صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

In tropical countries you may see a legion of well disciplined slavers ambushed near a nest of their victims, and upon a given signal, rushing upon them, storming the fortress, which however is defended with desperate bravery; the old ants are not enslaved, but only the young; every part of the city is ransacked, and soon the assailants with their prisoners leave the depopulated city in loneliness; a few of the old yet remain, and now and then you may see one, mounted upon a plant, holding in its mouth its young, which it had succeeded in rescuing from the enemy. The prisoners gradually become attached to their conquerers, and labor assiduously, and willingly, for the convenience of their masters, which, to do them justice, are by no means cruel in their treatment of slaves. There is much, very much of interest connected with these proceedings, to which it would give me pleasure to allude, were it consistent with the design of this volume.

The most extraordinary statement, and perhaps to some incredible, yet remains to be made, and while it exhibits in a clear light, the intelligence of these insects, you may rely upon its truth, for such men as Huber and Latreille, to whom I am indebted for a knowledge of the fact, could have no motive in fabricating a fiction upon such a subject.

That they possess memory, affection, industry, and skill in military tactics, almost every one is prepared to admit; and perhaps the sceptical would not question the evidence of his senses, should he see them subjugating their neighbors which are blessed with a darker complexion, and carrying them into perpetual slavery; all this may be believed, but when I talk of a dairy among ants, of the milch cattle of what some are pleased to call contemptible bugs; of evident care in feeding their tiny herds; and more than all, of a process, verily like MILKING, it is not strange that unenlightened credulity itself, might hesitate.

Such, however, is the fact; these cattle are the aphides and the gall-insects. Any one who will take the trouble to observe, (and who would not?) may see the ants ascending plants and trees to milk the aphides, which subsist solely up. on the juices of vegetables, and yield through two little tubes a saccharine liquid; when no ant is by to be benefited, the aphides eject it to a considerable distance. When they do not do this voluntarily, the ant employs its antenne in place of fingers, and a good purpose they answer, indeed; passing them rapidly, first on one side of these tubes, then on the other, a drop of the coveted liquid repays the milker for its trouble; so it passes from one aphis to another, until its hunger is appeased.

The ants are jealous of their curious stock, pasture them upon particular plants, and an ant from a neighboring hill that attempts a robbery, receives condign punishment at the hands of these watchful herdsmen. The possession of intelligence by the ant, scems placed beyond a doubt, when we are informed that the yellow ants collecting a drove of these kine, actually domesticate them in their own habitations, protect and caress them after the most approved manner of pas.. toral times, and even confine them in an inclosure. Sometimes they build a chamber around a thistle stalk, upon which the insect-cattle fecd, so that they have only to climb the stalk to enter the fold; in fact, the expedients for preserving their cattle are as varied as those practiced by man, and the proceedings we have related, are by no means the prompting of an unvarying instinct, but of an ever accommodating intelli

* Frequently called feelers.

[ocr errors]

gence. Illustrations equally striking, might be adduced by scores, for the difficulty, which I meet in this examination, is, not so much the scarcity, as the abundance of material. Industrious, powerful and intelligent as is the ant, it meets a formidable enemy in the ant-lion. Slow in its movements, and those invariably backward instead of forward, its cunning compensates for its infirmity, while at the same time it gets at naught the caution and sagacity of the ant. One would think that such a creature would be thankful for any chance game, any old carcass that it might have the good fortune to discover; but no; a decided epicure, it disdains every thing but the most exquisite delicacies.

Constructing a conical pit, it conceals its grim visage beneath the sand at the bottom, and patiently lies in wait for some unsuspecting ant; a fatal curiosity impels the insect to explore the den, or a careless step, precipitates it to the bottom, when the enormous pincers of the lion close unerringly upon the victim.

Sometimes the ant stops half-way upon the declivity, but it is not yet out of danger; those twelve eyes quickly perceive the chance of escape, and their cunning owner, throws a cloud of sand and dirt after the retreating ant, which seldom fails to bring it stunned and blinded to the bottom. Having made a meal of the favorite food, it carefully bears every relic of the murder away from its den. Cast a pebble into the pit, and the trapper will somehow get it upon its back, and scramble up the sides with the ponderous load, balancing it with the skill of a wire-dancer; sometimes a misstep causes it to stumble, and the pebble rolls to the bottom. No way discouraged, the ant-lion retraces its steps, and again shouldering the burden, struggles up the little ravine, made by the descending stone.

Crabs, of which there are several species, present an interesting subject for contemplation.

Who has not heard of the annual journeys of the landcrab from hollow stumps and clefted rocks, to the sea-side? The soldier-like manner in which these singular creatures move, is indeed wonderful. Collecting by hundreds of thousands, they take up the line of march, not as undisciplined militia, but as regulars. The strongest, boldest males form the first battalion, clearing the way, and facing the danger as gallant soldiers should. Then comes the central battalion, composed altogether of females, and the rear is brought up by straggling parties of both sexes, which one could al. most think were prompted by no other motive than that which brings all the urchins in the neighborhood to general musier; viz: to sce them "train.” The hermit crab, when in want of a shell, may be seen crawling slowly along the row of empty shells which the last retrcating wave has left uson the beach; now it stops by a commodious habitation, turns it round and over, passes on, and stops again; slipping its tail out of the old house, it tries the new, and thus maintains the search diligently for “lodgings to rent,” until it finds a deserted mansion, light, airy and commodious, when it takes immediate possession. Sometimes the new home is much too large, and like a lad in his father's coat, the tenant is almost entirely hidden, claws and all, in the spacious dwelling. Whenever two homeless crabs meeting in the same street, exhibit a remarkable coincidence in opinion, relative to a deserted shell, a regular fight ensues, and the victor takes triumphant possession, rent free.

With these examples, I must, though unwillingly, bring this subject to a conclusion. Unwillingly, I say, not because I fear that the position is not sustained, viz: that intelligence

is possessed by some animals below the grade of man; but because this view of animated nature, is full of intrinsic interest. The demonstrations of intelligence to which I have alluded, are by no means extraordinary, as your own memory

will bear me witness, but they are none the less conclusive; the more closely you observe the actions of the brute creation, with the more force, will the conviction be pressed upon you, that they do remember, compare, reflect, and profit by experience, as well as love and hate, exhibit gratitude, and seek revenge; and the more deeply you will feel the injustice, of that wholesale slander which it has become so fashionable to cast upon four fifths of our fellow tenants of the earth. Leaving every other consideration out of the account, an enlightened selfrespect would assign to each its appropriate place, how elevated soever, knowing that man would still be the crowning work of omnific Power.


Difference between intelligence and reason- The young human

being--Its helplessness~ Its improvementThe internal world-Rapidity of thought-What is worthy of the name of Self-The relation which intelligence and reason sustain to language-Classification.

I have already attempted to distinguish between intelligence as possessed by the brute creation, and that birth-right of man, a living soul. The latter collects and presents images drawn from real life, rapidly following each other like the pictures in a magic lantern; this is fancy, but we do not at

« السابقةمتابعة »