صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tered, and in expressing many ideas without the existence of artificial language, has been known and acknowledged in all ages. The Greeks recognized this power in their fabled Medusa, whose head was covered with snakes instead of hair, and whose glance transformed the beholder into stone.

In the light of the preceding explanations, may we not reasonably conclude, that the mark” which the Almighty set upon Cain, the first murderer, was only the shadowing forth in his countenance, of the dark passion and conscious guilt, and ceaseless apprehension, which must ever agitate the bosom of the fratricide? Such is the inimitable mechan. ism of the nerves and muscles, as the instruments of natural language, exhibiting in every line, the wisdom and benevo. lence of their Author. The spirit's own harp, every string is tuned by her, and thrills to each touch of immaterial thought. So simple, and yet so complicated is its structure, that it gives forth different tones of feeling, with so slight physical variation that even the painter's pencil cannot catch them.

When Peter of Cortona, was engaged on a picture for the royal palace of Petti, Ferdinand II, particularly admired the representation of a weeping child. "Has your Majesty,” said the painter, "a mind to see how easy it is to make this very child laugh?” The king assenting, the artist, merely depressed the corner of the lips and the inner extremity of the eyebrows, when the little urchin seemed in danger of burst. ing his sides with immoderate laughter, who, a moment before, seemed breaking his heart with weeping.

The child of six years old, when engaged in carrying out its little plans, is, in countenance and gesture, as truly an orator as the old Athenian or the silver-tongued Roman.

Wonderful indeed is the instrument of expression ! From the parted lip, dimpled cheek, and confiding eye of the infant,

(infant* in all else I mean,) to the joy-flush and the hope. gleam, that glow and play upon the countenance of the youth; from the heaving bosom, the throbbing temple and the carewritten brow of the middle-aged, to the last thrillings of the instrument beneath the spirit's touch, as it quivers upon the bloodless lip, tinges the sunken cheek, and gleams with an unearthly brilliance from the fast-glazing eye of the grayhaired, dying man, as if, just then, like some mountain's peak, it had caught the glory of the coming day, whose bound he is rapidly nearing; through all this, up to the moment when, laying down the old, worn harp, he awaits the time, when he shall strike a new and more glorious instrument of like pattern, but of imperishable material, this specimen of matchless skill, has been a companion faithful and true! Who can help exclaiming, in the well known words of the poet ?

"Strange that a harp of thousand strings,
Should keep in tune so long!”

* Literally, not speaking.


External apparatus of insectsThe gnatThe cicadaThe

house cricket-The rattlesnake-The death-watch-Natural language of cries—VoiceThe larynx.

The external apparatus by which certain animals are en. abled to express their feelings to one another, now claims our attention. The individuals which are thus endowed, are comparatively few in number; and but little diversity is exhibited in the mechanism of their organs of language.

This medium of communication though audible, cannot be considered, strictly speaking, as rocal, for such a language presupposes the possession of lungs and a larynx, which is not found in those insects and reptiles that are thus furnished with musical apparatus, as I have chosen to designate it in the table.

Among the myriad tribes that dance so gaily upon the yel. low beams of the summer sun, no insect is better known than ihe gnat. From the days when Spenser sung,

“Their murmurring smali trumpets sownden wide,

While in the air their clust'ring army flies,” down to the present time, the gnat has been considered the very chief of ephemeral trumpeters. Indeed the compliment is not undeserved, though a moment's thought will convince us that the soft music which floats upon the still air of evening, from invisible hosts, is not vocal, but strictly instrumental. The various shape and texture of their wings, and their unequal rapididy of vibration, as they thus fairly beat the air into melody, are amply sufficient to account for the vari. ety of tones from the banqueting note of the moscheto, to the

dronish hum-drum of the stag-beetle; one, which even a deli. cate ear cannot fail to detect.

Among the “quivering nations,” the gay midge, a species of gnat, may be mentioned, that, with jetty coat and snowy wings, dances its little life away to. a piping note, similarly produced. Of the same description are the hum of the housefly and the ordinary buzz of the bee; but I have not alluded to these insects, because the sounds thus produced, can be considered as a species of language, but rather, to refute a popular error, which the expressions of some authors, and especially poets, would tend to confirm. But when I speak of the death-watch or ptinus fatidicus, of the cricket, of the Pulsatorium or tick-watch, I would be understood as having immediate reference to language. The death-watch, whose measured strokes of seven, nine or eleven, have often been the signal for a hasty evacuation of the premises, of which the ill-omened creature has taken possession, produces those sounds by rearing itself upon its hind-legs, and then striking its horny frontlet against some hard substance. This midnight tattoo, is simply the language of courtship, which these little creatures employ. And why should they be slandered, for, availing themselves of a privilege which their neighbors who are so much annoyed, are far from undervaluing? They may be heard during the day, talking in this manner most amicably. The goat-chaffer or cerambyx utters a shrill shriek of fright, by rubbing its chest against its wing-shell. One of the most interesting instances of sound, not to say voice, produced by animals not having a larynx, is found in a species of Italian grasshopper. The musical apparatus of this insect, consists of several winding cells, separated into apartments by membrane partitions, (a white, thin net-work,) having two narrow openings communicating with the air,

per's song

which are closed by valves. In the centre of these cells or passages, is a sonorous triangle. Connected with the valves are two strong muscles, by the action of which, the cells are supplied with air, which is forced so powerfully against the triangle, as to produce the loud, clear notes of the grasshop

The music of the cicada was extolled by the bards of olden time, in no measured strains, and the eloquence of Plato suffered, only in comparison with the soft melody of the tettix. Xenorchus, the Rhodian poet, alluding to the silence of the female, has this very ill-natured and ungallant couplet:

“IIappy tho cicadas' lives,

Since they all havo voiceless wives." Whether he was or not, he certainly deserved to be a bache. lor for life.

The singular apparatus in the tail of the rattle-snake and western Massasanga, though generally considered as a sort of warning to the unwary pedestrian, is strictly an instrument of language, not so much for the welfare of its mortal enemy as its own. That its sharp rattle, sounding from the grass, beats a quick retreat for the stroller, is undeniable, but at the same time, no such benevolent motive, actuates its owner; for it is none other than an alarm-signal, or a means of communication with its lovely companions.

There is one little creature, however, which those who che. rish the recollections of childhood, would scarcely pardon me for omitting in this sketch: the house cricket. How does its very name unlock the sealed fountains of our simpler, but I hesitate not to say, purer affections. How often, when the bustle of the day was hushed, and the twilight hour flung its soothing influence over us, and made us thoughtful; and the tea-kettle, suspended from the topmost hook, hummed its mo


« السابقةمتابعة »