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Some Remarks On Gulls
by [?]




The current estimate of the sea-gull as an intellectual force is compressed into the word “gullibility”–a verbal monument of contempt. But when we think how many things the gull does that we cannot do–how he has mastered the arts of flying and floating, so that he is equally at home in the air and on the water; how cleverly he adapts himself to his environment, keeping warm among the ice-floes in winter and cool when all the rest of the folks at the summer watering-places are sweltering in the heat; how well he holds his own against the encroachments of that grasping animal, man, who has driven so many other wild creatures to the wall, and over it into extinction; how prudently he accepts and utilizes all the devices of civilization which suit him, (such as steamship-lanes across the Atlantic, and dumping-scows in city harbors, and fish-oil factories on the seashore), without becoming in the least civilized himself–in short, when we consider how he succeeds in doing what every wise person is trying to do, living his own proper life amid various and changing circumstances, it seems as if we might well reform the spelling of that supercilious word, and write it “gull-ability.”

But probably the gull would show no more relish for the compliment than he has hitherto shown distaste for the innuendo; both of them being inedible, and he of a happy disposition, indifferent to purely academic opinions of his rank and station in the universe. Imagine a gull being disquieted because some naturalist solemnly averred that a hawk or a swallow was a better master of the art of flight; or a mocking-bird falling into a mood of fierce resentment or nervous depression because some professor of music declared that the hermit thrush had a more spontaneous and inspired song! The gull goes a-flying in his own way and the mocking-bird sits a-singing his roundelay, original or imitated, just as it comes to him; and neither of them is angry or depressed when a critic makes odious comparisons, because they are both doing the best that they know with “a whole and happy heart.” Not so with poets, orators, and other human professors of the high-flying and cantatory arts. They are often perturbed and acerbated, and sometimes diverted from their proper course by the winds of adverse comment.

When Cicero Tomlinson began his career as a public speaker he showed a very pretty vein of humour, which served to open his hearers’ minds with honest laughter to receive his plain and forcible arguments. But someone remarked that his speaking lacked dignity and weight; so he loaded himself with the works of Edmund Burke; and now he discusses the smallest subject with a ponderosity suited to the largest. The charm of Alfred Tennyson Starling’s early lyrics was unmistakable. But in an evil day a newspaper announced that his poetry smelled of the lamp and was deficient in virility. Alfred took it painfully to heart, and fell into a violent state of Whitmania. Have you seen his patient imitations of the long-lined, tumultuous one?

After all, the surest way to be artificial is to try to be natural according to some other man’s recipe.

One reason why the wild children of nature attract our eyes, and give us an inward, subtle satisfaction in watching them, is because they seem so confident that their own way of doing things is, for them at least, the best way. They let themselves go, on the air, in the water, over the hills, among the trees, and do not ask for admiration or correction from people who are differently built. The sea-gulls flying over a busy port of commerce, or floating at ease on the discoloured, choppy, churned-up waves of some great river,

“Bordered by cities, and hoarse
With a thousand cries,”