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(Alauda arvensis. LINNEUS.)
THE beautiful notes of this delightful songster must have struck upon the ears of every one who has taken a walk into the fields at this season of the year. It is one of the very few birds that sing while flying. It mounts perpendicularly into the air, and continues for a long time singing almost over the same spot. It often soars so high, that the music vibrates upon the ear long after the musician has disappeared, and from these circumstances it has been used as a theme by the poet, and as an incentive to devotion by the divine. It is said to begin its song before the morning dawns; to this Milton alludes in his L'Allegro :
"To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
And also Shakespeare:
"The gentle lark, weary of rest,
From his moist cabinet mounts up on high,
And wakes the morning, from whose silver breast
This harmony it continues several months; generally beginning it in May, and ending in September.
The lark forms a genus in the Linnæan system, but the British species are only two; the subject of this paper, and the wood-lark. The general characteristics of the skylark, are as follows. "The length seven inches, bill dusky; the feathers on the top of the head are dusky, bordered with reddish brown; they are rather long, and capable of being raised in form of a short crest; on the upper parts of the body the feathers are reddish brown, darker in their middle, their edges pale; the under parts are dirty buff colour, darkest on the neck and breast, which parts are streaked with dusky; the tail is dusky brown, the two middle feathers darkest, with light reddish margins; legs dusky in old birds, but lighter in young; claws dusky; the hind one very long and straight."
This bird builds on the ground, amongst grass or corn; its nest is formed of dry grass, and other vegetable stalks, lined with fine dry grass.. The eggs are four or five in number, of a dirty white, blotched and spotted with brown.
In the winter, larks assemble in large flocks, when they are taken in great numbers, and are found to be very fat. Far greater numbers are taken in Germany, where a duty is levied upon them; this paid at Leipsic, according to Dr. Latham, amounts to 12,000 crowns per annum (about 2,8007. sterling); at the rate of a grosch, or two pence halfpenny for sixty larks.
These birds are common to almost all parts of this kingdom, especially where corn abounds. Mr. Rennie says (Colonel Montague's Dict.), "In the beginning of September they are seen in great numbers in Egypt about Cairo, and continue some days; they are supposed to come from Barbary, and are called in Egypt Asfour Dsjebali, or Mountain Birds."
THE TOAD EMBEDDED IN A TREE.
I REMEMBER Some years ago getting up into a mulberry tree, and finding in the fork of the two main branches a large toad, almost embedded in the bark of the tree, which had grown over it so much that he was quite unable to extricate himself, and would probably in time be completely covered over with the bark. Indeed, as the tree increased in size, there seems to be no reason why the toad should not in process of time become embedded in the tree itself, as was the case with the end of an oak rail that had been inserted into an elm tree, which stood close to a public footpath. This, being broken off and grown over, was, on the tree being felled and sawn in two, found nearly in the centre of it. The two circumstances together may explain the curious fact of toads having been found alive in the middle of trees; by showing, that the bark having once covered them, the process of growth in the tree would annually convey the toad more nearly to the centre of it, as happened with the oak rail; and by showing that toads, and probably other amphibia, can exist by the absorption of fluids on the skin alone. This is confirmed by the following fact. A gentleman informed me, that he put a toad into a small flower-pot, and secured it so that no insect could penetrate into it, and then buried it in the ground at a sufficient depth to protect it from the influence of frost. At the end of twenty years he took it up, and found the toad increased in size, and apparently healthy. Dr. Townson, in his tracts on the respiration of the amphibia, proves, I think satisfactorily, from actual experiment, that, while those animals with whose economy we are best acquainted receive their principal supply of liquids by the mouth, the frog and salamander tribes take in theirs through the skin alone; all the aqueous fluid which they take in being absorbed by the skin, and all they reject being transpired through it. He found that a frog absorbed nearly its own weight of water in the short time of an hour and a half, and that by being merely placed on blotting paper well soaked with water; and it is believed that they never discharge it, except when they are disturbed or pursued, and then they only eject it to lighten their bodies, and facilitate their escape. That the moisture thus imbibed is sufficient to enable some of the amphibia to exist without any other food, there cannot I think be a reasonable doubt; and if this be admitted, the circumstance of toads being found alive in the centre of trees, is accounted for by this and the preceding facts related.-Jesse's Gleanings in Natural History.
FEROCITY OF THE CAT.
THE cat in its wild state is a very fierce and destructive animal: when wounded it has been often known to attack its pursuers, and it will always defend itself with desperate resolution, when driven to extremities. At Barnborough, a small village between Doncaster and Barnsley in Yorkshire, there is a tradition extant of a conflict that once took place between a man and a wild cat. The fight is reported to have begun in an adjacent wood, and to have been continued from thence into the porch of the church, where it ended fatally to both combatants. A rude painting in the church commemorates the event; and the natural red tinge of some of the stones, is considered as stains of blood which still remain.
Soldier, go! - but not to claim
Not to dwell in tents of pleasure.
Where the sunny beam reposes.
Spreads the world her downy pillow;
While around thee chafes the billow. Thine must be a watchful sleep,
Wearier than another's waking; Such a charge as thou dost keep
Brooks no moment of forsaking. Sleep, as on the battle-field,
Girded grasping sword and shield:
Lo, the hosts of hel! are flying; "Twas thy Lord the battle won;
Jesus vanquish'd them by dying. Pass the stream-before thee lies All the conquer'd land of glory; Hark! what songs of rapture rise,
These proclaim the victor's story. Soldier, lay thy weapons down, Quit the sword, and take the crown; Triumph all thy foes are banish'd, Death is slain, and earth has vanish'd. CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH.
THUNDER is excited by a sudden kindling of sulphureous exhalations. Its cause long puzzled the philosophers, and various hypotheses were formed for removing the difficulty; but the ingenious Dr. Franklin of America has solved the problem by showing, that it is nothing more than the electric fluid, darting from the clouds in which it is collected. The distance the thunder is from us, may nearly be estimated by the interval of time between our seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder; for as the motion of light is so very quick, that the time it takes up in coming to us from the cloud is not perceptible, and as that of sound is about 1000 feet in a second; allowing 1000 feet for every second that passes between our seeing the one, and hearing the other, we have the distance of the cloud (pretty nearly) whence the thunder comes. Thus we see, O mortal man! by what this terrific noise originates; but I ask what power it is that causes so great convulsion in the heavens! It is, O sinner! the Ruler of the universe: it is the hand of the Most High, which hurls the thunderbolt. Nature rests in his hands, he preserves and blesses, and at his almighty word the heavens and the earth are convulsed. The thunder roars; how dreadful is the stormy sky. The lightning flashes, the thunderbolt is shot. Ó God! how great art thou, and how terrible is thy power! God directs the thunder; the sinner hears and trembles: scarce does he dare to lift up his eyes towards Him whose voice seems to threaten him with death. O Christian! let not the majesty of thy God affright thy soul, when he sits in the stormy clouds, when the mighty sound of thunder terrifies the wicked.-W. E. H.
READING AND STUDY.
BY DR. HICKES.
SOME persons have so much time on their hands, that they know not how to spend it; it is a burthen and a charge; and so, like prodigals, they rather fling it away, than take pains to improve it. I counsel you, therefore, to set aside some hours for reading; it is a handsome diversion, and conveys profit through pleasure. The intellect is a grateful soil; but then, like a field, it requires cultivation. By reading you join past ages to the present; you travel into Asia, Africa, and America, without expense, without danger, nay, without walking out of your closet. Sensual pleasures rather stupify than delight; they play upon the organ, and dull the appetite; they are often brutal, and seldom innocent: but those of the understanding shine brighter; they are of a more refined metal, free from dross, and void of repentance: they extend the faculty, and render it more rational; they rather whet desire than glut it, and screw man's noblest prerogative, reason, up to the highest pitch. A man furnished with reading, can never be at a loss to set on foot and carry on a handsome conversation: he is always well stocked, and carries his provisions about him; whereas others are forced to fetch matter from the kennel or the stable, and too often from worse sources.
I would not have you upon all occasions discourse in syllogism, nor deliver your thoughts in mood and figure but time your subject. Good things spoken out of season lose their value. Discourse must be adapted to the company; and it takes more when it naturally slides in, than when drawn in by head and shoulders. In a word, enrich your understanding by the knowledge of things that become your quality; and when you are doubly equipped (I mean with a fair estate and a good fund of learning), what can you desire more, but an ordinary stock of prudence to lay them out at advantage?
BURCKHARDT, the African traveller, in 1815, mentions that Yambo (on the Red Sea) was then desolated by the plague, and he describes a curious ceremony of a camel covered with all sorts of ornaments, bells, feathers, &c., being led in procession through the city, and afterwards slaughtered at the burial ground, and its flesh thrown to the vultures and dogs; the Arabs, who are very superstitious, hoping the plague would take refuge in the body of the camel, and that by killing the animal they should get rid of the disorder.
Bruce, about sixty years ago, mentions something of a similar nature taking place after a violent quarrel in the town. The belligerent parties seized a camel, loaded it with reproaches, accused it of having been the cause and origin of the dispute, and at length, putting an end to its life, amicably settled their misunderstanding.
There seems something of the nature of the scape goat of the Israelites in this singular ceremony.
DR. BOOKER, the vicar of Dudley, nearly thirty years ago, we heard deliver an interesting sermon at St. Philip's church, Birmingham, before several "Friendly Societies," called DRUIDS, on one of their festivals. The reverend Doctor contrasted the pagan with the Christian condition of Britain, under the domination of the ancient Druids, taking for his text, 1 Pet ii, 9, 10. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God."
We were most deeply interested with the learned preacher's portraiture of Druidism in Britain; and we have reason to believe that our young readers, who have been privileged with a Christian education, will feel equal pleasure in contemplating the same subject.
THE NAMES AND RANK OF THE DRUIDS. - The Druids, Druida, or Druides, were the Philosophers VOL. I.
and Priests of the ancient Gauls, Germans, and Britons. Some derive their name from the Hebrew word Drussim, which they translate contemplores, men given to meditation: while others say they were so called from Drus, the Greek word for an Oak, on account of their dwelling and offering sacrifices under that kind of noble trees: but others suppose they were so called from the old British word Drus, the same as the Greek, and signifying a Magician.
These venerated priests were the most distinguished order among the Gauls and Britons, chosen out of the principal families; and the honours of their birth, considered with their office, procured them the highest reverence among the people.
The Druids were divided into several classes, Vacerri, Bardi, Eubages, Semnothii, and Saronidæ : they were, however, considered chiefly under three ranks, Bards, or Poets; Vates, or Priests, and Naturalists; and Druids properly, who embraced the studies of both nature and morals with their religion. The Druids have been represented as the same among the ancient Gauls and Britons, as the Philosophers among the Greeks, the Magi among the Persians, the Bramins
among the Indians, and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians.
THE DOCTRINES TAUGHT BY THE DRUIDS.-Attempts have been made, but in vain, to collect the opinions of the Druids, and form them into a system. Cæsar, in his " Commentary on the Gallic War," gives many particulars relating to them; and says, that their chief principle is, that souls do not die with the body, but that after death they pass from one body to another, which doctrine they consider especially to inspire the people with courage and contempt of death: besides, they inculcate upon their youth many things concerning the stars and their motions, the magnitude of the world, the nature of things, and the power of the immortal gods."-" Mercury they worship as their chief god; of whom they have many images. They esteem him the inventor of all arts, and their guide in all their journeys and undertakings; they regard him as having particular influence over merchants and profits in trade. Next to him they esteem Apollo, then Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, of whom they entertain the same notions as other nations. They think that Apollo can cure diseases; that Minerva first instructed men in arts and manufactures; that Jupiter is the ruler of heaven; and that Mars presides over war." They were ignorant of the only self-existent and ever-blessed God, the Creator of heaven and earth!
As to the moral doctrines of the Druids, some of them are too shocking to mention in this place: but we cannot refrain from inserting the following passage from Cæsar. "The men have the power of life and death over their wives and children; and when any nobleman dies, his near relations assemble to investigate the occasion of his death, and if there arise any suspicion, they have the power to bring his widow to trial in the most servile manner, and if the guilt be discovered, to burn her alive. Their funerals are conducted in the most sumptuous and magnificent manner, according to their quality every thing dear to the deceased while living, even his animals, being cast into the funeral fire: and formerly, their vassals and clients, who were most beloved, were obliged to submit to the sacrifice of burning within the same fire with their lords."
LEARNING OF THE DRUIDS. As instructors of the people, Cæsar observes that "the Druids were exempted from the duties of war, and from the payment of taxes; and they enjoy many immunities. For this reason many chose their profession, and were placed under their tuition by their parents. They are reported to have learnt a great number of verses (some writers say commonly 24,000); for the purpose of which many continued at study during a period of twenty years. They do not commit them to writing; though they are not ignorant of letters, for in almost all other matters, both public and private they use (Greek) letters. They seem to observe this method for two reasons - that they may not deliver their learning to the vulgar; and that they may exercise more fully the memory of their pupils."
Much has been said of the Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy, Mechanic arts, and Medical skill of the Druids but it has been chiefly speculation; yet if the remains of supposed Druid temples, especially Stonehenge, near Salisbury, were their work, they must have been well acquainted at least with some branches of mechanics.
DRUIDS' EGGS -Extravagant things have been reported concerning the miraculous eggs of the Druids. They were accustomed to wear them mounted in gold,
as a charm, and as a medicine. This extraordinary egg was formed, as they pretended, by a great number of serpents interwoven and twined together. When formed, it was raised up in the air by their hissing, and was to be caught in a clean white cloth before it fell to the ground. The person who caught it was obliged to ride a swift horse, and to ride with full speed across a river, which stopped the serpent, that pursued him with great fury. The method of trying the genuineness of this egg was extraordinary. It was to be enchased in gold, and thrown into a river, and if genuine it would swim against the stream. about the size of an apple, and was worn, as Pliny testifies, as the "insignia, or badge of distinction of the Druids." Some suppose that this contrivance of the serpent's egg was a mere fraud, invented by the Druids to impose upon the ignorant and procure their admiration. Others imagine that it was only an em blematical representation of the creation of the world: the serpents denoting the Divine Wisdom forming the universe, and the egg representing the world formed by that Wisdom. The virtue ascribed to it, of giving those who possessed it a superiority over others, and endearing them to great men, was intended to represent the natural effects of learning and philosophy.
RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES OF THE DRUIDS.-Cæsar remarks, "To the Druids belong the direction of divine things, of the public and private sacrifices, and the interpretation of their religion. The whole country is much addicted to superstition." The Druids performed their sacred rites in groves, and esteemed the oak as peculiarly the residence of the divinities: chaplets of it were worn both by the priests and the people; and its leaves were strewed around their altars. Misletoe, growing on the oak, was sought with diligence, as it was considered a sovereign remedy against evil spirits, and a preservative from ghosts and diseases. It was accounted sacrilege for any one to cut it besides a priest. On the discovery of it, the Archdruid, assisted by his inferiors in the priesthood, cut the bush of it, with a consecrated golden knife; when two white bulls, which had been fastened by the horns to the tree, were sacrificed to the gods, to secure their effectual benediction upon the dedicated branch, as an antidote to diseases, and as a charm against the power of demons.
HORRIBLE CUSTOMS OF THE DRUIDS.-Human sacrifices were common among the Druids. Cæsar informs us, that "they who are dangerously ill, or daily conversant with the dangers of battle, either offer human sacrifices, or devote themselves to the altar. They have public offerings of this kind, which are committed to the care of the Druids, who have large hollow images, bound about with osiers, into which they put men alive, and setting fire to the case, suffocate them. Thieves, highway robbers, and other offenders, they believe are most grateful offerings to the gods: but when honesty has rendered these scarce, the innocent are forced to supply their place."
Prisoners taken in battle were thus sacrificed in the most barbarous manner. The victims, being stripped naked, and their heads being adorned with flowers, were tied to an oak, when the Arch-druid, invoking the gods, plunged the fatal weapon into their bowels, while the people shouted their horrid approbation!
Sometimes a hundred wretched captives at a time were enclosed in the dreadful wicker machine, which was set on fire by the Arch-priest, while the shouts of the multitude drowned the shrieks of the miserable sufferers!
This brief sketch of the ancient Druids, and their
principles and practice, would naturally lead us to many serious and profitable reflections. What gratitude is due to the God of our salvation, who by his gospel has indeed "called us out of darkness into his marvellous light!" The following contrasted view of ancient and modern Britain, by a good writer, places our obligations to the benign religion of Christ in a conspicuous point of view.
"What was the condition of our country in the time of the Romans? Look back and consider; see its ancient tribes, brave indeed, but savage, fishing in its waters, or hunting upon its mountains-their bodies painted in all the fantastic colours of barbarism—their minds still more disfigured with the stains of cruelty, impurity, and falsehood-the slaves of DRUIDICAL IDOLATRY-bending the knee to some demon-holding their wives as the slaves of their caprice and tyranny and sacrificing the children whom God had given them at the shrine of the devil! What is our country now? Its inhabitants are settled into civilized and domestic life-the sciences cultivated-the arts advancing-industry, notwithstanding occasional stagnation, all astir-the fields waving with heavy cornthe most ingenious manufactures produced-the human intellect acknowledging but one God all-gracious and mighty-tyranny over the female sex abolishedand the cruel immolation of children altogether un known!
"How has this wonderful change been produced? By the revelation of Jesus Christ. Human society will no doubt of itself make some progress towards civilization; but civilization without Christianity is barbarism. Is China civilized, with her infants exposed to the dogs or to the vultures? Is Hindostan civilized, with her widows self-immolated with the bodies of their deceased husbands, or her aged inhabitants exposed alive by their own children on the banks of the Ganges? Are Mohammedan countries civilized, with their females kept in almost constant confinement, and made the subjects of the most intolerable oppression? In none of the countries where a false religion prevails, can you ever find the human mind in that healthful condition which is necessary to the performance of any thing that is truly great or noble. Even the muchextolled nations of antiquity, although they exhibited the grandeur of intellect, did not exhibit the grandeur of morals; and it is the union of the two which alone can elevate man to that dignified station which his nature was intended to occupy. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which has softened the human heart, saving infants and widows and parents from premature death, and the female sex from bondage. It is the Gospel, which, emancipating man from the slavery of false religion, and thus communicating a right direction to his intellectual and moral energies, has become the parent of ingenuity, industry, learning, and happiness. Search the annals of the nations of antiquity, or of any country to which the Gospel is a stranger, where, amongst them, do you find any provision for the poor, any asylum for the destitute, any lazar-house for the sick, any refuge for the penitent profligate? But see these monuments of the spirit of the Christian religion scattered throughout our land-these trophies of her victory over the selfishness, or thoughtlessness, or cruelty of human nature! Were an ancient Greek or Roman, wrapping himself up in his scattered ashes, to rise from the dead, and to demand a proof of the blessings shed on Britain by the Gospel, I would point to our hospitals, to our infirmaries, to our penitentiaries; I would lead him to inspect our societies for clothing the naked, for visiting the destitute, for relieving the poor; and I would ask him, without fear of an answer in the affirmative, if such things were known
in the cities of antiquity-in republican Athens, in imperial Rome? The mountains of our country show their features as rough as they did two thousand years ago-its torrents foam down their rocky beds with the same violence as ever-the ocean around us, hoary with storms, precipitates itself upon our shores with equal violence as in the days of Druidism. But how changed are the inhabitants of that country! Barbarism and cruelty have, like the snow before the sun, disappeared before the beams of Christianity; the moral world has assumed a mild and genial aspect, the efflorescence of Christian virtue has burst out upon it, and the ancient song has been verified- The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.'"
CAIN AND ABEL, THE SONS OF ADAM.
We have surveyed the life of Adam, the common father of all mankind. In that review, we beheld our first parents in their state of primitive uprightness, holiness, and happiness; living in the sweet enjoyment of intimate communion with God their Creator. And we have seen them in circumstances lamentably different; fallen from their original excellency and integrity; driven from the blissful presence of their Maker; and, by their criminal apostacy, their nature degraded and polluted, depraved and rendered mortal.
But although our first parents had cast themselves down from the high elevation of their creation, they were not destroyed: sovereign mercy had interposed, and they were still spared. As " grace reigned," they were blessed and made to multiply; that so, according to the unchangeable purposes of Heaven, their children might multiply and fill the earth. Labour and sorrow were the appointed lot of Adam and Eve, as the consequence of their disobedience: yet by faith in the promised seed, intervals of sacred pleasure and seasons of joyful hope would arise, to lighten the load of their oppressive cares, and sustain their weary spirits, while they endured the grievous loss of Paradise, and filled the number of their revolving years.
Cain was the eldest son of Adam, and the first man that was born into the world. His birth is reckoned to have taken place in the second year of the creation. Adam and Eve naturally desired the fulfilment of the gracious promise of their Creator, and to be blessed with children; and Cain was beheld by his delighted parents with rapturous satisfaction. They regarded their first-born smiling infant as a token of the munificent kindness of their Maker, and as a special boon from indulgent Heaven.
Remembering the Divine intimation of a Saviour, who should arise from her seed, Eve seems to have imagined that her first-born was the "Divine Man," who would bruise the head of the serpent, and secure their deliverance from degradation and evil: and therefore she said, "I have gotten a man from the LORD:" or, as some translate her exclamation, "I have gotten
a man, the LORD." Agreeably to this fond hope, his parents called his name Cain, which signifies a possession but how grievously mistaken and disappointed they were in their expectations, the character, history, and actions of this wretched man afford an affecting proof. So far from being a comfort to his parents, Cain rendered himself an example of wickedness; and for this reason he has been held forth by the inspired writers, as a warning to all future generations 1 John iii, 12.