« PreviousContinue »
sense of gratitude for the bounty that with so much beauty clothes this perishable world, the remembrance of them was for the time absorbed : could I be dissatisfied where all besides was harmony and peace ? Everything was beautiful, and everything, as I thought, seemed happy. A crowd of living creatures gave animation to the scene, and each one appeared, in my delighted vision, exactly formed to be what it was, and to do what it was doing; and could any one be other than itself, I thought it must lose something of its fitness and its charms. Yonder cold worm, I said, that crawls in naked ugliness upon the soil, and cannot rise from it, should I take it up and lay it upon that rose, would thank me little for my pains; it would pine on its beauty, and starve upon its perfumes. And what would avail it in its earthly prison, the beetle's golden wing, or the velvet bosom of the fluttering moth? From nature's largest work, to the least insect that frets the leaf, each thing has organs, and feelings, and habits, exactly suited to the place it is to fill: were it other than it is, it could not fill its place; and being what it is, were it removed to any other, it would surely be less happy. The flower of the valley would die upon the mountain's top; and as surely would the hardy mountaineer, now flourishing on Alpine heights, languish and die if transplanted to the valley. The Maker of the world, then, has made no mistakes, has done no injustice. Everything as he has arranged it is what it should be, and is placed where it should be, and none can repine, and none complain.
I thought so, but I was mistaken: things are very different when you come to look into them, from what they appear on superficial observation. Viewed from a distance, the troubled ocean seems an unbro
ken surface; go closer, it becomes a scene of tumult and destruction. And I, alas ! was not destined to carry home the delusion I had brought out, or had falsely gathered in the contemplation of nature's works, and the Creator's wisdom and munificence. Instead of all being fitness, beauty, and harmony serene, I had to learn that all was absolutely wrong, and nothing could be altered without being amended.
First, from the tall summit of a rocking fir-tree I heard the solitary raven thus bewail himself: “ It is surely hard that I am doomed to dwell forever on the top of this tall tree, battered by every storm that blows, and chilled by every bitter blast. For many an age my ancestors, they say, dwelt here before me; but why must one be born to a destiny not of one's own choosing ? Yon tiny linnet's nest, could I get into it, would suit my taste exactly, and I might spend my days in quietness and peace.”
6 This element,” said a trout to his fellow, as they glided down the stream," is neither healthy nor agreeable. The sunbeam plays upon the surface but to mock us, and never comes beneath to warm our blood. There is no reason that ever I have heard, why fishes have not as much right to fly in the air, as either birds or butterflies.” _" True,” replied his fellow, “and we would try it in despite of fortune, but that our lungs are so badly formed, I am not sure we could breathe when we came there."
“ I am a contented creature,” croaked out a frog that sat crouching by the streamlet's side—“I like my condition well enough, nor ever wish to live but in this mud: yet I confess I see no reason why that gay pheasant should wear such brilliant feathers, while I have none. The gifts of Providence are very partially distributed, methinks."
A bulky cabbage, (for in those days vegetables
could speak quite as well as animals,) from an unweeded bed, where without much care it had grown full, large, and round, was just then looking through the window of a green-house, and with no small bitterness of tone exclaimed, “How blinded, how misjudging are mankind ! While I, a most wholesome and useful vegetable, am left here to grow as I may, through summer heat and winter cold, those tawdry japonicas, fit for nothing but to look at, are to be nursed, and warmed, and watered. It is hard indeed to bear the world's injustice !”—“And I," rejoined an Ox, comfortably grazing on a field, who had, doubtless, overheard the last remark, “ had I the management of this world's good, would have a very different arrangement, and if any
did not labour, neither should they have food. I, who have toiled all day, am fed on grass, and sent forth to gather it for myself
, while yonder idle spaniel is reared on dainties from his master's hand. But ere he be allowed to eat, he ought to be yoked as we are, and sent forth to plough.”_" It is true," replied a team Horse, his companion; "I see no reason why we, of animals the largest and the best, should be obliged to do the work for all. Why should not those idle blackbirds come down and prepare the ground for casting in the seed, while we go sit upon the tree and sing, till it suits our appetite to come and pick up what others sow?"
“ Alas! alas !" whistled a pretty, painted Goldfinch, with whom berries that day were rather scarce ; “to what a hard destiny am ( condemned ! Were I yon ugly barn-door fowl, I should be fed and sheltered for the sake of my eggs and chick ens; but in this sordid, selfish age, beautiful as I am, no one cares for me, because I can give them nothing in return." VOL. II.
And next there came buzzing by me, a fine gilded Fly, fluttering and feasting itself upon every smaller insect it could catch, till I began to wonder where its appetite would be stayed: when, finely spun between the branches of a rose, a strong spider's web caught the gay reveller, and held him fast in chains. “So !” exclaimed the prisoner, “ thus it is to live in a world of treachery and crime: placed by Providence at the mercy of every bloated spider; the innocent, still the victim of the base !"
And so I went on and on, and listened and listened, and nothing could I hear throughout all the creation I thought so beautiful, but plaints of dissatisfaction, and charges of injustice: all were dissatisfied with what they were, and considered themselves injured because they were not something else. My heart sunk within me at the hearing. I listened no more, but I had gained ample food for meditation.
Can it be then, I said within myself, that He, the Beginning and the End of all things, Creator, Lord, Disposer of the world, has done injustice to every creature he has placed in it? There are those, it is true, who have made it what He made it not, and have introduced for themselves sins and miseries, which he at first ordained not; but it is not of these we hear so much complaining: the cry perpetual is against the providential circumstances, of nature or of fortune, to which each is subjected. However infidelity may deny or carelessness forget it, these circumstances do, and ever will remain in the hand of Him who is Lord of all: therefore, every complaint that is uttered against our fortunes, is a complaint against Him, for He assigned it.
From the cold dust which was all alike before his spirit breathed on it, he moulded a world of creatures, so various as none but Deity could devise; but end
lessly variable as they were, each one was in its formation minutely perfect; not one had a want that it had not the means of supplying ; not one had a faculty without some purpose for which it was imparted. The more deeply we examine into the secrets of the natural world, the more certainly and surprisingly we find it so. Examine the minutest flower, and see with what wonderful forethought, as it were, it is supplied with organs, active, though to all appearance motionless, to feed itself, to grow, and to produce its fruit: not all alike, but each one differently. Had they been all alike, all must have grown on the same soil, in the same aspect. Now, from the hardy lichen that braves the rigour of the poles, to the tender offspring of a tropical sun, there are some that can thrive in all. There is no doubt that of two plants of certain descriptions placed near each other, each one from its different formation will imbibe the different juices suited to itself; on which its companion would perhaps have died. It is certainly not without a reason, whether that rcason can be traced or not, that one leaf is clothed with silken hairs, while another has a coat of giossy smoothness. Why has the vine the long, winding tendril that never grows upon the oak? Why are the seeds of the misletoe denied the power of rooting in the earth, and yet have a quality no other seed possesses, of adhering to the bark of trees on which they take root and live? Why, but because it is the place that God assigns them? More discernible still is the fitness of everything in the ani. mal creation. Why has the beetle rough, harsh scales upon its wings, when it could fly like the butterfly without them? Plainly because it was meant to dwell in holes and crevices, where without them its wings would be broken and destroyed.