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No. 121 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 121
Thursday, July 19, 1711.

‘… Jovis omnia plena.’


As I was walking this Morning in the great Yard that belongs to my Friend’s Country House, I was wonderfully pleased to see the different Workings of Instinct in a Hen followed by a Brood of Ducks. The Young, upon the sight of a Pond, immediately ran into it; while the Stepmother, with all imaginable Anxiety, hovered about the Borders of it, to call them out of an Element that appeared to her so dangerous and destructive. As the different Principle which acted in these different Animals cannot be termed Reason, so when we call it Instinct, we mean something we have no Knowledge of. To me, as I hinted in my last Paper, it seems the immediate Direction of Providence, and such an Operation of the Supreme Being, as that which determines all the Portions of Matter to their proper Centres. A modern Philosopher, quoted by Monsieur Bayle [1] in his learned Dissertation on the Souls of Brutes, delivers the same Opinion, tho’ in a bolder Form of Words, where he says, Deus est Anima Brutorum, God himself is the Soul of Brutes. Who can tell what to call that seeming Sagacity in Animals, which directs them to such Food as is proper for them, and makes them naturally avoid whatever is noxious or unwholesome? Tully has observed that a Lamb no sooner falls from its Mother, but immediately and of his own accord applies itself to the Teat. Dampier, in his Travels, [2] tells us, that when Seamen are thrown upon any of the unknown Coasts of America, they never venture upon the Fruit of any Tree, how tempting soever it may appear, unless they observe that it is marked with the Pecking of Birds; but fall on without any Fear or Apprehension where the Birds have been before them.

But notwithstanding Animals have nothing like the use of Reason, we find in them all the lower Parts of our Nature, the Passions and Senses in their greatest Strength and Perfection. And here it is worth our Observation, that all Beasts and Birds of Prey are wonderfully subject to Anger, Malice, Revenge, and all the other violent Passions that may animate them in search of their proper Food; as those that are incapable of defending themselves, or annoying others, or whose Safety lies chiefly in their Flight, are suspicious, fearful and apprehensive of every thing they see or hear; whilst others that are of Assistance and Use to Man, have their Natures softened with something mild and tractable, and by that means are qualified for a Domestick Life. In this Case the Passions generally correspond with the Make of the Body. We do not find the Fury of a Lion in so weak and defenceless an Animal as a Lamb, nor the Meekness of a Lamb in a Creature so armed for Battel and Assault as the Lion. In the same manner, we find that particular Animals have a more or less exquisite Sharpness and Sagacity in those particular Senses which most turn to their Advantage, and in which their Safety and Welfare is the most concerned.

Nor must we here omit that great Variety of Arms with which Nature has differently fortified the Bodies of several kind of Animals, such as Claws, Hoofs, and Horns, Teeth, and Tusks, a Tail, a Sting, a Trunk, or a Proboscis. It is likewise observed by Naturalists, that it must be some hidden Principle distinct from what we call Reason, which instructs Animals in the Use of these their Arms, and teaches them to manage them to the best Advantage; because they naturally defend themselves with that Part in which their Strength lies, before the Weapon be formed in it; as is remarkable in Lambs, which tho’ they are bred within Doors, and never saw the Actions of their own Species, push at those who approach them with their Foreheads, before the first budding of a Horn appears.