Page images

versatility of notes, or natural imitative powers, does not appear. (Goldsmith.)

Although the parrot is chiefly remarkable for his learning to speak by rote, yet the account which Locke has given from an author of great note, of a parrot in Brazil, would lead us to conclude that these birds are capable of a considerable degree of reflexion. Indeed it would scarcely be credited, if it was not supported by such authority.

"I had a mind (says he) to know from Prince Maurice's own mouth, the account of a common, but much credited story, that I had heard so often from many others, of an old parrot he had in Brazil, during his government there, that spoke, and asked, and answered common questions like a reasonable creature; so that those of his train there, generally concluded it to be witchery or possession; and one of his chaplains, who lived long afterwards in Holland, would never from that time endure a parrot, but said they all had a devil in them. I had heard many particulars of this story, and assevered by people hard to be discredited, which made me ask Prince Maurice what there was of it. He said, with his usual dryness and plainness in talk, that there was something true but a great deal false of what had been reported. I desired to know of him, what there was of the first? He told me short and coldly, that he had heard of such an old parrot when he came to Brazil, and though he believed nothing of it, and it was a good way off, yet he had so much curiosity as to send for it; that it was a very great and a very old one, and when

it came first into the room where the Prince was, with a great many Dutchmen about him, it said pre

[ocr errors]

sently, What a company of white men are here!' -They asked it what he thought that man was, pointing at the Prince :-it answered, 'Some general or other.' When they brought it close to him, he asked it, D'ou venez-vous?'-it answered,

[ocr errors]


Marinnan.' (The Prince.) A qui êtes-vous?'(Parrot.) A un Portugais.'-(Prince.) Que fais-tu là ?'—(Parrot.) 'Je garde les poules :'-The Prince laughed and said, 'Vous gardez les poules?'--The parrot answered, 'Oui moi, et je sais bien faire ;'— and made the chuck four or five times, that people use to make to chickens when they call them.-I set down the words of this worthy dialogue in French, just as Prince Maurice said them to me. I asked him in what language the parrot spoke, and he said in Brazilian; I asked whether he understood Brazilian; he said, No: but he had taken care to have two interpreters by him, the one a Dutchman that spoke Brazilian, and the other a Brazilian that spoke Dutch; that he asked them separately and privately, and both of them agreed in telling him just the same thing that the parrot said. I could not but tell this odd story, because it is so much out of the way, and from the first hand, and what may pass for a good one; for I dare say this prince, at least, believed himself in all he told me, having ever passed for a very honest and pious man; I leave it to naturalists to reason, and to other men to believe, as they please upon it; however,

it is not perhaps amiss to relieve or enliven a busy scene sometimes with such digressions, whether to the purpose or no.

Of all animals, with whose history and manners we are properly acquainted, the elephant is most remarkable both for docility and intelligence. On this subject, however, I shall be very brief, as it is needless to repeat the various anecdotes which are to be found in works of natural history relative to this animal.

In the East, the elephant not only contributes to the state and pomp of princes, but is employed in various useful labours requiring art and strength. He lades a boat in a river with surprising dexterity, carefully keeping all the articles dry, and disposing them so judiciously that their arrangement seldom needs to be changed. In raising wheeled carriages, heavily loaded, up an acclivity, he pushes the carriage forward with his front, advances, supports it with his knee, and renews his effort. When dragging a beam of wood along the ground, he removes obstacles to make it run smoothly and easily.

The elephant loves his keeper. He distinguishes the tones of command, of anger, and of approbation, and regulates his actions by his perceptions. His attachment and affection are sometimes so strong and durable that he has been known to die of grief when, in an unguarded fit of rage, he had killed his keeper. He is more easily tamed by mildness than by blows. He is proud and ambitious, yet so grateful for good

* Locke's Essay, Chap. xxvii.

usage, that he has been often known to bow the head in passing houses where he had been hospitably received. Elephants are remarkably fond of children, and seem to discern the innocence of their manners. They often allow themselves to be led and commanded by a child, and sometimes act as its keeper. Dr. Darwin assures us that it is not uncommon for the keeper of an elephant, in his journey in India, to leave him fixed to the ground by a length of chain, when he goes into the woods to collect food for him, with a child yet unable to walk, under his protection; and the intelligent animal not only defends it, but as the child creeps about, when it arrives at the extremity of his chain, he wraps his trunk gently round its body, and brings it again into the centre of his circle.

A very affecting story is told by Pliny. Elephants used to be exhibited at Rome to be driven about in the circus, and slain with darts. A number of these animals were on one occasion, exhibited in this way by Pompey; and when they found themselves destined to immediate death, they made a vigorous effort to break through the iron railing in which they were enclosed: frustrated in the attempt, with a wailing voice, and in a suppliant posture, they seemed to implore the compassion of the spectators; and so impulsively were the whole people affected with the distress and sensibility of those majestic animals, that with one assent, they arose, and in tears imprecated destruction on the head of the magnificent general,

who entertained them with that splendid spectacle ;imprecations, says the historian, which soon after took effect.

D'Obsonville says, that in Laknaor, the capital of Soubah, during the rage of an epidemic disease, the principal road to the palace gate was covered with sick and dying wretches, extended on the ground, and unable to move, at a time when the nabob was to pass on his elephant. The cold selfishness of the prince, the haste with which he was to pass, and the heavy steps of the elephant, seemed to threaten inevitable death to a number of the miserable subjects. But the noble animal, without receiving any command to the purpose, and even without slackening his pace, dexterously assisted the poor creatures with his trunk, removing some, raising others, and stepping over the rest, so that none suffered the slightest injury.

On taking a review of most, if not all, the actions of the lower animals we have been last considering, I think it must be obvious, that whether we allow them reason or not, the actions themselves comprehend those elements of Reason, if I may so speak, which we commonly refer to rational beings. So that if the same actions had been done by our fellow creatures, we should have ascribed them without hesitation to motives and feelings worthy of a rational nature. It is certain that most of these animals in their several rational acts (if I may call them such) show every outward sign of consciousness or knowledge

« PreviousContinue »