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Touches Of Nature
by [?]

“If the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.”

What is the end of Nature? Where is the end of a sphere? The sphere balances at any and every point. So everything in Nature is at the top, and yet no one thing is at the top.

She works with reference to no measure of time, no limit of space, and with an abundance of material, not expressed by exhaustless. Did you think Niagara a great exhibition of power? What is that, then, that withdraws noiseless and invisible in the ground about, and of which Niagara is but the lifting of the finger?

Nature is thoroughly selfish, and looks only to her own ends. One thing she is bent upon, and that is keeping up the supply, multiplying endlessly and scattering as she multiplies. Did Nature have in view our delectation when she made the apple, the peach, the plum, the cherry? Undoubtedly; but only as a means to her own private ends. What a bribe or a wage is the pulp of these delicacies to all creatures to come and sow their seed! And Nature has taken care to make the seed indigestible, so that, though the fruit be eaten, the germ is not, but only planted.

God made the crab, but man made the pippin; but the pippin cannot propagate itself, and exists only by violence and usurpation. Bacon says, “It is easier to deceive Nature than to force her,” but it seems to me the nurserymen really force her. They cut off the head of a savage and clap on the head of a fine gentleman, and the crab becomes a Swaar or a Baldwin. Or is it a kind of deception practiced upon Nature, which succeeds only by being carefully concealed? If we could play the same tricks upon her in the human species, how the great geniuses could be preserved and propagated, and the world stocked with them! But what a frightful condition of things that would be! No new men, but a tiresome and endless repetition of the old ones,–a world perpetually stocked with Newtons and Shakespeares!

We say Nature knows best, and has adapted this or that to our wants or to our constitution,–sound to the ear, light and color to the eye; but she has not done any such thing, but has adapted man to these things. The physical cosmos is the mould, and man is the molten metal that is poured into it. The light fashioned the eye, the laws of sound made the ear; in fact, man is the outcome of Nature and not the reverse. Creatures that live forever in the dark have no eyes; and would not any one of our senses perish and be shed, as it were, in a world where it could not be used?


It is well to let down our metropolitan pride a little. Man thinks himself at the top, and that the immense display and prodigality of Nature are for him. But they are no more for him than they are for the birds and beasts, and he is no more at the top than they are. He appeared upon the stage when the play had advanced to a certain point, and he will disappear from the stage when the play has reached another point, and the great drama will go on without him. The geological ages, the convulsions and parturition throes of the globe, were to bring him forth no more than the beetles. Is not all this wealth of the seasons, these solar and sidereal influences, this depth and vitality and internal fire, these seas, and rivers, and oceans, and atmospheric currents, as necessary to the life of the ants and worms we tread under foot as to our own? And does the sun shine for me any more than for yon butterfly? What I mean to say is, we cannot put our finger upon this or that and say, Here is the end of Nature. The Infinite cannot be measured. The plan of Nature is so immense,–but she has no plan, no scheme, but to go on and on forever. What is size, what is time, distance, to the Infinite? Nothing. The Infinite knows no time, no space, no great, no small, no beginning, no end.