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more applicable than the awful reflections of Dr.
Lorenzo! such the glories of the world!
The spade, the plough, disturb our ancestors;
ON THE BEAUTY AND VARIETY OF
Behold! ye pilgrims of this earth, behold!
AMID the vast profusion of beautiful objects in ⚫ the creation, no one seems more admirably formed to attract the attention of a Contemplative Philoso
pher, than the Papilio or Butterfly. The beauty of this insect, the splendour and astonishing variety of its colours, its elegant form, its sprightly air, with its roving and fluttering life, all unite to captivate the least observant eye. A collection of butterflies, such as that in the British Museum, or in Mr. Bullock's Museum, is a spectacle for the most philosophic mind. These insects, indeed, seem to vie with each other in beauty of tints and elegance of shape.
The butterflies of China, and particularly those of America, on the river Amazon, are remarkable for their size, and for the richness and vivid lustre of their colours. Nor is it too bold an assertion, perhaps, that the butterflies of these hot climates afford instances of the most perfect art of colouring that even Deity itself can produce. But no description can be adequate to that of which the sight alone can form a competent idea. Hence, in the oriental countries, where the butterfly is so much larger and more beautiful than ours, it is no wonder, that it forms a principal ornament of their poetry.
To this superiority, as well as to the evanescent and fragile splendour of the butterfly, Lord Byron alludes in the following exquisite simile:
As rising on its purple wing
The insect queen of eastern spring,
The blue-winged butterfly of Kashmeer, the most rare and beautiful of the species.
If won, to equal ills betrayed,
Nature, in these insects, seems to have been fond to sport in the artificial mixture and display of her most radiant treasures. In some, what elaborate harmony of colouring, what brilliancy of tints, what soft and gradual transitions from one to another! In the wings of others we may observe the lustre and variety of all the colours of gold, and silver, and azure, and mother of pearl; the eyes that sparkle on the peacock's tail; the edges bordered with shining silks and furbelows, the blended dies of Hungary point, and the magnificence of the richest fringe. In China, the finest and most extraordinary of these insects are sent to court, and applied to the decorations of the emperor's palace.
But with whatever admiration we view this beautiful insect with the naked eye, how greatly is the admiration augmented, when we examine it through the microscope! Would an uninformed
spectator ever imagine, that the wings of the butterfly are furnished with feathers! And yet this is the opinion of some celebrated naturalists. That beautiful dust, say they, with which the wings of the butterfly are covered, and to which they owe both their opacity and variegated colouring, is an innumerable cluster of extremely small feathers, which cannot be discovered but by the microscope. The structure and arrangement of these feathers are described to be as perfect in symmetry, as they are beautiful in colouring; the parts which form their centre, and which immediately touch the wing, to be the strongest; those, on the contrary, which form the exterior circumference, to be more delicate, and of an extraordinary fineness. All these feathers, moreover, are said to have a quill at their root; and it is added, that if we seize the wing too roughly, we destroy the most delicate part of the plumage; but that if we wipe off all that was supposed to be powder, nothing remains but a fine and transparent membrane, where we may easily discern the little cavities or sockets, in which the quill of each feather was fixed. This membrane, from the manner in which it is embroidered, is represented to be almost as easily distinguished from the rest of the wing, as fine lace from the cloth upon which it is stretched. It is likewise said to be more porous and more delicate; to have the appearance of having been wrought by a needle; and to be terminated on the outline by a fringe, the threads of which are infinitely fine, and succeed each other with the most perfect regularity. Other naturalists, on the contrary, maintain that this seeming powder is a profusion of variouslycoloured scales; but formed, however, in such a manner, as easily to deceive the eye by the appearance of feathers. The upper and under parts of
the wing are equally furnished with these, and there is no species of this insect, in every wing of which there are not several figures of these feathers or scales in several parts.
In down of ev'ry variegated die
Shines flutt'ring soft, the gaudy butterfly:
How much inferior must be the most magnificent robes, wrought by mortal hands, compared to the beautiful dress, with which Nature has invested the butterfly. Our richest laces are but coarse cloth, and our finest threads but cord, compared to the delicate texture that covers the wings of this insect. Such is the extreme difference to be observed between the works of Nature and those of Art, when we contemplate them through a microscope, that, while the first are finished to our utmost ideas of perfection, the latter, and even the most admirable of their kind, seem to be clumsily performed. But as this wonderful difference has been noticed in a former Paper, I need not enlarge on the subject here.
What is most astonishing in these wonderful insects is, that yesterday perhaps, they were produced from an abject and contemptible worm. But now they bear aloft their painted glories,
Of all the varied dies, Their beauty-beaming parent can disclose.
The powder or down on the wings of the lepidoptera, or scaly-winged insects, is now allowed to be composed of very minute scales, and not of feathers, which differ in size and form in the different species.
• See No. XXXI.