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THE present Age, which, after all, is a very pretty and pleasant one, is feelingly alive and widely awake to the manifold delights and advantages with which the study of Natural Science swarms, and especially that branch of it which unfolds the character and habits, physical, moral, and intellectual, of those most interesting and admirable creaturesBirds. It is familiar not only with the shape and colour of beak, bill, claw, talon, and plume, but with the purposes for which they are designed, and with the instincts which guide their use in the beautiful economy of all-gracious Nature.
remember the time when the very word Ornithology would have required interpretation in mixed company; and when a naturalist was looked on as a sort of out-of-theway but amiable monster. Now, one seldom meets with man, woman, or child, who does not know a hawk from a handsaw, or even, to adopt the more learned reading, from a heronshaw; a black swan is no longer erroneously considered a rara avis any more than a black sheep; while the Glasgow Gander himself, no longer apocryphal, has taken his place in the national creed, belief in his existence being merely blended with wonder at his magnitude, and some surprise perhaps among the scientific, that he should be as yet the sole specimen of that enormous An
The chief cause of this advancement of knowledge in one of its most delightful departments, has
VOL. XXX. NO. CLXXXII,
been the gradual extension of its study from stale books, written by men, to that book ever fresh from the hand of God. And the second -another yet the same—has been the gradual change wrought by a philosophical spirit in the observation, delineation, and arrangement of the facts and laws with which the science is conversant, and which it exhibits in the most perfect harmony and order. Students now range for themselves, according to their capacities and opportunities, fields, woods, rivers, lakes, and seas; and proficients, no longer confining themselves to mere nomenclature, enrich their works with anecdotes and traits of character, which, without departure from truth, have imbued bird-biography with the double charm of reality and romance.
How we come to love the Birds of Bewick, and White, and the two Wilsons, and Montagu, and Mudie, and Knapp, and Selby, and Swainson, and Syme, and Audubon, and many others, so familiar with their haunts and habits, their affections and their passions, till we feel that they are indeed our fellow creatures, and part of one wise and wonderful system ! If there be sermons in stones, what think ye of the hymns and psalms, matin and vesper, of the lark, who at heaven's gate sings,of the wren, who pipes her thanksgivings as the slant sunbeam shoots athwart the mossy portal of the cave, in whose fretted roof she builds her nest above the waterfall?
Ay, these, and many other blame