« AnteriorContinuar »
general system of nature. A class of beings by far the most numerous upon the face of the globe, and however small, taken individually, yet forming collectively a mass of organised matter, superior in bulk to any other department of the animal kingdom, could not have been created, nor can continue to be propagated, without answering some important end.
The first and most obvious use of this part of the animal kingdom seems to consist in that large supply of provision which it affords the superior ranks of life. It is for this same purpose that the whole surface of the earth is annually covered with plants and herbage. Many, perhaps the greater part, of the larger animals are hence supported; while not a few are also sustained by devouring the flesh of these larger animals themselves. Between these two species of nourishment, however, there is a wide difference; and insects afford an aliment which seems to partake somewhat of the nature of both, and which supplies the wants of an infinite number of creatures whose constitutions are not wholly adapted to either. Many kinds of birds live upon hardly any other food. What a blank in the feathered race would ensue, were this copious source of provision shut up from that department of the animal kingdom! Fishes seem still more dependant on the supplies afforded by those numerous tribes of insects that either float upon
the water, or are seen hovering over its surface. The whale, the largest of nature's animated offspring, is supported entirely by crabs and medusa worms.
Among this class, therefore, an inconceivable diminution of numbers would necessarily ensue, were the food of insects denied it. Farther, many of the larger insects prey upon the smaller; all of which, as well as the different animals they support in their turn, must be unavoidably struck out of the family of nature the moment this species of support is withheld.
But besides the supply of food which insects afford to the superior animals, they have justly been deemed serviceable in the general system, by preserving the salubrity of the air. Over the whole surface of the earth, those nnmberless productions that enjoy either animal or vegetable life are continually falling into decay, and making room for countless successions of the same kinds. The atmosphere would hence, perhaps, soon become unfit for the supply of life, did not millions of insects continually consume the carrion and other substances in a state of putrefaction, and purge the air of the noxious effluvia they emit. It is, perhaps, the office even of the very minute insects that escape our observation, to destroy those noxious particles with which that element is impregnated, and which, at certain seasons, render it pestilential. The operation of this class of animals upon putrid snbstances is much more considerable than a superficial examination might suggest. It has been asserted by the most judicious and discerning naturalists, that the produce of a dozen flies will consume a dead carcase in a shorter space than a hungry lion. How inconceivable, then, the benefits which may be produced by those prodigious numbers of insects, which in warm countries continually swarm through the air, their population regulated by Infinite Wisdom in proportion to their demand!
Having now contemplated the numerous tribes of insects in all the various forms in which they are presented to us by a review of their instinctive powers and sensations,-their egg state and transformation,—their habitations, foods, and uses,-we are naturally and uravoidably led from this pleasing investigation to the contemplation of their CREATOR! In all ages, arguments respecting the existence of a God have been drawn from the works of Na.
ture; and what can contribute more to convince us of the Almighty power,—to raise our minds from
Nature up to Nature's God,—than the contemplation of the sweeping whirlwind and the awful thunder,—or the examination of the structure of the meanest insect? Can we look upon the great world of animated beings without admiring how all are adapted to each other, and how suited they are to the purposes for which they were intended ! or, can we examine the commonest production of Nature, and not be convinced of its great superiority over the finest piece of workmanship that the most clever artist was ever able to produce ? Imitate, if you can, the structures of the bee, the granaries of the ant, the webs of the spider, and the threads of the silkworm! God alone can work these wonders, and he presents them to us, not as models for our imitation, but as so many testimonies of his power and wisdom. It is our duty therefore to correspond to his views, and to contemplate his perfections, even in the smallest of his works. Among all the animals, we alone are capable of this contemplation. The sun sheds his beams over all the earth; but man alone comprehends their source and perceives their effects. Beasts live and grow, but they know not how. The lion is unconscious of his strength; the nightingale of the melody of her voice; the but terfly of the beauty of its wing; and the caterpillar feeds upon the leaf without knowing what it is that affords it sustenance. Can we doubt, then, that the tribute of admiration which they demand from the faculties of man is a reasonable tribute, which he owes to his CREATOR?
Like Nature's law no eloquence persuades,
And, O SUPREME! whene'er we cease to know
O think, if superficial scenes amaze,
These but the sketch, the garb, the veil of things,
Select Books on Insects. Turton's Translation of Linnæus, vols. 2 and 3. The sixth volume of Dr. Shaw's General Zoology; or his Zoological Lectures, 8vo. 2 vols. Lesser's Insecto-Theology, by Lyonnet, 8vo. The Works of Swammerdam, Ray, Reaumur, Bonnet, de Geer, Fabricius, &c. &c.
Kirby and Spence's Entomology, 8vo. 2 vols. Samouelle's Entomology, 8vo. Graves's Naturalist's Pocket Book, on the Method of procuring and preserving Insects.
Donovan's History of British Insects, 16 vols. royal 8vo.; and his splendid publications on the Insects of China, India, and New Holland, in royal 4to.
The article Entomology, in the PANTALOGIA, or Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, containing more than three hundred subjects of Natural History, beautifully coloured after Nature. See also the article Entomology in the great Cyclopædia of Dr. Rees.
THE name given to this month by the Romans was taken from JANUS, one of their divinities, to whom they gave two faces; because, on the one side, the first day of this month looked towards the new year, and on the other towards the old one. The titles and attributes of this old Italian deity are fully comprised in two Choriambic verses of Sulpitius; and a further account of him from Ovid would here be superfluous:
Jane pater, Jane tuens, dive biceps, biformis,
O cate rerum sator, () principium deorum! Father Janus, all-beholding Janus, thou divinity with two heads, and with two forms; O sagacious planter of all things, and leader of deities !
He was the god, we see, of wisdom; whence he is represented on coins with two, and, on the Etruscan image found at Falisci, with four faces; emblems of prudence and circumspection. Thus is GANESA, the god of Wisdom in Hindoostan, painted with an elephant's head, the symbol of sagacious discernment, and attended by a favourite rat, which the Indians consider as a wise and provident animal.
His next great character (the plentiful source of many superstitious usages), was that, from which he is emphatically styled 'the Father,' and which the