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prehension the eagle might be but a lark, the whale but a minnow, and the mammoth but a mite, compared to the creatures that once inhabited the air, the ocean, and the earth, in the ages that have long winged their way to eternity
Well! I lost sight altogether of this “Enormous Head” for some years, and did not expect to see the like again, until one day, visiting this place, I saw the two heads now before me, one that of the spermaceti whale, (Physeter macrocephalus,) the other the skull and lower jaw of the northern whalebone whale, (Balæna mysticetus.)
The strong resemblance of the latter convinced me that the “ Enormous head” was nothing more than the head of a whale.
I have entered my name in the book, kept in the hall for the purpose of receiving the signatures of visitors; given a glance at the gilded idol, and the mysterious impression made by his foot; ascended the staircase ; paused a moment opposite the musk ox, polar bear, and gigantic fernsprays, and am now opposite the elephant and giraffes, sometimes regarding them with attention, and sometimes leaning my head backwards to admire the painted ceiling, whereon the fall of Phaeton, and the synod of heathen gods, are beautifully painted.
Youth, maturity, and age, all press forward to see the British Museum. There is a perfect throng now upon the staircase. Holiday and cheerfulness may be seen in almost every face. A pleasant sight it is to witness human happiness.
Here is a room crowded with curiosities, once the property of savage tribes, living thousands of miles apart from each other! The Esquimaux, the New Zealander, the Otaheitan, and the South American Indian, have all contributed to the collection. Implements of labour, fishing tackle, warlike weapons, and instruments of music are ranged around. The spear, the javelin, the shark-tooth saw, the club, the tomahawk, and the scalping knife, are mingled with bows and arrows, canoes, sledges, fish-hooks, harpoons, and calabashes. Here is a screen made of the feathers of an eagle; there, a dancing dress of the fibres of the cocoanut bark; and yonder are ugly idols, bracelets of boars' tusks, mirrors of black slaty stone, necklaces of seeds and shells, and wooden coats of armour.
Nor are the trophies of war forgotten ; the scalps of the vanquished in battle may here be seen, a species of spoil that is too dear to the cruel and implacable spirit of savage men. How opposed to the fierce hostility and relentless revenge of the untutored Indian, is the merciful injunction, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” Matt. v. 44. And yet the time will come, for the mouth of the Holy One has declared it, when this Christian command shall run through the wigwam and through the world, when the javelin of the savage shall be broken, his bow be snapped in sunder, and his scalping knife be guiltless of his fellow's blood.
" Then, in undisturb'd possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Heard the voice of war again.” In the centre of the room, in a glass case, lies the far-famed Magna Charta, wrung from a tyrannous monarch by the armed hands of his barons; and many a prying eye pores over the time-worn document with
curiosity and wonder. It takes us back to the days when king John, a treacherous and false-hearted king, made, as it were, the land “ desolate because of the fierceness of the oppressor, and because of his fierce anger," Jer. xxv. 38. But his tyranny prevailed not. What a fine burst of language is that, in which the prophet Isaiah rebukes those who are fearful of the oppression of man, and yet forgetful of the goodness of God! “ Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass ; and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy ? and where is the fury of the oppressor ?" Isaiah li. 12, 13.
The painted ceilings, by Charles de la Foss, and the splendid groups of flowers, by James Rosseau, are admirable productions. They remind me of the vivid pencillings of Le Brun, in the palace of Versailles. The more I look on them, the more I like them.
To describe the animals, birds, reptiles, fishes, and insects, the shells, minerals, fossils, petrifactions and antiquities of this place, would be impossible; for there is not one department that would not furnish amusement for a week. They are all classed in a scientific manner; the carnivorous animals are separated from those that are granivorous; and the birds of prey from the aquatic, and those that sing. From the diminutive humming bird to the stately ostrich, the feathered creation may here be seen in all their varied forms and gaudy plumage. The kite in the glass case there, reminds me of an anecdote that has just been related to me.
"A respectable farmer in Scotland, after a walk over his farm, at the beginning of this year's lambing season, and on a very warm morning, fell asleep on a high hill. On awaking, he found that his broad blue bonnet, and a yellow silk handkerchief, which he had placed beside him, were both missing. At first, he suspected they had been taken away in sport by some person on the farm; but, on inquiry, every individual on the farm and in the neighbourhood, who could possibly have approached the spot, denied all knowledge of the missing articles. Some weeks after, our correspondent and a party were ascending a very steep and dangerous rock on the farm, to destroy the nest of a glede, (kite.) Great was his amazement, when the first article taken out of the nest was the missing yellow silk handkerchief; then the broad blue bonnet, with three eggs most comfortably ensconced in it; next appeared an old tartan waistcoat, with tobacco in one pocket, and Orr's Almanac for 1839 in the other, the almanac having the words, scarcely legible, 'J. Fraser,' written upon it; then came a flannel nightcap, marked with red worsted, D. C. J.;' a pair of old white mittens, a piece of a letter with green wax, and the Inverness post-mark, an old red and white cravat, and a miscellaneous assortment of remains of cotton, paper, and other things. This bird had, indeed, been a daring robber, and had carried on his extensive larcenies for a long time with impunity.”
Herculaneum and Pompeii have sent of their longburied stores to add to the costliness of this extended treasure house. Greek and Roman antiquities are here, and numerous idols of metal, stone, and wood; terracottas, sculptures, vases, jars, and urns; with busts and figures, coins and medals, rings and curious scals.
There are also beautiful specimens of precious stones, of all the kinds that are known, so that almost every shade of disposition may find something that will add to its gratification.
One of the most costly curiosities of the place, is the Portland Vase; for two hundred years it was the principal ornament of a palace: it was found in the road between Rome and Frascati. By far the greater number of visitors pass this by, as a thing of little value, yet thousands of pounds would not purchase it.
What a number of mummies are here, and ornamented mummy cases! and yet this is London, and not Egypt. They set one thinking of the pyramids, of the statue of Memnon, and Thebes with her hundred gates, of the idols, Orus, Apis, Isis, and Osiris. Here is a splendid mummy case, half opened, and the embalmed mummy half unswathed.
"And thou hast walk'd about, how strange a story!
In Thebes's streets, three thousand years ago,
And time had not begun to overthrow
Of which the very ruins are tremendous.” It may not be so with all, but it is with many, that the very sight of these remnants of former
drives away much of doubt, and brings much of certainty to the mind. We do, in general, but half credit the annals of antiquity: we are, in a degree, sceptics, while professing to believe the records of Holy Writ; but these mummy cases reprove us, and seem to say to us, “See and believe.” While our sight and senses are, beyond a doubt, convinced that these are the remains of ancient Egypt; our faith is confirmed in the recorded verities of Scripture. Yes, it is a truth, and we feel it as such,