[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
HAS long been in favour with man for the delicacy of its food; the Lac Lucrin used to be as much in renown among the Romans for the choicest kind of Oysters, as the Cancale shores with the French, and the Colchester beds with us. It is a bivalve shell fish, and grows sometimes to a very large size; in the East Indies they sometimes measure near two feet in diameter. Fixed to a rock from the moment it has been spawned, the Oyster is deprived of loco-motion, and by that circumstance, as well as by the stony nature of its heavy shell, unites the confines of the animal kingdom to those of the minerals. It is supposed (and here with some appearance of reason), that the Oyster possesses the faculties of both sexes, as the hermaphrodite flowers; but this is a mere analogical opinion, which remains still ungrounded and therefore uncertain. – A modern author has jocosely asked,
“ – but who can tell
What thoughts amuse the Oyster in her shell;
Whilst, lonely pendent from weed-fringed rocks,
Unmov’d she dares the storm’s tremendous shocks;
Or when, the tide, fast ebbing from her bed,
She views the sun-beams in her pearly shed?
Does fear, with throbbings, shake her panting heart?
Does love at her e’er shoot th’ unerring dart?
Or joyless, void of sense, and free from strife,
Leads she a doubtful, dull, unconscious life?”
It is probable that, with all his ingenuity, man will never be able to solve this natural problem. However several modern naturalists are of opinion that through the whole of the creation, whatever enjoys sensitive life, is by Providence, proportionally endowed with the faculty of thinking, and, as far as this opinion may enlarge our mind, and increase our sense of admiration for the Creator, it is not to be rejected without consideration; but does the vine feel the pruning knife of the gardener, or the rose shrink at the fingers that nip it off from the stalk? Who can tell? All these are involved in an unravelable mystery.