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In this country, where all classes of society appear to be absorbed in mercantile avocations and political contentions, the genius of science is proscribed, and forced to seek refuge in seclusion; therefore is her temple built in solitude, and her light, instead of shining before men, illumines only the narrow precincts of her retirement. The persecuted hermit in his sea-cave, the devout vestal kneeling in secret adoration before the Madonna, are not more solitary in their devotion ; yet may her presence be sought and attained by all who would retire from the fretful stir and fever of the world, to hold immediate communion with nature,

The Natural History of Birds' by Robert Mudie, author of the 'Feathered Tribes of the British Islands,' “Guide to the Observation of Nature,' &c. London: Orr and Smith, Paternoster-row.

and participate in those pure and elevated associations, the very capacity of comprehending which constitutes, perhaps, one of the highest attributes of the human mind. The statesman, with his breast jewelled with the orders of his nobility, may proceed in pomp to the Upper or Lower House of Parliament, there to deliberate on the intricate machinations of political philosophy; the merchant, fat as the late Sir William Curtis or Daniel Lambert, may ostentatiously exhibit himself on the pavé of the Stock Exchange, buying in and selling out to an extent which may confound the judgment of the less initiated; yet the stern truth must recur to a reflecting mind, that a coronet does not always command authority or respect, and that worldly riches are not always the symbol of human felicity. When, indeed, we compare the eventful changes which are constantly occurring in the government and destiny of nations with the immutable peace and harmony which prevail throughout nature, we observe an affecting contrast; thrones may totter and blood be shed, yet will the valleys and uplands far away, be not the less verdant; the war-cry, too, of rebellion may re-echo from street to street through affrighted cities, yet will the sweet birds, which make their summer-lives one constant song,' as joyously and as

as 'innocently open their glad wings;' nor will they chaunt their wood-notes wild less melodiously or happily. Away, then, from the polluted atmosphere of the mercantile or political world: let us seek the divinity of science, not as a Sybil weaving mysteries to perplex the intellect and confound our natural feelings in a web of sophistry, but as a directing angel, who, in revealing to us the most curious and interesting truths in nature, will unseal at the same time the fountains of the heart, so that its best affections may mingle with all we see and hear until humanity, which is the element of all moral goodness, becomes itself identified with knowledge. Away, then, with us into solitude; yet is it not solitude, for to the eye of a pantheist,—and there are many who believe in that gentle heresy,-rocks, mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, are all instinct with a spirit which may inspire a congenial mind with many reflections which seem to stretch away into infinity. In all seasons and in all climates, in sunshine and in storm, the lover of nature may cherish this as his true catholic faith;—nor is this all : earth, air, ocean and all its tributary streams, are peopled with myriads of living beings which have still a more direct and touching claim upon his sympathies ; for even in childhood the desire of companionship, which is inherent in the human heart, prompts us to select for our solicitude or love, a bird, an insect, a flower,—any sensate being which will manifest the ordinary phenomena of life and participate in the common destiny of mortality. Our interest, too, is insensibly excited by the very happiness which appears to be so universally diffused throughout the animate creation ;-the merry antics of the kitten by the fireside,—the playful gambols of the young fawn sporting idly on the greensward,

-the little squirrel leaping wantonly, through the foliage of a tree, from bough to bough,--the bird describing a thousand gyrations in the sunny air, or singing cheerfully in the forest shade,-are all objects of attention which gratify, while they excite the interest of every benevolent mind. And this is as it should be, for the consciousness of pleasure and the sensibility to pain are integral elements of vitality; wherefore the humblest being in the scale of organization ought not to be passed over with callous indifference: it would, indeed, be more in accordance with the principles of the highest philosophy to believe with Wordsworth, that

‘Every flower which lives

Enjoys the air it breathes.' Hereby practical sensibility would be perpetually inculcated, and certainly many a more idle theory has tampered with the credulity of mankind.

Viewing in this extended sense the whole creation, inanimate and animate, an infinitude of harmonies and mysteries are recognised which it is difficult adequately to appreciate; in endeavouring to analyze them, indeed, the human intellect recoils upon the sense of its own restricted faculties, fully conscious that a finite being cannot comprehend that which is infinite, or trace the mystic relations between cause and effect, which seem in truth to distance and divide the Creator from the created. Well, therefore, and without any affectation of humility, may we be solicitous of ascertaining whether there be any means of so advancing the powers of the human intellect, that it may become more intimately conversant with nature; for, by patient investigation, aided by the toils of science, the boundaries of human knowledge have been, and it is reasonable to believe will be yet extended, prejudice after prejudice annihilated, mystery after mystery dissipated, until the Promethean prophecy itself becomes accomplished : * Heaven hast thou secrets? Man unveils me (the earth ;) I have none.'

And this is the true end of all Revelation; that man shall take advantage of the means allotted to him for ameliorating his moral and intellectual condition until he ultimately is enabled to comprehend those secrets which heaven, during the probation of his ignorance, has shrouded from his sight. We would not, however, pay homage to science in the vain belief that the mere facts she reveals constitute in themselves the instar omnium of human wisdom; they should, on the contrary, be received only as the means whereby we may attain a certain end: they should, in other words, be esteemed as valuable only in proportion as they may enable us to understand more clearly, and sympathize more fervently, with all we observe in nature. This alone is their practical application. Away, then, with the jargon of scientific schoolmen; their crude technicalities, evasive meanings, nothings of much sound, and their frivolous minutiæ of details, which too often disgust the naturalist, and induce him to turn away his footsteps from the paths of science; yet is this to be lamented, inasmuch as our knowledge of the geological formation of a mountain or a chain of hills,—our ability to recognise the influence of volcanic agency in determining the character of a coast or continent,-our understanding the physiological principles on which the phenomena of animal or vegetable life are dependent, must multiply our associations, and increase, rather than diminish the pleasure and interest of observation; nay, the majesty of a mountain is not less imposing because we know the position of the strata of which it is composed, nor is the plumage of a bird less beautiful because we understand the curious structure of its feathers. With sufficient information, then, to appreciate more highly all that we see or hear in nature, let us to the woods : the flowers at our feet now claim not our notice, albeit we love them, and avoid crushing them beneath our steps; it is the voice of that sweet, and to us unknown bird which, like an angel's song, now bids the heavens be mute.' It is not the voice of the nightingale, for that darling of the poet's heart sings not in the budding month of March; nor is it that of the lark-would that we were more familiar with the feathered tribes; for in their very appearance there is an innocence so touching to humanity, and in their song a spirituality often so affecting, that we readily comprehend the feelings of the poor prisoner of Chillon, who, beholding a bird which had alighted familiarly on his prison-window, expresses thus pathetically his apprehensions :

I sometimes deemed that it might be
My brother's soul come down to me;
But then at last away it flew,

And then 'twas mortal well I knew.' If nature, whether in affliction or in joy, be thus contemplated with an eye of sensibility, how many associations, consoling and elevating, will reflection constantly suggest; yet this disposition and tone of mind which every naturalist should possess, is not, we apprehend, to be acquired by education; despite all that Locke and Condillac, and other metaphysicians in their school, have written, we believe it to be in a great measure innate, developing itself in the very earliest years of boyhood. Hence Audubon, the benevolent and enterprising Audubon, who has lived more immediately in communion with nature than perhaps any other naturalist, even in his youth, confesses that he was happy only when engaged in studying the habits of the innumerable birds which frequent the shores, mountains, and trackless forests of America. · When removed, says he, “from the woods, the prairies, and the brooks, or shut up from the view of the wide

Atlantic, I experienced none of the pleasures most congenial to my mind. None but aërial companions suited my fancy. No roof seenied so secure as that formed of the dense foliage under which the feathered

tribes were

seen to resort, or the caves and fissures of the massy rocks to which the dark-winged cormorant and the curlew retired to rest or to protect themselves from the fury of the tempest.

In this appropriate spirit has Mr. Mudie approached the study of nature ; his volume, entitled The Feathered Tribes of the British Islands,' his Guide to the Observation of Nature,' and his present Natural History of Birds,' are all welcome tributes to the naturalist. He is a practical observer, and one whom we delight to meet with, no matter at what season, either in the forest or the field. The autobiography of his studies, if we may so designate that portion of the introduction to his Natural History of Birds,' wherein from his personal experience he explains the advantages of original observations over book authorities in general, is in accordance with the principles we have above detailed :

• In early life,' he observes, ‘my access to what are called elementary books, was very limited; but my facilities for observing natural objects and phenomena, and some of the productions and operations of art, were correspondingly great. I found the acquiring of as much knowledge of these as in so far enabled me to understand their nature, their relations to each other, and their uses to man, instead of being a repulsive and laborious task, a very fascinating and very easy amusement; so fascinating that I was never tired of it, and so easy that it hindered nothing else, and nobody heeded it. At this time I sometimes found, or fancied I found, that ihose who had the books professing to explain the subjects, knew less of the subjects themselves than I did ; that he who was familiar with the goldfinch in the book, knew little of the goldfinch in the bush, and so of other matters.'--pp. 3 and 4.

Hence, the author has not founded his observations on the authority of other men; he has not re-echoed their theories or descriptions; he has exercised the birth-right of every noble and independent mind; he has gone forth into nature; and studied for himself. He has, in so doing, commenced by giving a broad and general view of the facts he has observed; and has then minutely entered into details :

• The knowledge of natural history,' he remarks, 'is to be acquired, not by the enumeration of details, but by dashing onward with the great principles, and throwing a glance now here, now there, to connect the immediate subjects with all the necessary collateral ones, as we career along. Who, when the gallant ship is sweeping by with so much velocity that the landsman who gazes from the shore feels his head turn giddy and nature around him reel again, as if aroused by the spirit-stirring sight, would stoop down to count the pebbles on the beach? Who when the falcon is on the chase, or the eagle on the stoop, would pause to count the feathers on the wing, or the spots on a feather? And, much

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