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13. The Mississippi alligators, which grow to the length of fourteen or fifteen feet, are the most fierce and voracious of the whole group; yet on land they are timid, and usually flee from the presence of man. During the heat of the day, these animals, if undisturbed, lie stretched and languid on the banks, or in the mud on the shores of the rivers and lagoons; but when evening comes they begin to move; and at this time, in certain seasons of the year, they commence a terrific roaring, which is described as a compound of the sounds of the bull and the bittern, but far louder than either. At this time two males will sometimes engage in fierce battle, usually in shallow water, and in these desperate fights not unfrequently both are killed. When the alligator closes its jaws upon an object, they can with difficulty be wrenched asunder, even by a lever of considerable length.
14. It is known that the crocodile of the Nile, which sometimes grows to the length of thirty feet, was regarded as
by the Egyptians, and that, when caught young, it was sometimes so trained as to march in the ranks of their religious processions. The gavial of the Ganges, which equals in size the Egyptian crocodile, though often represented as one of the scourges of that celebrated river, is not dangerous to man or the larger quadrupeds, although it is true that the dying Hindoos exposed upon its banks, and the dead body committed to its waters are its frequent prey.
15. There is a small animal in Egypt, called the ichneumon, which bears some resemblance to the weasel tribe, and which feeds upon birds, reptiles, and also upon eggs. It is particularly serviceable in restraining the multiplication of the crocodile by devouring its eggs, and also the young crocodile when newly hatched. This fact in natural history has been made use of in the following poem to illustrate the principle that it is much easier to remove an evil at its beginning than when it has grown to great proportions. The moral at the close of the poem may well be commended to the young. 1 SAU'-BI-An, from the Greek sauros, a liz- 6 CIR-EUM-SPĚE'-TION, caution. ard; an animal of the lizard kind.
7 Vìs'-, sticky like glue. 2 COM-PLĀ'-CEN-CY, pleasure; satisfaction. 8 CĒN'-TI-PĒD, an insect having a hundred 3 PrĚJ'-U-DĪCE, an opinion formed without feet; or one that has many feet.
9 PRO-TŪ'-BER-ANCE, a bunch or knob. *ĂD'-E-QUATE, correct; adequate ideas are 10 AL-LI'-ANCE, relationship.
such as exactly represent their object. 11 Ex-€LŪ'-$ion, a thrusting out; hatching · €OP-ZI-LY, snugly; comfortably. 112 Năs'-OENT, young; beginning to grow.
LESSON V;-THE CROCODILE AND THE ICHNEUMON.
A long time ago lived a fierce crocodile,
His tears were but water—there all could agree.
The herd feared to graze in the pasture so green,
On the banks of the Nile as this creature spread o'er.
Though some in their blindness thought fit to adore’ him;
His votaries to eat-it was serving them right.
The reptile must travel – how could he do less ?
The careless inhabitants there to beguile.*
To conquer each monster that came to their shore,
Was called to convenes of the heads of the nation.
They failed to distinguish the wrong from the right;
Of measures and means to secure the dominion.
And your griefs are, I fear me, past present redress;
Than valor itself is a far greater blessing.
Great war on a mighty great foe to be making;
While the crocodile lies in an egg of small size,
To crush him at once you should never despise.
Yet I cope with this monster, for such is my nature;
I think there should be a brief moral appended;
MRS. J. L. GRAY. 1 SCRÜ'-PLE, to doubt; to hesitate. 14 BE-GUILE', deceive; impose upon. 2 A-DORE', to worship as divine.
5 CON-VĒNE', assemble. 3 VO'-TA-RIES,
those devoted to him; his wor- 6 €ÕPE, oppose with success. shipers.
LESSON VI.—A LETTER ABOUT THE OPHIDIANS.
Scale of Feet. THE OPHIDIANS, OR SERPENTS.—1. The Cobra-de-Capel’lo, or Hooded Serpent of India, Naja tripudians. 2. The Vaia Haje of Africa. 3. The Rattlesnake of America, Crotalus durissus. 4. European Black Viper, Pelias berus.
Dellwild, June 28th, 18, 1. MY YOUNG FRIEND,—I am gratified to learn from you, in response to my last letter, that the brief description which I have given of the Saurian reptiles has not been devoid of interest to you. Let me say to you, then, in this place, by way of further encouragement, that when you come to the subject of Geology, and find that the fossil remains of the Saurians, some of them of monster size, throw much light upon the history of the earth's formation, you will begin to realize something of the true importance of this and kindred portions of natural history, and see beauties in them which I can not expect you now to appreciate. But I must proceed to the subject set apart for this letter—the Ophidians, or Serpents, which comprise the third order of the class of reptiles.
2. In the little space which I can devote to this order in one letter, I can do little more than take a general view of the subject, and give you drawings of a few species. This you may not regret, as the very name of serpent, or snake, almost makes some people shudder; and I am not surprised that you should ask, "What can' there be interesting about such creatures"?»* I shall not attempt here to combat prejudices which seem so natural, and which were perhaps designed by the Great Author of our being.
3. Although many of the serpents are of the most resplendent coloring, and although, deprived of feet, fins, or other obvious members” for walking, they glide on the earth, ascend trees, and even direct their course through the waters with surprising agility and with graceful evolutions, yet the serpent was cursed above every beast of the field;" and man, as if remembering this curse and the lamentable event which caused it, turns from the reptile with disgust and horror, or seeks to effect its instant destruction.
4. But, strange as it may appear, while in every country, ancient and modern, serpents have been viewed with aversion, no other class of animals has furnished man with so many varied emblems, mythological symbols, and allegories. In Hindoo mythology the god Chrisna is sometimes represented entwined by a large cobra, which is fixing its poisoned fangs in the heel; and again the god is represented as crushing the head of the serpent, while he triumphantly tears the creature from his body-emblems which seem to spring from the great prophetic promise of Scripture, “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
* See Notes to Rules III. and IV.
5. In Grecian mythology snakes armed the hand of Discord; and both the Gorgons and the avenging Furies were represented with snakes wreathed around their heads instead of hair. As an emblem of prudence and circumspection, as well as from their reputed medicinal virtues, they were the attribute of Æsculapius, the father of medicine; entwined around the wand of Mercury, they were the type of insinuating eloquence;
and from the venomous powers of many, they were used as the symbol of torment. Among the Egyptians the serpent was the emblem of fertility; while the circle formed by a snake biting its own tail-without beginning or endwas the chosen symbol of eternity.
6. The renowned Pythian games of Greece were fabled to have been established in commemoration of the slaying of the monster serpent Python by the arrows of Apollo. The slaying of the nine-headed Lernean hydra was the second of the twelve labors imposed upon Hercules. One of the most remarkable groups in sculpture which time has spared to us is “the Laocoon,” which represents the Apollonian priest, Laocoon, and his two sons, in the folds of two enormous serpents which had issued from the sea. The story is thus told by Virgil, as translated by Dryden:
66 Then (dreadful to behold !) from sea we spied
And to Laocoon and his children make :
And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies." 9. Among the Mexicans the serpent was the basis of their hideous and bloody religion. The supreme Mexican idol, Mexitli, was represented encircled and guarded by serpents, before which were offered human sacrifices.