網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

worthy of that name and trust, how imperious, then, the obligation upon every enlightened citizen who knows and feels the value of such men, to aid them, to cheer them, and to honor them Thus shall we best testify our gratitude to the teachers and guides of our own youth, thus best serve our country, and thus most effectually diffuse over our land light, and truth, and virtue."

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, 1782–1851.

John JAMEs AUDUBox, author of the splendid work on the birds of America, was born in New Orleans on the 4th of May, 1780, of French parents, and received his education at Paris. Returning in his eighteenth year, he settled on a farm, purchased for him by his father, a few miles north of Philadelphia, where the Perkioming falls into the Schuylkill, and here commenced that series of drawings of the numerous birds with which the woods around him were filled,— drawings which finally resulted in his magnificent collection of The Birds of America. Here, too, he was married, and here was born his eldest son. He soon engaged in commercial business; but, being unsuccessful, he resolved to seek his fortunes in the West. As early as 1810, he sailed down the Ohio in an open boat, with his wife and child, in search of a congenial spot in those then almost wilderness regions in which to fix his home and pursue the researches to which he gave all his energies.

1 From A Tribute to the Memory of Daniel H. Barnes, delivered at the annual meeting of the High School Society, November, 1829. Mr. Barnes originated. and conducted for some years with great reputation, the High School of New York; was a classical scholar of high attainments, a member of the New York Lyceum of Natural History, and said to be at that time the first conchologist in the United States. He was elected President of Columbia College in Washington. D.C., but declined the appointment, preferring to remain in the institution (the High School) to which he had been devoted from its foundation.

In “Harper's Magazine” for January, 1859, is a long and admirably-written article upon the teacher's office, from which I must make a short extract:—“The ideal view of the teacher's office is one of the noblest and grandest that can enter the human mind. Call it the highest of earthly offices, call it the chieftainship among those intellectual and moral forces that have the stability, welfare, glory of society committed to their guidance and support, and the language, so far from approaching the borders of extravagance and bombast, is justified by the decisions of the most sober reason. . . . Men are opening their eyes to the fact that education does a much grander work for man as man than for man as artisan, physician, lawyer, statesman; and the truth is slowly vindicating itself that it is a mightier instrumentality for the family than for the state. We hail this as a significant indication of a brighter era. Of all causes that have tended to enfeeble the power of the teacher and to restrict the scope of education, the general sentiment that the whole system was simply designed to make respectable citizens has been most pernicious. Happily for the age, a broader and sounder view is taking hold on the public mind. It is one step toward freedom from the bondage of a material civilization; and, if faithfully pursued, we shall soon see teaching regarded as the apostleship of God's providence.”

From that time, his career was one of adventure, romantic incident, and varied fortune. Hardly a region in the United States was left unvisited by him, and the most inaccessible haunts of nature were continually disturbed by this adventurous and indefatigable ornithologist, to whom a new discovery or a fresh experience was only the incentive to greater ardor and renewed efforts in his favorite departInent of science.

In 1824, he visited Philadelphia with his drawings; but, not receiving much encouragement, he went to New York, where he “met with a kindness well suited to elevate his depressed spirits.” In 1826, he sailed for Europe, where his work—The Birds of Americal—procured him a generous reception from the most distinguished men of science and letters. In 1829, he returned home; and, after other explorations of the woods in various parts of the country for four years, he published the second volume of his great work in 1834,” the third in 1835, and the fourth and last in 1838.” In 1839, he purchased a beautiful place on the Hudson, a little above New York, and commenced a smaller edition of his Birds, which was completed in 1844, in seven imperial octavo volumes. In this delightful suburban residence he spent the latter years of his life, and died on the 27th of January, 1851, leaving hehind him a name which is a rich legacy to science and art."

THE HUMMING-BIRD.

Where is the person who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and instantly turn his mind with reverence toward the almighty Creator, the wonders. of whose hand we at every step discover, and of whose sublime conceptions we everywhere observe the manifestations in his admirable system of creation ? There breathes not such a person; so kindly have we all been blessed with that intuitive and noble feeling, admiration

No sooner has the returning sun again introduced the vernal season, and caused millions of plants to expand their leaves and

It was published in numbers, each containing five colored plates of large folio size. The first of these appeared in 1825, and the first volume in 1829.

* In this year (1834) he completed his Ornithological Biography, in two volumes.

* The whole work has four hundred and thirty-five plates, and contains one thousand and sixty-five distinct specimens, from the humming-bird to the eagle. The subscription-price for the four volumes was one thousand dollars. The number of subscribers was about one hundred and seventy. - * “I cannot but think that his countrymen made too little account of his death. It was perhaps, however, not to be expected that the multitude, who knew nothing of his services, should pay him their tributes of gratitude and respect; but it was to be supposed that our scientific societies and our artist associations would at least propose a monument to one who was so rare an ornament to both. Yet, if they were neglectful, there are those who will not be, and who will long cherish his name; and, in the failure of all human memorials, as it has been elsewhere said, the little wren will whisper it about our homes, the robin and the reed-bird pipe it from the meadows, the ring-dove will coo it from the dewy depths of the woods, and the mountain-eagle scream it to the stars.”—Hones of American Authors.

blossoms to his genial beams, than the little humming-bird is seen advancing on fairy wings, carefully visiting every opening flower-cup, and, like a curious florist, removing from each the injurious insects that otherwise would ere long cause their beauteous petals to droop and decay. Poised in the air, it is observed peeping cautiously, and with sparkling eye, into their innermost recesses, whilst the ethereal motions of its pinions, so rapid and so light, appear to fan and cool the flower, without injuring its fragile texture, and produce a delightful murmuring sound, well adapted for lulling the insects to repose. * * *

The prairies, the fields, the orchards and gardens, nay, the deepest shades of the forests, are all visited in their turn, and everywhere the little bird meets with pleasure and with food. Its gorgeous throat in beauty and brilliancy baffles all competition. Now it glows with a fiery hue, and again it is changed to the deepest velvety black. The upper parts of its delicate body are of resplendent changing green; and it throws itself through the air with a swiftness and vivacity hardly conceivable. It moves from one flower to another like a gleam of light, upwards, downwards, to the right, and to the left. In this manner it searches the extreme northern portions of our country, following with great precaution the advances of the season, and retreats with equal care at the approach of autumn.

THE MOCKING-BIRD.

It is where the great magnolia shoots up its majestio trunk, crowned with evergreen leaves, and decorated with a thousand beautiful flowers that perfume the air around; where the forests and fields are adorned with blossoms of every hue; where a genial warmth seldom forsakes the atmosphere; where berries and fruits of all descriptions are met with at every step; in a word, it is where nature seems to have paused, as she passed over the earth, and, opening her stores, to have strewed with unsparing hand the diversified seeds from which have sprung all the beautiful and splendid forms which I should in vain attempt to describe, that the mocking-bird should have fixed its abode, there only that its wondrous song should be heard. But where is that favored land Ž It is, reader, in Louisiana. It is there that you should listen to the love-song of the mocking-bird, as I at this moment do. See how he flies round his mate, with motions as light as those of the butterfly His tail is widely expanded, he mounts in the air to a small distance, describes a circle, and, again alighting, approaches his beloved one, his eyes gleaming with delight; for she has already promised to be his and his only. His beautiful wings are gently raised, he bows to his love, and, again bouncing upwards, opens his bill and pours forth his melody, full of exultation at the conquest which he has made. They are not the soft sounds of the flute or the hautboy that I hear, but the sweeter notes of nature's own music. The mellowness of the song, the varied modulations and gradations, the extent of its compass, the great brilliancy of execution, are unrivalled. There is probably no bird in the world that possesses all the musical qualifications of this king of song, who has derived all from nature's self. Yes, reader, all ! No sooner has he again alighted, and the conjugal contract has been sealed, than, as if his breast was about to be rent with delight, he again pours forth his notes with more softness and richness than before. He now soars higher, glancing around with a vigilant eye, to assure himself that none has witnessed his bliss. When these love-scenes are over, he dances through the air, full of animation and delight, and, as if to convince his lovely mate that, to enrich her hopes, he has much more love in store, he that moment begins anew, and imitates all the notes which nature has imparted to the other songsters of the grove.

THE WOOD-THRUSH.

This bird is my greatest favorite of the feathered tribes of our woods. To it I owe much. How often has it revived my drooping spirits, when I have listened to its wild notes in the forest, after passing a restless night in my slender shed, so feebly secured against the violence of the storm as to show me the futility of my best efforts to rekindle my little fire, whose uncertain and vacilJating light had gradually died away under the destructive weight of the dense torrents of rain that seemed to involve the heavens and the earth in one mass of fearful murkiness:–how often, after such a night, when, far from my dear home, and deprived of the presence of those nearest to my heart, wearied, hungry, drenched, I have been obliged to wait with the patience of a martyr for the return of day, silently counting over the years of my youth, doubting, perhaps, if ever again I should return to my home and embrace my family –how often, as the first glimpses of morning gleamed doubtfully amongst the dusky masses of the forest-trees, has there come upon my ear, thrilling along the sensitive cords which connect that organ with the heart, the delightful music of this harbinger of day !—and how fervently, on such occasions, have I blessed the Being who formed the wood-thrush, and placed it in those solitary forests, as if to console me amidst my privations, to cheer my depressed mind, and to make me feel, as I did, that man never should despair, whatever may be his situation, as he can never be certain that aid and deliverance are not at hand.

The wood-thrush seldom commits a mistake after such a storm ; for no sooner are its sweet notes heard than the heavens gradually clear, the bright refracted light rises in gladdening rays from beneath the distant horizon, the effulgent beams increase in their intensity, and the great orb of day at length bursts on the sight. The gray vapor that floats along the ground is quickly dissipated, the world smiles at the happy change, and the woods are soon heard to echo the joyous thanks of their many songsters. At that moment all fears vanish, giving place to an inspiriting hope. The hunter prepares to leave his camp. He listens to the woodthrush, while he thinks of the course which he ought to pursue; and, as the bird approaches to peep at him, and learn somewhat his intentions, he raises his mind toward the Supreme Disposer of events. Seldom, indeed, have I heard the song of this thrush, without feeling all that tranquillity of mind to which the secluded situation in which it delights is so favorable. The thickest and darkest woods always appear to please it best. The borders of murmuring streamlets, overshadowed by the dense foliage of the lofty trees growing on the gentle declivities, amidst which the sunbeams seldom penetrate, are its favorite resorts. There it is that the musical powers of this hermit of the woods must be heard to be fully appreciated and enjoyed.

DANIEL WEBSTER, 1782–1852.

This most distinguished of all American statesmen and orators, the son of Ebenezer and Abigail Webster, was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire, on the 18th of January, 1782. It was early remarked that he had uncommon endowments, and in his fourteenth year he was placed in Phillips Exeter Academy, at that time under the care of Dr. Benjamin Abbot, to prepare for college. He entered Dartmouth College in 1797; and when he graduated in 1801, a high future was predicted for him by the more sagacious of his classmates. He immediately entered upon his legal studies, and, in 1805, began the practice of his profession in the village of Boscawen, whence he removed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in September, 1807. Here he resided nine years, enjoying the friendship and profiting by the rivalry of such men as Samuel Dexter, Joseph Story, Jeremiah Smith, and Jeremiah Mason.

It was in the extra session of the thirteenth Congress, which met in May, 1813, that Mr. Webster commenced his political career, as a representative from New Hampshire. He was placed on the Committee of Foreign Affairs, an evidence of the high estimation in which he was held, our country being then at war with “reat Britain. He delivered his maiden speech on the 10th of June, 1813, aud at once assumed a front rank amongst debaters. His speeches—chiefly on

« 上一頁繼續 »