The Romance of Natural History, Second Series

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Source: http://gutenberg.org

Copyright: This work is in the public domain in the USA only.

The extinct -- The marvellous -- Mermaids -- The self-immured -- Hybernation of swallows -- The crested and wattled snake -- The doubtful -- Fascination -- Serpent-charming -- Beauty -- Parasites -- Appendix.

If it is a scene of painful interest, as surely it is to a well-constituted mind, to stand by and watch the death-struggles of one of the nobler brutes,—a dog or an elephant, for example,—to mark the failing strength, the convulsive throes, the appealing looks, the sobs and sighs, the rattling breath, the glazing eye, the stiffening limbs—how much more exciting is the interest with which we watch the passing away of a dying species. For species have their appointed periods as well as individuals: viewed in the infinite mind of God, the Creator, from the standpoint of eternity, each form, each race, had its proper duration assigned to it—a duration which, doubtless, varied in the different species as greatly as that assigned to the life of one individual animal differs from that assigned to the life of another. As the elephant or the eagle may survive for centuries, while the horse and the dog scarcely reach to twenty years, and multitudes of insects are born and die within a few weeks, so one species may have assigned to its life, for aught I know, a hundred thousand years as its normal period, and another not more than a thousand. If creation was, with respect to the species, what I have elsewhere proved it was with respect to the individual,—a violent irruption into the cycle of life—then we may well conceive this to have taken place at very varying relative periods in the life-history of the different species;—that is to say, that at a given date, (viz., that of creation) one species might be just completing, ideally, its allotted course, another just commencing, and a third attaining its meridian.