Abbildungen der Seite

the gat which sucks the juices of the stem ; the ant which licks up the gnat ; and, to make no longer an enumeration, the spider, which, in order to find a prey in these, one after another, di tends his snares over the whole vicinity.

However minute these objects may be, they surely merited my attention, as nature deemed then not unworthy of hers. Could I refuse them a place in my general history, when she had given them one in the system of the universe ? For a still stronger reason, had I written the history of my strawberry plant, I must have given some account of the insects attached to it. Plants are the habitation of insects; and it is impossible to give the history of a city, without saying something of its inhabitants.

Besides, iny strawberry plant was not in its natural situation, in the open country, on the border of a wood, or by the brink of a rivulet, where it could have been frequented by inany other species of living creatures. It was confined to an earthen pot, amidst the smoke of Paris. I observed it only at vacant moments. I knew nothing of the insects which visited it during the course of the day; still less of those which might come only in the night, attracted by simple emanations, or perhaps by a phosphoric light, which escapes our senses. I was totally ignorant of the various species which might frequent it, at other seasons of the year, and of the endless other relations which it might have with reptiles, with amphibious animals, fishes, birds, quadrupeds, and above all, with man, who undervalues every thing which he cannot convert to his own use.

But it was not sufficient to observe it from the heights of my greatness, if I may use the expression, for in this case my knowledge would have been greatly inferior to that of one of the insects who made it their habitation. Not one of them, on examining it with his little spherical eyes, but must have distinguished an infinite variety of objects, which I could not perceive without the assistance of a microscope, and after much laborious research. Nay, their eyes are inconceivably superior even to this instrument; for it shows us the objects only which are in its focus, that is, at the distance of a few lines; whereas they perceive, by a mechanism of which we have no conception, those which are near and those which are far off. Their eyes, therefore, are at once microscopes and telescopes. Besides, by their circular disposition round the head, they have the advantage of viewing the whole circuit of the heavens at the same instant, while those of the astronomer can take in, at most, but the half. My winged insects, accordingly, must discern in the strawberry plant, at a single glance, an arrangement and combination of parts, which, assisterl by the microscope, I can observe only separate from each other, and in succession.

On examining the leaves of this vegetable, with the aid of a lens which had but a small magnifying power, I found them divided into compartments, hedged around with bristles, separated by canals, and strewed with glands. These compartments appeared to me similar to large verdant inclosures, their bristles to vegetables of a particular order ; of which some were upright, some inclined, some forked, some hollowed into tubes, from the extremity of which a fluid distilled ; and their canals, as well as their glands, seemed full of a brilliant liquor. In plants of a different species these bristles and these canals exhibit forms, colours, and fluids, entirely different. There are even glands, which resemble basons, round, square, or radiated.

Now, Nature has made nothing in vain. Wherever she has prepared a habitation, she immediately peoples it. She is never straitened for want of room. She has placed animals, furnished with fins, in a single drop of water; and in such multitudes, that Lecuwenhoek the natural philosopher reckoned up to thousands of them. Many others after him, and among the rest Robert Hook, have seen in one drop of water as small as a grain of millet, some ten, others thirty, and some as far as fortyfive thousand. Those who know not how far the patience and sagacity of an observer can go, might, perhaps, call in question the accuracy of these observations, if Lyounet, who relates them in Lesser's Theology of Insects', had not demonstrated the possibility of it, by a piece of mechanism abundantly simple. We are certain, at least, of the existence of those beings whose different figures have actually been drawn. Others are found, whose feet are armed with claws, on the body of the ily, and even on that of the fica.

It is credible, then, from analogy, that there are animals feeding on the leaves of plants, like the cattle in our meadows and on our mountains ; which repose under the shadow of a down imperceptible to the naked eye, and which, from goblets formed like so many suns, quaff nectar of the colour of gold and silver. Each part of the flower must present to them a spectacle of which we can form no idea. The yellow antheræ of flowers, suspended by fillets of white, exhibit to their eyes double rafters of gold, in equilibrio, or pillars fairer than ivory ; the corolla, an arch of unbounded magnitude, embellished with the ruby and the topaz ; rivars of nectar and honey; the other parts of the floweret, cups, urns, pavilions, domes, which the human architect and goldsmith have not yet learned to imitate.

I do not speak thus from conjecture; for, having examined one day by the microscope the flowers of thyme, I distinguished in them, with equal surprise and delight, superb flagons, with a long neck of a substance resembling amethyst, from the gullets of which seemed to flow ingots of liquid gold. I have never made observation of the corolla simply, of the smailest flower, without finding it composed of an admirable substance, half transparent, studded with brilliants, and shining in the most lively colours.

The beings which live under a reflex thus enriched must have ideas very different from ours of light, and of the other phenomena of nature. A drop of dew filtering in the capillary and transparent tubes of a plant presents to them thousands of cascades : the same drop, fixed as a wave on the extremity of one of its prickles, an ocean without a shore ; evaporated into air, a vast aerial sea. They must, therefore, sce fluids ascending instead of falling; assuming a globular form instead of siuking to a lovel; and mounting into the air instead of obeying the power of gravity.

Their ignorance must be as wonderful as their knowledge. As they have a thorough acquaintance with the harmony of only the minutest objects, that of vast objects must escape them. They know not, undoubtedly, that there are men, and among these learned men, who know every thing; who can explain everything; who, transient like themselves, plunge into an infinity on the ascending scale, in which they are lost; whereas they, in virtue of their littleness, are acquainted with an opposite infinity, in the last divisions of time and matter.

In these ephemerous beings, we must find the youth of a single morning, and the decrepitude of one day. If they possess historical monuments, they must have their months, years, ages, epochs, proportioned to the duration of a flower; they must have a chronology different from ours as their hydraulics and optics must differ. Thus, in proportion as man brings the elements of nature near him, the principles of his science disappear.

Such, therefore, must have been my strawberry plant and its natural inhabitants in the eyes of my winged insects which had alighted to visit it ; but supposing I had been able to acquire, with them, an intimate knowledge of this new world, I was still very far from having the history of it. I must have previously studied its relations to the other parts of nature ; to the sun which expands its blossoms, to the winds which sow its seeds over and over, to the brooks whose banks it forms and embellishes. I must have known how it was preserved in winter, during a



cold capable of cleaving stones asunder ; and how it should appear verdant in the spring, without any pains employed to preserve it from the frost ; how, feeble and crawling along the ground, it should be able to find its way from the deepest valley to the summit of the Alps, to traverse the globe from north to south, from mountain to mountain, forming on its passage a thousand charming pieces of chequered work of its fair flowers and rose-coloured fruit, with the plants of every other climate ; how it has been able to scatter itself from the mountains of Cachemire to Archangel, and from the Felices, in Norway, or Kamschatka; how, in a word, we find it in equal abundance in both American continents, though an infinite number of animals is making incessant and universal war upon it, and no gardener is at the trouble to sow it again.

Supposing all this knowledge acquired, I should still have arrived no farther than at the history of the genus and not that of the species. The varieties would still have remained unknown, which have each its particular character according as they have flowers single, in pairs, or disposed in clusters ; according to the colour, the smell, and the taste of the fruit ; according to the size, the figure, the edging, the smoothness, or the downy clothing of their leaves. One of our most celebrated botanists, Sebastian le Vaillant, has found, in the environs of Paris alone, five distinct species, three of which bear flowers without producing fruit. In our gardens we cultivate at least twelve different sorts of foreign strawberries ;-- that of Chili, of Peru ; the Alpine, or perpetual ; the Swedish, which is green, &c. But how many varieties are there to us totally unknown ? Has not every degree of latitude a species peculiar to itself ? Is it not presumable that there may be trees which produce strawberries, as there are those which bear peas and French beans ? May we not even consider as varieties of the strawberry, the numerous species of the raspberry, and of the bramble, with which it has a very striking analogy from the shape of its leaves ; from its shoots, which creep along the ground and replant themselves; from the rose form of its flowers, and that of its fruit, the seeds of which are on the outside ; Has it not, besides, an affinity with the eglantine, and the rose tree, as to the flower ; with the mulberry, as to the fruit ; and with the trefoil itself, as to the leaves, one species of which, common in the environs of Paris, bears, likewise, its sccds aggregated into the form of a strawberry, from which it derives the botanic name of trifolium fragiferum, the strawberrybearing trefoil ? Now, if we reflect, that all these species, varieties, analogies, affinities, have, in every particular latitude, necessary relations with a multitude of animals, and that these relations are altogether unknown to us, we shall find that a complete history of the strawberry plant would be ample employment for all the naturalists in the world.




Sin Tiomas Browne. [Str Trtotas BROWNE, a learned physician of the seventeenth century, was born in London in 1605. He was educated at Winchester and Oxford, took his degree of Doctor of Medicine at Leyden, and settled at Norwich as a physician in 1636. His two great works are • Religio Medici,' and · Enquiries into Vulgar and Common Errors.' He wrote also many tracts. A complete edition of his works, including his Life and Correspondence, was edited by Mr. Wilkin in 1835. He was knighted by Charles the Second in 1071, and died in 1682. Sir Thomas Browne was not only one of the most learned writers of his time, but his style is singularly powerful and idiomatic. It is commonly held that Dr. Johnson, who wrote his Life, founded his own style upon that of this remarkable writer; but, although the Latin forms prevail to a great extent in each, it seems to us that there is a striking difference between the balanced periods of Johnson and the rush and crowding of the thoughts of Browne.

His discoure on Urn Burial, from which the following is an extract, was occasioned by the discovery of some ancient sepulchral uns in Norfolk. The passage which we give is the fifth and concluding chapter of this most original production.

Now since these dead boues have already outlasted the living ones of Methuselah, and in a yard underground, and thin walls of clay, outworn all the strong and spacious buildings above it; and quietly rested under the drums and tramplings of three conquests: what prince can promise such diuturnity unto his relics, or might not gladly say,

“Sic ego componi versus in ossa velim ?". Time, which antiquates antiquities, and hath an art to make dust of all things, hath yet spared these minor monuments. In vain we hope to be known by open and visible conservatories, when to be unknown was the means of their continuation, and obscurity their protection. If they died by violent hands, and were thrust into their urns, these bones became considerable, and some old philosophers would honour them, whose souls they considered most pure, which were thus snatched from their bodies, and to retain a stronger propension unto them; whereas they weariedly left a languishing corpse, and with faint desires of reunion. If they fell by long and aged decay, yet wrapt up in the bundle of time, they fall into indistinction, and make but one blot with infants. If we begin to die when we live, and long life be but a prolongation of death, our life is a sad composition; we live with death, and die not in a moment. Ilow many pulses made up the life of Methuselah were work for Archimedes: common counters sum up the life of Moses his man. Our days become considerable, like petty sums, by minute accumulations; where numerous fractions make up but small round numbers; and our days of a span long make not one little finger.

If the ncarness of our last necessity brought a nearer conformity into it, there were a happiness in hoary hairs, and no calamity in half senses. But the long habit of living indisposeth us for dying ; when avarice makes us the sport of death, when even David grew politically cruel, and Solomon could hardly be said to be the wisest of men. But many are too early old, and before the date of age. Adversity stretcheth our days, misery makes Alemena's nights, and time hath no wings unto it. But the most tedious being is that which can unwish itself, content to be nothing, or never to have been, which was beyond the malcontent of Job, who cursed not the day of his life, but his nativity; content to have so far been, as to have a title to future being, although he had lived here but in an hidden state of life, and as it were an abortion.

What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture. What time the persons of these ossuaries entered the famous nations of the dead, and slept with princes and councillors, might admit a wide solution. But who were the proprietaries of these bones, or what bodies these ashes made up, were a question above antiquarism; not to be resolved by man, nor easily perhaps by spirits, except we consult the provincial guardians, or tutelary observators. Had they made as good provision for their names, as they have done for their relics, they had not so grossly erred in the art of perpetuation. But to subsist in bones, and be but pyramidally extant, is a fallacy in duration. Vain ashes which in the oblivion of names, persons, times, and sexes, have found unto themselves a fruitless continuation, and only arise unto late posterity, as emblems of mortal vanities, antidotes against pride, vain-glory, and madding vices. Pagan vain-glories which thought

• The line is from the 2nd Elegy of the 3rd Book of Tibullus, where he dwells on the rites which will attend his funeral, and wishes that his obsequies might be so performed.

the world might last for ever, had encouragement for ambition; and, finding 10 atropos unto the immortality of their names, were never dampt with the necessity of oblivion. Even old ambitions had the advantage of ours, in the attempts of their vain-glories, who acting carly, and before the probable meridian of time, have by this time found great accomplishment of their designs, whereby the ancient heroes have already out-lasted their monuments and mechanical preservations. But in this latter scene of time we cannot erpect such mummies unto our memories, when ambition may fear the prophecy of Elias, and Charles the Fifth can never hope to live within two Methuselahs of Hector.

And therefore, restless inquietude for the diuturnity of our memories unto present considerations seems a vanity almost out of date, and superannuated piece of folly. We cannot hope to live so long in our names, as some have done in their persons.

One face of Janus holds no proportion unto the other. "Tis too late to be ambitious. The great mutations of the world are acted, or time may be too short for our designs. To extend our memories by monuments, whose death we daily pray for, and whose duration we cannot hope, without injury to our expectations in the advent of the last day, were a contradiction to our beliefs. We whose generaltions are ordained in this setting part of time, are providentially taken off from such imaginations; and, being necessitated to eye the remaining particle of futurity, are naturally constituted unto thoughts of the next world, and cannot excusably decline the consideration of that duration, which maketh pyramids pillars of snow, and all that's past a moment.

Circles and right lines limit and close all bodies, and the mortal right-lined circle must conclude and shut up all. There is no antidote against the opium of time, which temporally considereth all things: our fathers find their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our survivors. Grave-stones tell truth scarce forty years. Generations pass while some trees stand, and old families last not three oaks. To be read by bare inscriptions like many in Gruter, to hope for eternity by enigmatical epithets or first letters of our names, to be studied by antiquaries, who we were, and have new names given us like many of the mummies, are cold consolations unto the students of perpetuity, even by everlasting languages.

To be content that times to come should only know there was such a man, not caring whether they knew more of him, was a frigid ambition in Cardan ; disparaging his horoscopal inclination and judgment of himself. Who cares to subsist like Jlippocrates' patients

, or Achilles' horses in Homer, under naked nominations, without deserts and noble acts, which are the balsam of our memories, the entelechia and soul of our subsistences? To be nameless in worthy deeds, exceeds an infamous history. The Canaanitish woman lives more happily without a name, than Herodotus with one. And who had not rather have been the good thief, than Pilate?

But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her porry, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity. Who can but pity the founder of the pyramids ? Herostratus lives that burnt the temple of Diana, be is almost lost that built it. Time hath spared the epitaph of Adrian's horse, confounded that of himself. In vain we compute our felicities by the advantage of our good names, since bad have equal durations, and Thersites is like to live as long as Agamemnon. Who knows whether the best of men bc known, or whether there be not more remarkable rersons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time? Without the favour of the everlasting register, the first man had been as unkuown as the last, and Methuselah’s long life had been his only chronicle.

« ZurückWeiter »