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hitherto omitted, are here carefully inserted; so that this book may serve as a glossary or expository index to the poetical writers.
VII. To the words, and to the different senses of each word, are subjoined from the large dictionary the names of those writers by whom they have been used; so that the reader who knows the different periods of the language, and the time of its authors, may judge of the elegance or prevalence of any word, or meaning of a word; and without recurring to other books, may know what are antiquated, what are unusual, and what are recommended by the best authority. 1 The words of this dictionary, as opposed to others, are more diligently collected, more accurately spelled, more faithfully explained, and more authentically ascertained. Of an abstract it is not necessary to say more; and I hope, it will not be found that truth requires me to say less.
No XXII. *
ANY naturalists are of opinion, that the animals
which we commonly consider as mute, have the power of imparting their thoughts to one another. That they can express general sensations is very certain ; every being that can utter sounds, has a different voice for pleasure and for pain. The hound informs his fellows when he scents his game; the hen calls her chickens to their food by her cluck, and drives them from danger by her screain.
Birds have the greatest variety of notes; they have indeed a variety, which seems almost fuffcient to make a speech adequate to the purposes of a life, which is regulated by instinct, and can admit little change or improvement. To the cries of birds, curiosity or fiiperItition has been always attentive; many have studied the language of the feathered tribes, and some have boasted that they understood it.
* This paper was omitted when The Idler was reprinted. E.
The most skilful or most confident interpreters of the sylvan dialogues have been commonly found among the philosophers of the east, in a country where the calmness of the air, and the mildness of the seasons, allow the student to pass a great part of the year
in bowers. But what may be done in one place by peculiar opportunities, may be performed in another by peculiar diligence. A shepherd of Bohemia has, by long abode in the forests, enabled himself to understand the voice of birds; at least he relates with great confidence a story, of which the credibility is left to be considered by the learned.
As I was sitting (said he) within a hollow rock, and watching my sheep that fed in the valley, I heard two vultures interchangeably crying on the summit of the cliff. Both voices were earnest and deliberate. My curiosity prevailed over my care of the flock; I climbed slowly and silently from crag to crag, concealed among the shrubs, till I found a cavity where I might fit and listen without suffering, or giving disturbance.
I soon perceived, that my labour would be well repaid; for an old vulture was sitting on a naked prominence, with her young about her, whom she was instructing in the arts of a vulture's life, and preparing, by the last lecture, for their final dismifiion to the mountains and the skies.
My children, said the old vulture, you will the less want my instructions, because you have had my practice before your eyes; you have seen me snatch from the farm the houshold fowl, you have seen me seize the
leveret in the bush, and the kid in the pasure ; you know how to fix your talons, and how to balance your flight when you are laden with your prey. But you remember the taste of more delicious food; I have often regaled you with the Aesh of man. Tell us, said the young vultures, where man may be found, and how he may be known; his Aesh is surely the natural food of a vulture, Why have you never brought a man in your talons to the nest? He is too bulky, said the mother; when we find a man, we can only tear away his flesh, and leave his bones upon the ground. Since man is so big, said the young ones, how do you kill him ? You are afraid of the wolf and of the bear, by what power are vultures superior to man? is man more defenceless than a sheep? We have not the strength of man, returned the mother, and I am sometimes in doubt whether we have the fubtilty; and the vultures would seldom feast
upon his flesh, had not nature, that devoted him to our uses, infused into him a strange ferocity, which I have never observed in any other being that feeds upon the earth. Two herds of men will often meet and shake the earth with noise, and fill the air with fire. When you hear noise and see fire, with flashes along the ground, hasten to the place with your swiftest wing, for men are furely destroying one another; you will then find the ground smoking with blood, and covered with carcaffes, of which many are dismembered and mangled for the convenience of the vulture. But when men have killed their prey, said the pupil, why do they not eat it? When the wolf has killed a Theep, he fuffers not the vulture to touch it till he has fatisfied himself. Is not man another kind of wolf? Man, faid the mother, is the only beast who kills that which he does not devour, and this quality makes him so much a benefactor to our fpecies. If men kill our prey and lay it in our way, said the young one, what need fhall we have of labouring for ourselves ? Becaufe man will, sometimes, replied the mother, remain for a long time quiet in his den. The old vultures will tell you when you are to watch his motions. When you see men in great numbers moving close together, like a flight of storks, you may conclude that they are hunting, and that you will soon revel in human blood. But still, said the young one, I would gladly know the reason of this mutual Naughter. I could never kill what I could not eat. My child, said the mother, this is a question which I cannot answer, though I am reckoned the most subtile bird of the mountain. When I was young, I used frequently to visit the ayry of an old vulture, who dwelt upon the Carpathian rocks; he had made many observations; he knew the places that afforded preţ round his habitation, as far in every direction as the strongest wing can Ay between the rising and setting of the summer sun; he had fed year after year on the entrails of men. His opinion was, that men had only the appearance of animal life, being really vegetables with a power of motion and that as the boughs of an oak are dashed together by the storm, that swine may fatten upon the falling acorns, so men are by fome unaccountable power driven one against another, till they lose their motion, that vultures