Obrazy na stronie

tered at the neighboring brook, and care to the consumption of the woods fitted for fully rubbed down; at about thirty feet its purpose in the vicinity; for the trough distant lay the sheer brink of the preci below was in a state of disrepair, little repice, with its verge undulating and irreg moved from ruin, some young green sapular, as the height of the columnar rocks lings having shot forth between its de forming its fa varied and fringed by cayed timbers; and no piles of logs or a verdure of ferns, mullens, and other lumber testified to its present activity. coarse shrubby plants which love to cast After a little while, as my eye became anchor in the crevices of any rocky soil. accustomed to distances, after the first A little way to the left, forming the high- dizziness had passed over, and the princiest point of the Palisades, just

where the pal features of the spectacle had become verdant gap I have described began to familiar, I began somewhat more curiously descend abruptly to the northward, one to examine and pry into details. splintered pinnacle of gray stone stood The face of the precipice before me was up, some twenty feet ahove the green any thing rather than sterile or naked. sward on the land side, some twice three At every few feet of distance, great perhundred above its base on the river shore; pendicular fissures and crevices ran be close to the rock a stunted juniper shot tween the pillared rocks, which time and out of a crevice in the cliff's face and the gradual decay of vegetable matter had twisted itself upward toward the light, filled with rich, black, fertile soil; and out mantled and draperied with the most lux of this, chance sown, most probably, by uriant profusion of beautiful deciduous the thrush and the blue jay, shrubs and ivy; and between the two there protru trees had taken root years ago, and now ded, considerably beyond the precipice, stretched their green garlands and tortuous what resembled a gigantic spout of mas branches into mid air, the secure home of sive timber. It was, indeed, no less than unnumbered warblers. the hollowed trunk of a huge tree, pol As I leaned forward, more and more ished as smooth as if it had been finished taken with the view, a clod of earth or in a lathe, fastened to the rocks by great block of stone, dislodged by my movebraces, and extending into the clear space ments was detached from the brink, dropmany feet over the sheer walls of basaltic ped plump down, crashing through the limestone. In a word, reader, it was what branches of a white-oak growing some I had never seen, at least in that shape, fifty feet below, and spun away, dwindling before, a timber slide, prepared for launch in size, and twinkling in the sunlight as it ing the hewn trunks over the brink so fell. that they should fall into the trough fash Not long, however, did my eye dwell ioned to receive them, two or three hun on it; for, as the first crash sounded from dred feet below, and so rush into the bosom the oak boughs, an enormous pair of of the receiving river. To contemplate chestnut-colored pinions were unfurled, this, which had waked my special wonder, just in the shadow under it, and, with a after the edge of our appetites had been shrill, fierce, barking scream, an eagle-a appeased by the modicum of ham sand superb, full-plumed, Golden Eagle — shot wiches, and the more than modest sip of out from its eyrie in the inaccessible rocks, brown sherry which our flasks afforded, I and soared calmly and fearlessly, as it crawled forth gingerly and cautiously, seemed, over the blue river, upon which and, leaning over the trunk, grappling the now meridian sun drew a gigantic with both hands the tough roots and picture of its wide, expanded vans. knotty branches of the stunted shrubs on I know not wherefore, or with what inthe edge, gazed down into the abyss. tent-for those were the good old days of

At about midway of the height, there antique Gotham, when something of the commenced a series of slopes, a sort of slumberous style, derived from its Dutch natural glacis, formed by the accumula Patriarchs, só quaintly pictured by the tion of the debris, which had crumbled humorous pen of Irving, still characterized down, winter after winter, through un its people, ere the word Rowdy was yet counted ages, from the crags, under the invented, when the B'hoys were innocent combined action of frost and water; and babies, and folk would as easily have these were covered, for the most part, by thought of riding about in complete suits a scattered growth of young wood. of steel, as of carrying weapons for de

At the water's edge was a little dock, fence-I know not, I say, wherefore, or with a small dwelling and storehouse, and to what intent, but we had a pair of pisa couple of sloops lying at anchor, all tols with us; I believe we had brought dwindled, by the perpendicular distance, them as a means of awakening the mockinto the semblance of baby-houses, and ing answers of those airy voices, which children's cock-boats. The slide had evi men are fond to fancy echoes. dently fallen into disuse, owing, doubtless, At all events, a pistol I had, and thought

less, on the impulse of the moment I dis Once again I beheld him-I say him, charged it at the noble bird. The sound for it always seems to me the same eagle, attracted his attention; I think, moreover, whom I first saw, long years ago, --sailing that the bullet whistled near him, for he through the dark mists over the purple made a short cast upward, flapped his moors of Cumberland and Yorkshire, wings angrily over his back, and rose in where Pennigant and Ingleborough look short gyrations directly above my head. down from their misty peaks on the sources

But, even then, neither in his motions of the silver Aire, or the bare crags of nor his manner, was there the least show Cader Idris afford his chosen eyrie to the of haste or perturbation. He sailed slowly nursling of the storm. Once again I beround and round; I could see him turn held him, above a thousand miles aloof, his hooked beak from side to side, as he where the untrodden heights of the La brought his piercing eyes to bear on the Cloche mountains show their almost perintruder, and I seemed to catch an intelli ennial snows to the voyager on the stormy gent glance from those fierce, flame-colored waters of Lake Huron, and the congenial orbs, which can gaze undazzled on the climate and sublime wilderness of the sun at his meridian.

Northwest acknowledge him for their ap Round and round he floated, with no propriate sovereign. visible movement of his mighty wings,

I knelt in the bow of a birch canoe, though one could see that he steered him propelled by the silent paddle of an Ojibwa self with his broad, fan-like tail, scaling Indian, up the still waters of a winding the air, ring above ring, in those small tributary of the Du François River, the concentric circles, as if he were mounting outlet of Lake Nipissing, with a heavy some viewless, winding, Jacob's ladder, double-barrel in my hand, keeping a bright until at length he literally vanished from look-out, as we doubled every headland our sight, concealed from vision by no of the tortuous stream, for the ducks, jealous, intervening cloud, nor swallowed which kept rising in great flocks before us. up in any blaze of living light too effulgent Suddenly there came a low tap against to be braved by mortal eyes of man, but the side of the canoe, and a guttural exlost in immeasurable distance.

clamation—"How ! mig-a-zeë. An eagle.” Once, after our weary eyes had ceased I looked up, and there he sat, erect, straining themselves in vain, his resonant majestic, looking supremely proud and defying cry came clanging down to us bold, on the very pinnacle of a dead pine from the depths of the, to him, not intren tree, not above a hundred yards distant chant ether, as if challenging us to meet

He saw us clearly, for he turned the radiance of his clear eye, which proba his head, and looked at us steadily with bly distinguished us with ease, where him both his great bright eyes; I could see, or self to our utmost powers invisible. fancied I could see, their tawny glare at That was the first time of my beholding,

that distance. Then he listed one large on this side the Atlantic ocean, that noblest yellow claw, and scratched his head, dropof the feathered race, bird of poets and ped it again to his perch, drew himself up emperors, the golden eagle; and but twice, and shook himself, till every plumelet since that day, has his form met my eyes,

seemed in its place, even and sleek as the which ever greet him with something coat of a high conditioned racer, arched of half-chivalric and loyal devotion, some his proud neck, and gazed about him, thing of half superstitious veneration. without a sign of alarm, as if he saw and

Once, he was wheeling, like the incar dared us to injure him. nate spirit of the thunderstorm, while the For me, he might defy me with imclouds were as mirk as midnight above punity; for I felt in his presence, as Marus, and the lightning was blazing as if at cellus toward the Ghost of Hamlet, that white heat, and the thunder, tearing our

I should ears asunder, rebellowed from Bullhill

“ do it wrong, being so majestical, and Crownest, and the stern heights of

* To offer it the show of violence; " Thunderberg triumphant amid the tempest.

and, even had any shot-gun contained the The canvas of a superb topsail schooner means of harming him at that distance, was split to ribbons in an instant, and a which it did not, I should as soon have tall sloop was dismasted by a gust that thought of firing at a friend, as at that came tearing down a gorge in the hills, dauntless creature. and drove a long streak of snowy foam Not so, however, my Ojibwa. There before it across the moaning river ; but are, to the Indian, few prizes more esnot a feather did it ruffle of the royal fowl, teemed than the tail-feathers of the warlending only, as it seemed, new transport eagle. It is said that, on the prairies, a to his warrior spirit, new power to his good horse has been bartered for that exulting flight.

precious ornament, worn only, as among

from us.

the Scottish Highlanders, by the great The history of the great forest-naturalchiefs of the people.

ist's discovery of this eagle, as related in Such a temptation as this was to be his own graphic words, is equal in interest resisted, at no price; and compensation, to the most exciting romance; while it such as mine, would to my copper-colored displays, in the boldest and most vivid friend have appeared the last descending light, the extraordinary powers of vision. grade of imbecility.

of comparison, of judgment, of memory, Seeing, therefore, the long rifle slowly possessed by that eagle-eyed man, that coming up to the level, and knowing how intuitive discerner of great Nature's secret deadly was that aim when once assured, mysteries. I bided my time, and, just as his finger Gliding along in his canoe at sunset, pressed the trigger, sent forth, from all over the placid bosom of one of our my lungs, a tremendous whoop. The rifle mighty western rivers, the poet-painter flashed, and splinters flew from the stem of the feathered race beholds an unknown of the tree, immediately behind the spot wing, of vaster extent than that of any where, a moment before, the imperial bird established eagle, gliding immeasurably was sitting.

high above him, painted in dark relief But there he sat no longer. The very against the sun-illumined sky-the huge second before the ball was sped he flapped crooked bill, the plumage uniform in hue, his wings once, and launched himself into dark chocolate, tinged with a coppery the air with one indignant scream ; ano

lustre. ther instant, and a cannon shot would not Thus much only, and scarcely thus have reached him.

much. Yet from that one fleeting Words cannot express the glare of in glimpse, the native genius of the wildignation which my Indian comrade derness, with self-confidence equalled launched at me, in reward of that un only by the perfectness of his intuition, timely whoop. Í verily believe, if he had pronounced this half-seen bird, not only suspected it to be premeditated with in a nondescript Eagle, but a nondescript tent to frustrate his shot, he would have Fishing-Eagle, but the greatest of all tried to take summary vengeance on me; Eagles, classified it, named it, “the Bird but, as it was, I continued to look so of Washington," the largest and most stupid, and pretended to be so much dis powerful of the true eagles, and such it appointed, that he set it down to the score has proved to be—for the Condor of the of impatience and premature exultation, Andes, and the Lamergeyer of the Alps, and contented himself with rating me are obscene carrion-eating vultures, in no soundly, and involving himself for the sort birds of Jove. remainder of the day in an impenetrable School naturalists and in-door theorists veil of sulkiness, evinced by his not allow laughed at the woodman-poet, and for ing me to get a shot at duck, and by my many a day, the Bird of Washington was going in consequence supperless to bed. held as much a myth as the roc of Sinbad,

And this brings me definitively to my or the winged hound of the Anmaspians. eagles. Of this mighty fowl of the rapa Years passed, and still the indomitable cious order, we possess, in the United explorer wandered far, wandered near, States, three distinct varieties; perhaps, with his portfolio and his gun, braving including Texas and the newly acquired the hyperborean cold of Newfoundland Mexican dominions, we may lay claim to and Labrador, braving the ague-breeda fourth, in the Brazilian Caracara Eagle, ing heat of Mississippian swamps and Polyborus Vulgaris, which is stated to bayous, in patient search, in exulting inhabit regions, as far northward as fruition of the wonders of God's creation. Florida. This is, however, but a poor Years passed, without his meeting any devil of a bird, to be dignified by the more that once seen, never to be forgotten, name of Eagle, not equalling the osprey, eagle; still his faith was unshaken in the or common fish-hawk in size, and in his Bird of Washington; and his faith had habits of foul and promiscuous feeding lit its reward. tle superior to the squalid tribe of vultures. Navigating, leagues and leagues away

Of him we will none. Sacer Esto, he from the region where he first beheld his and the foul Cathartes, the blackwinged nondescript, another mighty river of the Scavenger of the fowls of air!

West, thinking perhaps at the time of Of our own three eagles, one is peculiar nothing less than the unknown eagle, his to ourselves; the largest and most power all-observant eye fell on the difficult rockful by far, though not the noblest either eyrie of some great bird of prey, and the in bearing or habit, the magnificent bird, crags spattered with white droppings, and discovered by the immortal Audubon and the shores strewn with the scales and named of him after the father of his exuviæ of half-eaten fishes. country, Falco Washingtoni.

It was not the haunt of our own white

headed eagle ; for he nests in trees, mostly or Sea Eagle of Savigny. All these large in white pines, where he builds a huge birds of prey are for the most part widely faggot-like pile of branches and dead sticks and thinly dispersed over great tracts of seven or eight feet long, which he uses territory, especially those which dwell innot merely as his procreant cradle, but as land and rely on the rivers and the wilhis usual home and habitation in all sea derness for their support, since wide huntsons.

ing grounds are to them, as to their fellow It was not the haunt of the noble forester, the red Indian, indispensable for Golden Eagle, the sovereign of the fowls subsistence. of air; for he, though a rock-dweller, The White-headed Eagle is, in this reeschews a fish-diet, and feeds, like a royal spect, more fortunate than his congeners, hunter as he is, on the grouse, the ptar that the whole length of the oceanic coasts, migan, the varying hare of the mountains, of the lake and river shores, wherever or the fawn and antelope of the prairies. surges break and billows foam, is tribu

Conviction flashed upon his mind, and tary to his wants; and therefore he is triumph. He had found the dwelling much the most frequent of his order, and place of the Bird of Washington. He is in fact as familiar to the inhabitants of made inquiries among the more intelligent our sea-boards as are the other varieties settlers, and learned—what confirmed his strange and of rare occurrence, except in views—the crags he had seen were the peculiar districts. haunt of two huge birds of prey, larger The next species, which like the last is than the men had known elsewhere. by no means generally familiar to the in

He lay in wait; he watched with In habitants of the United States, and of whose dian patience; he got a shot at length; habits little is known except to a few, is and his theory was verified, his greatest the noblest in bearing, the most princely triumph won—turn, reader mine, from in aspect, the bravest, the fiercest, and in this simple record to his inspired pages, its general attributes—although it will be for the artless, but, how graphic descrip found to fall far short of Buffon's fanciful tion, of his own rapture, when he held in imaginings — the most generous of the his hand at last, the term of so many order. hopes delayed, the mighty Bird of Wash The Golden Eagle, Aquila Chrysaëtos, ington.

the fabulous minister of Olympian thunderThat noble collection, the Lyceum of bolts, to whom the sovereign of the gods Natural History at Philadelphia, contains permitted sovereignty over all the fowls a very fine specimen of this largest of the of air ; the warrior bird, and kingly emFalconidæ.

blem, of all times and nations, from the The male bird measures three feet seven sensuous and poetic Greek, to the wild inches in length from the point of his bill Gaël on the Scottish Highlands, or the to his claws; and no less than ten feet roving Camanche on the boundless plains two inches, from tip to tip of his expanded of the Southwest, has been perhaps the pinions. In all birds of prey it is observ theme of more noble poetry, and the subable that the female exceeds the male in ject of more extravagant fable than any size and strength, so that even these vast other of the denizens of ether. dimensions must not be esteemed the This is he, and not any other, neither greatest.

Halictus, nor foul Polyborus, who has The bill of this eagle is very strong and won for the race of eagles, in general, their much uncated, of a dark, bluish-black hue, character of kingly, noble, brave, and with a dull yellow cere. Its plumage is generous-this is he, who was elected, darker than that of any other eagle, vary elector himself of her first king, the puising from deep chocolate brown to nearly sant bird of Rome, and was usurped, pure black. Its feet are orange yellow. thereafter, by a greater than the greatest This is a very rare species, and although of the Cæsars, the Imperial Corsican. This its habitation is laid down in the books is he, if we must take an eagle to be our as extending throughout the Union, I crest at all, who should have sat sublime have heard of no instance in which it above the stars of our standard, -not the has been taken or verified in the Eastern thieving, rapacious, greedy, carrion-devourStates, or on the sea-board. Its eyrie ing bald-pate, whom we have elevated to and nesting place are in cliffs inacces undue distinction. sible to the foot of man; the number of There are not many points in which we its eggs is not ascertained ; and little is cotton to Dr. Franklin, much less sympaknown of its habits except that it is a thize with his unchivalric, unromantic, fish-eater of choice, though like all its race hardfisted, money-making principles and it will take quadrupeds and water-fowl propensities-with all due deference be it when pressed by hunger; whence it is spoken. There was far too little venerarightly classed in the sub-genus Halictus, tion in his nature, to comport with what

we deem the essence of true greatness: Buffon also observes that, though other but in this we do fully sympathize with eagles also prey upon hares, this species him, -that we have no touch of veneration is a more fatal enemy to those timid anior respect for the white-headed eagle. mals, which are the constant object of

Had men known as much about his their search, and the prey which they ways and means in 1760, as they do now prefer." adays, he certainly never would have hail It is to be observed that the ingenious ed, fine-looking fellow as he is, as the re and delightful author from whom the publican bird of America.

above is quoted-like Buffon, and indeed Figuratively, as well as literally, it must all authors. I believe, on natural history, out, -our eagle has a white feather in his until Temminck, who established them to tail. I am sorry to admit it, but he is a be identical-has made two varieties, or glutton, a foul feeder, lazy, a bully, a species, the Ring-tailed and the Golden coward, and a thief.

Eagle, out of one, the latter, bird; of which He has one good quality, common to all the former is the young which has not atthe eagles; he is a constant, faithful, honor taine-l its perfect dress. able husband. He does not go about, like It is the immature male which is de the tomtits and wrens, and such small fry, scribed as the Ring-tailed Eagle in the sending valentines, and picking up a new above passage. The same confusion exmistress every fourteenth of February ; ists between the adults and young of the nor does he even, like some mortal mon White-headed Eagle, the latter of which archs whom we wot of, condescend to any has been erected into a separate species, morganatic marriage, but takes to himself under the name of the ossifrage or seaone lawfully-wedded wife, and cleaves to eagle. Into this error Wilson is likewise her, through weal and wo, for thrice the betrayed by adherence to authorities, length of ordinary human wedlocks, until though he evidently half suspects the when above a hundred years have flown, identity of the two alleged species. death, the inevitable, do them part.

In this connection, it may be observed But all this does the golden eagle like as peculiar, that of the Golden Eagle, wise, and fights like a hero, and eats like which when mature is uniformly brown, a gentleman into the bargain.

the young is white-tailed, not losing this It is scarcely necessary to state, that of mark in its wild state until the third, in all birds so rare, so shy, dwelling so re captivity till the sixth, or even seventh mote from the abodes of man, seen only year; while of the White-headed the imat intervals by the narrowest observers, mature bird is uniformly dark, irregularmaking their nests and rearing their young ly clouded with lighter spots, and does in places nearly inaccessible to the human not acquire its peculiar markings until foot, living and dying in difficult and dis the fourth or fifth year. tant solitudes

, it is no easy task to learn These facts have been gained by care the habits minutely, even to distinguish the ful observation of the birds in a state of usual peculiarities of marking, and still confinement; by which means also the more, the differences of the young birds ideas of the ancients, who were much which, it is now ascertained, do not attain better naturalists, and more minute investheir full plumage until the sixth or sev tigators than is usually supposed, concernenth year—from the adults.

ing the longevity of eagles, have been “The truth is ”-says Wilson, the elo fully verified. It has been the fortune of quent pioneer of American ornithology the writer to form a considerable acquain

the solitary habits of the eagle now be tance with birds of both these noble fore us, the vast inaccessible cliffs to which species in a state of captivity, and to witit usually retires, united with the scarcity ness personally some solutions to the of the species in those regions inhabited questions in dispute. by man, all combine to render a peculiar The Golden Eagle. Aguila Chrysaetos, knowledge of its manners very difficult to when mature, measures from beak to claw be ascertained. The author has once or above three feet, and about seven and a twice observed this bird sailing along the half from wing to wing. The bill is deep Alpine declivities of the White Mountains blue, the cere yellow. The eyes are large. of New Hampshire early in October, and deep sunk, with a strong projecting brow; again, over the Jighlands of the Hudson the irides of a bright golden yellow, full River, not far from West Point. Its flight of clear lustre, which, when the owner is was easy, in high circuitous sweeps ; its angry or excited, flashes into intolerable broad, white tail, tipped with brown, ex light. The feathers on the head and neck panded like a fan. Near the settlement are long, narrow and pointed, and erecon Hudson's Bay. it is more common, and tile into a sort of ruff when the bird is is said to prey upon hares, and the vari. enraged; the general color of the plumage ous species of grouse which abound there. above and below is a rich chesnut brown.

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