Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/412

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396
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
THE VOICES OF ANIMALS.

By DETLEV VON GEYERN.

THE whole world is one wondrous blending of the most varied voices, flowing together and intermingling. This unison of sound forms the great tone of life on our globe, and chimes in harmoniously with the poets' and philosophers' music of the spheres. The existence of such a music is not to be denied, even from a purely realistic point of view. If from a distance one were to listen to the thousand noises and sounds of all kinds that arise from the throbbing of life in a large town, these all would seemingly be lost in one low hum resembling the vibrations of a huge tuning-fork, and appearing as but a single tone. Even thus the entire volume of sound coming from our planet would seem as a single tone to one soaring far above the earth, and capable of hearing through vast distances. Similar sounds would arise from other worlds and thus would be produced a veritable music of the spheres, sounding on into the infinite.

Bernardin de St. Pierre has written a very curious book on the harmonies of Nature. Palissy has made numerous ingenious observations on the melodies of plants and trees, which Lamartine, through his book on "Great Men," has rescued from oblivion.

It is a well-known fact that every metal has a sound peculiar to itself. So, too, the voices of animals have at all times played an important part in Nature—now looked upon by man with superstitious awe, and anon observed with the eye of Science.

In olden times the priests and the tillers of the soil were the ones to pay attention to the voices of animals—the priests, to be guided by them in their oracles; the peasants, to learn of changes in the weather and coming storms. It seems rather strange that the observation and the understanding of the voices of animals have become more and more of a lost art with the advance of civilization, so called; and it appears almost an anomaly that in these times a scholar like M. Louis Nicolardot, of Paris, should turn his attention, with all the thoroughness of science, yet in a most charming and entertaining manner, to a study of the voices of Nature. He has done this in a work entitled "La Fontaine and the Human Comedy."

La Fontaine endows Nature with the voice of man, to mirror the manners, the faults, and the vices of mankind. Nicolardot, however, has traced the true and real significance of the voices of Nature, and shows—at times in a surprising manner—that these voices of Nature often express more and bear a deeper meaning than even the fancy of the great fable-writers, from Æsop down to La Fontaine, has ascribed to them. It is very interesting to study more particularly the animal world with reference to its various voices, and to follow out the meaning of these voices in the great concert of Nature. As Nicolardot has