Page images


Phys.--I am open to conviction on all subjects, and have no objection to spend one Mayday with you in this idle occupation; premising, that you take at least one other companion, who really loves fishing.

HAL.—You, who are so fond of natural history, even should you not be amused by fishing, will, I am sure, find objects of interest on the banks of the river. Phys.

I fear I am not entomologist enough to fellow the life of the May-fly, but I shall willingly have my attention directed to its habits. Indeed, I have often regretted that sportsmen were not fonder of zoology ; they have so many opportunities, which other persons do not possess, of illustrating the origin and qualities of some of the most curious forms of animated nature; the causes and character of the migrations of animals ; their relations to each other, and their place and order in the general scheme of the universe.

It has always appeared to me, that the two great sources of change of place of animals, was the providing of food for themselves, and resting places and food for their young. The great supposed migrations of herrings from the poles to the temperate zone have appeared to

me to be

only the approach of successive shoals from deep to shallow water, for the purpose of spawning The migrations of salinon and trout are evidently for the purpose of depositing their ova, or of finding food after they have spawned. Swallows, and bee-eaters, decidedly pursue flies over half the globe; the scolopax or snipe tribe, in like manner, search for worms and larvæ,-flying from those countries where either frost or dryness prevents them from boring,-making generally small flights at a time, and resting on their travels where they find food. And a journey from England to Africa is no more for an animal that can fly, with the wind, one hundred miles in an hour, than a journey for a Londoner to his seat in a distant province. And the migrations of smaller fishes or birds always occasion the migration of larger ones, that prey on them. Thus, the seal follows the salmon, in summer, to the mouths of rivers ; the hake follows the herring and pilchard; hawks are seen in great quantities, in the month of May, coming into the east of Europe, after quails and land-rails ; and locusts are followed by numerous birds, that, fortunately for the agriculturist, make them their prey.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

HAL.-It is not possible to follow the amusement of angling, without having your attention often directed to the modes of life of fishes, insects, and birds, and many curious and interesting facts, as it were, forced upon your observation. I consider you (Physicus), as pledged to make one of our fishing party ; and I hope, in a few days, to give you an invitation to meet a few worthy friends on the banks of the Colne. And you (Poietes), who, I know, are an initiated disciple of Walton's school, will, I trust, join us. We will endeavour to secure a fine day; two hours, in a light carriage with good horses, will carry us to our ground; and I think I can promise you green meadows, shady trees, the song of the nightingale, and a full and clear river.

Poret.-This last is, in my opinion, the most poetical object in nature. I will not fail to obey your summons. Pliny has, as well as I recollect, compared a river to human life. I have never read the passage in his works, but I have been a hundred times struck with the analogy, particularly amidst mountain scenery. The river, small and clear in its origin, gushes forth from rocks, falls into deep glens, and wantons and meanders through a wild and picturesque country, nourishing only the uncultivated tree or flower by its dew or spray. In this, its state of infancy and youth, it may be compared to the human mind in which fancy and strength of imagination are predominant-it is more beautiful than useful. When the different rills or torrents join, and descend into the plain, it becomes slow and stately in its motions; it is applied to move machinery, to irrigate meadows, and to bear upon its bosom the stately barge ;-in this mature state, it is deep, strong, and useful. As it flows on towards the sea, it loses its force and its motion, and at last, as it were, becomes lost, and mingled with the mighty abyss of waters.

HAL.-One might pursue the metaphor still further, and say, that in its origin—its thundering and foam, when it carries down clay from the bank, and becomes impure, it resembles the youthful mind, affected by dangerous passions. And the influence of a lake, in calming and clearing the turbid water, may be compared to the effect of reason in more mature life, when the tranquil, deep, cool and unimpassioned mind is freed from its fever, its troubles, bubbles, noise and foam. And, above

all, the sources of a river-which may be considered as belonging to the atmosphere and its termination in the ocean, may be regarded as imaging the divine origin of the human mind, and its being ultimately returned to, and lost in, the Infinite and Eternal Intelligence from which it originally sprung.


« PreviousContinue »