Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/493

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
475
ÆSTHETICISM AND RELIGION IN ANIMALS.

admiration and fondness of parading their finery are the peacock and the bird of paradise.

The decoration of its boudoir by the bower bird, as described, by Mr. Gould in his History of the Birds of New South Wales, indicates a decided and discriminative preference for bright and variegated objects, and evinces no small amount of æsthetic feeling and artistic taste in selecting and arranging them. The bower is built of sticks and slender twigs gracefully interwoven, so that the tapering points meet at the top, and adorned with the rose-colored tail feathers of the inca cockatoo and the gay plumes of other parrots, tinted shells, bleached bones, rags of divers hues, and whatever gaudy or glittering trinkets may please the bird's fancy. Sometimes the space in front of the bower is covered with half a bushel of things of this sort, laid out like a parterre with winding walks, in which the happy possessor of the garnered treasures struts about with the pride and pleasure of a connoisseur in a gallery of paintings, or a bibliophile who has his shelves filled with incunabula and other rare editions. These objects have often been brought from a great distance, and are of no possible use to the bird except as they gratify its love of the beautiful and appeal to what we call in man the æsthetic sense. Its conduct can be explained in no other way; for the bower is not a nest in which eggs are laid and hatched and young ones reared; it is a salon or place of social entertainment, and thus serves a distinctly ideal purpose.

The singing of birds, as a means of sexual attraction, implies a certain appreciation of melody. Indeed, many of them do not confine themselves to the songs of their species, but learn notes from other birds and snatches of tunes from musical instruments. Canaries can be taught a variety of airs by playing them repeatedly on a piano or on a hurdy-gurdy. They listen with attention and imitate the strains which take their fancy. If harmony or the concord of sweet sounds, as distinguished from melody or the simple succession of sweet sounds, does not enter into bird music, the same may be said of the music of primitive man and of all early nations. Savages, like feathered songsters, sing in unison, but not in accord.

Not only do some species of monkeys, like the chimpanzees and sokos, get up concerts of their own in the depths of the forest, but dogs, which are generally supposed to be decidedly unmusical, also discriminate between tunes and express their preferences or aversions in an unmistakable manner. A friend of mine, who had a magnificent St. Bernard dog, was fond of playing the violoncello. The dog used to lie quietly in the room with closed eyes, and appeared to pay no attention to the music until his master struck up a certain tune, when the dog immediately and invariably sat