learn to love the quiet vales,
Where fruits and flocks their bonest labors blest. In healthful toil, 'mid scenes of rural peace,
They lived devout on earth, and sought in Heaven their rest.
YOUTH AND AGE.
VERSE, a breeze 'mid blossoms straying,
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!
Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like ;
Ere I was old!
“Wild roses by the Abbey towers
Are gay in their young spring bud and bloom :
A Templar's knightly tomb.
Where the Cross was damped with his dying breath,
HALLECK. NEXT to the introduction of Christianity itself, those causes which contributed to its promotion, and those institutions which had for their object its welfare and continuance, are most worthy the attention of the historical student. From its first establishment, the Christian religion was slowly and silently, but with continually advancing strides, acquiring influence and strength, and approximating towards its present condition : yet it must not be supposed that this advancement, going on as it was in times so uncongenial to its speedy development, was retarded by any inability or misconduct on the part of its exponents; on the contrary, many of them were noted for their acquirements, and all of them for the purity and blamelessness of their lives. Antagonistic religious tenets were by far its greatest and most violent hindrances, and from them, far more obstructions arose than from all other causes combined. Our own timesshow but too clearly to what uncharitable and unnatural deeds conflicting religious opinions may incite men, and we cease therefore to wonder at the bitterness and deadly enmity which characterized religious enthusiasm in by-gone and barbarous ages, when the present culture of our race had not even been conceived in the wildest dreams of Utopian visionaries.
The close of the latter half of the sixth century, and the beginning of the seventh, witnessed the origin of that religion, and the ascendancy to power of that race, from whom the True Faith has received its severest repulses. Ere many years the remarkable man who had once been obliged to flee from his native country, had not only returned in triumph, but as the founder of a faith, which he spread, ere his death, by promises, threats, and the sword, to an almost miraculous extent, and which to this day can boast of millions of adherents, believing as firmly in its truth as they of old, who first flocked around his standard on the desert plains of Arabia.
A most striking exemplification of the proneness of man to adopt the easiest course to attain a certain end, is given us by contrasting the progress of the faith of Christ with that of the faith of