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Shy and timorous in no common degree, she retires from the cultivated field, where she is disturbed by the Arabian shepherds and husbandmen, into the deepest recesses of the Sahara. In those dreary wastes, she is reduced to subsist on a few tufts of coarse grass, which here and there languish on their surface, or a few other solitary plants equally destitute of nourishment, and in the Psalmist's phrase, even "withered before they are grown up." To this dry and parched food may perhaps be added, the great variety of land-snails which occasionally cover the leaves and stalks of these herbs, and which may afford her some refreshment. Nor is it improbable, that she sometimes regales herself on lizards and serpents, together with insects and reptiles of various kinds. Still, however, considering the voracity and size of this camel-bird, (as it is called in the East,) it is wonderful how the little ones should be nourished and brought up, and especially how those of fuller growth, and much better qualified to look out for themselves, are able to subsist.
The attachment of this bird to the barren solitudes of Sahara, is frequently alluded to in the Holy Scriptures; particularly in the prophesies of Isaiah, where the word IONEH, unfortunately translated owl in the English Bible, ought to be rendered ostrich. In the splendid palaces of Babylon, so long the scenes of joy and revelry, the prophet foretold, that the shy and timorous ostrich should fix her abode; than which a greater and more affecting contrast can scarcely be presented to the mind.
When the ostrich is provoked, she sometimes makes a fierce, angry, and hissing noise, with her throat inflated, and her mouth open; when she meets with a timorous adversary that opposes but a feint resistance to her assault, she chuckles or cackles like a hen, seeming to rejoice in the prospect of an easy conquest. But in the silent hours of night, she assumes a quite different tone, and makes a very doleful and hideous noise, which sometimes resembles the roaring of a lion; and at other times, that of the bull and the ox. She frequently groans, as if she were in the greatest agonies; an action to which the prophet beautifully alludes: "I will make a mourning like the ostrich"-Micah, i. 8. The Hebrew name of the bird is derived from a verb which signifies, to exclaim with a loud voice, and may therefore be attributed with sufficient propriety to the ostrich, whose voice is loud and sonorous; especially as the word does not seem to denote any certain determined mode of voice or sound peculiar to any one particular species of animals, but one that may be applicable to them all. Dr. Brown says, the cry of the ostrich resembles the voice of a hoarse child, and is even more dismal. It cannot, then, but appear mournful, and even
terrible, to those travellers who plunge with no little anxiety into those immense deserts, and to whom every living creature, man not excepted, is an object of fear, and a cause of danger.
Not more disagreeable, and even alarming, is the hoarse moaning voice of the ostrich, however, to the lonely traveller in the desert, than were the speeches of Job's friends to the afflicted man. Of their harsh and groundless censures, which were continually grating his ears, he feelingly complains: "I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls, (ostriches)." Like these melancholy creatures that love the solitary place, and dark retirement, the bereaved and mourning patriarch loved to dwell alone, that he might be free from the teasing impertinence of his associates, and pour out his sorrows without restraint. But he made a wailing also like the dragons, and a mourning like the ostriches: his condition was as destitute, and his lamentations as loud and incessant as theirs. Or, he compares to those birds his unfeeling friends who, instead of pouring the balm of consolation into his smarting wounds, added to the poignancy of his grief by their inhuman conduct. The ostrich, even in a domestic state, is a rude and fierce animal; and is said to point her hostility, with particular virulence, against the poor and destitute stranger that happens to come in her way. Not satisfied with endeavoring to push him down by running furiously upon him, she will not cease to peck at him violently with her bill, and to strike at him with her feet, and will sometimes inflict a very serious wound. The dispositions and behavior of Job's friends and domestics were equally vexatious and afflicting; and how much reason he had to complain, will appear from the following statement: "They that dwell in mine house, and my maidens, count me for a stranger; I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; my breath is strange to my wife, though I entreated for the children's sake of mine own body; yea, young children despised me, all my inward friends abhorred me. Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction. They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper. They come upon me as a wide breaking in of waters, in the desolation they roll themselves upon me."-Ch. xxx. v. 12-14. There is a very correct and poetical description of the ostrich, in the thirty-ninth chapter of the book of Job.
Our translators appear to have been influenced by the vulgar error, that the ostrich did not herself hatch her eggs by sitting on them, but left them to the heat of the sun. This, however,
is not the fact. She usually sits upon her eggs as other birds do; but then she so often wanders, and so far in search of food, that frequently the eggs are addle, by means of her long absence from them. To this we may add, that when she has left her nest, whether through fear or to seek food, if she light upon the eggs of some other ostrich, she sits upon them, and is unmindful of her own.
"On the least noise or trivial occasion," says doctor Shaw, "she forsakes her eggs, or her young ones, to which, perhaps, she never returns; or if she does, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the others. Agreeable to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of them are sweet and good, others are addle and corrupted; others, again, have their young ones of different growth, according to the time, it may have been forsaken of the dame. They often meet with a few of the litte ones no bigger than well-grown pullets, half starved, straggling and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans for their mother. In this manner the ostrich may be said to be hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her's; her labor, in hatching and attending them so far, being vain, without fear, or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards. This want of affection is also recorded in Lam. iv. 3: The daughter of my people is become cruel, like ostriches of the wilderness; that is, by apparently deserting their own, and receiving others in return. Hence, one of the great causes of lamentation was, the coming in of strangers and enemies into Zion, and possessing it. Thus, in the twelfth verse of this chapter, it is said, 'The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem;' and in chap. v. 2, 'Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.'"
The ostrich, in her private capacity, is not less inconsiderate and foolish, particularly in the choice of food, which is often highly detrimental and pernicious to her; for she swallows everything greedily and indiscriminately, whether it be pieces of rags, leather, wood, stone, or iron. They are particularly fond of their own ordure, which they greedily eat up as soon as it is voided: no less fond are they of the dung of hens and other poultry. It seems as if their optic, as well as their olfactory nerves, were less adequate and conducive to their safety and preservation, than in other creatures. The Divine Providence in this, no less than in other respects, "having deprived
them of wisdom, neither hath it imparted to them understanding." This part of her character is fully admitted by Buffon, who describes it in nearly the same terms.
Notwithstanding the stupidity of the ostrich, says Dr. Shaw, its Creator hath amply provided for its safety, by endowing it with extraordinary swiftness, and a surprising apparatus for escaping from its enemy. They, "when they raise themselves up for flight, laugh at the horse and his rider." They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility, and the stateliness likewise, of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was in ascribing to them an expanded quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more entertaining than such a sight; the wings, by their rapid but unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars; while their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are no less insensible of fatigue.
The surprising swiftness of this bird is expressly mentioned by Xenophon, in his Anabasis; for, speaking of the desert of Arabia, he states that the ostrich is frequently seen there; that 66 none could take them, the horsemen who pursues them soon giving it over; for they escaped far away, making use both of their feet to run, and of their wings, when expanded, as a sail to waft them along." This representation is confirmed by the writer of a voyage to Senegal, who says, "She sets off at a hard gallop; but, after being excited a little, she expands her wings as if to catch the wind, and abandons herself to a speed so great, that she seems not to touch the ground." "I am persuaded," continues the writer, "she would leave far behind the swiftest English courser. Buffon also admits that the ostrich runs faster than the horse.
BAD MANNERS.-We have always considered it the height of bad manners for any member of a family to stick his or her head out of a second story window to see what visitor has knocked at the door, or rung the door bell.
THE SORROWS of a lovely spirit are May-frosts, which go before the warmer seasons; but the sorrows of a hardened soul are autumnal-frosts which proclaim nothing but a dreary winter.
THE HYACINTH only flourishes when it hangs over water, and it blooms without nourishment; do you know no spirits which only bloom over tears?
A SERMON REMEMBERED EIGHTY-FIVE YEARS.
LUKE SHORT, when about fifteen years of age, heard a sermon from the celebrated Flavel, and soon after came to America, where he spent the remainder of his life. He received no immediate impression from Flavel's sermon, and lived in carelessness and sin till he was a century of age. He was now a "sinner a hundred years old ;" and to all appearance ready to "die accursed." But, sitting one day in a field, he fell into a busy reflection on his past life; and recurring to the events of his youth he thought of having heard Mr. Flavel preach, and vividly recollected a large portion of his sermon, and the extraordinary earnestness with which it was delivered. Starting, as if stung by an adder, he instantly labored under accusings of conscience, and ran from thought to thought, till he arrived first at conviction of sin, and next at an apprehension of the divine method of saving the guilty. He soon after joined a Congregational Church in his vicinity, and to the day of his death, which happened in the one hundred and sixteenth year of his age, gave satisfactory evidence of being a truly converted and believing follower of the Saviour. Mr. Flavel had long before passed to his heavenly rest, and could not, while on earth, have supposed that his living voice would so long continue to yieid its echoes as an instrument of doing good to a wandering sinner. Let ministers and private Christians, who labor for the spiritual well-being of their fellow men, cast their bread upon the waters, in full faith that though they lose sight of it themselves, it shall be found after many days.
THE WIDOW AND THE FATHERLESS.
WELL, thou art gone, and I am left:
Farewell on earth: Heaven claim'd its own;
Ha! those small voices, silver sweet!