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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/521

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THE COW-PEN BIRD.

Icterus pecoris,

PLATE XCIX. Male and Female.


The works of Nature are evidently perfect in all their parts. From the manifestations of consummate skill everywhere displayed, we must infer that the intellect which planned the grand scheme, is infinite in power; and even when we observe parts or objects which to us seem unnecessary, superfluous, or useless, it would be more consistent with the ideas which we ought to have of our own feeble apprehension, to consider them as still perfect, to have been formed for a purpose, and to execute their intended function, than to view them as abortive and futile attempts.

The seed is dropped on the ground. It imbibes moisture, swells, and its latent principle of life receiving an impulse, slowly unfolds. Its radicle shoots down into the earth, its plumule rises toward the sky. The first leaflets appear, and as we watch its progress, we see it assuming size and strength. Years pass on, and it still enlarges. It produces flowers and fruits, and gives shelter to multitudes of animated beings. At length it stands the glory of the forest, spreading abroad its huge arms, covering with its dense foliage the wild animals that retreat to it for protection from the sun and the rain. Centuries after its birth, the stately tree rears its green head to the sky. At length symptoms of decay begin to manifest themselves. The branches wither, the core dies and putrefies. Grey and shaggy lichens cover its trunk and limbs. The Woodpecker resorts to it for the purpose of procuring the insects which find shelter beneath its decayed bark. Blackness spreads over the heavens, the muttering of the thunder is heard. Suddenly there comes on the ear the bickering noise of the whirlwind, which scatters the twigs and the foliage around, and meeting in its path the patriarch of the forest, lays him prostrate on the ground. For years the massy trunk lies extended on the earth; but it is seen gradually giving way. The summer's sun and the winter's frost crumble it into dust, which goes to augment the soil. And thus has it finished its course.

Look again at the egg of the bird, dropped on its curious bed, the construction of which has cost the parent bird many labours and anxieties.