« PreviousContinue »
THE GOLDEN AGE.
[Joseph Hall, Bishop of Exeter and afterwards of Norwich, was the first English Satirist. In 1597 he published three books of satires, which he called Toothless Satyrs, and in the following year three additional books appeared which he called Byting Satyrs. In the following passage ancient parsimony or thrift is contrasted with the luxury of the Bishop's own time.]
1. Time was, and that was termed the time of gold,
When world and time were young, that now are old:
Of the Dodonian oaks.
But there was challenge made whose it might be. 2. And if some nice and liquorous appetite
Desired more dainty dish of rare delight,
Kept for the Court, and for the king's own board. 3. Their royal plate was clay, or wood, or stone,
The vulgar, save his hand, else he had none.
Was then no ’plaining of the brewer's scape, (cheats)
Under safe shelter of the shady treen.
Men learned to bury the reviving grain,
Thriving in ill as it in age decays.
But fill man's maw, and feed man's idle thought?
To suit a fool's far-fetched livery.
Thy thighs from Germany, and breast from Spain;
Bishop Hall (1574–1656).
Dodonian, belonging to Dodona in Epirus in the N.W. of Greece, famous for its oaks.
Saturn was an ancient king of Italy, whose reign was represented as a period of great happiness and plenty, owing to the freedom from all sin and vice which characterised it. He was afterwards regarded as a god.
1. It is not a common habit of plants to capture insects. Usually they are fed and allowed to depart unharmed. Sometimes the captures must be purely accidental. Thus flies and other weak insects adhering to a sticky exudation from the calyx, or part of the stem of the Catch-fly, are unable to extricate themselves, and so perish. But in other cases the appliances with which plants are provided are so obviously adapted for the purpose, that we cannot but regard the capture of insects as one of the means by which the functions of the plant were intended to be performed.
2. In some plants of the Orchis family it is the flower that serves as a trap. In the Lady's Slipper orchid the insect is entrapped for important purposes connected with the plant, but the detention is only temporary. If it did not escape from one flower to enter into another, the whole purpose of the contrivance would be defeated. Leaf flytraps, however, take the insect's life. Of these, perhaps the most curious examples are found in the celebrated Pitcher-plants, the midrib of whose leaves ends in an elegant cylindrical cup provided with a hinged lid, which opens and closes spontaneously according to the state of the atmosphere.
3. In these pitchers water is generally found, sometimes caught from rain but in other cases evidently furnished by the plant itself. This water abounds with insects,
usually in various stages of decay. One would have supposed that insects which had found their way into the pitcher might as readily have found their way out. But closer observation shows us sharp, stiff hairs on the pitcher's inner side, all pointing away from the mouth and rendering it sufficiently easy for the unhappy insect to enter but making retreat well-nigh impossible.
4. All the species of Sundew must also be regarded as fly-traps. Their leaves and in some instances their stalks also are beset with very short hairs, each of which is tipped with a gland from which oozes a drop of clear but glutinous liquid, making the plant appear as if studded with dew-drops. These remain, glistening in the sun, long after dew-drops would have been dissipated. Enticed, as it would appear, by the glittering drops, small flies, gnats, and other insects stick fast to them and perish by starvation, one would suppose without any benefit whatever to the plant.
5. In the broad-leaved wild species of our bogs, such as the common Round-leaved Sundew, the upper face and edges of the blade of the leaf bear stronger bristles, tipped with a larger glutinous drop, and the whole forms what must be allowed to be a veritable fly-trap. When a small fly alights on the upper face and is held by some of the glutinous drops long enough for the leaf to act, the surrounding bristles slowly bend inwards so as to bring their glutinous tips also against the body of the insect, adding one by one to the bonds, and rendering captivity and death certain.
6. The movement of the bristles must be of the same nature as that by which tendrils and some leaf-stalks bend or coil. It is much too slow to be visible except in the
sult, which takes a few hours or even a day or two to be completed. Here, then, is a contrivance for catching
flies, a most elaborate one, in action slow but sure. And the different species of Sundew offer all gradations between those with merely scattered and motionless dewy-tipped bristles, to which flies may chance to stick, and this more complex arrangement which we cannot avoid regarding as intended for fly-catching. Moreover in some species the
blade of the leaf itself bends over, so as to fold round its victim!
7. Moreover, it seems now to be beyond doubt that the leaves of the common Round-leaved Sundew act differently when different objects are placed upon them. For instance, if a particle of raw meat be substituted for the living fly,