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Title:      A Hind in Richmond Park (1923)
Author:     W. H. Hudson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300641.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          April 2003
Date most recently updated: April 2003

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Title:      A Hind in Richmond Park (1923)
Author:     W. H. Hudson

First published 1923
New York


The day before his death, Hudson told me that the last part of this
book's final chapter was practically finished.  All that was needed by
the fragmentary script then lying scattered on his table was the
thorough revision his work invariably received. When I offered to have
it typed, he said that no one could understand it but himself.  This I
took to refer to his handwriting, which at its best was at times
difficult, even to one who had known it for forty years. He often
scribbled so illegibly in pencil on odd pieces of paper that he was
occasionally hard pressed to read what he had written. As the book
remained incomplete, it was necessary for someone to put the last
words into order, and the task fell to me since I was familiar with
his themes and had discussed them in letters and in talk. He wrote to
me on the 2nd of August of this year, "I did not want to add anything
to the book, but it appears I must do it... and so I have had to go
into the infernal question of the meaning of art generally--its origin
and meaning.... And as soon as I get it done I want to send a copy for
you to read--not for you to tell me to modify anything, but to see
that I make myself understood." I quote this, as I could quote other
letters, to show why it lay upon me to undertake a laborious and very
painful task. But, when I came to examine the incomplete script, the
whole of it proved so difficult that many pages took days to
interpret, and perhaps one-third were wholly indecipherable.  I have
therefore been obliged to divine, by the "suggestion of contiguity" to
which Hudson so often refers, the place of each paragraph and
sometimes that of separate significant sentences. My impression now is
that the main argument runs clearly enough, for many of the little
portions omitted had in them an intelligible line or two which showed
that they did but contain additional illustrative reasoning, not
necessary matter. I need scarcely say that I have added not a word and
have omitted nothing which could find a logical place.


October, 1922.


INTRODUCTION. The Genius of W. H. Hudson.  By Edward Garnett


Richmond Park--Red deer--An adventure with a hind eating
acorns--Watching a listening hind--Senses in dog and deer
compared--Senses and instinct in wild and domestic animals--Man and
beast compared--The hind divides her listening sense in two parts--The
trumpet ear and the ear trumpet--Strange case of a deaf lady listening
through an ear trumpet to a sermon


Ears in man and other animals--Ears in primitive man--Atavism in ears,
in the twitching-muscle and the teeth--Teeth-gnashing faculty--The
teeth as a musical instrument--Cave men's chamber music--A natural
ear-pad--Helping our ears--Wind-made noises in our ears a defect--A
wind symphony


Our senses--An atmospheric and wind sense--A difficult subject--Our
feeling about the wind--Women's unsuitable clothing--Eastern and
Western dress--A woman's fight with the wind--A ludicrous sight which
was beautiful--An historical question--Light from the dark
ages--Sheep-shearing--A saint's biography--Ellen in "News from
Nowhere"--Wind in poetical literature


On seeking for a way back to Nature--The natural man and his
surroundings--When pain is pleasure--Man in unison with
Nature--"Intuition of snow," a notion fantastic and true--Influence of
the wind--The wind a promoter of thought--Flying thoughts--Help from
the physicists--Phantasms in the wind--Telepathic messages--A domestic
drama--Is the wind a mind-messenger?--A desire of the mind--The poet
expresses it--Is it a delusion?--Conjectures--Mental
embryology--Telepathy inherited from the animals


Wind and the sense of smell--Scent in deer and dog--Sense of smell in
man--In the Queensland savage--Sense of smell in different
races--Purely personal experience--The Smell of England: a mystery and
its solution--Aromatic and fragrant smells--Wordsworth's vision of
Paradise--Sweet gale--Bracken--Gorse and its powerful
effect--Spiritual quality in odours--Cowslip--Melancholy
flowers--Honeysuckle and sweet-briar--Shakespeare and Chaucer on its
scent--Chaucer, though old, still living--Scents and their degrading


The idea of unconscious smelling and the light it lends--Effect of
rest on nerves of smell: in caverns; at sea; on mountains--Character
of a dog's smell--A friend's surprising experience--Racial
smell--Smell a low subject--Physiology--Man-smelling by
savages--Atavism and a man whose nose never deceived
him--Cheek-smelling by Mosquito Indians--Case from Dugald
Stewart--Estimating character by scent--The dog's nose in judging
character--Effect of human odour on animals--Wolves in the Zoological
Gardens--Wolf-children--The jaguar's beneficent impulses--Bear and
puma--The mystery explained


Little knowledge of savages available--Observations on the lower
animals--Nose-greeting in animals--Smell in savages--Our unconscious
sense of smell--Gypsies and savages on a level--Nerve of smell--The
dog in his world of smells--Small woodland beasts in their world--How
we are moved by hidden causes--Antipathies--Classical cases and modern
instances--Antipathies and second sight--A strange case; clairvoyance
or sense of smell?


An explanation and apology postponed--Smell in birds--An ancient
controversy--The vulture's two aspects--The way of the
vulture--Pigeons--Smell in crows--Daws and ravens--Carrion crow--The
rook's double nature--An uncanny took story--Panic fear in
mammals--Horses and cattle scenting grass and water--Great stampedes
preceding Indian invasions--Indian warfare in Argentina--A little
frontier tragedy


The way this book is being written--The hind in Richmond Park
again--An imaginary colloquy--Sense of direction in animals and
man--Snakes--Insects--A foraging ant--Fishes, batrachians, birds and
mammals--Smell in self-preservation--Horses: the history of a homing
horse--Sense of direction in man--A gaucho's testimony--Sudden
recovery of the sense of direction--Comments


Migration unrelated to a sense of direction--Personal
observations--The old simple account of the phenomenon--Migration a
mystery still--Newton and Addison: the supernatural theory--Dr. Henry
More--Erasmus Darwin and his tradition theory--Wallace and
others--Canon Tristram's theory of the origin of life in the Arctic
regions--Glacial epochs and Seebohm in search of evidence--Benjamin
Kidd and the simple sun theory--Aspects of migration in England--We
are still left wondering--Recent futile methods of attacking the
problem--A new method suggested


Aspects of migration in southern South America--Migrants from the
northern hemisphere--The abundance of bird life--Golden plover--Eskimo
curlew--Buff-breasted sandpiper--Glossy ibis--Cow-bird--Military
starling--Upland plover--The beautiful has vanished and returns not


The migrants' cry--Unrest previous to departure--Upland plover,
swallows and others--Demonstrative and undemonstrative
species--Parental solicitude--Swifts and house-martins--Strange case
of a captive cuckoo--Night migration of diurnal species--Woodland
migrants on the pampas--Reluctant migrants--Thistledown as an
illustration--Migration of a troupial--Fear in birds and false
associations--Direction of migration--Unrest--Flying north--Migration
of rock-swallow--Pull of the north--Perturbations in migration--Upland


No hard and fast line between migrants and non-migrants--Swallows and
partridges--Contrasted behaviour in two mocking-birds--Spur-wing
lapwing--An instinct in a state of flux--Migration in other
creatures--Fishes and insects--Kirby and Spence
speculate--Spiders--Mammals--Migration a danger--Sand-grouse and the
"Tartar invasions of Europe"--A "sense of polarity" the origin of
migration--A trace of this sense in man


The pampas Indian's battle-cry--Terrifying effects of sound
generally--Other aspects of sound--Effect of a powerful sneeze--The
human voice at its loudest--Account of a man with a big voice--Sound
in the ears of the drowning--Sound of big bells heard in a belfry--A
great thunder-clap--The phenomenon and the dream--The wilderness of
the mind


The rhea's voice--Sounds that carry farthest--Man and animals compared
as to voice power--The swift's flight--Melody--Music as art and
instinctive--Mammalian music--Capybara--_Quis_--Tuco-tuco--Singing
mouse and small rodents--Monkeys--Braying of the ass as music--A purge
for the mind--The ass in fable and folk-story


Music of the lower animals--Of savage man and Hindoos--Music of the
stone age--The cannibal Pan--Singing of savages--Origin of
song--Diderot and Herbert Spencer--The cries of passion--Music founded
on passion and play--Music older than speech--Origin of
rhythm--Impassioned speech in savage and civilised man--Song in speech
and speech in song--Darwin's theory--Herbert Spencer's theory of the
function of music--What is Poetry?--Spiritual senses--Music and Poetry
sister arts--Furthest apart at their greatest, and nearest at their


Instrumental music, one with vocal music in its origin--Instrumental
music in the lower animals--Insects--Cicada--Locusts--_Oecanthus_;
silence, moonlight and tears made audible--_Locusta viridissima_ and
music in insects and man--A robber fly's musical performance--Of
insect wing-music generally--Hover-fly--Birds as
instrumentalists--Storks and woodpeckers--Wings as instruments of
music--Wing slap-pings and clappings--Bleating of snipe--Origin of


Instrumental music and its evolution--A book that is wanted--Fashion,
caprice and selection--The piano made perfect--The quality most
desired in musical sound--A bird and insect illustration--Naturalness
of instrumental music--A bird voice and the power of expression--Human
expression of instrumental music--The harp--Obsolete and reigning
instruments--A first experience of great music--Cause of different
effects produced by bird and human music--Conclusion


Difficulty of ending a story without end--Art as universal
instinct--Plastic art tracked by a footprint--Primitive expression of
the colour-sense--And of the actor's and storyteller's arts--Santayana
criticised--Insignificance of art in relation to life--An image of a
cloudy sky--The cry that calls attention to something seen--An
everlasting aspiration--The artist's creed--A way to something
better--The author's credentials--"Unemotional music" and the ordinary
man--A picture seen in boyhood--Sense of beauty a universal
possession--Definition of "field naturalist"--The perpetual flux of
artistic theory, a sign of progress beyond art--An unanswered question



When after Hudson's death I looked down upon his face as he lay on his
bed in the shadowed room, I saw before me the calm death mask of a
strong chieftain.  All the chiselled, wavy lines of his wide brow, the
brooding mournfulness and glowing fire of his face had been smoothed
out. He was lying like some old chief of the Bronze Age, who, through
long years of good and ill, had led his tribe. And now for him only
remained the ancient rites, the purging fire, the cairn on the
hillside, and the eternity of the stars, the wind, the sun.

Yes, Hudson was a chief among his fellows, but the tribes over whom he
threw the mantle of his understanding, of his passionate love, for
whom he had spoken and fought all his life, were not human, but the
vast tribes of Nature's wild creatures, especially of the bird
kingdom, the tribes preyed on, destroyed and extirpated by man.

Yet though all wild Nature's life was Hudson's province and his
passion, though he often professed scant interest in the "petty
interests" of his fellows, his heart was the most deeply human of all
the men I have known.

The very source and centre of Hudson's genius was the inner fire of
lurking passion, of emotions of love and wrath and tender pity which
broke through the crust when he branded men's unfeeling brutality, and
were ever flashing to light up his eyes, in his response to beauty,
whether of nature or of woman, whether of birds or plants or trees or
skies or of the mother earth.

It was this unfailing well-spring of feeling that made Hudson the most
fascinating of all companions. I knew and loved him intimately as a
friend, and I never remember a moment of tiredness, of dullness, of
disappointment in his company. From the well-springs of his mind ever
gushed fresh limpid waters. I never heard him repeat himself in over
twenty years. It was because his spirit was so large, so vitally rich,
so fresh in its response to nature and life's drama; because his
spirit had renewed itself perennially in the river of nature's
fecundity; because, least of all men were his sympathies deflected by
the clamour and troubles of the self. Of all the writers I have known
Hudson was the least concerned with fame or reputation. He had
suffered bitterly in years gone by from poverty and isolation in
London, and deep in his mind lay the memory of his frustrations when
his essays and articles could scarcely earn him a chimney sweeper's
wage. How many Victorian mediocrities, now in the dust, were then
acclaimed to the skies! But when success came, though his books still
earned him little, he remained the least affected by applause. The
following passage from one of his letters to me, dated October n,
1910, is typical of his attitude: "You said so much in praise of 'A
Shepherd's Life' I had to wait and get cool before replying. But you
are always too generous to me.  The reason of it is that you are to
some extent under an illusion. A man is so much better than his books!
Take the best thing you have done--don't you feel how little of all
the best in you it contains--and that little how poorly expressed? I
don't like even to look at a book of mine, after it is finished. I
suppose when you know a man intimately and have an affection for him,
you get into the way of expecting to find him--something worthy of
him--in his book. Hence the illusion.  I think Sully explains it all
in his book 'Illusion.' But that's enough about the book."

How like Hudson to deprecate "A Shepherd's Life"!  that rich intimate
web, so strongly woven, that truthful tapestry of the ways, facts,
manners and character of the life of the old-world people of the
Wiltshire Downs, a book which he had constructed out of many
sojournings and wanderings in Salisbury Plain. And yet what Hudson
says in his letters is true of himself. Hudson was much fuller and
deeper than his books; in each of which, successively, he mirrored
fresh features of "the earth life" he loved, fresh sides of himself as
naturalist-poet and artist. His fecundity one could not plumb. At our
meetings I must have heard from his lips hundreds of little human
dramas, moving, racy, arresting, characteristic stories of people he
had met or heard of, life stories of the kind of which he has set down
charming examples in "Afoot in England." All over the counties of
southern England he had traversed he made many friends, chiefly in
humble life, and in his letters to me he often regrets in revisiting
villages those old friends whose faces had vanished. He made friends
easily with anybody he wished. His tall, dark figure, the brusque
charm of his talk, his rich deep voice, magnetic eyes, the spice of
mystery in his coming and going, something abrupt and unforeseen in
his attitude, captivated his listeners.  In his last years, when all
the relatives and friends of his youth, and even the wild character
and fauna and bird life of the pampas had passed away, his spirit
seemed to dwell much in sorrowful, tragic episodes and life's
frustrations: but even this "rebellious despondency" could not
attenuate his passionate zest in life. The one thing he dreaded was
death, and this shadowy dread is attested by scores of passages in his
latter books. And still in my ears rings the poignant thrill in his
voice, on the last day I saw him alive in August. "What! is she dead?"
he exclaimed, staring at me, when I spoke of the death of a woman
writer we both admired. And his eyes reflected all the "intolerable
regret" for "the beautiful multitudinous life that has vanished," all
that haunting mournfulness which inspires that exquisite paper, "The
Return of the Chiff-Chaff" in "A Traveller in Little Things." But,
even in his brooding melancholy, there was something indomitable in
Hudson's philosophy of life. One felt he was himself, as Conrad once
said, "a product of Nature," resembling in his essence some sketch of
forest or moor or mountain valley, rock-strewn, with impetuous streams
and blossoming thickets and luxuriance of delicate plants. And the
charm of his personality, as of his books, lay inherent in this
mysterious vitality and fecundity of spirit. The range of his
emotional powers and poetic vision may be appraised in contrasting
aspects in a dozen of his works: but the essence of his individuality
is best declared, I think, in his two romances, "The Purple Land"
(1885), and "Green Mansions" (1904). The first, the youthful Hudson,
contains all the flavour of his ironical humour, (tinged with the
Spanish courtesy which was his birthright, and set him apart from all
other English writers) and all the artistic caprice, passionate warmth
and tender sympathy of his temperament.

In certain chapters, such as XIX, XXI, XXVI, one can hear the rich
inflections of his voice. The graver emotional profundities of
Hudson's nature, in all their capacities for tragic passion and
brooding sorrow, are fully manifested in "Green Mansions." But while
"Green Mansions" is a magical fusion of Hudson's feeling for woman and
his passion for Nature and for bird life, "El Ombu" (I hold it to be
the finest short story in the English language) (1902) is to me the
most consummate of his imaginative creations. It was my enthusiasm for
this story, which as a publisher's reader I first read in MS., that
brought about our friendship. I shall speak of our personal relations
in another place, with reference to his letters to me, 1901-1922. The
story "Marta Reguelme" (1902) Hudson himself placed above "El Ombu,"
and one must own that for its piercing quality as well as for its
painting of a wild, savage atmosphere it is unique. I lay particular
stress on these imaginative creations, because they unlock the very
source and centre of Hudson's genius, his responsive wealth of feeling
which vivified the component layers of perception and reflection,
observation and analytic power which made him our greatest English

As an example of the manner in which his artistic feeling guided his
faculties, I give this little illustration from life. I was sitting
one evening with him in a meadow bordering on a wood, when we heard a
nightjar calling twice or thrice. Hudson immediately mimicked the cry,
and suddenly the nightjar came tumbling and twisting over our heads.
Hudson laughed sardonically at it, and repeated his cry, and the bird
kept circling round us, as if astonished at the sight of this strange
man-bird from whom the call came. Hudson watched the bird keenly with
affectionate mockery, and suddenly he waved his hand in a sweeping,
lordly dismissal!  "There! go back to your moths!" he said, and turned
to rise, and the nightjar disappeared.

The early inception and development of Hudson's genius is shown quite
clearly in "Far Away and Long Ago." Born on the South American pampas
in 1846, as a child he had every favouring circumstance, an
environment romantically wild and beautiful--a Paradise of bird
life--richly stimulating his innate poetic and artistic faculties and
his sense of mystery, and feeding his human curiosity with the
spectacle of the primitive life of the gauchos and the atmosphere of
the gracious traditions of old-world Spanish manners. Hudson was happy
in his parents and home life. His father and mother and their children
were a fine, hardy stock. His mixed blood, Devonshire, New England and
Irish--his maternal grandmother was Irish--endowed him with the vigour
of a lucky cross.

In a letter to me of January 16, 1914, he dwells on the beauty of his
mother's character, adding: "Leigh Hunt's mother was an American, and
must have been strangely like my mother, who was also American, but
Hunt's mother's people were loyalists, while my mother's forbears were
furiously anti-English from the very beginning of the discontents
which ended in the Revolution." But at sixteen fell the blow. He
became an invalid and no hopes were held of his recovery. At first
sight this misfortune seemed paralyzing, but in fact it only diverted
his energies into a creative channel, and deepened his nature and his
spiritual vision immeasurably.  Instead of leading a life of healthy
vigorous activities, he was forced for years to rest and contemplate,
to speculate and ponder; and so was mapped out for him the path of
student-naturalist, and later of nature-writer.  While his mental
outlook, as he tells us, was changed and oriented by the new sun of
Evolution, his deep poetic sense, his sensibility to beauty, unlike
Darwin's, were in no sense lessened, but on the contrary they
continued to expand, face to face with Nature.

The second period of his development, which dates approximately
1860-74, completed the building-up of his powers of observation and
contemplation, and his artistic and poetic receptivity, which finally
yielded mature fruit in "A Naturalist in La Plata" and "Idle Days in
Patagonia," 1891-2, much of which he had composed in previous years.
Of the "dark period" in Hudson's life, approximately the years
1874-82, when he first came to London, and, as he says, "was compelled
to exist shut out from Nature, for long periods, sick, poor and
friendless," he himself hated to speak. Instinctively recognizing
this, I never questioned him, though I remember once he told me how,
when he was in great need, after executing a piece of work for a
well-known genealogist, and saying he could do no more without some
payment, his employer had drawn half-a-crown from his pocket, and
offered it him, saying, "This is all I can give you!  I have no
money." "What!" I said to Hudson, "he had no money then to pay you for
your work!" "No," answered Hudson, "it was true. The man was widely
known by reputation, but he had no money himself!"

Hudson married in 1880 Miss Emily Wingrove, a minor concert singer,
and his tender tributes to her, the companion of his poverty, in
"Walking and Cycling" and "Seeking a Shelter" in "Afoot in England,"
and also in "The Return of the Chiff-Chaff" in "A Traveller in Little
Things," throw some gleams of light on those years, about which one
trusts Mr. Morley Roberts will have more to tell us, in his promised
book of Recollections.

Some of Hudson's early poetry may be found in the magazine "Merrie
England" 1884-5, and the most important piece, "The London Sparrow,"
has been reprinted by Mr. Bertram Lloyd in "The Great Kinship" (Alien
& Unwin, 1921). Of the pseudonymous novel, "Fan" by "Henry Harford,"
evidently composed in years anterior to its publication (1892), Hudson
remarked to me, twenty years ago, "Its great fault is that such a girl
as Fan could never have come out of the slums!" By it, as by his other
most faulty piece of story telling, "Ralph Herne," which was laid
aside for a lengthy period, a story the publication of which I assured
him years back "would ruin any man's reputation!" he laid no store
whatever. On the other hand, rather unexpectedly, he stood up in
defence of "A Crystal Age" in 1917 writing to me, June 10. "About 'A
Crystal Age' you haven't said more of depreciation of it than I have
said myself in the preface of the Third Edition. But the book in spite
of absurdities is not inferior to the others.  They too are absurd in
some ways.... The sexual passion is the central thought in 'A Crystal
Age': the idea being that there is no millennium, no rest, no
perpetual peace till that fury has burnt itself out, and I give no
limited time for the change. It is, you say, the social model of the
Beehive, with the Queen-mother in its centre, and you say that I have
'adopted' the idea. Well, I didn't, and if you know of books in which
it appears before 'A Crystal Age' was published, let me know. I have
only seen it in a paper by Benjamin Kidd which appeared after my book
was written, though not before it was published.... Kidd believed that
the sexual passion would eventually decay--it would have to decay
simply because in no other way could man attain to that higher state,
mentally, morally, physically, to which he appears (or appears to
Kidd) to be destined."

The publication of "The Naturalist in La Plata" (1892), which was
immediately hailed as a classic and declared by Alfred Russel Wallace
to be "altogether unique among books on Natural History" permanently
established Hudson's reputation, and with it may be said to have
commenced his last, most creative period, 1892-1922.  While he is the
great poet-interpreter of bird life, his wrathful pleading on behalf
of all the threatened species in "Last British Birds" has slowly
permeated the public conscience. In "Nature and Downland" (1900) and
"Hampshire Days" (1903) Hudson originated a new pattern of Nature
book, one that gets on to the printed page Nature's light and shading,
her variability, elusiveness and mutability: he catches, so to say,
the very breath of changing wind and weather, and cross hatches his
diverse picture with a network of human associations.  Short-sighted
men of science have regretted that Hudson's poetic sense and feeling
for the illimitable mysterious beauty in Nature's wild life came more
and more to vivify and transfigure "the dull leaden mask of mere
intellectual curiosity" of which he speaks in "Green Mansions"; but,
as we have emphasized above, it was Hudson's force of passionate
feeling which lay at the root of all his varied powers and made him
pre-eminent.  Through this force of emotional perception, he entered
more intimately and steeped himself more intensely in the protean
spectacle of Nature's life than have any of his rivals, Bates or
Wallace or Belt or Jefferies or Burroughs.

Beauty is an integral factor in Nature's scheme. Dullness of spirit
and an unfeeling heart, these mean lack of spiritual perception and
simply something barred out and lurking in the mind, just as cataract
in the eye means darkness, insensibility to light. Men do not boast of
myopia or failure to see the features of a face. Women do not boast
that they see no beauty in children or flowers. But millions of
civilized people complacently boast today of having little aesthetic
sense, no poetic sense, no artistic faculty! not comprehending that in
this respect they are lower than savages. Now Hudson in his Nature
books, like a surgeon who gives sight, restores spiritual vision to
the victims of civilization. As poet-naturalist he supplies a new lens
to our faculties.

In his chapter on "The Plains of Patagonia," Hudson gives us,
unconsciously, the key to his supremacy. "We ourselves," he says, "are
the living sepulchres of a dead past... what has truly entered our
soul and become psychical is our environment, that wild nature in
which and to which we were born at an inconceivably remote period, and
which made us what we are." He himself had stored up in his soul and
had access through his feeling to those immeasurable spiritual sources
of life which animate Nature. He himself was a strange fusion of the
highest intellectual faculties and "the hidden fiery core of primitive
nature ready to send flame through the civilized crust." His genius,
his supremacy over all his contemporaries, lay in his fuller
perception of the infinite ocean of Nature's fecundity, and in his
more delicate response to the mystery and beauty of her multitudinous
aspects. And his books flash upon us this gleaming spiritual
apprehension of the whole, while seizing upon and stamping the
character of the living past.


October, 1922.



Richmond Park--Red deer--An adventure with a hind eating
acorns--Watching a listening hind--Senses in dog and deer
compared--Senses and instinct in wild and domestic animals--Man and
beast compared--The hind divides her listening sense in two parts--The
trumpet ear and the ear trumpet--Strange case of a deaf lady listening
through an ear trumpet to a sermon.

Occasionally when in London I visit Richmond Park to refresh myself
with its woods and waters abounding in wild life, and its wide
stretches of grass and bracken.  It is the bird life that attracts me
most, for it is a varied one although so near to the metropolis, and
there are here, at least two of England's few remaining great
birds--the great crested grebe and the heron. The mammals are of less
account, but I have met here with at least two adventures with the red
deer which are worth recording.  Stags are aloof and dignified, if not
hostile in their manner, which prevents one from becoming intimate
with them. When walking alone late on a misty October or November
evening I listen to their roaring and restrain my curiosity. A strange
and formidable sound! Is it a love-chant or a battle-cry? I give it
up, and thinking of something easier to understand quietly pursue my
way to the exit.

One afternoon in late summer I was walking with three ladies among the
scattered oak trees near the Pen Ponds when we saw a hind, a big
beautiful beast, rearing up in her efforts to reach the fully ripe
acorns, and on my plucking a few and holding them out to her, she came
readily to take them from my hand. She invariably took the acorn with
a sudden violent jerk; not that she was alarmed or suspicious, but
simply because it was the only way known to a hind to take an acorn
from the branch to which it is attached with a very tough stem. To her
mind the acorn had to be wrenched from me. My friends also gave her
acorns, and she greedily devoured them all and still asked for more.

And while we were amusing ourselves in this way, two ladies
accompanied by a little girl of about eight or nine came up and looked
on with delight at our doings. Presently the little girl cried out,
"Oh, mother, may I give it an acorn?" And the mother said "No." But I
said, "Oh, yes, come along and take this one and hold it out to the
deer." She took it from me gladly and held it out as directed. Then a
sudden change came over the temper of the animal; instead of taking it
readily she drew back, looking startled and angry; then slowly, as if
suspiciously, approached the child and took the acorn, and almost at
the same instant sprang clear over the child's head, and on coming
down on the other side, struck violently out with her hind feet. One
hoof grazed her cheek and dealt her a sharp blow on the shoulder. Then
it trotted away, leaving the child screaming and sobbing with pain and

For a few minutes I was amazed at this action of the hind, then I
noticed for the first time that the child was wearing a bright red
jacket. O unseeing fool that I am, exclaimed I to myself, not to have
noticed that red jacket in time! I think my hurt was as great as that
of the child, who recovered presently and was duly (and quite
unnecessarily) warned by her mother to feed no more deer.

I have seen the effect of scarlet on various other animals, but never
before on deer. It affects animals as a warning or a challenge,
according to their disposition, and if they are of a fiery or savage
temper, it is apt to put them in a rage.

In the other adventure with a hind there was no sensational or
surprising element, but it interested me even more than the first.

Seeing a hind lying under an oak tree, chewing her cud, I drew quietly
towards her and sat down at the roots of another tree about twenty
yards from her. She was not disturbed at my approach, and as soon as I
had settled quietly down the suspended vigorous cud-chewing was
resumed, and her ears, which had risen up and then were thrown
backwards, were directed forwards towards a wood about two hundred
yards away. I was directly behind her, so that with her head in a
horizontal position and the large ears above the eyes, she could not
see me at all. She was not concerned about me--she was wholly occupied
with the wood and the sounds that came to her from it, which my less
acute hearing failed to catch, although the wind blew from the wood to

Undoubtedly the sounds she was listening to were important or
interesting to her. On putting my binocular on her so as to bring her
within a yard of my vision, I could see that there was a constant
succession of small movements which told their tale--a sudden
suspension of the cud-chewing, a stiffening of the forward-pointing
ears, or a slight change in their direction; little tremors that
passed over the whole body, alternately lifting and depressing the
hairs of the back--which all went to show that she was experiencing a
continual succession of little thrills. And the sounds that caused
them were no doubt just those which we may hear any summer day in any
thick wood with an undergrowth--the snapping of a twig, the rustle of
leaves, the pink-pink of a startled chaffinch, the chuckle of a
blackbird, or sharp little quivering alarm-notes of robin or wren, and
twenty besides.

It was evident that the deer could not see anything except just what I
saw--the close wood a couple of hundred yards away from us on the
other side of a grassy expanse; nor did she require to see anything;
she was living in and knew the exact meaning of each and every sound.
She was like the dog as we are accustomed to see it in repose, sitting
or lying down, with chin on paws, seemingly dozing, but awake in a
world of its own, as we may note by the perpetual twitching of the
nose. He is receiving a constant succession of messages, and albeit
some are cryptic, they mostly tell him something he understands and
takes a keen interest in. And they all come to him by one avenue--that
of smell; for when we look closely at him we see that his eyes, often
half-closed and blinking, have that appearance of blindness or of not
seeing consciously which is familiar to us in a man whose sight is
turned inwards, who is thinking and is so absorbed in his thoughts
that the visible world becomes invisible to him. The dimmed eye in the
reposing dog and the absent-minded philosopher is in both cases due to
the fact that vision is not wanted for the time, and has been put
aside. The resting, but wakeful, deer and dog differ only in this,
that the first is living in a bath of vibrations, the other of

To return to our listening hind. The sounds that held her attention
were inaudible to me, but I dare say that a primitive man or pure
savage who had existed all his life in a state of nature in a woodland
district would have been able to hear them, although not so well as
the hind on account of the difference in the structure of the outer
ear in the two species. But what significance could these same little
woodland sounds have in the life of this creature in its present
guarded, semi-domestic condition--the condition in which the herd has
existed for generations?  It is nothing but a survival--the perpetual
alertness and acute senses of the wild animal, which are no longer
necessary, but are still active and shining, not dimmed or rusted or
obsolete as in our domestic cattle, which have been guarded by man
since Neolithic times. But as I have seen on the Argentine pampas,
these qualities and instincts, dormant for thousands of years, revive
and recover their old power when cattle are allowed to run wild and
have to protect themselves from their enemies.

A life-long intimacy with animals has got me out of the common notion
that they are automata with a slight infusion of intelligence in their
composition. The mind in beast and bird, as in man, is the main thing.
Man has progressed mentally so far that, looking back at the other
creatures, they appear practically mindless to him.  Their actions,
for example, are instinctive, whereas in the case of man reason has
taken the place of instinct.  How funny it is to find these hard and
fast lines still set down by some modern biologists! Alfred Russel
Wallace maintained that there were no instincts in man. The simple
truth of the matter is that our instincts have been more modified and
obscured, as instincts, in us than in the lower animals. But though
the instincts of animals are less modified and obscured, they are also
interwoven and shot through or saturated with intelligence. In what do
the ordinary occupations of hunting, fishing, shelter-building,
rearing and protecting the young, and so on, differ in the animal and
the savage or primitive man?  There is mind-stuff, or, let us say,
intelligence in both; neither beast nor man could exist without that
element, although no doubt the man in a state of nature has somewhat
more of it than his four-footed neighbours.

My only reason for touching on this question is that I want to say
that I recognize a mind-life in animals similar to, though much lower
in degree than, that of man.  And the subject was suggested by the
behaviour of the hind during the whole time, which was not far short
of an hour, while I sat there intently watching her with interest and
with surprise as well. And the surprise was at the intense interest
she, on her part, was taking in the little sounds coming to her from
the wood. These sounds, as we have seen, were of no import in the
creature's life. It can even be said or supposed that she knew they
were without significance, since there was no fear of any danger from
that direction; and so wholly free from fear was she that even my
presence at the tree's root behind her was disregarded. Surely thus in
her listening she was experiencing a sort of mind-life, amusing
herself, we might say, in capturing and identifying the series of
slight sounds floating to her. Or one might compare the animal in that
state in which I watched her, resting after feeding, chewing the cud,
and at the same time agreeably occupied in listening to the little
woodland sounds, to the man who, after dining well, smokes his cigar
in his easy chair and amuses his mind at the same time with a book--a
fascinating story, let us say, of old unhappy things and battles long

The last paragraph is pure speculation, and if any sober-minded
naturalist (and they are practically all that) has already said in
reading it, "You are going too far," I agree with him. The poet Donne
has said that there are times when we, or some of us, think with our
bodies, and it is truer of the lower animals than of us, perhaps; but
the small outward manifestations are not enough to show us the mind,
and the gentleman in his easy-chair, smoking his post-prandial cigar
and enjoying his novel at the same time, may be on a very different
plane from the deer chewing its cud and catching little flying sounds
in its trumpet ears, or from the dog dozing in the sunshine and
capturing winged scents, even as the garden spider while peacefully
reposing captures small gilded flies in her geometric web.

But what follows is plain fact. This same hind gave me yet another
surprise before I had finished with her.

After sitting there for a space of fifteen or twenty minutes,
sufficiently entertained by watching all those minute motions I have
described, it came into my head to try a little experiment, and I
emitted a low whistle. Instantly the ears, which had been pointed
forward all the time, were thrown back, and remained in that position
about a minute; then, no further sound being given, they went forward
again. Then the whistle was repeated, and the ears came back and
remained a longer interval, but finally went forward again; and the
whistle and movement of the ears was repeated five or six times. Then
came the surprise. When I whistled next time one ear was laid back
while the other continued pointing forward at the wood. It was as if
the hind had said--for she no doubt knew the whistling came from
me--"I'm not going to be cheated out of my woodland sounds any more; I
shall keep on attending to them and at the same time keep one ear on
you to find out what this whistling means."

The surprise was that she was able to do such a thing.  I had not
known that an animal with trumpet ears could use them in that way,
receiving impressions from two sources, taken in and judged separately
and simultaneously, as a bird receives sight-impressions through the
eyes placed (as in most birds) at the sides of the head, each with its
own distinct field of vision. Or as the chameleon, with eyes mounted
on rods, is able to keep one eye on the movements of an insect in its
neighbourhood, while the other looks at you or at some other object
which attracts its attention.

I soon found that if I refused to whistle as long as an ear pointed
back at me, it would at last go forward once more to assist the other,
and when this happened, and I then whistled again, the one ear--always
the left ear--was instantly thrown back again, the other always
keeping steadily on the wood.

This went on until the hind got up, shook the dust and dead leaves
off, and slowly sauntered away without even a parting look at the
person who had interfered with her pleasure by behaving in that
eccentric manner. But she had taught me a lot. Did the hind, I wonder,
with its beautiful trumpet ears, suggest the ear trumpet? Watching how
this deer moved her pair of live trumpets about to catch passing
sounds, it amused me to recall an old lady I used to see in a
Hampshire village church who sat in a pew before mine during the
Sunday morning services, and the deft way in which she manipulated her
trumpet to capture the preacher's precious winged words.  His manner
in preaching was curious, if not quite unique.  He would begin each
sentence in a quiet natural tone, then raise his voice, then higher
still, then let it drop back to the opening tone. Thus there were four
changes in tone fitted to the four clauses composing each sentence,
and there were also four bodily attitudes and movements to correspond.
Thus, the first clause was delivered standing in a stooping attitude,
the eyes fixed on the MS.  In the second he rose to his full height
and fixed his eyes on his congregation. In the third the upward
movement culminated in the preacher standing up on his toes,
supporting himself by placing his finger-tips on the pulpit, and then
having launched the words of clause three in his most powerful tones,
he would sink back to the lower attitude, downward bent eyes and low
voice. The difference in the man's height when he delivered clauses
three and four must have been about nine inches, which would of course
make a very great difference in listening to the sermon by a person
hard of hearing. There the old lady's ear trumpet came in; there were
four changes in its direction for each sentence, from the first and
last when it was directed straight before her, to the second and third
when it rose, automatically as it seemed, and at the third it would
appear like a crest above her head.

I was told, if I remember rightly, that he had been vicar above a
quarter of a century, and had always preached just in that way, and
that the old lady had attended the church for many years with her ear
trumpet, till long practice had made her so perfect in its use in
following the sermon through all the preacher's bobbings up and down,
she could almost do it with her eyes shut and never miss a word.


Ears in man and other animals--Ears in primitive man--Atavism in ears,
in the twitching-muscle and the teeth--Teeth-gnashing faculty--The
teeth as a musical instrument--Cave men's chamber music--A natural
ear-pad--Helping our ears--Wind-made noises in our ears a defect--A
wind symphony.

The subject of the hind and her ears set me thinking about the outer
ears in man, and how they compare with those of other mammals,
especially with the trumpet ear.

The ears in primitive men were free-hinged, not nailed to the
head--but never so free as in the deer, horse, and many other animals,
which are able to point forwards, backwards, and sideways. They were
built on a different principle, though it may puzzle us to know why a
long narrow head as in the horse, or a broad head as in foxes and
others, should have ears placed like pinnacles on the top, while man's
are against the sides of the head. One can only say that it is so
because they grew so, or they happened by chance to come in that

The ears in early man were also undoubtedly very much bigger than
ours; and by ours I mean the ears of the refined, cultivated races of
man--the higher classes, who with the little "shell-like" ears flat
against the head always exist side by side with those of a less
improved type who have big ears standing out, and their correlatives,
big hands and feet. I dare say the Palaeolithic man's auricle was
about the bigness of a tea-cup half-saucer, and being hinged, it could
lie back flat against his head when listening to sounds from the sides
or the rear, or--as in other mammals--to express anger. The other
movement was forward; it could stand out, as in the elephant, at right
angles to the head to catch sounds coming from the front. Judging from
the position of the ears in new-born babies, one might suppose that
the ears ordinarily stood out from the head like the two opposite
handles of a round pot.

No doubt there have been instances of atavism in the human ear
observed from time to time, just as in the case of the
twitching-muscle. There are those who have this twitching power all
over the head instead of in the forehead and muscles of the face only;
so vigorous is it in some instances that the man is able to throw or
shake off his hat by a sudden violent movement of the head-muscles,
like that of a dog shaking himself. I also suppose that primitive man
had the teeth-gnashing faculty, as I have known one man who had it as
powerfully as it exists in the dog, in peccaries and pigs of all
kinds, and other fierce mammals. This man was a Spanish Basque, a
workman, and as he was musically inclined he had utilised his
wonderfully strong teeth and teeth-gnashing faculty by turning his
mouth into a musical instrument.  Planting an elbow on the table and
resting his chin on his hand, he would start the performance and go
through a number of marches and martial airs far in advance, as music,
of any performance on the bones I have ever listened to, and while the
teeth were grinding, rattling and crashing together, the lips were
rapidly moving to soften, deaden and louden the sounds. It was an
astonishing kind of music, but not agreeable to me on account of an
apprehension I felt that at any loud crash or finale the teeth would
fly into pieces all over the room like two china vases brought
violently into collision.

We know that the earliest man who has left traces of his life and mind
in the holes he inhabited was an artist, that with rock and bone to
work on he was able to express the sense of beauty and wonder in him,
and to leave pictures of the wild life of his day--deer and mastodon
and wild horse in flight--which move the admiration of the ameliorated
man of over a hundred centuries later.  Doubtless he had his music
too, his composers, and "instruments of unremembered forms," and it is
highly probable that, like my friend the Basque, he used his large
powerful teeth and the teeth-gnashing faculty in his winter evening
concerts, when the family sat round the fire in Wookey Hole or Kent
Cave or King Arthur's Cave, and other rocky dens where they had their
homes and hearths.

I have never come across anyone with a free or movable ear, but I once
met a man who, when conversing with another person sitting by him or
walking in the street, would always draw down the upper part of the
ear on the other side of the head, and hitch the curve of the top lobe
over the lobe at the bottom, thus closing the passage to sound from
one side.

The question I am concerned with just now is: To what extent does the
outer ear in its present condition, glued to the head and diminishing
in size, help our hearing?  Some physiologists have said that it helps
us not at all, that but for the look of the thing we should be just as
well off if our ears were all removed in infancy.  The light of
nature, or experience, shows us that it is not so; that when we listen
intently to sounds difficult to catch we almost instinctively put up a
finger and push the ear a little forward; and it is possible the
movement is instinctive and dates back to the far time when the ear
began to lose its freedom of motion. Thus, in _Adventures of an Atom_,
we read: "Soon as Gotto-mio stood up every spectator raised his thumb
to his ear as if it were instinctively." A good observation worth
rescuing from the dullest as well as the obscenest "classic" in the
language. We have also the habit of holding an open hand behind the
ear when listening; the hand thus held open, and the fingers curved
forwards to make a hollow pan, is a substitute for the primitive ear
when it was swung forward to listen to sounds from the front. It would
not be difficult to ascertain by experiments just how far the outer
ear does help us in the hearing. Thus the ear could be done away with
by sinking it in and covering it smoothly over with wax, leaving the
passage free. And it would perhaps be an agreeable experience to face
the wind for the first time in this practically earless condition, to
find that it had lost its sound, though still possessed of its full

The noisiness of the wind when it blows in our face is a defect in us.
Has it not been made so or aggravated owing to the ear having become
fixed? Our ears, which we are incapable of moving at will, are like
the iron guttering, the loose tiles and slates and weathercock on the
roof of some high exposed house on a windy coast. The wind beats
unceasingly on the exposed roof with a succession of blasts or waves
which vary in length and violence, causing all the loose parts to
vibrate into sound.  And the sounds are hissing, whispering,
whistling, muttering and murmuring, whining, wailing, howling,
shrieking--all the inarticulate sounds uttered by man and beast in
states of intense excitement, grief, terror, rage, and what not. And
as they sink and swell and are prolonged or shattered into convulsive
sobs and moans, and overlap and interwave, acute and shrill and
piercing, and deep and low, all together forming a sort of harmony, it
seems to express the whole ancient dreadful tragedy of man on
earth--man and the noble intelligent brutes he warred and preyed on--a
story told in a symphony by some unearthly Tchaikovsky or wandering
spirit of the air, so fascinating that one can lie awake long hours
listening to it, as I have on many nights in rough winter weather at
the Land's End.

But there is no fascination in the noises made by the wind in our ears
when it beats upon the loose cartilaginous slates and tiles and
gutters attached to our heads and sets them vibrating. It is a pure
annoyance, a flap-flapping as of flags; murmurings and rumblings mixed
with sibilant sounds, also a good deal of thunder. It hinders hearing,
and to get rid of it we are compelled to turn the head aside.

I take it that all animals with large ears are in some degree subject
to this annoyance; it could not be otherwise, since their ears must
vibrate in the wind like ours, and more than ours, and so create
sound; but I also think that they are able to minimise the annoyance
by slight voluntary, or perhaps automatic, movements of the ears to
change the angle at which the wind strikes them.

But the wind is a long subject, and now I'm at it, I must go on about
it in the next part.


Our senses--An atmospheric and wind sense--A difficult subject--Our
feeling about the wind--Women's unsuitable clothing--Eastern and
Western dress--A woman's fight with the wind--A ludicrous sight which
was beautiful--An historical question--Light from the dark
ages--Sheep-shearing--A saint's biography--Ellen in "News from
Nowhere"--Wind in poetical literature.

Undoubtedly we possess several senses in addition to the five with
which we are supposed to be endowed--the canonical five they may be
called, or the seven with which some of the authorities now credit us,
the two apocryphal or supplementary being the muscular sense and the
sense of equilibrium. Others are not recognized as senses on account
of having no _organs_; but into this question I do not wish to enter
now, as at present we are concerned only with the wind, and I have no
desire to shelter myself from it.

To begin with, I must say that we have an atmospheric sense, and that
the wind is included in it as well as cloud, mist, rain, snow,
sunshine, and so on; nevertheless, apart from all that, we may, or
some of us may, recognise in ourselves something which may be called a
_wind-sense_, seeing that it is, or so I believe, an effect on body
and mind widely different in character from all other atmospheric
effects. One has only one's own experiences to go by; this sense may
be common or rare--as rare, say, as the sense of direction in
civilised man; or, rarer still, the "sense of polarity." A difficult
subject! The attempt to deal with it is like trying to grasp the wind
in one's hand, and perhaps my best plan is to approach it in a
roundabout way, with little tentative crawlings, springs and dashes,
like a kitten trying to capture an elusive bit of thistledown on a
windy polished floor.

A man I am acquainted with, the author of many books, once said to me:
"All I know about the wind is that it is an infernal nuisance!"

Undoubtedly this is an extreme view for a man, but it is one almost
universal in women. The natural man who works out of doors is not put
out by the wind, although he knows when it is blowing, just as he
knows when the sun is shining or is behind a cloud, and when it is
raining.  It is different with the man whose time is mostly spent
indoors, whose skin is thinner and softer, his nerves of touch more
sensitive. Yet even in such a one, despite the physical degeneracy
caused by a sheltered sedentary existence, there is ever coming out a
quick glad response to Nature's influence, a sense of something
restorative, even in its rudest assaults. The man by himself or with
other men feels this; but no sooner does a woman come on the scene
than a change, a different attitude, is produced in him out of sheer
sympathy. The wind distresses her, and he becomes infected with her
feeling; and that feeling, after he has experienced it a dozen or a
hundred times, becomes permanently associated with the wind and with
the very thought of the wind. But if you explained to a man, who is
your friend, the reason of the wind being an infernal nuisance to him,
he would take it as an insult and perhaps never speak to you again. It
would be a reflection on his manliness.

Woman's dislike of the wind, we know, is caused by her dress, or, let
us say, because she has not yet found out the way to clothe herself
suitably for outdoor work and exercise. Barbarians and savages know
the way, but as our civilisation progressed and our women were more
and more confined to the house, they clothed themselves for that
condition mainly, and after several thousand years of study and
experiment have succeeded in making their covering as beautiful as we
want it to be. That is for so long as we think clothing necessary at
all: the main fault with the clothing is that there is too much of it;
but it is a fault which there is now happily a tendency to remedy.
Undoubtedly there are Eastern costumes more beautiful; but to our
Western eyes the beauty is of a kind which we do not desire to see
adopted, since it is not in harmony with our Western feeling about
womankind, and appears to us designed to give artificial or fictitious
charm and allurement to the inane sex.

This indoor dress which pleases becomes unsuitable and even absurd
when worn out of doors in wind and rough and wet weather, a usual
condition in this "brumous island." The headgear, designed to
harmonize with the costume, makes it worse; what wonder then that if a
hundred women be asked their opinion of the wind, ninety-nine will
reply at once: "I hate it!" The ludicrous spectacle of a woman in a
high wind struggling with her skirts, her hat and her hair,
endeavouring to keep her furbelows from flying away, and not to lose
her sunshade and bag or reticule at the same time, is common enough.
Ludicrous, I have called it, but it is also repulsive and painful,
since it forces on us the painful fact of women's idiocy; we laugh or
smile and are sad.

Once only in my lifetime have I seen such a thing and admired the
spectacle of a woman's contest with her old hated enemy, the wind. It
was on a brilliant spring morning, and I had just left St. Ives behind
me to walk to Zennor on the Cornish coast. The blue sea on my left
hand sparkled with whitest foam, whilst clouds were flying across the
intensely blue sky, and the strong wind, which with the sunshine made
the day so glorious, blew the fresh, sharp, salt smell of the sea,
mingled with the spicy odours of the blossoming gorse, to my nostrils.
I came to a point where the road is cut across at right angles by a
narrow stony footpath running from a small farm-house on my right,
towards the sea, to another farm-house on the inland side; and just
when I arrived at this point I caught sight of a young lady coming
from the first little house to the second; and as it was a strange
figure in that rude incult wilderness of rock and furze, I stood still
at the cross-roads and waited for her to come by, so as to get a full
and satisfying look at her.

She was of medium height, but looked tall on account of her
slimness--an elegant figure of a young lady of about seventeen or
eighteen, all in blackest black, with a black feather boa and a wisp
of black crape on a transparent or translucent hat of large dimensions
which she was wearing--one of those wide yet almost invisible hats
made of some unsubstantial material like thistledown or gossamer. With
her left hand she anxiously held on to the rim or brim of the
wonderful hat fluttering on her loose pale golden or honey-coloured
hair. It was in an incessant flutter, trying to escape from her head
and hand to fly over the hills and frolic with the wind. In her right
hand, held out before her, she carried a tall slim vessel of some sort
which sparkled like silver-white fire in the sunshine. And as she came
down the rough rocky path towards me, stepping carefully, her eyes
fixed on the goblet, she walked between two hedge-like rows of furze
bushes covered with masses of shining yellow and orange-coloured
blossoms. An unforgettable picture! As she came nearer I perceived
that she was in great trouble owing to the wind, also that the
sparkling object in her hand was a tall crystal goblet, brimful of
Cornish cream, which she no doubt had purchased at the little farm
near the cliff, and was conveying to the place she was lodging in. The
rude, uncivilised wind was worrying her all it could, agitating her
volatile hat, whirling the fine wavy loose ends of her boa about her
head, and causing her skirts to wind themselves like black serpents
about her pretty legs. And whenever they got tightly wound about them,
she would stop and slowly and carefully turn round and round to get
them free again, still keeping a hold on her hat, and her eyes fixed
on the goblet for fear of spilling the Cornish cream. She was really a
beautiful girl, so I had my reward; small delicate features and a
complexion like the briar rose, and eyes of a blue that was like the
sky above her.

Just as she crossed the road where I stood, the wind again struck her
and compelled her to stand still and slowly make three turns round
before proceeding once more. "A rather difficult task," I remarked
sympathetically, with a glance at the goblet. "Yes, it _is_ rather
difficult," she returned, but the even tone in which she spoke was a
_distant_ one, and very dignified in so young a person. Nor did she
lift her eyes; they were still fixed fast on the goblet of cream. Then
slowly, slowly and carefully, she went on her way, leaving me
congratulating myself on having witnessed a really beautiful thing--a
better Delia in the country than any a Morland's coarse brush could
paint. It was a subject that Whistler might have attempted: the colour
scheme would have intoxicated him with delight; the slim, beautiful
figure in its dead black coming down that piece of rocky path between
walls of black-green furze, their darkness, which was nearly as dark
as her costume, almost covered with the flame yellow of the flowers,
and the blue sky with white flying clouds and the deeper blue sea,
flecked with white foam, for a background. He once did something I was
reminded of, a beautiful young lady in deep mourning, with black
sunshade in her hand, sheltering herself from a sudden storm under a
horse-chestnut tree in its golden yellow and red autumnal foliage. But
there he had a black storm for a background and silver-grey raindrops
over all the picture. This was an infinitely more difficult subject,
an impossible one, owing to the intense light, the brilliant blue sky.

This incident has little or no bearing on the subject under
discussion, and my only motive in introducing it is the common desire
we all have of imparting to others anything wonderful or beautiful we
have seen.

To go back: How long is it since this quarrel between woman and the
wind has existed? As long, I suppose, as a costume only suitable for
indoor life has been worn out of doors. A small ray of light on this
subject comes to me by chance from mediaeval times.

It happened, when my age was nineteen, that an old intimate friend of
mine asked me to take charge of the sheep-shearing at a bankrupt
estate on the pampas. He had undertaken to do it, but found he could
not spare the time, and I was doing nothing just then. Accordingly, I
went and established myself at the house of the mayor-domo, or manager
of the estancia, a barn-like building of unburnt bricks with a
thatched roof, without a tree or bush or flower about it, surrounded
with sheds and sheep folds and cattle enclosures--a dusty, desolate
place!  Here I established myself and kept the books, weighed the wool
and paid the shearers every day, men and women, for we had them of
both sexes; only a woman never got beyond her fifty per day, while
some men would soar to a hundred, and even twenty more. And so we went
on for about three weeks, until some thirty-five to forty thousand
animals had been deprived of their fleeces. The siestas or lazy
intervals in the day, and the evenings, were tedious in that hot,
dusty, woolly place, and I asked my host one day if he had not such a
thing as a book in his house. Oh yes, he joyfully and proudly replied,
he had a book, one book, but a good one, a big one; and dashing off to
another room he soon appeared with the one book--a huge old folio
bound in thick leather, almost black with age. It was a life, in
Spanish, of the Italian saint, John Gualberto, a great and holy man,
as such things were accounted in the eleventh century, or as we might
describe him from a twentieth-century point of view, a dull-witted,
insanely superstitious, enraged bull in a religious china shop. A poem
or romance would have suited me better, or at all events a book one
could hold in one's hand when lying on a couch; but it was the one and
only book in the house, and I had to read sitting at a table; and in
this uncomfortable way, reading a few chapters at a sitting, I got
through the whole of it--the dullest book I ever waded through, about
the most detestable character one could stumble upon even in the
histories of the saints.

After the blessed Gualberto's death, I read, there was a statue or
monument of him erected in some public place, in the town of his
birth, I think, but I forget about that; and no sooner had it been set
up than miracles began to happen on the spot. Thus, if some starving
beggar came along, and, plucking off his hat, fell on his knees to
worship the saint, he would presently catch sight of a gleaming object
in the dust at his knees, which would turn out to be a silver coin,
which would serve to buy him food and wine. But there were also
miracles of a contrary kind--miraculous punishments for those who had
hard, unbelieving hearts and spoke scornfully of the saint and his
works. Such a person would perhaps bark his shins against some
obstruction he had failed to see, or would stumble and come down on
his face on the stony road. And one day two women came by, and one,
being of a frivolous and mocking disposition, made some derogatory
remark about St. John Gualberto, and had no sooner spoken than a
sudden violent gust of wind caught her and blew her gown over her
head, which was the cause of much laughter and jeering from the
onlookers, until she, overwhelmed with shame and confusion, fled from
the spot.

Many of the ponderous biographies of the saints, writ by the monks of
the Middle Ages, are like that, unpleasant to read, and if we desire
to keep up any devotional sentiment about them, we must confine our
reading of their lives to the modern bowdlerised versions.

But let us go back to the wind--let it blow from our brains the memory
of saints and their miracles, nice or nasty. No doubt there are
exceptions among women to this ancient hostility to the wind; one can
even believe that the Ellen of _News from Nowhere_ was not wholly
evolved from the author's inner consciousness, when he tells us how
she laid her brown hand and arm on the old lichened brick wall of
Kelmscott Manor as if to embrace it, and cried: "O me! O me! how I
love the earth, and the seasons and weather and all things that deal
with it and grow out of it." I know one myself who delights above all
things in long walks in a strong wind, who wears a cap and
close-fitting costume--a form of dress as suitable, without being
ugly, to all weathers as that of a man.

Such women are rare, and it is a sad thought that our system of life,
our devotion to comfort, which adds and adds and goes on everlastingly
adding to the attractions of an indoor existence, has the inevitable
effect of making Nature increasingly strange and hostile to us.

I think in this connection of our poetical literature: how have our
poets, for example, treated this subject of the wind? T. E. Brown
thought the sea "the great challenger and promoter of song." This
seems natural enough in an islander--and the Isle of Man is even
smaller than England. Swinburne was never happier than when splashing
about in the ocean, and he offers to exchange lots with the seamew, to
give him his--Swinburne's--songs' wild honey in exchange for the
seamew's sunny wide eyes that search the sea and wings that weary
never. Then, he said, it would be well for him for ever.  But, I
venture to add, it would not be so well for the sea-mew.

The wind has not been so fortunate. One can't remember all the poetry
one has read in a lifetime; one remembers only that the poet's wind is
of two sorts, like two distinct entities. One is the warm and soft
caressing wind that breathes among the flowers, stealing and giving
odours, the spring wind ever associated with love's young dream; the
other is the loud, the boisterous or blustering wind, "the wind
Euroclydon, the storm-wind," the wind that howls like a hungry wolf
about the house, or moans "in its strange penance," as one has it; the
wind that is eerie and weird and uncanny, and is associated with the
poet's darkest moods, the desolation of his soul, and distinctly
encourages his suicidal impulses. It all seems like a convention which
after many centuries has ceased to he one. I dare say there are many
exceptions, but I can't recall them just now, excepting Shelley's
wonderful ode.

And one other, and this only because it was written yesterday--the
most soul-stirring hymn to the wind and the elemental forces of Nature
I am acquainted with, the forces against which man has striven from
the unremembered, the incalculable past even to the present day and
these last four years of bloody strife. It is entitled _Barbarry
Camp_, and was written in the year before the war by Captain C. H.
Sorley, one of our young poets who have given their lives for England
and France. I must quote more than a stanza or two. It is supposed to
be spoken by the men, dead long ages--thousands of years ago, who
burrowed night and day, and heaped the bank up and called it a ring:

  And here we strove and here we felt each vein
    Ice-bound, each limp foot frozen, all night long.
  And here we held communion with the rain
    That lashed us into manhood with its thong,
      Cleansing through pain:
    And the wind visited us and made us strong.

  Up from around us, numbers without name,
    Strong men and naked, vast, on either hand
  Pressing us in, they came. And the wind came
    And bitter rain, turning grey all the land.
      That was our game,
    To fight with men and storms, and it was grand.

  For many days we fought them, and our sweat
    Watered the grass, making it spring up green
  Blooming for us. And if the wind was wet
    Our blood wetted the wind, making it clean
      With the hatred
    And wrath and courage that our blood had been.

  So fighting men and winds and tempests, hot
    With joy and hate and battle lust, we fell....

  Wind that has blown here always ceaselessly,
    Bringing, if any man can understand,
  Might to the mighty, freedom to the free;
    Wind that has caught us, cleansed us, made us grand,
      Wind that is we,
    We that are men--make men in all this land.

It is like the call of a trumpet to one who has long been a listener
to the sweet and soulful, enervating sounds of citherns and citoles.

_If anyone can understand_? Does anyone really want to understand,
especially just now when we are lapped in a dream of peace--perpetual
peace and a federation of the world? It is a big place no doubt, and
not all West, and we may cast an apprehensive look at Asia and Africa
when causing the globe to revolve with a touch of the finger; we may
well have a fleeting vision of a million million bi-coloured souls,
gasping and straining towards a more open world, a wider space with
room to breathe and live and propagate. Numbers without name,
surrounding our Barbarry Camp, fencing us in! Let it pass--the ugly
vision; let us fall to dreaming again as in those beautiful days
before the last great devastating eruption of the Huns. Dreaming of
peace on earth, everlasting peace, since to understand is to despair;
does not the aspiration itself signify decay?


On seeking for a way back to Nature--The natural man and his
surroundings--When pain is pleasure--Man in unison with
Nature--"Intuition of snow," a notion fantastic and true--Influence of
the wind--The wind a promoter of thought--Flying thoughts--Help from
the physicists--Phantasms in the wind--Telepathic messages--A domestic
drama--Is the wind a mind-messenger?--A desire of the mind--The poet
expresses it--Is it a delusion?--Conjectures--Mental
embryology--Telepathy inherited from the animals.

I once knew a man, an English sheep-farmer in South America, who would
mount his horse on a rainy day in summer to go out for a long ride
without a cloak, so as to get a thorough wetting. This was, he assured
me, his greatest pleasure.

It reminds me of a great financier and millionaire who, when his day's
business was done, would shut himself up in a room sacred from
intrusion, where, throwing off his clothes, he would lie naked on a
rug before a huge fire and soak himself in the heat for an hour or so.
This, he said, was his best time, his chief happiness in life.

And a very good sort of happiness, as many of us know from experience;
yet one pities that poor, unhappy, toiling plutocrat who had no other
way of coming back to Nature.

I have known others whose chief happiness was in walking--walking
steadily and fast their twenty or thirty miles a day, with no object
at all except that it gave them a sense of escape from an irksome
indoor existence; as so long as they were out, miles from home, they
felt free and happy.

Another who from time to time would suddenly abandon his office, and
going to the nearest terminus, take an express train and travel
hundreds of miles, north or south, then off in another direction, and
so for three or four days, borrowing his night-shirt and whatever he
needed at the hotels he stayed at, after which he would return to
London and business again. He explained to me that the irksomeness of
his conventional indoor life, with so many hours each day in his
office in the city, appeared to have a cumulative effect, and in the
end would become unbearable; and he would then rush or run away, and
travelling at express speed over long distances, he would get the
illusion that he had made his escape from such an existence, and was
flying for ever from it.

Others there are whose chief delight is in water--the sight and feel
of it, running water, pools and lakes and the sea, to bathe in or to
sit on the margin or by the shore, poring on it. Such a one was

Still others there are who are exhilarated by thunder and lightning,
who will go out in the most dreadful storms and stand gazing up
delightedly at the tremendous spectacle.

All these peculiar preferences, and one could add many others, have
one and the same origin--the sense of disharmony between the organism
and its environment.  By a happy chance the poor wretch has discovered
a way of escape for a brief interval from his imprisonment--in violent
exercise, in getting drunk, in exposing himself to the weather, in
water, and even in lying naked basking like a cat in the heat of a big
fire in the grate. A particular condition has become associated in his
mind with the feeling of recovery, of relief, as if a burden had been

The natural man, living an outdoor natural life, although apparently
indifferent, does yet experience a certain pleasure in all weathers
and aspects of Nature. And I may say that this is how it is, and
always has been, with me, and that there is a satisfaction to me not
only in the aspects and weather and other natural conditions which
please us or "flatter the senses," but also in those which produce
discomfort and even actual physical pain or fear. To the town-bred
person this may sound like nonsense, seeing that discomfort is not
comfort, and fear is fear, and pain, pain--and pain isn't pleasure, is
it? He must take my word for it that it is in some circumstances and
in some persons, although he may not be one of them.  The degree in
which we are affected varies greatly, according to our bringing up and
character and tastes and occupation.

But apart from all this, apart from the aesthetic feelings which the
object or scene or atmospheric conditions may rouse, and from the
sense of novelty, the lively interest we experience at times in what
we see and smell and hear and feel, and from other causes operating in
us, there is a sense of the _thing itself_--of the tree or wood, the
rock, river, sea, mountain, the soil, clay or gravel, or sand or
chalk, the cloud, the rain, and what not--something let us say,
penetrative, special, individ-ual, as if the quality of the thing
itself had entered into us, changing us, affecting body and mind.  It
is possible that something of this feeling was in the mind, or at the
back of it, of Willughby, the Elizabethan writer and "Father of
British Ornithology," when he suggested that the white colour in birds
and beasts in the Arctic regions was due to the constant intuition of
snow, and the force of imagination. A notion which, after having
seemed fantastic enough to cause many a man to smile during the last
three centuries, will probably be seized upon and made much of by the
biologists by-and-by.  For who at this day can believe that the winter
snow-white fur and feathers of hare, weasel, grouse and other arctic
species, the sand-colouring of animals which is almost universal in
sandy deserts, and the green plumage of many hundreds of species of
birds in tropical forests, have been brought about by means ol the
Darwinian principle--the gradual accumulation and inheritance of a
long series of small individual variations favourable to the
individual itself and its descendants in the struggle for life? The
insurmountable objection is and always will be that such variations
are of the individual.

One drops into the language of metaphor in speaking of the
evolutionary processes. The "better way" of one human protagonist may
eventually triumph because he finds believers and helpers from the
very birth of the thought, and they face the hostile world together.
Nature also abounds in reformers, prophets, cranks, and improvers of
their kind generally; but here the individual reformer can find no
disciple; he is one against an incalculable multitude all wound up to
keep on the old bad way so that his better way inevitably comes to an
end with himself.

Imagination was not the right word, at all events in its restricted
sense, while the other phrase of the constant intuition of snow
suggests that these world-wide physical effects are due principally to
a purely psychical cause. Well, I don't find it impossible to believe
that.  One always wants to find something to believe, some way out of
the maze, for we do know that in the lower animals, as in man, the
mind does react on the organism sometimes with tremendous power, to
the production of strange results, as we see, for example, in cases of
prenatal suggestion.

However, just now we are concerned mainly with the atmospheric sense,
and particularly with the influence of the wind.

While classing myself as an ordinary outdoor natural man, tolerant,
and more than tolerant, of all weathers and Nature's influence in all
her moods and manifestations, I yet fear when coming back to this
subject that I shall find no support in anything said by others in
what remains to be told. There is, then, nothing but my own personal
experience, and as every face of man and every mind differs from every
other face and every other mind, so it may be that the wind, when it
visits me, tells me a story somewhat different from the thousands and
millions of stories it has told and tells to others.

The effect of the wind on me, always greatest when it caught me on
horseback, when, during the first half of my life, I was constantly
riding and sometimes passed weeks at a stretch on a horse every day
from morning till night, is now my subject. When in my teens I first
began to think, I found that my best time was when on horseback, in a
high wind. It was not like the purely agreeable sensation of a soft
caressing wind, or of riding in a comparatively quiet air in a genial
sunshine; it was a pleasure of a distinctly different kind, if it can
be called pleasure. Certainly that word does not give the feeling its
characteristic expression, but I have no other.  It was a sense of a
change, bodily and mental, a wonderful exhilaration and mental
activity. "Now I can think!" I would exclaim mentally, when starting
on a gallop over the great plain--that green floor of the world where
I was born--in the face of a strong wind. Nor could it be said that
this was only the effect of being mounted and of rapid motion. We know
that merely to be on the back of a good horse does give us a sense of
power and elation; or, as Lord Herbert of Cherbury says in his
autobiography, "It lifts a man above himself." Here I may remark in
passing that this feeling, as he describes it, is common to those who,
however familiar with the horse they may be, are only on his back
occasionally, or at all events not nearly so often as they are on
their own legs and on chairs and couches. To one reared in a semi-wild
riding country the feeling is somewhat different; in the saddle one is
there conscious of being simply in the right place, since owing to
one's long and close intimacy with the horse, one manages him
automatically without thinking anything about it, the mind being left
quite free, just as a man in walking manages his legs. The effect was
not then that which is produced by merely being on horseback and the
swift motion, but almost exclusively of the wind.

Undoubtedly, one gets more air into one's lungs in a gallop than on
foot, and the oxygenation of the blood is more rapid, but the greater
exhilaration thus produced is experienced whether there is wind or

My experience in a high wind was as if, blowing through me, it had
blown away some obstruction, some bar to a perfect freedom of mind; or
as if the two minds in us, the conscious, slow, laborious mind, and
the mind that works easily and swiftly in the dark, and only from time
to time gives us a result, a glimpse, of its secret doings, had
become merged in one, the thoughts coming and going so rapidly that it
was like the flight of a bird, every wing-beat a thought,
spontaneously clothed in an appropriate expression, coming and
vanishing, to be instantly succeeded by others and still others. The
poet says:

  For what are thoughts
    But birds that fly?
  And what are words
    But traps to catch them by?

  Many are dead
    And lost in Lethe's river;
  But some survive
    As joys encaged forever.

They would perhaps have been a joy for ever to me if I could have
encaged them, but I couldn't; trap them I did, but they were too many,
too elusive, so that I no sooner gripped them in my hands than they
slipped through my fingers and were gone. I really think that if I
could have devised some means of recording them, if I had had any idea
of such a thing, they would have presented a strong contrast to the
stodgy stuff I am obliged to put in my books since I started
book-writing or book-making.  The difference in the movement of my
mind on these rides in the wind and now, sitting in a chair with paper
and pens on a table in front of me, is, as I put it before, like the
flight of a bird through the air--a sparrow-hawk, let us say, that
flashes into sight over the trees on swift-beating wings and is
instantly gone--and walking in heavy boots over a newly ploughed field
of stiff clay, saturated with last night's heavy rains.

Why and how did the wind affect me in this way? It is one of the
innumerable puzzles, problems, mysteries, one is eternally stumbling
against. Like everybody else, I am like an infant in the night crying
for the light, and with no language but a cry. And answer there comes
none. For what do we _know_--and what _do_ we know--what do we
_really_ and _truly_ know about what a friend of mine will insist on
calling our "insides"? Meaning not our lights, livers and other
organs, but that part of us where the mysteries are. For we do know a
lot about our insides according to the physiologists and
psychologists, yet they can't tell me why the wind had the effect of
transforming me into a new and different being, one as unlike my
ordinary self as, say, a sparrow-hawk is unlike a barn-door fowl. Will
the physicist help me to understand it?

He, the physicist, tells us that we are only half matter--we are
matter and ether; and ether isn't matter, but' is the original
space-pervading stuff out of which matter is evolved; and albeit not
itself matter, since it is intangible, ungraspable, and has subtle
qualities which do not pertain to matter, its elasticity and tenacity
show its relationship to matter, and one of its functions here on this
earth, to which it brings the light of sun and moon and stars, is to
hold matter together, binding atom to atom, so that if its hold were
relaxed this sensible being and the globe itself would instantly
dissolve into thin air, leaving not a wrack behind. We are also told
that when the atoms are violently agitated and pulled and thrown to
this or that side, the corpuscles of which the ether is composed, or
supposed to be, retain their hold on them and pull them back to their
proper places.

This, too, we are told, is not hypothesis run mad, but sober matter of
fact, and I am not going to say that I disbelieve it or even doubt. We
are all, vitalists and anti-vitalists alike, always anxiously

  Watching and hearkening for ethereal news,

and when it comes, when more of it comes, as doubtless come it will,
we shall know more than we do now, and by that time the physicists may
be able to assist the other researchers in helping us to understand
our insides.

The wind does not blow through me, although it assaults me violently:
it bombards me with millions of atoms, and presses hard against me,
not evenly, but in waves of varying strength, in blows, as it were,
that can shake me even as they shake and make tremble the mighty trees
and towers and bridges and great buildings of stones and wood and
metal. My whole body, lifted above the ground on a horse, is vibrating
violently, and although this body vibration does not translate itself
into sound, it reaches the brain, even as sound vibrations do, and
sets the mental machinery going.

There was more to say on this fascinating question, but as it must be
all purely conjecture, I will leave it here to discuss another mystery
which connects itself in my mind with the wind.

One autumn evening some years ago I was walking home in a London
street, walking briskly in the face of a strong south-west wind, the
one I love best of all winds in this hemisphere, thinking of nothing
except that I was thirsty for my tea and that the wind was very
delightful, when something extraordinary occurred, something never
hitherto experienced. This was the appearance of a face--the face of a
girl well known and very dear to me, who lived at that time at home
with her people at a distance of eighty miles from where I was. It was
the face only, the vivid image of the face, so vividly seen that it
could not have appeared a more real human face if the girl had
actually come before me. But, as I said, only the face, and it
appeared to be in and a part of the wind, since it did not rest still
for one instant, but had a flutter like the flutter we used to see in
a cinematograph picture, and continually moved to and fro and vanished
and reappeared almost every second, always keeping on a level with and
about three feet removed from my eyes.  The flutter and motion
generally was like that of a flag or of some filmy substance agitated
by the wind. Then it vanished and I saw it no more.

It was to me an amazing experience, as I am about the last person in
the universe to suffer from delusions and illusions, being, as someone
has said, "too disgustingly sane for anything," or at all events to
experience such things; and I consequently soon came to the conclusion
that this phantom was of a nature of a telepathic communication.
Whether or not it was a right conclusion, the reader will judge when
he knows the sequel.  But I must first relate a second similar
experience which came to me two years later.

I was out in a high wind, an exceptionally violent and very cold east
wind in early March, on this occasion blowing on my back, and I was
walking very fast over a heath towards a huge pile of rocks forming a
headland on the west Cornish coast. I had visited the headland on the
previous day, and had sat a long time on the summit of the rocky pile
watching the sea birds, and on coming home I discovered to my disgust
that I had left my nice thick leather gloves on the rock where I had
pulled them off. And this high rock was unfortunately the favourite
resort of a pair of ravens. My object now was to look for my gloves,
with little hope that the ravens had not succeeded in tearing them to
pieces in trying to devour them, or simply because of their innate

This, then, was the sole subject occupying my mind, when suddenly once
more I had the strange experience of a face fluttering before me--just
a face as on the former occasion, just as real in appearance, at the
same distance from my eyes, fluttering, moving as if blown to and fro,
appearing and disappearing as before.

It was the face of a lady, an intimate and dear friend who was at a
distance of something under four hundred miles from me at that moment.

As in the former case, I concluded that it was a telepathic message,
and in that belief I rest. Why this phantasm appeared to me at that
moment I am not at liberty to tell, but there is now unhappily no
reason for the same reticence with regard to the first case; death has
prematurely removed the dear souls who were the principal actors in
that little drama, and its relation can hurt no one.

It was the case of a girl of fourteen I loved as much as if she had
been my own daughter, because of her sweetness and charm and loving
disposition, the bright clear temper of her mind and other engaging
qualities; and I wished to adopt her--a desire or craving that
sometimes attacks a childless man. She too desired it, but there were
difficulties in the way which could not be overcome, and so the matter
was dropped, or rather left for the time in abeyance. The appearance
of that phantasmal face caused me to write at once to the mother to
inquire after them all, particularly my favourite girl, and her reply
was that they were all well and going on as usual, etc. Somehow this
did not quite satisfy me; something in the child's mind had caused
that vision, although the mother was perhaps ignorant of it. Before
long I was able to pay them a visit, and found them, as I had been
told, all well and going on as usual. The girl told me nothing, and I
asked no questions. Nevertheless a suspicion lurked in my mind, and
presently I became conscious of a slight change in the moral or mental
atmosphere of the place, a change so slight that it could not be
described as a restraint or a chill, but it was there all the same, a
something which had come to dim the old bright family happiness and

Here it is necessary to tell what the atmosphere had been. They were
an intensely religious family, churchgoers, but not satisfied with the
Sunday services at the village church, they made it a custom to attend
religious meetings and week-day services in their own and the
neighbouring village. Which was only the right thing for them to do,
considering their evangelical doctrine with its Methodist colouring,
which was that their God was a jealous God Who watched their minds,
taking note of every thought in them, and Who desired them to live
with one object before them--to save their souls from everlasting
perdition by availing themselves of all the means of grace at their
command. They were all of that mind, all having undergone or suffered
conversion, excepting the girl I was fond of; and naturally--seeing
that all her merits, her beautiful disposition and crystal purity and
goodness of heart, her love of them all and of all living things, were
nothing but "filthy rags" in their God's sight--and until she was
regenerated and the original sin, derived by inheritance from our
first parents, was washed away in the blood of the Redeemer, they
could not regard her as "saved." Sudden death at any moment might
precipitate her into the burning pit out of which the smoke of the
torment would ascend everlastingly. A sad fate for that beautiful,
innocent soul!

There are still people in England who hold this form of Christianity.
I know it, because I have associated and discussed these subjects with
them. And when I live with people, although only a lodger, I like to
be one with them. When staying with this family I loved them, for they
were all lovable, and I elected to be religious too, as far as outward
observances went, and attended meetings, and insisted on getting up at
half-past six on winter mornings to attend family prayers before
breakfast at seven by candle-light. At the same time it was a pleasure
to know from her own lips that my loved girl was not going to be
converted, because, as she explained to me, there was nothing the
matter with her. She went to church and said her prayers, and thought
that was enough. But I did not know, for this she kept from me, that
the pressure which had been brought to bear on her had become
increasingly painful until the breaking-point was reached.

About that I now heard. On the second day of my visit the mother,
finding me alone, said there was something she thought it right to
tell me. I had written to her a little while back, inquiring, as she
thought, a little anxiously about their welfare, especially about my
young friend, and she had answered that they were all well. So they
were, but a day or two before receiving my letter there had been an
exceedingly painful scene with the girl. She had suddenly, to their
amazement, broken out in a passionate revolt against them on account
of the religious question which had been troubling their minds.  She
told them that she had prayed to Heaven to send me to her
assistance--to protect and deliver her from them.  She had also, she
said, made up her mind to leave them, and if she had no money to pay
the railway fare, she would walk and live on charity by the way until
she came to where I was or found me. It was, the mother said, a trying
situation, and gave them all the greatest pain; they began to think
they had worried her too much about her religious indifference. They
told her how sorry they were, and succeeded in pacifying her by
promising not to trouble her any more, but to leave her to follow her
own mind about such matters.

They must indeed have gone through a painful experience, I thought,
seeing the state of mind it had caused in the mother, which made her
open her heart to me about it, knowing, too, beforehand on which side
my sympathies would lie.

Believers in telepathy will say that I was justified in my belief that
there could be no explanation of my strange experience other than the
one given; while the unbeliever will say, as usual, that it was
nothing but coincidence.

My experience--the two appearances of phantasmal faces--has been
described here solely because it somehow appears to fit in with my
whole idea about the wind--its powerful effect on the mind, or shall
we say on the matter or substance of the mind; and I do not find it
impossible to believe that one of its effects is to make the mind more
sensitive to telepathic communications. In both instances the wind, a
strong south-west wind and an east wind blowing a gale, blew from the
direction of the persons whose minds were occupied with me at that

Perhaps I should have seen the faces if the wind had been blowing in
other directions. I doubt it. As I have said, they appeared to be in
the wind, and of it, or as if the wind had blown them like gossamer or
thistledown to me. Doubtless, they were images on the brain, projected
into the air, as it seemed, and their incessant windy motions perhaps
corresponded with an agitation in the brain, or with that substance of
it in which the affections, memory, reason and imagination reside,
with perhaps other faculties we know not of or are only just beginning
to know. And if, as I imagine, the wind was the cause of the agitation
of the brain--the wind or the subtle immaterial substance which
pervades the brain and the wind alike, or perhaps moves with the
wind--then the direction in which it blows may be a fact to be taken
into account as wafting or blurring or making a vivid mental message
from a distance.

There was, and is, much more to say on this subject--this new and
strange problem in psychology, which is after all perhaps one of the
oldest in human thought.  Only just now, when it comes to us under a
new name and increasing knowledge of its manifestation, it has
acquired a peculiar interest, in some instances a personal one, but in
all of us it sharply pricks curiosity. And the prick is all the
sharper in my case since I seem at times to catch a glimpse of a
connection between this and still other mysteries. At present want of
time and space compels me to abandon it, to be picked up when the
opportunity offers at another time, although (to take a hint from Sir
Thomas Browne) that time may be when I am no longer here. I am finding
it prudent on this voyage to relieve myself of a good deal of
material--many bales and crates of merchandise collected in many
outlandish places; otherwise this slow ancient barque, with only the
wind to keep her going, will never reach port. Nevertheless, before
dropping it I should like to put down a few thoughts and suggestions
to bring this chapter to a conclusion.

It will be remembered that the only instances I have given of
telepathy relate to but one aspect of the phenomenon of
thought-transference, and this the most arresting, the most startling
in its manifestations, being that of apparitions or phantasms of the
living, the message or shock invariably proceeding from a person in a
moment of supreme agitation and, frequently, in the agonies of death:
the percipient as a rule being one closely connected with the sufferer
by ties of relationship and affection. Furthermore, it is known or
assumed that the sufferer is passionately thinking of the absent and
loved one at the moment, and that the thought finds its objective over
long distance, and appears as a wraith or phantasm.

Now we know that this faculty, this power of the mind of projecting
itself in such moments of violent disturbances, is a useless one,
seeing there can be no response, no helpful action, nor even a return
message, and that its only effect is anxious doubt or keen distress in
the percipient.  Is it not then curious to think that this useless
sense, or faculty, which is in some if not all of us, and of which we
are unconscious, is the very one which all men desire to possess, only
with this difference, that they want to be conscious of it and able to
control and direct it? There is a time in the life of a natural man
when his most ardent, most burning wish is for some undiscovered way,
some unknown faculty by means of which he can communicate with the
absent or lost loved one. Often enough this passion that feeds on the
heart, that makes life a torment and darkens the reason, actually
brings the sufferer to the belief, or the brink of it, that it is not
impossible that in a dream, or by an effort of the will or in some
other unknown way, the miracle can be brought to pass.  And with this
feeling there is sometimes the thought that if it cannot be so long as
both are alive, death will yet make it possible to the craving soul.

The author of _The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich_, who never heard of
telepathy, since the word was not invented in his day, has, to my
mind, given this universal feeling, this burning desire to be with and
comfort the absent one, its most perfect expression in the following

  Is it impossible, say you, these passionate, fervent impressions,
  These projections of spirit to spirit, these inward embraces,
  Should in strange ways, in her dreams, should visit her, strengthen
    her, shield her?
  Is it possible, rather, that these great floods of feeling
  Setting in daily from me to her should, impotent wholly,
  Bring neither sound nor motion to that sweet shore they heave to?
  Efflux here, and there no stir nor pulse of influx!...
  "Would I were dead," I keep saying, "that so I could go and uphold
  Surely, surely, when sleepless I lie in the mountain lamenting,
  Surely, surely, she hears in her dreams a voice, "I am with thee,"
  Saying, "although not with thee, behold, for we mated in spirit,
  There when we stood in the chamber and knew not the words we
    were saying."
  Yea, if she felt me within her, when not with a finger I touched her.
  Surely, she knows it, and feels it while sorrowing here in the moorland.
  "Would I were dead," I keep saying, "that so I could go and uplift

There we have it all! Is it for nothing this intense, this intolerable
craving of the soul for the absent one, this cry of the heart and
throwing out of the arms, as it were, has been given him--this
plangent emotion which seems to lift and bear him out to that sweet
shore it heaves to? "Surely, surely!" he cries, hoping against hope,
"it cannot be impossible!" And if impossible, then let death come,
since then all barriers will be overpassed and he would be there to
whisper, "I am with thee," to uphold her and uplift her!

It has been said by certain writers of books which the reader is
invited to regard as prophetic that there is nothing he desires which
is unattainable by man, if only he desires it ardently and
persistently enough--if he hopes and believes that the desire itself
will eventually bring about its fulfilment. But of this desire of the
mind to be able to project itself, consciously, at will, to a distant
one, we can only say that it exists in millions of men, that it has so
existed for untold generations, and is still nothing but a vain dream
and desire. The delusion of a mind abnormally excited; and as that
form of excitement goes as far back as the existence of man on the
earth, we may say that the wish and the delusion it gives rise to
begins when and where thought begins.

We ourselves sometimes cherish the delusion, probably imparted to us
by anthropological and other masters, that the passion of love, in all
its forms of devotion to a loved one, is different both in character
and degree in savage and primitive people from the feeling in us.
Doubtless it is true in some cases, in some degraded tribes or races,
but it is not a general truth. Savage men are capable of every form of
love and self-sacrifice as well as ourselves (there are many
exceptions among ourselves), and not only so, but the love of another
goes further back to the lower animals, which are often known to pine
and perish of grief and misery at the loss of a mate or companion.

I dare say that many a reader will be ready to challenge every word I
am writing on this obscure subject. I can challenge much of it myself.
For example, when I say that this particular wish, with the delusion
it gives rise to, is as old as thought, human and semi-human, and is
still nothing but a wish and delusion, how do I know what has been in
the past--that dreadful past of man's history on earth? Absolutely
nothing, or no more than we can know from the study of a few fossil
thigh-bones and an occasional skull. And all that these tell us is
that distant races, our own and other species of men, have been in the
occupation of continental areas for long periods of time, probably
untold thousands of generations, and that some of these races were
larger-brained than the men of the present era. Of their nature, their
inner life, we know and can know nothing, and can only suppose that
they had developed a mentality wholly unlike ours. They did not build
cities of stone to live in, or, in other words, they did not create
new artificial conditions of life, to be themselves remade by the
conditions they had created, and were therefore not civilised in our
sense. Theirs was then the simple life, the life of animal and savage,
with, perhaps, the savage nature outlived.  We are told, at all
events, of one of these large-brained races, that their dentition was
different from ours, that they had no canine teeth, and were not flesh
but grain-eaters.  What, then, was the culture of these human beings
of thirty or forty--some say fifty--thousand years ago--these men that
did not feed on flesh, animal or human, and probably had no weapons of
offence and made no wars? I don't know, and it was therefore nothing
but presumption on my part to say that this universal desire of the
soul in man to have the power to project, or to impart, itself to
another one has never been anything but a wish and a delusion.

"But whither will conjecture stray?" as Wordsworth asks. In this case
only this far. We cannot imagine a mentality other than our own--that
of a wasp, let us say, or of a visitor from Mars; or even of a member
of the human race of a subspecies nearly allied to ours, whose mental
evolution has progressed so far and lasted so long as to have given
him a far bigger brain than we possess, since the evolution has not
been on our lines and is consequently to us unimaginable.

Nevertheless we are not wholly without hope, so let us go cheerfully
stumbling and fumbling on; or "rushing in," as the anthropologist,
physiologist, biologist and psychologist will each exclaim with a
giggle from his own particular water-and-air-tight compartment.

And what gives us hope is something still to be found in ourselves--in
some, if not in all, of us; vestiges of ancient outlived impulses,
senses, instincts, faculties, which stir in us and come to nothing,
and in some exceptional cases are rekindled and operate so that a man
we know may seem to us, in this particular, like a being of another
species. They are numerous enough, and when collected and classified
they may form a new subject or science with a specially invented new
name, signifying an embryology of the mind.

We know now that telepathy or thought-transference in the extreme and
violent form in which it has been so far discussed here is not an
exclusively human faculty, but is common to man and the lower
animals--to some of the higher vertebrates, so far as we know at
present. Up till now the authentic cases on record which concern the
animal relate to telepathy between the man and the animal, but I now
have a perfectly authentic case of telepathy of this kind between
animal and animal. In this one case I have before me I see that there
is this difference between the animal and man, in that the brain-wave
or vibration in the former does not appear to the percipient as a
phantasm, but translates itself into sound, to an agonising cry for
help which meets with an instant response.

>From this solitary instance we may form a guess as to what telepathy
may be, its function and importance, in wild animal life; and if we,
even in the artificial conditions we exist in (and have existed in for
thousands of years), the inevitable effect of which is to wither and
kill the faculties suitable to a purely natural life--if we still have
remains or vestiges or intimations of these lost faculties in us, is
it not probable that the large-brained men of the far past who lived
with nature had them too, in a larger measure and perhaps another way;
that they developed and flourished in forms and a lustre unimaginable
to us, apart from nature, in our warm clothing, in the close shelter
of our houses?

How was it possible, one may ask, that a race of men, physically
strong, no doubt, as the animals are, cultivators of the soil, since
they must have sown and harvested the grain they fed on, could exist
for long ages on the continent of Europe in a region abounding in
powerful beasts of rapine and surrounded and pressed upon by more
savage men, armed with spears and arrows and axes, hunters, fighters,
cannibals--how is it possible they could have maintained existence in
such conditions unless by a mental development--mental and physical,
let us say--which gave them power over their enemies, man and beast?
And that power could but have been the result of faculties, long
trained and highly developed, which with us are rare and startling
phenomena, and are described as occult or supernormal or even

Here then for the present I drop the subject, since it cannot be fully
treated in this book--this story without an end, in which so many
matters can only be touched on.  Telepathy here, as stated before, is
but one aspect or form or manifestation of what is called
thought-transference; not quite rightly so called in this form, seeing
that thought, or any mental faculty beyond memory, can have little to
do with it. It is rather of the nature of a sudden or spasmodic and
unconscious discharge of a violent and painful emotion. How
discharged, or how it came to be bottled up so as to make it
dischargeable in that special way, is the mystery. Unconscious,
spasmodic, violent, yet resulting in something in appearance thought
out, definite, sane, intelligible--a message from a subject in pain or
trouble or agony which hits its distant mark and is visualised as an
apparition or phantasm by the human percipient, and is heard as an
acute cry of distress, a summons for help, by the animal. What can we
say of it except that it is inexplicable; or that it is a striking
example of that vaguely conscious something, force or principle, in
nature, which we sometimes roughly name "unconscious intelligence," a
diffused mind in or behind nature which gives a sort of supernatural
disguise to phenomena?

But that indefinable something in or behind nature, that formative
principle, ever blindly feeling and struggling on towards a definite
goal, which the mechanicians interpret in one way and the Doctor Henry
Mores of the past and the Flammarions of the present in another, is in
everything--in all organisms, animal and vegetable, in every cell. And
as to telepathy, the plain common-sense view of the matter is that the
Flam-marions had better drop it as an additional proof of the
existence of a soul, or else overcome all opposition to the idea of
sharing their heaven with the lower animals.


Wind and the sense of smell--Scent in deer and dog--Sense of smell in
man--In the Queensland savage--Sense of smell in different
races--Purely personal experience--The Smell of England: a mystery and
its solution--Aromatic and fragrant smells--Wordsworth's vision of
Paradise--Sweet gale--Bracken--Gorse and its powerful
effect--Spiritual quality in odours----Cowslip----Melancholy
flowers----Honeysuckle and sweet-briar--Shakespeare and Chaucer on its
scent--Chaucer, though old, still living--Scents and their degrading

The wind was the subject of the last chapter, then that of telepathy
cropped up and occupied the last half. But the gust had not blown its
fill: there was indeed very much more to say about it, only here I
seem to be standing alone in it, feeling it, thinking of it, and it
will probably be best for me to wait for others--physicists,
physiologists and psychologists--to come out and feel and listen to it
with me.

There is, however, just one matter, a simple fact familiar, I dare
say, to most persons, which I either forgot to mention, or did not
emphasise when writing in praise of the wind. It will now, I fancy,
come best in this place, since it will serve to link the last chapter
with the present one, which has for its subject the sense of smell.

When a smell--a flowery fragrance, let us say, to be on the agreeable
side of things--is blown to our nostrils, the nerve's sensibility is
not quickly exhausted, as it usually is in a quiet atmosphere. The
sense ordinarily becomes tired so soon that we are annoyed with our
olfactories for serving us so badly. In a wind the scent comes in
gusts, and however fragrant it may be, there is little or no
diminution in the effect produced.

I suppose the explanation would be that the nerves of smell and the
liquid covering them are agitated by the wind, and that in this
condition the scent particles are more rapidly and thoroughly
dissolved, and so have a greater stimulating power than at other

When watching the hind in Richmond Park I thought with admiration of
the exquisite perfection of the three most important senses in a wild
animal's life--vision, hearing and smell. The dog, with a horizon
limited to about a third of a stag's, is a comparatively dim-eyed
creature; he lives, as we see, mainly in the sense of smell. This is
astonishingly acute, but that of the deer is just as perfect with
regard to its use or purpose, which is chiefly to inform it of distant
or hidden dangers to be escaped only by flight. The dog's smell is
concerned with numberless little matters that are of less ac-count;
these constitute his entertainment and give a perpetual zest to his
life, He quarters and examines the ground with his nose to find it
abundantly sprinkled over, so to speak, with the visiting cards of
other creatures--other dogs, some known personally to him, others
strangers; also rabbits, rats, voles, and what not. The deer is not
concerned in these minute matters; if a rabbit or mouse has crossed
his track he is not excited about it, and bits of carrion hidden in
the grass, and small local stenches, in which the dog revels, are
nothing to him.

No doubt there is a vast difference in power in the sense of smell in
both these animals and in man; nevertheless, I don't think so meanly
of man's olfactories as some physiologists appear to do. It is a
common idea, and is in the books, that man's sense of smell is
decayed; some writers have gone so far as to describe it as

Who, we may ask, is _Man_ in this connection? It would be nearer the
truth to say that the more civilised man becomes, or the more he
secures himself against the forces of nature by improving his
conditions, the less important to his welfare does this sense become.
The dangers he is warned against by smell in a state of nature have
been removed artificially; in an environment in which the function of
the olfactories has been superseded, the inevitable result is their
decay. This is in accordance with Nature's economical principle; she
will not continue doing for us what we have undertaken to do for
ourselves, and will cheerfully scrap the exquisite apparatus she has
been building up for our safety in thousands and millions of years.

When I see a lover of flowers and their perfumes pressing a bunch of
violets to her nose as if to drag something out of them with her nose,
to stimulate by violence, as it were, by repeated sniffing
inhalations, a torpid sense--the sense which she knows is in her
although it may have given no evidence of its existence for some time
past--when I see this, knowing at the same time that the violets'
"nimble emanations" are filling the whole room, I recognise the fact
that the sense of smell is so enfeebled in her as to be of no account
at all; also that it may be the same in a majority of the inhabitants
of London and of all the great urban centres of human life in England.
All that doesn't come to much, seeing that England is but a dot on the
map and its people a mere roomful compared with the population of the
globe.  What one asks to know is, does the Armenian, the Turk, the
Siberian, the Zulu, the Arab, the inhabitant of the Roof of the World,
press a flower to his nose in order to get the sensation of its

When the traveller and naturalist Lumholtz lived with the cannibal and
ophiophagous tribes of Queensland, he found that they hunted the
serpent, a large species of boa on which they fed, by its scent. This
serpent travels long distances in quest of prey, and once on its scent
the natives would follow it like a pack of beagles, through woods and
thicket, marshes, over rocky tracts and all kinds of country, until
they came up with it. The scent, they assured him, was quite strong
and easy to follow, but though he went down on all-fours and sniffed
with all his might, he could detect no scent at all. There is, then, a
considerable difference between man and man with regard to this sense
in different countries and conditions.  The man of the physiologist is
the one he knows, who is of his own state in life, who lives in
comfortable circumstances in an equable temperature.  Again, Humboldt
relates that the Peruvian Indians distinguished between the footprints
of their own people and those of whites and negroes.

There are, besides, the aborigines of America from Alaska to Tierra
del Fuego, the Africans, the Polynesians, the Malays, the inhabitants
of a thousand oceanic islands, the Asiatics. I suppose that at least a
hundred thousand Europeans have written books about China, Hindustan,
and all the other countries of that vast continent, but I doubt if
there is a chapter in the hundred thousand books dealing with the
sense of smell in any Asiatic people compared with ours.

Having, then, few or no facts to go upon, we are very much in the dark
about this sense; we can only suppose that, if it be accepted as a
principle that its decay proceeds _pari passu_ with the increase in
the value of vision and and the improvements in our artificial
condition of life, the decline has been greater in the town-dwelling
and comfortably-off classes in England during the last two centuries
than in the previous two thousand years.

To dogmatise on such a subject would be ridiculous; we are even more
in the dark than I have made it appear.  By watching a man and subtly
drawing him out, we can penetrate through his mask and discover his
secret and real mind, but we can't get at the real state of his sense
of smell. Each one of us knows his own, and many of us only know it
"in a way." Wherefore I'm glad to get away from this wide and general
view of the subject, and to confine myself for the rest of this
section to the purely personal aspect of the matter--my own private
sense of smell.

So long as a smell is not a warning or disgustful one, even if acrid
or sour or pungent, it is agreeable to me.  The heavy greasy smell of
sheep, for instance, and of sheep-folds, of cattle and cow-houses and
stables, of warehouses filled with goods, and drapers', grocers',
cheesemongers', and apothecaries' shops, of leather and iron and wood,
of sawpits and carpenters' workshops.  Wood-smells are indeed almost
as grateful as aromatic and fragrant scents. And many other
smells--tanneries, breweries, and all kinds of works, including
gasworks.  But it is always a pleasing change from the great
manufacturing centres to the country and the dusty smell of rain after
dry, hot weather; the smell of rain-wet pine-woods, of burning weeds
and peat, and above all the smell of the fresh-turned earth--the smell
which, as the agricultural labourer believes, gives him his long,
healthy, peaceful life.

One of my first sharp unforgettable experiences in England was a novel
smell, which I will not say assailed, but rushed hospitably on me to
receive me, so to speak, in its soft, flesh-like, welcoming arms--an
earth-born thick, warm smell, something like cookery and Russian
leather, a happy, pleasant smell the like of which I had never
encountered before.

I had just landed at Southampton on a bright morning in early May, and
the whole air seemed redolent of it, just as it seemed peopled with
the chirruping sounds of innumerable sparrows. What was it? I
consulted my fellow-passengers on the question as we strolled about
the town, glad at being on firm land after thirty-one days at sea; but
though there were Englishmen in our party, no one could give me any
information. They assured me that they did not perceive it, and didn't
believe there was any such smell. I set them down as poor noseless
creatures with wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.  These voyaging
companions soon drifted away, leaving only one of their company, an
American, who said he had nothing to do except to see England, and so
would stay with me until I had exhausted Southampton. We took long
walks about the suburbs and over the neighbouring beautiful common, he
always sticking to me, and still the strange agreeable smell attended
me. Then we hired a trap and youth to drive, and went farther afield;
we were constantly shouting to our driver to tell us what _that_ was.
There were sights and sounds and smells in plenty all new to me. I was
intoxicated with delight at listening to the skylark mounting up in
the blue and pouring down his ecstatic music. My companion, whose mind
was practical, cared for none of these things, but was curious about
the state and system of agriculture. "What do you call _that_?" he
shouted, pointing to a field of red clover in flower as we flew, past
it. "Grass," said our Briton. "Yes, yes, but what kind of grass?"
"Grass--what the horses eat," he returned. "I only wish the horses
had eaten your head off," said my companion, and the poor driver
looked puzzled and hurt.

Even at a distance from the town I received whiffs of my mysterious
scent, but it diminished the further I went. Returning to the town it
would again seem universal and powerful, yet I could not find a native
of the place to tell me what it was. They did not perceive it, they
all told me, and I came to the conclusion that as they lived in it
they had ceased to smell it--that it was the smell of the place, of
the country, and I called it the Smell of England.

Afterwards in London, then in Gloucestershire, and later in Scotland,
I almost lost sight or scent of the Smell of England. Occasional
whiffs came to my nostrils, but I imagined I had, like the natives,
lived long enough in it to become unconscious of it. Then after many
months came the day when the mystery was revealed. I was in London,
walking thoughtfully up Oxford Street, when on approaching Tottenham
Court Road a powerful gust of the now old familiar smell came on me
and brought back a vivid memory of my first day in Southampton, when
the Smell of England was new to me. As I advanced the gusts became
frequent and increased in power, until I was at the side of a big
building from which issued clouds of steam and hot air from a dozen
conduits, and dull rumbling noises of machinery. The whole air had
become a bath of the thick, sweetish, warm, half-flowery and
half-savoury smell. And the building was a brewery, and the smell was
the smell of brewing!

Of natural odours, the most agreeable are the aromatic and fragrant
that emanate from plants. The odours of spices and fruits, all more or
less associated in the mind with tastes, are of a distinctly lower or
less intellectual or aesthetic order. It is related of Wordsworth that
he was without the sense of smell, and that on one occasion when he
was sitting on a spring day in his flowery garden the unknown sense
suddenly came to him to astonish and delight with the lovely novel
sensation. He described it as being like a vision of Paradise. A
similar vision has been mine at frequent intervals all my life; I
doubt if its loveliness has been less in my case than in that of the
poet, to whom it came once as by a miracle. When a gust of flowery
fragrance comes to me, as when I walk by a blossoming beanfield or a
field of lucerne, it is always like a new and wonderful experience, a
delightful surprise. The reason of this effect, I take it, is that
odours do not register impressions in our brains which may be
reproduced at will, as it is with sights and sounds. Thus odours never
wholly lose the effect of novelty. We remember that certain flowers
delighted us with their fragrance, but cannot recall or recover the
sensation; there is no record, no image. Nevertheless, the bare
remembrance of it--of what it was to us at the moment--is a joy for
ever. I think of certain flowering trees--catalpa, orange, lime,
mimosa, acacia, locust, with many others--and cherish a love of them
which is almost like the love that some woman has inspired in us with
her charm, the quality which has lifted her above other women and
endowed her with a beauty above all beauty.

Trees differ from trees in glory in this respect. I think less of
orange and lime than of the Pride of China or Tree of Paradise, as it
is variously called; I often stand, in memory, in the shade of its
light loose feathery foliage, drinking in the divine fragrance of its
dim purple flowers, until I grow sick with longing, and being so far
removed from it feel that I am indeed an exile and stranger in a
strange land.

It has always been a subject of wonder to me that so many persons find
the loveliest perfumes excessive or oppressive, as when they stand by
a flowering syringa bush, or are in a room with fragrant
flowers--lilies, stock, mignonette, and various others. I can never
get too much of it nor quite enough to satisfy my smelling hunger.
Thus I love to spend entire days roaming about on boggy or marshy
heaths, perhaps less for what I see and hear of wild life than for the
sake of the odour of golden withy or sweet gale, where there are acres
of it, and I can stand knee-deep among its thick-growing shrubs and
rub my hands and face with the crushed leaves and fill my pockets with
them so as to wrap myself up in the delicious aroma.

Almost all aromatic plants are agreeable to me--fennel, horehound,
tansy, pennyroyal, and all mints, even the water-mint, which most
persons find too powerful.  Also bracken when it first unrolls its
broad fronds, and I crush it to get the unique smell, which suggests
castor-oil and the fish-and-cucumber odour of smelts--a strange and
fascinating combination.

The fragrance of gorse is not of the highest order, yet it holds and
enchants me above most flowers, and being itself a sun's child, like
the sunflower, or sun-gazer as we call it in Spanish, its habit is the
exact opposite of that of the "melancholy flowers," which shed their
soulful fragrance like tears in the darkness and silence of night.
The gorse is most fragrant at noon, when the sun shines brightest and
hottest. At such an hour when I approach a thicket of furze, the wind
blowing from it, I am always tempted to cast myself down on the grass
to lie for an hour drinking the odour in. The effect is to make me
languid; to wish to lie till I sleep and live again in dreams in
another world, in a vast open-air cathedral where a great festival and
ceremony is perpetually in progress, and acolytes, in scores and
hundreds, with beautiful bright faces, in flame-yellow and orange
surplices, are ever and ever coming towards me swinging their censers
until I am ready to swoon in that heavenly incense.

Yet, as I have said, this fragrance is not of the higher order, since
in its richness there lurks a suggestion of flavours. Its powerful
effect is probably partly due to association with the
sight-impressions the blossoming plant has imparted to the mind of its
splendour. Many of our other wild flowers come nearer to the spiritual
quality in fragrance, like the blossoms of the Pride of China; also
the evening primrose in some of the most fragrant species where it is
found growing in profusion in its native land. We have it in the hedge
rose, violet, bog asphodel, primrose, scented orchis, for example. And
I would even include, or I should like to include, the cowslip; but it
is too delicious.

If by chance I have a reader who shares my feeling concerning the
scent of flowers and would like to experience the full deliciousness
of the cowslip, I would advise him to repair at its season to that
curious strip of flat country extending from the lower reaches of the
Somerset Axe to the River Parret below Bridgwater. It is all meadow or
glassland drained by innumerable dykes, which divide it into vast
fields of an emerald green; it is on a level with the sea, or a little
below the level at high tide, protected from it by the old bank made
by the Romans in their day. Here you may come upon a field of
close-cropped grass abundantly sprinkled over with cowslips and no
flower of any other kind. The stems, crowned with their little nodding
clusters, grow but a foot or two apart and four or five inches high,
so that lying flat on your back you have them pretty well on a level
with your nose. Imagine the sensation on a day of brilliant sunshine
with a warm light wind blowing wave on wave of the delicious fragrance
over you!

Before finishing with this part of my subject, I must say a word about
a curious phenomenon respecting the flowers which Linnaeus called
"melancholy"--those which pour out their sweetness most copiously by
night.  One of the commonest is the honeysuckle; and sometimes when I
am out at night walking in a deep lane with un-trimmed hedges on
either side, I all at once come into an air so laden with the rich
perfume as to cause it to seem thick or dense, then after two or three
steps further have passed again into a perfectly scentless air. If I
then turn back to get once more into the fragrant area I cannot find
it. Frequently I have walked up and down a dark narrow lane for half
an hour in search of the lost scent, and have also hunted for the
plant in the hedge from which it emanated, and have failed to find
either scent or plant.

This was a puzzle to me on many a summer night in the south and west
of England, where honeysuckle and other fragrant plants are most
luxuriant, and I can only suppose that in the still, warm night air
the massed flowers pour out their fragrant particles into the deep
lane below, and that the fragrance does not disperse, but remains
suspended in the air as if enclosed in a film until the wind created
by some heavy moving body--a stray donkey, or belated labourer
plodding home, or a night-prowling field naturalist--sends the whole
mass floating like a cloud or bubble away.

The most delightful experience of this kind is when the cloud of
fragrance encountered is from no flower, but from the leaf of the
sweet-briar. In some districts in southern England it flourishes so
greatly in the hedges that one can count on finding there clouds of
fragrance in the lanes on any still, warm summer night. It is a
fragrance pleasing to every one, yet one would have to go far back in
our literature to find its characteristic expression--even to a time
when possibly the sense of smell was more acute in our race and
flower-fragrance more delightful than they are to us. Shakespeare has

  The leaf of eglantine which not to slander
  Outsweetens not your breath.

How beautifully expressed! Not to slander the scented leaf! Yet we
know that it is a sweeter, richer fragrance than the love-odour of a
woman's breath; this is like the heifer's breath, which smells of milk
and new-mown hay, combined with a fragrance most like the delicate
scent of red clover, but it is made sweeter than all essential oils
from leaf and flower by love and passion.  However, I prefer my
favourite Chaucer:

  And I, that all this pleasant sighte see,
  Thought sodainlie, I felt so sweet an aire
  Come of the eglantere, that cirtainlie
  There is no hert, I deem, in such dispaire,
  Ne with no thoughtes froward and contraire
  So overlaid, but it should soon have bote
  If it but once did smell that savour sote.

Or to put it in plain prose: Is there a man on earth in such despair,
so overloaded with cares and maddened with anxious thoughts, who would
not find instant relief and forgetfulness of all his miseries on
inhaling this delicious fragrance of the sweet-briar?

And I would ask: Is it conceivable that any poet of this time (and I
believe that the number of those now living in this country exceeds a
hundred) could have such a thought, or having it, would dare to put it
into words? If he did, what a ridiculous, extravagant person he would
seem, to be sure! But as I have already hinted, it is possible that
Chaucer, albeit so great intellectually, was nearer to primitive man
physically than we are in the acuteness of his senses and child-like
delight in sights and sounds and smells.

I am tempted to go a little further with this subject, as in taxing my
memory for some adequate expression concerning the sweet-briar, I can
only recall these lines from Shakespeare and Chaucer--these two who
are never coupled. They are not the _two_ greatest in our poetic
literature, but to me they are the greatest, and one I worship and the
other I love. Alike in their all-embracing viewl of humanity and power
of characterisation, they are yet wide apart as East from West in
spirit. One would say off-hand that the contrary of this is the truth;
that they are alike in spirit, since only in virtue of great sympathy
and love for their fellows--with the insight that comes of
genius--could they have produced all that crowd of wonderfully true
portraits that adorn their galleries.

Nevertheless, to me they differ essentially in feeling.  It was
sympathy and love with insight in one, and pure intellect with
simulated sympathy in the other.

There's Hamlet sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, and
there's gross Falstaff with his rapscallion followers and his old
friend Justice Shallow; and there's Malvolio and Richard the Second,
and passionate Romeo, and the melancholy Jaques, and old crazed King
Lear, and many, many more. They are an immense crowd, for they have
now come down out of their frames or books; they are of flesh and
blood, and I am walking among them as among old friends and
acquaintances. But where is Shakespeare all the time?  I find him not,
in spite of all the loud triumphant shouts of those; who have
discovered him in this or that character and exposed his true
inwardness to the world. He hides from, he deludes, he mocks us, until
we come to regard him as a mythical being or a demigod.

Chaucer revealed himself in every one of his creations, in every line
he wrote. If he has a fault as an artist it is that he is too human;
the sense of kinship, of brotherhood, is, however, more to me than
artistry, even of the godlike aloofness of Shakespeare. Can we in all
our literature find one like him in this, a blood relation to all men,
good or bad, from the lowest human refuse to the highest, the kingly
and saintly? He is one of them always, and eats and drinks and laughs
and weeps and prays with them. All the others whose works are a joy
for ever are now dead--dead and gone, alas! we know it when we read
them. Even great Shakespeare and his fellow-Elizabethans, with all
those who came after--the heroic, the fantastic, the metaphysical,
with their tantalising, fascinating conceits: and succeeding them, the
smooth, the elegant, the classical, who reigned a hundred years: then
the revolting romantics in a more than century-long procession down
even to the spasmodics, whose _Balders, Festuses_ and _Aurora Lelghs_
our one immortal critic would have described as a relapse into a
romantic savagery more offensive to common sense than the fantastic
conventions of the seventeenth century: and finally the Victorian
giants who long survived these offensive ones--great Browning,
cheerful in his white tie and shirt front; Tennyson, now under a
cloud, sad and prophetic like the Druids of old, with beard that rests
on his bosom; and last to follow, Swinburne, tattooed all over with
beautiful female faces in rainbow colours, still valor-ously piping on
his shrill everlasting pipe. Dead--dead are they all! But if you think
of Chaucer as dead you are greatly mistaken; and when you read him you
need not reflect mournfully, as you would in the case of another, that
he no longer treads this green earth; that he who was most alive and
loved life more than all men is now lying in the colde grave, alone
withouten any companie.

I know it, because I am so often with him, walking in many a crowded
thoroughfare, watching the faces of the passers-by with an enduring
interest in their individual lives and characters. But I appreciate
his company and love him best amid all rural scenes, especially in
early spring, when we together delight our souls with the sight of the
glad light green of the opening oak leaves and the cold fresh
wholesome smells of earth and grass and herbage. He alone at such
times is capable of expressing what I feel. Reading Wordsworth and
Ruskin, nature appears to me as a picture--it has no sound, no smell,
no _feel_. In Chaucer you have it all in its fullest expression; he
alone is capable of saying, in some open woodland space with the fresh
smell of earth in his nostrils, that this is more to him than meat or
drink or any other thing, and that since the beginning there was never
anything so pleasant known to no earthly man.

All this about Chaucer will seem somewhat irrelevant in this inquiry
to some readers. I don't think so; and even now, after all said, I am
still reluctant to let go his hand. From the oak-wood I go with him to
the open fields in search of early daisies, and with him kneel on the
grass and bend down to kiss the beloved flower--the beautiful dead
child Margaret, come to life and light again in a changed form. Or
seated on a green bank, my hand on his shoulder, converse with him,
and if he falls to talking bawdy or filth, for love of it until he
makes me sick, I am a little ashamed of this modern squeamishness, and
am able to rejoice in his ranker zest in life, his robust humour.

And all this time I am seeking after something hidden. Does he,
Chaucer, speak only for himself when he writes thus of daisies and the
smale fowlis with their melodic and the scents of earth and leaves and
flowers, or is he expressing feelings which were more common in his
day than in ours?

Here then, for the present at all events, I will drop the question.

It is rather unpleasant, after revelling in paradisaical odours with
my ancient friend, who is more alive in spite of his half a thousand
years than any man I know, to have to conclude this part of my subject
with a somewhat disturbing matter.

When I first came to England I soon discovered that all scents on the
male person, natural or artificial, were distasteful and even
abhorrent to men. I had been kindly taken in hand by new-found friends
who desired to make an Englishman of me--a respectable person.  They
told me to wear a silk hat and frock coat, tan gloves, and to carry a
neatly-folded umbrella in my hand. They also instructed me to take in
_The Times_.  One of my friends, a nice old retired barrister, assured
me that a man who had not read his _Times_ in the morning was unfit to
walk the streets of London. I obeyed them in everything, but when they
objected to a little Cologne or lavender on my pocket-handkerchief I
revolted. They said I had come from a semi-barbarous country and did
not know all that this meant--that an English gentleman with scent
about him aroused a strong feeling of hostility in others, and that it
was considered very low and indicated a person of an effeminate and
nasty mind. But as I had lived among semi-barbarous people and
hobnobbed with savages and dangerous whites, I knew I was not
effeminate and that nasti-ness was not in _my_ mind. Their feeling
about scents was an associate one. As boys they all herded in great
schools and universities, and when the time came for the restraints to
be relaxed they went out to "see life," and seeing life with them did
not mean mounting a horse and riding forth in quest of adventures; it
simply meant going up to London or any other big town in their
neighbourhood, where they placed themselves under the guidance of
those who knew the ropes, and who took them to the haunts of people
they had never encountered before, people who were not respectable,
chiefly women who received them with ravishing smiles and open arms.
These women have the habit of scenting themselves somewhat
excessively, and the scents and the women and their haunts, and the
people and life altogether, became associated in their young
impressionable minds. By-and-by the revulsion comes, respectability
and the serious business of life call them back, and they shake
themselves free, but, alas! not free of the vile associations which
all perfumes have for them for the remainder of their lives.

It may be that this feeling, a sense of disgust, in the gentlemen of
this island country is of modern growth.  At all events, we read in
books that in the eighteenth century, down even to the early
nineteenth, when the gentlemen visitors made their exit from a
drawing-room, backing gracefully out and bowing low in the elegant
manner of those times, they invariably left the scent of pomander
behind them.

A couple of centuries earlier takes us to a time when an Englishman
could saturate himself with perfumes as readily as any Venetian lady
of that period; when a gentleman could call on his apothecary to get
him an ounce of civet (a large order in those days) just to sweeten
his imagination.

>From associations which degrade something which is lovely in itself we
will go on at once in conclusion of this chapter to those which exalt,
and the use of perfumes in religious symbolism. Let me first, however,
refer to the word _spiritual_ as used a few pages back in describing
the perfume of certain flowers. That it has been used by others in
this connection I don't know: it would surprise me to learn that it
hadn't. Nevertheless, I must say something in elucidation of my
private meaning.

Spiritual, as here used, refers to a scent, or to a quality of a
scent, which differs in character from all these flower-odours
described as sweet, delicious, luscious, rich, lovely, luxuriant,
etc.--the scents, in fact, which in some degree are suggestive of
flavours; differing too from all fragrant gums and woods, spices and
the aromatic smells of leaves; also from all artificial perfumes and
scents distilled from flowers. You may capture and bottle a rare or
spiritual perfume, but its chief virtue, its highest quality, will
vanish in the process.  That can only be had from the living flower.

Spiritual, then, in the flower-scent means an effect on the mind, one
we are already familiar with: we find it in certain human faces, in
their expression, in human voices too, in some moods, in speech or
song, in certain flowers in their appearance--never, perhaps, in any
brilliantly-coloured flower--in certain bird sounds; it may be in
certain note or phrase of its music; also in other non-human things,
even in the inorganic world, as in certain aspects of earth and sea
and sky in certain rare atmospheric conditions.

Finally, it is a more ethereal scent than those of other flowers,
therefore more evanescent, yet more penetrating, touching the mind, as
we imagine, to something more than a mere aesthetic satisfaction.

We know how great a part association has in the pleasure we receive
from lovely things--sights, sounds and scents; it may, indeed, be the
chief cause of the effect produced by those rare and delicate scents
we have been considering; but I don't think so. Anyhow, it is
doubtful: thus I may at any time find that peculiar effect in a wild
flower never previously met with, growing in some desert place.

With frankincense it is a different story: it is one of the thick or
heavy perfumes of the fragrant gums which do not suggest flavours, but
are also far removed in character from the etherealised quintessential
flower-scents described as spiritual. The effect, therefore, in
religious ritual is mainly due to association, and it is a very
powerful effect, and no doubt it was much more potent in the Ages of
Faith than now, and it was this use of frankincense which gave rise to
that common belief in lovely and heavenly perfumes emanating from the
long-buried bones and corpses of dead saints on their exhumation.
Intellectually, we know, smell does not rank so highly as the two
other senses, but it is, on the other hand, more emotional, and stirs
the mind more deeply than seeing and hearing. It has, as it were, a
higher and lower nature, and only in the lower does it come near to
taste; and _taste_ even the Protestant, full of dry light as he is,
yet admits into _his_ religious symbolism. But he cannot attend a
Roman Catholic church or cathedral service in the reverent spirit of
one who looks on all churches as God's House without feeling its
effect, and recognising its peculiar fitness in spite of the want of
association for him in that cloud of incense; and he may even think
that he has been wrongfully deprived of something desirable and of
value in his own church service when he remembers his Bible, which is
perhaps his fetish, and the words of the Being he worships, when He
proclaimed through the mouth of His prophets that from the rising of
the sun to its going down incense would ascend to Him, morning and
evening, in all places.

Why then is incense not used in the Anglican Church, which took its
ritual from the church before it? Nobody knows. The histories only
tell us that it began to fall into disuse in the reign of Edward VI.

There I will leave the subject, which I confess is rather an
out-of-the-way one to bring into a book concerning the senses of man
and animals by a field naturalist.


The idea of unconscious smelling and the light it lends--Effect of
rest on nerves of smell: in caverns; at sea; on mountains--Character
of a dog's smell--A friend's surprising experience--Racial
smell--Smell a low subject--Physiology--Man-smelling by
savages--Atavism and a man whose nose never deceived
him--Cheek-smelling by Mosquito Indians--Case from Dugald
Stewart--Estimating character by scent--The dog's nose in judging
character--Effect of human odour on animals--Wolves in the Zoological
Gardens--Wolf-children--The jaguar's beneficent impulses--Bear and
puma--The mystery explained.

Years ago--fifteen or twenty, I believe--in reading an article in a
periodical on the progress of Science, or some such matter, I came
upon a brief account of a notion put forward by a German scientist
about the sense of smell in man. This was that the odours of which we
are unconscious do yet serve to inform the mind. Thus, when we
conceive a dislike or repulsion for any person, a stranger to us, it
is because he has a bad character or disposition or is for some reason
antipathetic to us, and this is revealed to us by his smell.

This notion appeared to me unbelievable and even somewhat fantastic,
as I was then quite convinced that it is solely the expression of a
new face which reveals the character of the person. Consequently I
thought no more about this theory, which does not seem to have
received much, if any, attention in any quarter. Now, years later, I
find that it throws a sudden bright light into a dim interior in which
I had been helplessly, hopelessly groping among vaguely-seen
mysterious objects or shapes standing or moving about me. Let me
hasten to say that it was, and is, a vast interior, that the sudden
light fell upon and revealed only a small number of the dimly-seen
shapes about which I must write by-and-by, but I think a good deal
must be said first by way of clearing the ground.

We may take it that every object about us, animated and inanimate, has
a smell, although our olfactories may not tell us so. We have only to
consult a dog to know that the atmosphere teems with scents to which
we are insensitive. But we find that by giving a holiday, an idle
time, to our olfactories, they recover in some degree their lost or
hidden power. Thus, it is a well-known fact that when a person has
spent some hours in a deep cavern, like the famous Mammoth Cave in
Kentucky, where in the great rocky chambers, miles under ground, the
still atmosphere is free from scent particles, on emerging his
nostrils are assailed with a hundred smells--of the soil, of trees and
bushes and grass and every object around him. So sharp is the
sensation that it is actually painful in some cases. Again, on landing
after a sea voyage, the smell of the land and of buildings is quite
powerful, and we smell things strongly too when we come down from a
mountain. Even after a day spent on the crest of the South Downs,
where I used to take my walks, the various strong smells of the earth
and vegetation, and of the village, would come as a surprise and amuse
me with the notion that I had recovered a long-lost faculty.

Undoubtedly there is a very considerable difference in the smelling
powers of different persons, but the difference appears greater owing
to the variety of conditions in which we live, and to the fact that if
we live with smells, however pleasing or disagreeable they may be when
newly met, we become unconscious of them.  I think of the dog's smell
in this connection, and note that when I speak to my friends about it
they invariably asseverate that the dog, if clean, has no smell at
all.  The fact that you see dogs in the arms of half the ladies who
are out for a drive in their cars, that you find them everywhere in
drawing-rooms, not as casual guests, but residents there, as a rule in
possession of the most comfortable seats in the room, is taken as a
proof that they have no smell. Having become unconscious of the smell
themselves from living in it, they imagine it is so with others. Out
of doors a dog has no smell for me unless he gets too near by throwing
himself on me and trying to lick my face. But in a room I am as
conscious of his smell as I am of the smell of a fox, or of rabbits or
sheep. It is to me a disgusting smell, and if asked to describe it, I
should say that it is a carrion smell: not the smell of carrion lying
or drying in the sun, but of a dead animal lying and decomposing in a
pool of water in hot weather.  Long experience in a wild cattle
country, where during the summer droughts old and feeble beasts are
always getting stuck and perishing in the muddy water-holes, enables
me to make these nice distinctions. It is _the_ dog smell, and I find
it even in the petted lap-dog, fed delicately and washed and brushed
regularly every day by his attendants.

Here I will give a personal experience which illustrates the different
way in which the sense of smell affects us, according to our way of
life, predilections, and so forth. I went to visit a venerable lady of
my acquaintance at her country house, and was told she was laid up
with an attack of bronchitis, but wished to see me, and I was taken to
her room accordingly and found her in bed, propped up with pillows and
breathing with difficulty. Her two favourite dogs, black or dark-grey
haired shaggy terriers, were lying on the eiderdown quilt at her feet.
Doors and windows were closed, and though it was a large room, the
peculiar dog smell described a few lines back was strong enough to
make it exceedingly uncomfortable. But she, I knew, was unconscious of
it, and I did not venture to suggest the advisability of opening a
window lest, coming from me--one, to her thinking, so ignorant and
prejudiced as to regard dogs as unclean animals--it should appear like
a reflection on her pets. Then the housekeeper came in to consult her
about some household matter. She was a stout, or perhaps fat, sonsie
little woman with a bright smiling face, and in the light muslin dress
she wore looked delightfully cool and fresh--almost flowery. She
remained about a minute and a half in the room, standing some distance
from the foot of the bed, then withdrew, and no sooner had she closed
the door behind her than the sick lady begged me to throw open the
front window--wide open to let in plenty of air, as she felt
suffocated. Then she added in explanation that she always felt like
that when a fat person came into the room; the smell of fat people was
intolerable to her!

Many and curious as are the tricks our olfactories play us, I was
really surprised on this occasion; but my surprise was nothing to that
of a friend of mine at an experience he underwent. He had never
previously given a thought to the subject--the smell of the human

He was a young army doctor in India, and at Bombay, his duties being
light, he zealously set himself to win a good private practice. He
made himself well known in the society of the place, and his servant
had strict instructions to come always into the church where he
attended Sunday morning service to call him out to a supposed urgent

The natives just then were in a state of political excitement, and he
was desirous of finding out all he could about their aspirations,
intentions, and so on. One day he told his servant that he wished to
attend a big meeting about to be held in a quarter of the town he was
not well acquainted with, to listen to the speeches of the orators,
and he asked his man to take him there and get him admitted.
Accordingly they went on an oppressively hot evening, and he sat in a
huge densely-packed hall for about half an hour, then came out.  After
taking a few deep breaths he exclaimed: "What a relief to get out! In
another ten minutes I should have collapsed. The smell!"

To which his servant promptly replied: "Ah, Sahib, _now_ you will
understand what I suffer every Sunday when I have to go right to the
middle of the church to call you out!"

Never, he told me, had he been so astonished, so flabbergasted in his
life as by this speech, and he could only stare in silence at the man.
The extraordinary readiness, the candour, the spontaneity, and even
the glee, with which he brought out his words made it impossible for
his master to doubt his perfect sincerity. He had taken it for granted
that his master _would_ understand, and after his own unhappy
experience at the native meeting would be ready to sympathise with his
servant's sufferings in the performance of that painful Sunday duty.
But what an amazing revelation it was! How almost incredible it seemed
that a congregation of English ladies and gentlemen, fresh from their
morning's ablutions, in their fresh clean clothes, should offend the
natives of the country with their European or Caucasian smell, even as
they offend us! And what did it mean?  Why, that we white-skinned
Westerns, lords of creation, have our smell just as the blacks and
bi-coloured races and the lower animals have theirs; that we are
unconscious of this fact with regard to ourselves--our own race--but
are quite conscious of it with regard to the others. And he, a doctor,
proud to think himself of a scientific bent of mind, a student above
everything of the human subject--how had it come about that he had
overlooked so important a matter, that he was so grossly ignorant
about man's sense of smell? That others were just as ignorant he soon
found, nor could he get any enlightenment from such books as were
accessible to him. But he still kept the matter in his mind, and a few
years later when he retired from the army and came home to settle down
near London, one of his first steps was to go to the British Museum to
look the subject up. But for all his looking he could find nothing.
"It is," he said, "a neglected subject, and some day I may be able to
write a book on it, as I have some very curious facts I picked up in
India to begin with."

And that's all, alas! When I hinted that it would interest me to hear
something about the curious facts he had picked up, he didn't respond.
At present, he said, his mind and time were wholly taken up with
certain pathological problems which had a singular attraction for him,
and he was deeply interested in his work at the hospitals, so that the
subject of smell would have to wait a year or two, or three.

Two or three years later he died.

The moral of this story is that it is useless to try to "look up" the
subject of the sense of smell in the libraries. One must shake off the
oppression, the curse of books, the delusion that they contain all
knowledge, so that to observe and reflect for ourselves is no longer
necessary. It is all there--all we want--in the British Museum, so
that these special mental faculties have, like the sense of smell,
ceased to be of any use to us.

It is not literally true that the books say nothing on the subject;
they do say, or those I have consulted say, that it is an obscure
subject, that the sense of smell is a low sense compared with sight
and hearing, that it may be classed with taste, that smell is, in
fact, "taste at a distance," that when you look into it you find you
have got hold of a rather low subject which had better be dropped.
That's the sum and essence of the wisdom on the subject contained in
the books.

As to the physiology of the subject, you can have as much as you want
so long as you are satisfied to study the organ and to know nothing
about the function.  Perhaps not quite as much as you want, since we
are told that it is not yet known if the sense of smell depends upon
physical or chemical processes. But what they do tell us is wonderful
enough; for it is the fact that these "nimble emanations," these
infinitesimal scent particles, do not, as in the case of the sense of
taste, come directly in contact with the nerves of the smell,
but indirectly, through a medium. The nerves exist, or live in, or
under, a liquid, and when the scent particle falls into this liquid,
it dissolves, thus making an infusion, as it were, which the nerve
_tastes_. One might compare the bed of nerves forming the olfactories
to plants--water-cresses, for example, growing in their water-bed, as
we are accustomed to see them in cultivation'--and the scent particles
to snowflakes falling upon and dissolving in the water. The
snowflakes, we may say, have different qualities, according to their
chemical composition or elements, and these elements produce the
various stimulating effects on the plants they come in contact with.

It strikes me as a roundabout or cumbrous way of getting the effect;
that it might do in the case of a man or rhinoceros or dog, but in the
case of the infinitely more subtle scent in the insect it could not
possibly work. Probably it doesn't.

But I must not go into that imperfectly-known fascinating insect
realm, since the subject we are just now concerned with is man's sense
of smell, and of man smelling man.

That we are not conscious of the smell of people about us is not
evidence that it is the same with primitive races; nevertheless, I
conclude from my observation of both man and animals that savages are
not conscious of the smell of those they consort with, except at
certain times, as, for instance, after being separated from them for
some time, but that they are always conscious of the smell of a
stranger. Also that the mother knows the smell of her own babe, and
that there is a double advantage in this--the smell stimulates her
maternal feeling and prevents infants getting changed by accident,
which would otherwise sometimes happen, as the children of savages
resemble each other so closely.

No doubt there are many instances in smell, as in other senses and
faculties, of atavism; they would tell us much, but unfortunately they
are not recorded. I have heard of several; one of a man who was
distinctly conscious in a disagreeable way of the smell of others; it
was told to me by a friend who knew the man and had talked to him
about his acute smell. My friend lived in a mining town in Wales, and
the man came there from London, sent by his employers to act as their
agent, and to reside most of the time in the place.  He was anxious
about his lodgings; it was necessary that they should be scrupulously
clean and the landlady an exceptionally trustworthy person. Having
found just what he wanted, he settled down for a few weeks, and was
then called to London by his employers, who wanted him for a few days
in town. Before going he called his landlady and charged her solemnly
not to admit a stranger into his rooms during his absence: they were
his rooms which he paid for, and he would not have them used by
another. She assured him with some show of indignation that it was a
thing she never did, that it was against her principles, and the rest
of it; but after he had been gone a day or two she was prevailed upon
by someone who knew the house to let him have the room for one night.
A week later the man came back, and had no sooner entered his bedroom
than he shouted to his landlady and asked her how she dared to allow a
stranger to sleep in his bed! She denied it, and in his anger he
called her a wicked liar, since he knew perfectly well what she had
done. "How do you know?" she demanded. "By the smell," he replied.
"The whole room smells of the fellow you have had the impudence to put
in here. My nose has never deceived me yet!" And in this way he went
on until she gave in and confessed her fault, and promised never to
offend again.

I imagine that if we were to tell this case to a dog gifted with
speech and as intelligent as dogs are taken to be by their masters, he
would exclaim: "Well, I never!" His surprise would not be at the man's
keenness of sense, as that would be a small thing to him, but at his
fastidious dislike of the smell of a fellow-being.

One other instance will be given here, not that it is more remarkable
than the others, but because it has come in my way just now--in fact,
after these chapters on smell had been written.

I was at afternoon tea with others at a seaside house when a lady came
in, followed by her white Skye terrier who attends her in all her
walks abroad. The dog and I had been acquainted, but it was now over
nine months since we had met. After looking round and noticing some of
the others, he came up to me and began smelling at my feet and ankles
and legs up to the calves, and not only sniffing but pressing his nose
against my legs.  And this I supposed was because I happened to be
wearing a new pair of trousers, and the smell of the new cloth without
the human smell in it cut off or obscured that of the flesh behind it.
After examining me in this way he looked up at me with a pleased
expression in his face and vigorously wagging his tail. That was to
say that he had succeeded in identifying me as a friend, and that he
was very pleased to meet me again.

I called the lady's attention to her dog's action, and she said it
reminded her of a little sister when they were young girls together.
Her sister's sense of smell was curiously acute, and when they would
come in from a walk and saw a lot of hats hanging on the hat-rack, her
little sister would take them down one by one to smell them, and by
smelling them identified the visitors.

Napier Bell, in his _Tangwera_, the autobiographical account of his
early life with the Mosquito Indians in South America, relates that
after all the men of the village had been absent some days on a
fishing or trading expedition, on their return they would be received
with demonstrations of delight and affection by their women.  They
would embrace and smell one another's cheeks, first one cheek then the
other; but they never kissed.  He also gives translations of some of
their songs of love and affection, in which, in speaking of the loved
one, they always mention the nice or pleasant smell of the skin: "I
remember the smell of your cheek," and so on.

It must be noted that the attractive smell was not that of the odour
glands in a woman's mouth, since they never kissed, but was, as they
said in their songs, the pleasant smell of the skin of the cheeks.
They were then, we see, distinctly conscious of the smell, and it need
not be considered a fanciful conclusion that the temper, the feeling
of love and affection at certain times, gave the agreeable character
to it.

Another equally important fact bearing on the subject under discussion
is given by Dugald Stewart in his account of the boy James Mitchell,
who was born blind, deaf and dumb, and was wholly dependent on his
sense of smell in his intercourse with others. He would instantly
become sensible of the presence of a stranger in the room, and _would
form his estimate of the person's character from his smell_.

This is not the only case of the kind on record, but it is the most
striking one, and to my mind it does give support to that notion of
our unconscious smell as being concerned in the estimate we
instinctively and instantaneously form of the characters of those we
are brought in contact with.

We may say that Mitchell, deprived of his two most important or
intellectual senses, and dependent on smell and touch, was reduced to
something like the position of the dog in relation to other beings,
the dog of course having a considerable advantage in the possession of
sight and hearing. The chief interest in this case, however, is in the
power of estimating the character of those who came in his way by the
smell. Let us see then how it is, in this matter of judging by the
smell, with the dog.

Let us take the case of a dog that is not wholly parasitical, a
parlour or lap-dog with his faculties dimmed or atrophied, but a
natural dog who lives much out of doors, yet is free to come and go as
he likes in the house--a lively, frisky, active dog, with all a dog's
curiosity in the people from outside who come into the house, known to
him or strangers. He drops in at five o'clock, let us say, to find the
drawing-room half-full of callers scattered about the room, conversing
and drinking tea. He too has been thinking of his tea, but before
attending to his own wants he goes about among the guests, smiling, so
to speak, at those who are of the house, greeting others who are
callers but well known to him, but looking and sniffing very
attentively at the strangers.  But it is a mistake to speak of his
looking at them; he sees them so vaguely, so dimly, his whole
attention being taken up with the new smell which he finds in each.
His nose, pointed at them, has the nervous twitching seen when a scent
deeply engages him, and at the same time there are little nervous
bodily movements which show that he is somewhat excited.  And we see
distinctly--I have seen it in scores of instances--that he is, in his
lowdown dog mind, actually investigating and estimating character
according to smell. For you will observe in some instances, after the
little sniffing performance, a sudden change in the attitude of
inquiry and suspense, and this may be a quick aspect of friendliness,
a tail-wagging, a look up at the person's face, a nearer approach, and
those movements of the ears and forehead and mouth which undoubtedly
show that the person is pleasing to him; or, on the other hand, the
sniffing with a slight recoil, a look as if a menacing gesture had
been seen, and a quick movement away from the person who has not been

This fact, which millions of persons must have observed in their time,
is worth putting on record, but comment would be idle, since in this
matter we don't quite know what the dog's standards are, or whether in
"estimating character" he smells nose to nose with man. All we do most
certainly know about the dog's sense is that he dotes on carrion
smells and dislikes the odours we take delight in. It may be, however,
that the smell emanating from the good and loving are grateful to us
all, dogs and men, and in like manner that the emanations from those
of evil minds, who hate rather than love, or who have criminal
instincts, are repellent both to man and beast.

The human smell sometimes has an ameliorating effect on other animals
besides the dog, but most of the cases one has heard of relate to the
dog and his relations, and I first think of the wolf in this

A friend of mine told me of a strange incident at the Zoological
Gardens during his visit one day there with his three boys. There were
three wolves in the cage at that time, and as soon as he and his boys
placed themselves before the cage all three animals became wildly
excited at the presence of one, the youngest of the three boys. As the
boy moved along they followed, straining against the bars to get
nearer to him, their eyes shining, their mouths open, and tongues
lolling out.  They were in a state of intense excitement, and were all
continually jumping up and standing on their hind legs to get a better
view, nor would they allow their attention to be diverted for a moment
from the object of their regard.

At first the visitors, both father and boys, were greatly amused, but
the excitement of the animals was so great that by-and-by the boy
began to get frightened, and his father thought it best to take him
away. As he did so, the wolves rushed to the end of the cage, and
standing up and pressing against it, gazed longingly after the boy. An
hour later they returned to see if the animals had recovered from
their excitement, but the moment they appeared all three wolves were
up again, as excited about the boy as before.

What did it mean? my friend asked me. Did they want to devour the boy?

I thought not. My answer was that, according to his own account, the
animals seemed to have been in a joyful and affectionate rather than a
savage, devouring mood, but what it was in the one boy that put them
in such a state was a mystery to me.

Years later, and not long ago, I witnessed a similar demonstration on
the part of two wolves in a cage, one, if not both, the Canadian
timber wolf, the biggest of all the wolves. They became extremely
excited at the presence of a child who came close to the bars, their
tongues lolling out, and straining as if to get out and caress the
child with their tongues.

Here is an account of a similar incident from Australia:

The writer went with his wife and two little children, aged two and
four, to the Royal Park at Melbourne, where the wild animals are kept.
There they came upon a cage with four wolves lying stretched on the
ground. These took no notice of the writer, his wife and elder child;
but the moment the younger one toddled up they sprang simultaneously
to their feet and made for the corner of the cage nearest her. Not
content with this, two of the largest stood on their hind feet and
pressed themselves hard against the cage, pushing their forepaws
through the bars towards the child as though to get near her, wagging
their tails and barking frantically the whole time, their eyes riveted
on her. As she moved away they rushed across the cage to the other
corner and repeated their actions. Whenever the child uttered a word
or two it seemed to affect the wolves powerfully and made them
redouble their efforts to get near her. And later, on returning to the
cage, the same thing happened again.

The only imaginable explanation of these occurrences is that it was
the smell of the boy and the two other children that excited them, and
as the excitement was a joyous one, it must be supposed that there was
a quality in the smell in each case which "touched a chord," to put it
in that way, in the wolf's nature.  Furthermore, it was a quality
which the animal instinctively and instantly recognised, a something
important in its life, a stimulative to the parental passion.

In the relation between parents and offspring in the mammalians, smell
plays a most important part, as sound does in birds. These wolf
incidents inevitably remind us of the ancient legend of Romulus and
Remus, but the now numerous authentic cases reported from India have
sufficiently proved that the wolf-child is no mere fable or fancy.
Mammals, we know, keep with and safeguard their own young and pay no
attention to others; but there are many exceptional cases, both in
birds and mammals. The call or hunger-cry of the orphaned birdling is
apt to meet with a response, while the mammal is capable of being
deluded by a simulating odour.

Apart from wolves, we find certain cases, called by Humboldt
"instances of beneficent impulses in the most savage beasts which
cause them to act contrary to their natures." This was his only
explanation of an astonishing incident he heard in South America of
two children playing with a jaguar in the forest, and the animal
playfully responding to the mock attacks they made on it. It is
curiously like the incident related in Atkinson's _Travels in
Siberia_. In this case a woodcutter and his wife returning to their
cottage missed their two children, a boy and a girl, and in great
alarm they went out to look for them. Hearing shouts and laughter they
hastened to the spot, and were horrified to see a big brown bear
looking very happy with his tongue lolling out, and the woodman's
little boy sitting on his back trying to make him go, and the little
girl pulling at the bear's head. At a shout from the man, the bear
shook the children off and trotted away into the forest.

It is hardly necessary to say that the great Humboldt knew little or
nothing about the animal mind, since it can't be measured with a
foot-rule or weighed in a pair of scales or analysed. But the
scientist rightly considers that his mission on earth is to explain
everything, and when he can't find an explanation, to substitute the
precious illuminating word or phrase; hence the tiger's "beneficent

Finally, we have the still more remarkable case of the puma, the lion
of South America, a powerful, ferocious cat, destructive to cattle and
horse, sheep, goat and pig, but never known to attack a human being.
The Argentine gauchos call him the "man's friend," or the "Christian's
friend," and assert that he would not attack a sleeping child found in
the desert, however hungry he may be.

In all these cases, as in that of the wolf and wolf-child, the
explanation is the same--the savage beast has been disarmed by the
scent of the person. In the case of the jaguar and the bear, we can
only say that there was a quality in the odour of the children which
stimulated the parental passion. The case of the puma is more
difficult, but here too it can only be supposed that some quality in
the human odour has the effect of overcoming the rapacious instinct.

We may suppose that the odour suggests one that is familiar and
grateful to the animal; it may be the odour of its young or something
else; impossible perhaps to discover, as in the familiar case of our
domestic cat's love of the smell of valerian.


Little knowledge of savages available--Observations on the lower
animals--Nose-greeting in animals--Smell in savages--Our unconscious
sense of smell--Gypsies and savages on a level--Nerves of smell--The
dog in his world of smells--Small woodland beasts in their world--How
we are moved by hidden causes--Antipathies--Classical cases and modern
instances--Antipathies and second sight--A strange case; clairvoyance
or sense of smell?

It may seem unfair, after announcing my subject to be the sense of
smell, conscious and unconscious, in man, that I have still kept on
about the lower animals. I can't treat the subject in any other way: I
need their help all the time. Doubtless there's a great gulf between
us and them in the higher mental faculties, but apart from that there
is no gulf at all; they are, as we have been told, our poor relations,
and like all poor relations they are always ready to remind us of our
own humble origin. I do think it would be well to examine these
questions among the lower races of mankind; but I can't do it myself,
and most persons who have the opportunity of going among savages and
primitive tribes have their minds occupied with other matters. It is
possible, as Frazer has shown us, to write a cart-load of books about
their folk-lore, legends and old religious beliefs, without letting us
see and know them as they are, and how they compare with civilised
Europeans in their faculties and instincts. My own opportunities were
never good enough to give me a proper knowledge of these things: I was
never long enough at a time in the company of savages to get through
the outer crust. It takes a long time to know them properly, even for
one who is a good observer, whose mind is ever on the watch secretly,
and who in this way takes in knowledge unconsciously as he inhales the
air. This I have been able to do with the lower animals, and to them I
must continually look for support as I proceed.

To go on, then, in this same way. We note that animals greet one
another by putting their noses together, sometimes touching or rubbing
noses, as in the case of horses; but in most animals they merely
sniff, first the nose then the face generally. They are pleased, as it
would seem, in recognising the familiar smell of a friend: and when
they meet as strangers, as we may see every day in our horses, they
exchange nose-greetings just as civilised men exchange visiting-cards.
No doubt men, too, in the early state of culture, took smell of one
another when meeting as strangers; and I imagine that the nose-rubbing
performance in some tribes is nothing but a survival of the
face-smelling custom or instinctive act.

Nor is the deliberate face-smelling custom wholly obsolete to-day, as
we have seen in the reference to the Mosquito Indians in the last
chapter. A single instance, it is true, but an extremely valuable one.
As a rule, the aboriginal American does not exhibit emotion of any
kind. His stolidity or indifference is, however, in some degree a
convention, a mask, which he seldom neglects to wear in the presence
of strangers, especially in that of a white man, who possesses strange
and dangerous knowledge and looks down on him. But I think he can
smell a stranger as well as see him, and is distinctly conscious of
the strange smell. That he consciously smells his own surroundings and
people all the time is not to be supposed, since the smells we live
with cease to affect us. He can smell his people when he has been
absent from them for a time.

We can understand this--the conscious and the unconscious smell--in
our own every-day experience. Thus, when I come into a room in the
morning I smell it, a distinctive smell different from that of other
rooms, according to the furniture in it, the wallpaper, or paint, or
whitewash, and the flooring, wood, stone, or carpet. If it is a room I
work in I cease after a few minutes to smell it--I become unconscious
of its smell; but on my return to it I find it again, the familiar
welcoming smell.

Whenever, here in England, I come into contact with gypsies and sit by
their camp-fires conversing with them, it always affects me like an
old familiar experience, because they are psychologically so much on a
level with the uncivilised Indian. The gypsy has succeeded in fitting
himself into a place in the midst of a people of another and higher
race because he has a subtler mind than the western savage, and the
subtlety or cunning is either the result of long ages of training, or
was innate, he being a migrant from India or Egypt, as we suppose. He
is, like the cat, still himself unspoilt by contact with a higher sort
of humanity; that mysterious gift, that wonderful secret forever
hidden from our duller brains, which Glanvil's and Matthew Arnold's
"Scholar Gypsy" wasted his life in seeking after, may after all have
its seat--or vestibule--in the nose, and, for all we know, the nerves
of smell may have become specialised in a peculiar way in his race.

It is true the physiologists tell us that there is nothing to indicate
any specialisation in the nerves of smell, such as exists in the
nerves of taste; they believe that the olfactory nerves are all alike,
with one function, which is to respond to the stimuli of all sorts of
smells, from the most agreeable to the most disgusting. One can only
say that this is not quite satisfactory; that when we cease to smell
our surroundings consciously there may be a distinct set of nerves
that take up the task, so to speak, and receive and transmit sense
impressions we are not sensible of.

Here I come to a subject which no town-born reader will understand or
take to be more than a fancy of the writer's: nor could it be
otherwise, since, owing to the artificial conditions he has existed
in, his olfactory nerves have been blunted and to some extent even

Let us first go back to our old friend the dog. We see how he conducts
himself when we take him out for a walk, how he is at once in a world
of smells of which we know nothing, which so occupy or absorb his
attention as to make him practically blind to everything about him and
deaf to all sounds, even of his master's voice impatiently calling him
to "come on." He must first investigate the smell he has stumbled
upon, and perhaps disentangle it from several other smells it has got
mixed up with, before his curiosity is satisfied.

Now take him into a still wood, abounding in wild life, and make him
lie down quietly at your feet and watch him. He knows that he must
obey the irksome order, and closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep;
but he is awake, in a bath of emanations; you can see it in the
perpetual twitching of the nose, and from the nose the suppressed
excitement flies all over the body. But all you see in your
fox-terrier or other outdoor dog with the hunting instinct kindling to
hot fire in him is little enough to what appears in any small wild
creature you may observe in repose. The small wild woodland beasties
on any bright sunny day in autumn and winter, especially during the
first half of the day, like to come out of hiding to take a sun-bath.
Moles, squirrels, hedgehogs, bank and field voles and wood mice--any
one of these may come up or out in sight of you, when you sit
perfectly still for a long time. The little creature comes from its
den or hole at the roots of a tree, or from under the bed of dead
leaves, and settles down within a yard or two of your feet, perhaps.
But it is best, on account of the disturbing effect of a strange smell
so close to it, to see it fifteen or twenty yards away, and with your
binocular to bring it within a yard or two of your eyes.

You will see that, as in the dog, the little nose is perpetually in
motion; it is all the time sniffing at fleeting, elusive smells; also
that he has a more exquisite sensibility than the dog. Watching his
little tremors, his shiv-erings and quick little starts, the wide
opening of his eyes and rise and fall of the hair along the back, with
other minute motions extending from the nose--which is exceptionally
long in the shrew--to the tip of the tail--which is longest in the
wood-mouse--you would imagine it to be the frailest thing in
existence, made of nothing but nerves, trembling to every breath like
a bit of thistledown, and to be blown away by a breath or killed
outright by a snap of the fingers. And it is the smells and their
character which cause it all--smells familiar and harmless, smells
unknown that excite curiosity and suspicion, smells dangerous that
startle, but are perhaps too faint, too far away, to cause the little
creature to forsake its sun-bath just yet.

It will come as news to many, perhaps to most, readers to be told that
we too, human beings though we be, are capable of being moved in the
same way, though in a comparatively faint degree, from the same
causes.  Those of us, that is to say, who have lived an outdoor life,
who find their chief pleasures in woods and in all wild and solitary
places, and are alert and responsive to all natural sights and sounds
and odours. To such persons, to sit still in any silent green place,
merely to watch and listen, is peculiarly grateful, even when there is
nothing living to see--not a jay nor a wood-mouse nor even an insect.
And the chief pleasure or fascination of these restful intervals is in
the seemingly causeless motions in himself--the person sitting still
and thinking of nothing.  They come to him; they touch him as if a
small insect or spider, scarcely felt, had fallen on and run over his
hand or face; and they pass through him and are gone, to be succeeded
by others and still others like wavelets of air, producing effects
that are like little thrills, tremors, minute nerve storms, as if he
actually saw things coming and going before his sight, and heard faint
mysterious sounds wafted to him from a great distance.

I take it that these movements in me are actually caused by the hidden
life about me. The psychologist will say: "Oh, no, they are the effect
of expectation, since you are watching and listening." That, indeed,
is what I have thought myself; but the explanation was not good
enough, since it did not fit the whole case; for it has often happened
that when sitting silent and motionless in a wooded place I have
fallen into a reverie, and my mind has been called back by these same
little physical stirrings. I also find that I may sit as still and as
long as I care to in any place barren of life without experiencing any
such motions in me.

When it first occurred to me that these little nerve stirrings in me
were caused by the presence of invisible living creatures near me, I
formed the notion that all creatures have something--a force of some
unknown kind--which affects us even at a distance of a good many
yards, and in that belief I rested satisfied, finding comfort in it,
until the idea of smelling unconsciously was put forward, which seemed
to furnish a simpler, more understandable explanation. And this
explanation must hold the field in my mind until a better one is

It is true that nothing definite comes of it--that these faint and
vague intimations tell us only that life, breathing animal life, is
there, but as to the nature of the life it tells us nothing. This may
be because our sense, even that unconscious sense of smell which still
survives in us, is too feeble now to produce more than a sense of a
living something, we don't know what.

This may not be so in the case of primitive man, living a purely
natural life--the life, let us say, of the Kyans in the forests of
Borneo, the wild people of the Andaman Islands, the bushmen and
pigmies in Africa, and the savages of Tierra del Fuego--who depend on
their senses, smell as well as sight and hearing, for their livelihood
and safety. But even with us, I believe that in some persons, in cases
of atavism and in some pathological states, the lost faculty may be

And here we come to the subject of antipathies--a subject ruled out by
the makers of physiological and psychological books and from the
_Encyclopaedia Britannica_, which these same scientists edit--the
people who do not believe in what doesn't exist, they having first
made the rule that nothing exists which they can't explain or which
does not conform to natural laws known to them. All the same we all do
know that antipathies do exist, and have read of James I. and his
insane terror at the sight of a drawn sword; of Tycho Brahe fainting
at the sight of a fox; of Henry III. of France fainting at the sight
of the harmless cat (our own Lord Roberts was almost as bad); of
Marshal d'Albert fainting at the sight of a pig, and numerous other
cases of a like kind--swoonings, convulsions and what not at the sight
of this or that beast or reptile or insect, or at some inanimate
object, or on touching some abhorrent thing. These are the classical
instances which have been told in a hundred books, and what the
sceptical scientist has to say of them I don't know, nor does it
concern me, since I am not concerned either with the books or him, but
in my own humble sphere, as field naturalist I follow the light of
Nature alone.

And what need is there for these old instances in books and the
opinions of scientists, when such cases are continually cropping up or
exist, or have been known to exist, in every parish in the country? If
it had been necessary for some clerk or semi-official person to give
an account of them in every village and town in the land, the records
of half a century would in each such centre occupy a shelf full of
books or annals. But it should also be the duty of the recorder to
trace the antipathy, also other abnormalities, such as strange and
monstrous births, to their origins, so far as they may be traced; and
in most instances we know that they are the result of prenatal

The cases of people who fainted or went into convulsions at the sight
of a pig or a cat remind me of an instance recorded a few years ago of
a healthy, strong, working Devonshire farmer, who was affected in this
way every time he saw a snake. He would stop, the implement would drop
from his hand, and he would stand still trembling, the sweat pouring
from his skin: and after some minutes he would slowly make his way
home, and, throwing himself on a bed, lie like a dog until the
following day, when he would get up restored and go back as usual to

And this case serves to remind me of a better one.  I knew the man
intimately from earliest childhood who suffered from an antipathy of
this kind. He was perfectly healthy and normal in every way but this,
and was a good fellow, although rather quarrelsome in his cups.
Venomous snakes, spiders (and very big they were in that land),
scorpions and centipedes were nothing to him, but the sight of a poor
harmless toad--and toads were very abundant--would fill him with an
extraordinary loathing and horror. He tried to explain the sensation
produced on him to me, but could not, and all I could make out from
his confused attempts at doing so was that it was a dreadful cold
creepy sensation all over him, as if he were being changed into a toad
himself.  Also that he had experienced it from early childhood.

This subject of antipathies has been brought in here for the reason
that in some cases the person thus affected appears to be endowed with
an extra sense or faculty, like clairvoyance or second sight. Many
such cases have been recorded (and here our Lord Roberts comes in
again), but I will only mention one. This is the case of a workman who
always knew when an adder was near him, even at a distance of several
yards, and could locate the exact spot where it was lying. It is not
stated whether or not the presence of the adder produced any
disagreeable effect on him. When working with other men in the woods
he would call the attention of his mates to an adder near them,
concealed from their sight by trees or bushes, and would himself then
turn aside as if to avoid seeing it or to see the others kill it.

Here again, in all these cases of supposed second sight, I prefer the
simpler explanation of the sense of smell. To conclude, I will give
here a very strange experience of "clairvoyance" in a person in a
disturbed mental state, given to me by a friend, who will, I hope,
pardon me for telling it, and be ready to testify to its truth.

My friend had been about four years a resident in London, first
completing his studies then following his profession of an architect,
living with his people in Kensington.  One day, walking home, he saw a
young gentleman in a side street in an excited condition, swinging his
cane to drive off a number of street boys following and jeering at
him. My friend, being of a chivalrous disposition, at once went to the
young gentleman's rescue, and on coming up to him was astonished to
recognise in him an old school-fellow and intimate friend of a few
years back. He, after they left a public school in the North Midlands,
had gone to Australia, and there had been no correspondence between
them. He had recently returned to England and was living alone in
London lodgings, and had probably been working too hard as his nerves
were in a queer state. My friend at once offered to take him to his
home to stay a week or two with his people, as he thought an interval
of rest and pleasant society would set him up again. He gladly
consented, and was presently received in the house and put in a large
room which had not been occupied for a long time.  Things went well
for a few days, and their guest appeared to be quite happy with them,
except when he had dark brooding intervals; then one day my friend
heard noises as of violent blows in the guest's room, and going in to
ascertain the cause, found his young visitor standing before a large
cupboard pounding the panels with his fist. My friend caught hold of
him and asked him what he was doing. "Doing!" he exclaimed, "don't you
see what I'm doing--trying to smash this damned cupboard open where
you keep human bones locked up!" He was wildly excited, and my friend
began trying to pacify him, telling him that it was a most ridiculous
fancy about human bones, that he had never seen a human bone in his
life. By-and-by he quieted down, and my friend told him laughingly
that he must get no more of such delusions in his head or it would
make them very uncomfortable in the house.

He then left him, and quiet reigned for half an hour or so; then came
a fresh outburst of noises, and returning to the room he again found
his friend pounding and kicking the panels of the cupboard. Nor was he
to be pacified even when his host told him that the cupboard contained
nothing but his old sporting gear, his boots, blazer, caps,
fishing-rods and such things, which he had locked up there years
before, as he had no further use for them.

But all he could say was useless. "I don't want an inventory of your
possessions," he returned. "If you don't know there are human bones in
the cupboard, give me the key and we shall see."

But this key had been put away, and my friend didn't know where, but
as he could not convince the other, he at last went off to see if he
could find a key to fit this lock. Eventually he succeeded, and threw
the door open and immediately began throwing the things out to
convince his poor demented friend that there were no bones.  The other
stood by him staring in at the old school-day rubbish inside, when
suddenly he dashed his hand in, and, seizing a leather bag, began
struggling to open it. By-and-by he got it open, and there it was--a
bag full of human bones! These were mostly bones of the arm, and right
on top of the pile an entire skeletonised hand.

"Are you satisfied now that I'm not mad?" he exclaimed, pointing at
the bones.

My friend said that he was never so amazed in his life. For some
moments he stared silently at the bones, then suddenly the explanation
flashed into his mind. He remembered that this room had been used
occasionally for a short time by a younger brother, a medical student,
who had gone abroad some three years before. He had used the room as a
night study, and had no doubt got the bones from the dissecting room
of the hospital he was at when studying the anatomy of the hand and
arm, and had forgotten to remove them before leaving England.

It would not be possible to find a case more like clairvoyance than
this. Just now, however, the whole question of that mysterious sense
or faculty is, so to speak, on its trial, and the evidence does not go
in its favour when we find that a majority of the supposed examples of
second sight may be explained by telepathy. The case I have related
was certainly not one of telepathy; it is, I believe, simply one of

It may be objected that, allowing there was a smell, as there usually
is from bones procured by students from the dissecting rooms, and that
it escaped from the cupboard, there is still a big gap in the process
to be filled in.  How came the man to know that the smell, whether
taken in consciously or unconsciously, emanated from human bones and
not from something else with a smell? Most certainly he did not arrive
at the conclusion by any conscious process of reasoning. _It came to
him_, I imagine, in this way. The smell emanating from the cupboard
was too slight to be noticed, but for all that it was taken in
unconsciously and excited the subconscious mind, and the mind working
on it advanced step by step to the conclusion: a smell pervading the
room, emanating from a locked cupboard; identified eventually as the
smell of bones; then finally adopting the conclusion that, concealed
in such a place, they were most likely to be human bones. And this
result, flashed suddenly upon the conscious mind in its abnormally
excited state, brought about the half-mad outbreak.


An explanation and apology postponed--Smell in birds--An ancient
controversy--The vulture's two aspects--The way of the
vulture--Pigeons--Smell in crows--Daws and ravens--Carrion crow--The
rook's double nature--An uncanny rook story--Panic fear in
mammals--Horses and cattle scenting grass and water--Great stampedes
preceding Indian invasions--Indian warfare in Argentina--A little
frontier tragedy.

When I ended the last chapter before quite finishing with all I had to
say concerning the sense of smell, it occurred to me that I had
touched upon certain subjects amidst which it behoves one to step
warily. I mentioned antipathies, pre-natal suggestion, and in a
chapter further back, even telepathy, and it then struck me that it
would be best to make a long pause and introduce a digression which
would occupy an entire chapter, and would serve once for all as my
explanation and apology for introducing such questions in the book of
a simple field naturalist. But after writing the chapter I thought
better of it, and determined to keep strictly to the subject of
smelling to the finish and drop the apology for the time being. At
present I shall only say that these are delicate and controversial
subjects, also that it becomes me in treating of them to express
myself with the humility proper to an amateur, practically an
outsider, one who is rightly anxious not to incur the displeasure of
his masters in science and psychology, and of all those who have
exalted themselves to the seats of wisdom.

So far I have said nothing about the sense of smell in birds; there
is, indeed, little to say. Birds have the olfactory nerves, inherited
from the reptiles, and the passages are mere slits in the horny beak,
which they have in place of hands, and which serves them also as an
implement, or rather as a whole box of tools--spear, hatchet, scraper,
wedge, awl, spade or pickaxe, knife and fork and spoon. The anatomical
ornithologists say that we know little about the smelling nerves of
birds, except that they are degenerated and feeble compared with those
of other animals, also that some birds have quite lost the sense. Nor
is this to be wondered at when we consider the extraordinary
development of vision in the bird--that the bird _lives_ in his sense
of sight as the dog, mole, and rat live in the sense of smell. The
growth of one sense has caused the decay of the other. This at all
events is the present view of the matter, but during the first three
or four decades of the nineteenth century the question was discussed
in the journals with all the fury proper to that early period, when
passions were stronger and "language" more free than with us, and when
if one naturalist differed from another about sight and smell in
birds, he was frankly told that he was a fool if not something worse.

We smile at the chief argument of the smellists of those Waterton,
Swainson and Audubon days: that when an animal died or was slain in
the wilderness and stripped of its hide by the hunters, the effluvia
emanating from it instantly flew abroad all over the land and rose
also to a vast height in the sky, the result being that vultures would
soon appear as if by a miracle in scores and hundreds where not one
had been previously visible. Sight, they held, could not be the cause,
seeing that a dead beast in a forest would not be visible to the
soaring birds, except perhaps to one or two that happened by a rare
chance to be in that part of the sky directly above the spot.

As in many another controversy of the kind, all that was wanted here
was observation of the birds themselves by some field naturalist; this
in due time was provided.

An interesting bird is this vulture in the two strangely contrasted
aspects in which he appears to us: as the loathsome feathered
scavenger in the one and the sublime heavenward soarer in the other,
he might serve as an emblem of man in his double nature--the gross or
earthly and the angelic. An ugly and disgusting creature as we are
accustomed to see him in repose, gorged with carrion and dead drunk
with ptomaines, his bald, warty head drawn down in between his huge
projecting shoulders, his naked crop protruding, and his great wings
like two frayed and rusty black cloaks thrown loosely round him.
Then, when he has slept off the effects of his disgusting meal, he
shakes himself, and the loose ragged cloaks are transformed to a pair
of great outspread wings, which lift him from the earth and in ever
widening circles bear him upwards, higher and higher still, until the
vision can no longer follow him, or else he remains as a speck no
bigger than a house-fly, still serenely floating in wide circles in
the vast blue void. And at that height, far above the smells of earth,
he will continue floating for long hours. He dwells on the air at that
height because it is the proper height for him, the one which gives
the fullest play to his faculties, to his vision, and the mind at the
back of it. Invisible himself at that altitude, he can distinctly
discern the objects it is to his advantage to see, the dead or dying
or distressed animal, even as the gannet flying at a height of three
hundred feet can discern a fish swimming at a depth of two or three
feet or more beneath the surface of the sea, or as the wind-hover
flying at a height of a hundred and fifty feet can see a field-mouse
in the grass and herbage. The mousing hawk's vision is even more
brilliant than this. In July and August he takes to feeding on
grasshoppers, and from the same height as in mousing he can detect the
insect, notwithstanding its smallness and assimilative colouring in
the yellowing grass.

When the vulture has seen the thing he has been looking for, he drops
down, aslant or in circles, out of the sky, and his action is seen by
some other vulture or by more than one, a mile or two away, and they
know what the action means and follow suit. And the action of these
last is seen by still other vultures further away, and so on
progressively until all the vultures engaged in quartering the earth
over an area of a hundred square miles may be brought down to one spot
in the space of thirty or forty minutes. Hence the strange phenomenon,
the suddenly formed congregation of vultures where not one had been
previously seen, dropping out of the void air as if by a miracle.

We now know from our airmen that scent particles do not rise far. One
who has investigated the subject--J.  M. Bacon--writes: "I can affirm
that all the smoke of London is unnoticeable only a quarter of a mile
in the sky, even in mid-winter when every chimney is doing its worst."

Marvellous as is the sight in birds as compared with that of other
animals, it appears probable that in some genera the sense of smell
has not decayed as in the majority.  I have never been able to find
out the truth about the old notion regarding the pigeon's love of
fragrant smells. This belief has actually led to actions at law
brought by a man against his neighbour for having robbed him of his
pigeons by attracting them to a new dovecot by that means. It is a
question which might be settled by experiment.

I am convinced that the true crows, represented in our country by the
raven, carrion and hooded crows, the rook and daw, have a keen sense
of smell. They too are carrion-eaters, but have not the long sight and
soaring powers of the vulture; they fly low, and it may be that smell
is a help to them in their quest for animal food. Where ravens are
abundant, it is common knowledge among shepherds that the sight of a
raven hovering over the flock is a sign that a sheep is sick and will
probably die. The effluvium of the sick animal, which is not unlike
that of a dead animal, has attracted the bird. A number of daws have
been observed hovering over the water at one spot and returning day
after day to repeat the action, although nothing to attract them
appeared on the surface; but after several days it was discovered that
the body of a drowned animal in a semi-decomposed state was lying at
the bottom at that place. The smell from the water had attracted them.
The very old and universal idea that the raven is a bird of ill omen
and will hover over the house before the death of an inmate is, I
believe, founded on a common habit of the bird. A sick man in the
house will attract him as readily as a sick sheep in the fold out on
the moor. And it is the same with the carrion crow.

I have the following remarkable case from a friend, a well-known
literary man. He was down with typhoid fever, sick unto death, as the
doctor and his people imagined, and when at the worst the house where
he was lying was haunted for a whole day by a pair of carrion crows
from a neighbouring pine-wood, where they were accustomed to breed.
These crows had never shown themselves at or near the house before,
but on that day they were constantly flying round and hovering over
the house and alighting on the roof, uttering their raucous cries and
apparently in a great state of excitement.

The people of the house were terribly upset about the way the birds
went on: they are a people very free from anything like superstition,
and yet for the life of them they could not quite shake the uncanny
feeling off. My friend himself, when on recovering he was told of
these happenings, thought it all very mysterious. Nor, when he
consulted me about the matter, as one with some knowledge of bird
psychology, did he find my explanation quite pleasing to him. He did
not like to think that he had been like _that_, in the Lazarus state,
not all of him dead but a good deal of him dead, and in such a
condition as to excite the ravenous appetite of a crow.

The rook, too, is in some degree a supernatural or an uncanny bird, or
a bird that appears to know more than a bird ought to know, and he
sometimes behaves in a mysterious way. He is also a true crow in spite
of his Second nature--the desire to appear respectable which makes him
shave his face and live the social life. My friend the late H. A.
Paynter of Alnwick, a well-known Northumbrian and a good field
naturalist, gave me a striking instance of the carrion crow coming out
in the rook. My friend had a horse which died, and wishing to preserve
the hide, he had the dead beast drawn up by ropes attached to the hind
legs and hung on the branches of a big tree. In that position it was
skinned and the carcass left hanging to be disposed of later; but the
rooks, extremely abundant in the neighbourhood, were quickly attracted
in numbers to it, and before the day was out they were in hundreds,
circling like a black cloud round the tree and clinging like a swarm
of bees to the carcass, all fighting with one another for a place,
screaming with excitement and tearing at the flesh. He said it was a
most extraordinary spectacle; it fascinated him; he watched it by the
hour and would not allow the carcass to be taken down. The next day
the birds returned in greater numbers and continued their sanguinary
feast until nothing but the suspended skeleton remained.

This incident throws no light on the question of scent; I have related
it just to show the rook as a crow, and as an introduction to another
incident--one of the uncanny sort.

This case too is given at second hand, nor was it actually witnessed
by my friend and informant himself; but I have every faith in him; he
is a naturalist, a worker now in marine biology, and was staying at
the time in Essex, close to where it happened; he had a full account
of it from those who witnessed the scene, and was much impressed in
his mind about it.

It happened at a manor-house in Essex with an old and populous rookery
on a group of elm trees near the dwelling.  The squire, an old man,
was dying, and on the day of his death the birds all at once rose up
with excited cawings and came streaming down to the house to hover in
a dense crowd before the windows of the sick man's room, beating on
the windows with their wings, and screaming as if they had gone mad.
Naturally their action had a disturbing and even terrifying effect on
the inmates, and its uncanny significance was increased when the birds
rose up and rushed away as if in terror, and when it was found that
they had abandoned the rookery; for they never came back to it.

Many a naturalist would no doubt say of this rook story that he had
heard stories like that before, and decline to believe it; and his
reason for disbelieving it would be the same as that of the scientist,
or psychologist, for refusing to believe in telepathy--_because it is
impossible_, or, in other words, because it is inexplicable, which
means only that it has not yet been explained. It would not, however,
be difficult to find an explanation of the rooks' action in this case
when we consider the habits, the instincts, active and dormant, of the
bird, and of his nearest corvine relations; for we have seen that the
rook is a carrion crow in disguise, even as the crow itself is a
lesser raven. I take it that, as in the case of the carrion crow
hovering about my friend's house when he was lying at death's door,
the effluvium from the sickroom excited them to that crazy pitch; also
that it may have been the example of a single bird in the community,
one that was more a carrion crow than his fellows, that first set them
off; for we know that it is with birds and beasts as with men, that a
crazy impulse of one in the crowd will sometimes make the whole crowd

Rooks, we know, do occasionally abandon suddenly even a very old
rookery for no visible cause, often to the lasting regret of the
owner, who has been accustomed to have the birds as neighbours from
childhood. Rooks have even been known to forsake a rookery in this
sudden way in the breeding season when there were incubated eggs and
fledglings in the nests.

Much more might be written on this theme, but time and space are
wanting, and the rest of this chapter must be given to the subject of
panic fear in mammals, the class of animals in which it is most

Those who have seen much of animals, wild and tame and semi-domestic,
are familiar with the phenomenon, and it is common to hear a person
say of an animal he had witnessed thrown into a state of extreme
terror for no apparent reason, that it acted as if it had "seen a
ghost." It is probable enough that animals do see ghosts, or
phantasms, seeing that there are animal as well as human ghosts, also
that there is telepathy between man and animals; nevertheless, I
believe that in most cases where an animal has been seized by panic
fear for no reason that we can see, the ghost is nothing but a smell
which experience or tradition has made terrifying. It is an associate
feeling of the individual and of the herd.

The most interesting instances I know of relate to the domestic
animals, cattle and horses, on the plains or pampas of the Argentine,
the greatest cattle and horse-breeding region on the globe, where as
many as 50,000 head of cattle were sometimes grazed on one estate. No
estates were enclosed in my time; it was all open country, and the
animals were semi-feral in their habits, roaming at will over the
plain, but watched by the cattlemen and driven back when going too far
from their own lands. I know one estancia where as many as fifty dogs
were kept to assist the horsemen in keeping their cattle within
bounds. Even so, they were never wholly successful, especially in
excessively dry seasons, when the wind would blow to the cattle in dry
districts where the grass was failing intelligence of water and better
pasturage; and they would follow up the scent for twenty or thirty or
forty miles from home. At such seasons, on the spots where there was
water and better grass, the vast level plain swarming with an
incredible multitude of animals presented an astonishing scene. It was
all, in the gaucho language, cattle and sky, or literally cows and
sky--_vacas y cielo_.

These cattle migrations gave the cattlemen a good deal of work, but
did not entail serious losses; the losses were when there was a panic
and stampede, a common phenomenon on the frontier, and in many
instances it preceded and gave warning of an Indian invasion--the
cattle smelt the coming enemy. The Indians of the pampas have a very
strong smell; with a wind blowing from a camp one is conscious of it
at a distance of a mile, more or less, and it is like the familiar
homely smell of a rag-and-bone shop in a city slum. These savages do
not wash nor _dust_; they anoint their whole bodies instead with the
rancid fat of the horses used as food. With the wind blowing from the
desert country, this stampede would begin a day or even longer before
the enemy appeared on the scene, usually in peaceable times when no
one dreamt of such things. The panic would extend along the frontier
line for a distance of thirty to sixty miles, the horses taking the
lead and flying in from the outermost estancias, followed by the
cattle. These great stampedes affected hundreds of thousands of
animals and carried them far from home, scattering them so widely over
the country, where they mixed with other herds, that large numbers of
them were permanently lost to their owners.

The frontier at that time was protected by a line of small mud-built
forts, each garrisoned by two or three score of soldiers, or gauchos,
armed with swords and carbines, the little forts being situated at a
distance of from five to ten leagues apart. The Indians, when
invading, divided their forces into a number of bands, which came in
at a furious pace at several widely separated points. Moving rapidly,
they would harry the outside estancias, killing and taking captives,
burning houses, and gathering all the cattle and horses they could
overtake, and with their spoils they would retreat to the desert,
giving their enemy as wide a berth as possible, but fighting him when

This was the state of things on all the Argentine frontiers in my
time, and it had been so from the time the country was first
colonised, and it continued so down to the eighties of last century,
when at long last the war was carried into the desert and the tribes
beaten and their raiding spirit broken for ever.

The reader will perhaps smile incredulously when I state that the
Indians in this war of over two centuries did not use fire-arms and
had no weapon but a lance made of bamboo cane, of an extraordinary
length, which was not carried as the civilised soldier carries his
lance, but was grasped in the hand a yard or so from the point and
allowed to trail on the ground. And yet--will it be believed?--when it
came to actual fighting with a body of civilised whites--soldiers
armed with carbine and sword--these poor savages were victorious as
often as not. How did they do it, seeing that the lance is the least
effective of all weapons used in war except against an enemy already
broken and in retreat? They succeeded in most cases owing to the
terror they produced in the white men's horses. It must be understood
that it was in all cases solely a fight on horseback. Infantry and
artillery were useless owing to the extreme rapidity of the movements
of the Indian bands, which had to be chased all over the invaded
district. The Indians, always better mounted than the whites, stayed
to fight only when it suited them, and their method was to come on,
widely scattered, in furious rushes, lying flat on their horses' backs
and necks and uttering their piercing battle-cry.  But it was the
Indian _smell_ which gave them the advantage, as it produced so great
a terror in the enemy's horses that it was impossible to control them
and make them face the Indians; and with a horse maddened by terror
under him no man could use his carbine. His only salvation was to
allow his horse to go--to fly from the enemy with (it is needless to
add) his rider on his back.

I will here, in conclusion of this chapter, relate an incident of this
long-lasting frontier war which made a deep impression on us in my
home on the pampas when I was a boy, for a reason to be stated

The Indians were invading the southern frontier of the province of
Buenos Ayres, and troops in small bands were being hurriedly sent to
that part. One of the officers sent from the capital, a colonel, on
arriving at the frontier station and village of the Azul, was put in
command of a contingent of two hundred men and ordered to proceed to a
spot about sixty or sixty-five miles further south, and to take with
him five hundred horses over the number required for his own men, to
supply fresh mounts to other contingents which had already been sent
to the same place. Before reaching his destination he came to an
estancia which had been abandoned by its owners, where there was a
large corral--a cattle enclosure made of upright posts eight or ten
feet high, placed close together.  Here he stayed for his troops to
change horses and roast their meat, as it was about noon and the men
were hungry. By-and-by the scouts he had sent out returned at
full-speed to report that a considerable body of Indians had been
spied coming towards them. The colonel at once ordered his men to
drive the horses into the corral, and having got them in, he next
ordered the men to go in after them and to place themselves all round
the line of posts and open fire upon the Indians as soon as they came
within firing distance. In a very short time the Indians appeared,
lying on their horses and uttering their usual yells, and the horses,
maddened with terror, began to rush round, and, hurling themselves
against the posts, knocked and trampled the men down until from their
commanding officer himself to the last man not one was left standing
upright. They were simply trampled and suffocated to death, while the
Indians, yelling and _smelling_, but still keeping warily at a
considerable distance, rushed furiously round and round, until,
satisfied that they had nothing to fear, they came and opened the gate
and let the horses out. Then, dismounting, they rushed in and began
prodding the prostrate men with their lances, and stripping them of
their ponchos and any valuables they possessed. But they were in a
mighty hurry to get away with their booty, and of the two hundred men
there was one survivor--one poor wretch who, lying with another man
over him, had remained conscious all the time. Now when some of the
Indians came to where he was lying they inflicted a spear-thrust in
his body, but did not see that they had not finished killing him. Some
time after they had left he succeeded in crawling out, and later that
day another troop of soldiers in pursuit of the Indians came on the
scene and rescued him. It was this man who gave a full account of what
had happened; it was, however, but a small incident, one of ten
thousand little frontier tragedies, and not of importance enough to
find a place in any local history.

The reason that it profoundly impressed us in my boyhood's home was
that the commanding officer who made the fatal mistake of placing his
men inside instead of outside of the corral was known personally to
us; and on his way to the frontier called to see us and spent two or
three hours in conversation with my parents. Then some months later we
saw and had a talk with the poor wretch who had come through the agony
alive. But although under middle age, he probably did not keep long
alive.  His unnaturally white drawn face was painful to look at, and
he suffered terribly as a result of the hammering blows of hoofs on
his body and the wound from the Indian's lance.  I think that some
reader of these memories will put the question: Why did not the
military authorities of that country supply the men employed in
safeguarding the frontiers from Indian attacks with horses drawn from
another district--horses that had not imbibed the tradition of terror
of the Indian smell?

The answer is: Because they didn't.


The way this book is being written--The hind in Richmond Park
again--An imaginary colloquy--Sense of direction in animals and
man--Snakes--Insects--A foraging ant--Fishes, batrachians, birds and
mammals--Smell in self-preservation--Horses: the history of a homing
horse--Sense of direction in man--A gaucho's testimony--Sudden
recovery of the sense of direction--Comments.

In writing this book I am occasionally reminded of a
mushroom-gathering experience on some warm misty September morning
when my eyes were searching the ground about or before me while my
mind was occupied with some other matter. Here, at this spot, I find
no fewer than three perfect beauties--silvery-white hemispherical
bosses in the green carpet, and, gathering them, I go on delighted at
my success. Then, after going thirty yards or so, I all at once
remember that on first sighting them I had distinctly counted four
mushrooms and am compelled to retrace my steps to try and re-find the
one I had left ungathered. So with the book: from time to time a
something omitted comes back and obliges me to break off and go some
distance back, if not to the starting-point.

I may be told that I am to blame in not having mapped out my route
beforehand, and that the only thing to do now is to break up the work
and build it afresh. It would not suit me to do that.

No doubt anyone who has got as far as the second chapter has formed
the idea that this is to be a mere collection of incidents and
impressions, with comments thereon, on a great variety of subjects--a
book without a plan, a sort of _olla podrida_. It is not so. When I
first observed the hind in Richmond Park my thought was about its
senses, which led me to compare them with those of other animals,
including man; and as I possessed a store of my own observations on
the subject, supplemented with others from reading, I foresaw when I
began to set them down that a book would result.  It then occurred to
me that in this work I would not follow the usual method by setting
down the heads or leading themes in their proper order, then working
them out. My own unmethodical method would be to let the observation
and the thought carry me whithersoever it would.

We know from Butler, if not from our own feeble efforts at making
poetry, that rhymes the rudders are of verses by which they often
steer their courses;--a queer sort of rudder with a mind of its own to
carry us into places which we had no intention of visiting!  But it is
quite true; and so with this rudder of mine which takes me where it
will, and if it overshoots the mark and goes back I must go back with
it. My plan then is an unplanned one, a picking up as I go along of a
variety of questions concerning the senses, just as they rise
spontaneously from what has gone before.

Having got thus far with my explanations I must now throw over the
mushroom-gathering simile, seeing that the business I am occupied with
is more of the nature of tree-climbing. The root thereof is the hind,
her senses and behaviour, and from this root spring the trunk and
branches I am climbing; and the trouble is that when I have finished
exploring the branch I happen to be on and am about to proceed to the
next one above it, I discover that I have left one beneath me
unexplored and am obliged to return to it.

For example, this little frontier tragedy, related at the conclusion
of the last chapter, reminds me of a serious omission. The simple word
_frontier_ has served to bring it back, recalling as it does the long
months I have spent on divers occasions, in heat and cold, by day and
night, on foot and on horseback, on that vast vacant territory
bordering on the lands inhabited by men and cattle, or outside them,
and of the value in such regions of a sense and instinct common to man
and beast, which in civilised and populous districts is of no more
importance than our decayed sense of smell.

Here then I come back to my interview with my lady stag, reposing with
her back to me and adjusting her ears so as to listen to the
incomprehensible sound I emitted, while attending to the other
understandable ones that come to her from the wood.

If by an exercise of magic I could have projected the power of
abstract thought into her cervine brains our colloquy would have been
more interesting, and she would have told me how much I had lost by
developing a bigger brain and assuming an erect position on my hind
legs. Thus, my muscular sense and sense of equilibrium, with perfect
co-ordination of all the nerves and faculties in me, were inferior to
hers. Finally, assuming that she was the same hind I spoke about at
the beginning of the book, she would have reminded me of her action on
that occasion; how, when insulted by the offer of an acorn by a
creature in a scarlet mantle, she had savagely resented and resolved
at the same time to accept the gift and punish the giver; and how she
snatched the spray from the outstretched hand, then, on the instant of
doing so, took a flying leap over the child's head, and at the moment
of her forefeet touching the ground lashed out behind with so good an
aim that she grazed the face, and, given an inch more, would have
slashed it open with her sharp knife-like hind hoofs.

A great quarrel, with many keen thrusts on both sides, also with some
laughter, and all the time the feeling in me, bitter as death, that
she had the best of the argument; that it would have been better that
animal life had continued till the time of the dying of all life on
the earth with no such development as that of the large-brained being
who walks erect and smiling looks on heaven.

But I had no magic: all I could do was to tease and mystify her by
whistling, and she could do no more than give me a small share of her
listening attention.  Finally, unable to make any sense out of the
sounds I emitted, she got up as I have told, shook herself to get rid
of dust and dead leaves on her coat, then walked straight away without
a glance at the person sitting behind her. If she had been a great
lady in a drawing-room, who had taken offence at some injudicious or
impertinent remark I had dropped in conversation with her, and had got
up and walked away without a word or look--ruling my existence
out--she could not have done it better. She walked straight away to
some other place in the park where she wished to be. To that spot she
would go in a bee-line, not thinking about the right direction or
indeed about anything, but with a mind agreeably occupied with the
sights and sounds and scents that came to her.

Then came my turn to go as it was now late in the day, and after some
moments' hesitation as to which gate would suit me best for an exit on
that afternoon--Richmond, Kingston or Sheen--I too got up and walked
off, occupied with my own thoughts and also, like the hind, amusing
myself with the sights and sounds and scents, leaving the whole
business of getting to my destination to my legs and the compass in my

Here, too, as in the sense of equilibrium, she had an immense
advantage over me--incalculably great, if night and thick darkness had
surprised us still together at that spot. Not in Richmond Park only,
but on Exmoor or in any vast deer-forest in the North, she would go by
night or day unhesitatingly in a direct line to her destination. But
no sooner am I in a place I don't know and lose sight of the sun, or
have been making many turns in a wood, than I lose the sense of
direction. Thus, if I go to Piccadilly Circus by tube and, leaving my
train, wander about in the galleries in search of the right station
for some other part of London, I cease to know the points of the
compass.  But for the lettering on the walls and the arrow-heads and
pointing fingers I am as effectually lost as if I had fallen into a
deep hole and had, at the end of it, crawled out at the Antipodes.

Judging from myself (a very bad case I dare say), the sense of
direction is a dwindling one in our civilised state, and in many of us
appears to be wholly gone.  Yet to man living in a state of nature it
is of vital importance, as it is to all animals endowed with
locomotive organs--wings, fins, legs and, in the ophidians, ribs and
scales. The snake does not, as Tautus taught us, move by means of its
fiery spirit. And we know that snakes, with practically no horizon at
all and so short-sighted that they can have no landmarks, do yet
possess the sense of direction in a remarkable degree.  Thus, there
are authentic cases on record of tame snakes travelling long distances
back to the home from which they had been removed--incidents similar
to those we are accustomed to hear every day with regard to our
domestic animals and pets. Apart from such cases, we see from
observation of their habits that the snake could not do very well
without such a sense. Thus, take the snakes that inhabit great grass
countries like the prairies, or, better still, the absolutely flat
pampas, where the snake, moving on its belly, is down in the grass and
seldom has its head above it. In that temperate climate they do not
aestivate, but spend the eight or nine warm months distributed over
the land. The snake may go a long distance in search of the female;
going to her, he has the wind and the message it conveys to him for
guide, but there is no extraneous force, no "nimble emanations" to
lead him back to his accustomed haunts--the home where he passes his
long summers and his whole life. At the approach of winter, in May, he
returns to his hybernaculum, which he shares with many others of his
kind, coming in from all directions and various distances. The
wintering site is as a rule in a mound on the plain formed by rodents,
armadillos and other excavating mammals, and in one of the old
cavities they mass themselves together to drowse away the two or three
cold months. It is plain that without a sense of direction the
serpent, crawling on his belly through the grass over a flat
featureless ground, could not find his way back to the same spot each

As to insects, a little observation of wasps, bees, ants and others,
both social and solitary, that cannot carry on the business of life
without constantly returning to one point, is enough to show that they
could not exist without such a sense. It is perhaps most easily seen
in the ants. Take your seat on the turf on a chalk down and look at
the ground, and you will see a minute black ant hurrying about on his
business. You don't know how long he has been abroad, but the chances
are you will get tired of watching him before he returns to his home.
For a home he has, a minute hole somewhere under the grass leading
into his subterranean galleries, where he spends part of his time; and
as his sense-organs are specialised in two directions, he will then
move about as freely in the dark, and know just what to do and how to
do it, as well as out in the brilliant sunlight. Night and day, and
above ground and underground, are all one to him. If, when watching
him, you try the experiment of putting a finger close to him he is
overwhelmed with astonishment; at first struck motionless, and then,
recovering his faculties, he rushes wildly away. The near approach of
your finger to him was like a tremendous tornado charged with every
violent animal smell in the world bursting suddenly upon a horse, let
us say. But soon he recovers from his panic and goes on with his
everlasting quest, and you are obliged to go after him on your hands
and knees to keep him in sight. He is probably now leagues away from
his home, still hurriedly pushing his way through the endless forest.
For to him the grasses are like trees and their stems like trunks, and
they stand up and lean and lie about in all positions. He goes round
this one, crawls under the next, and climbs over a third, and cannot
see a distance of half an inch before him. Tired of watching him you
get up and go away, and he goes on and on and will continue to go on
until he finds what he is looking for, and then will set out on his
return, working his way through that interminable forest, that
boundless contiguity of shading grasses, straight to his home.

And as with serpents and insects, and fishes and batrachians, so it is
with birds and mammals, all which when out and away from home on their
various quests are, as the poet says of the migrating bird, "lone
wanderers, but not lost." There is not a village or hamlet in the
kingdom, nor, I imagine, anywhere in the world, where you will not be
told strange yet familiar stories of a domestic or pet animal
returning from long distances to its old home over ground unknown to
it where it could never have memorised the landmarks.  Such instances
are so common that anyone who thought it worth his while could collect
a volume full of them in a few weeks. Even here, in this house in
Penzance where I am writing this chapter, two such cases have been
related to me of cats; one that was sent away to a distant village in
a closed basket and promptly returned to its home here; the other of a
cat received here from St. Just, seven miles away over a rough moor,
who disappeared on the evening of its arrival and reappeared the very
next day at St. Just. Also, I have just received from a correspondent
in America an extraordinary case of a dog sent by rail and water
across the country to a southern State, who soon vanished from his new
home to reappear several months later at his old home, 800 miles
distant. This is an authentic case, and the astonishing thing is that
in that immense journey the desire for home, the nostalgia, the
impelling force, was not overcome by the difficulties--by hunger and
fatigue and the hostility and persecutions met with from man and dogs
encountered on the way. The overpowering desire for home had carried
him through all this misery, and he arrived at last looking like a
very old worn-out dog.

As we higher animals are also subject to nostalgia, we can sympathise
with the cat and dog in their sufferings in a strange place--the sense
of disharmony.

Especially so if we consider that smell, which is nothing to us, is to
them more than sight; more even than vision and hearing together. They
live in smells. In the familiar smells of their home, their
surroundings, in and out of doors, they are in their element, at
peace.  Instinctively the animal regards every strange smell with
suspicion: it is a warning of danger perhaps, and for all his
domestication and tameness he cannot be free of this inheritance. We
can imagine then what it must be to remove an animal of this kind, a
cat let us say, from his familiar home into a world of unknown smells!

In my early home on the Argentine pampas we thought less about cats
and dogs in this connection than horses; for it was in a region where,
as the gauchos say, the horse is the legs that carry you. It was a
common thing to hear a gaucho say, when his horses, or some of them,
had been stolen, that he counted on the recovery of such a one, seeing
that however far they took him from his home and district, however
long they kept him hobbled or collared to another horse, he would, on
the first opportunity that offered, make his escape and find his way

Here I will insert the history of a horse I was intimate with for a
space of over ten years. He was an iron grey, the colour called _moro_
by the natives, and as he was the only one of that colour in our troop
we named him Moro. He came to us from some gaucho friends who lived at
their estancia about forty miles south of our home; and as we were
warned that Moro was a home-loving horse, it was necessary to keep him
collared to one of the horses of the establishment for a month before
letting him go free. I retain a vivid recollection of this animal, so
that he stands out from the hundreds of horses I have ridden among the
half a dozen or so that have most impressed me with their personality.
He had a spirit and dash above all the horses I have known and ridden:
to be touched with whip or spur would drive him wild. One had to keep
a tight rein on him, as with a man on his back his one desire was to
let himself go at his topmost speed. But he had a silken mouth and the
most perfect control over his emotions. He was the only horse I ever
possessed that when at full speed could be brought to a sudden stand,
and then, with a touch on his neck, be made to spin round as on a
pivot. His instant response when you set him to do these things seemed
to show that he loved doing them. His chief fault was that he was
intolerant of strangers, and if carelessly approached by one he did
not know he would lash out with his heels, so that our visitors always
had to be warned not to go near the dangerous animal.

One day on coming home on Moro I rode into the _patio_ or yard, and
leaving him standing there went into the house, and just then a child
of some people on a visit to us, a little boy of seven from town and
perfectly ignorant of country things, ran out, and seeing Moro
standing there with his long tail almost touching the ground, he went
to it and, twisting his little hands into the hair, began swinging
himself to and fro. The moment I caught sight of him I thought it was
all over with the child, for Moro was in a passion, tossing his head
and stamping on the ground--in another moment the child's brains would
be dashed out! I yelled at him, and loosing his hold he came to me
unhurt. Everyone said it was a miracle--it was Providence that saved
the child's life. It was, I think, the animal's intelligence, his
knowledge that it was an innocent child and not a grown-up that was
taking this liberty with him, which restrained his impulse to strike.

The one thing about Moro which comes properly into the subject I am
writing about was his home instinct.  Although he became reconciled to
his new surroundings and attached to the horses he lived and grazed
with, whenever we had a long spell of cold windy and rainy weather in
winter--always a time of intense discomfort to horses living on the
flat open unsheltered plain where not a tree was growing--Moro would
disappear. Then, as a rule, after a week or two there would be a
message from our distant gaucho friends to inform me that Moro had
turned up at their place, and that he would be sent as soon as anyone
of the estancia had occasion to travel our way. On his return it was
not necessary to collar him to another horse: he was always pleased to
be back with his familiar friends and companions, and would settle
down and live quite contentedly until, when another bad spell in the
weather occurred after six or twelve months, he would disappear again,
and this state of things continued as long as he lived.

The explanation of Moro's action is, I fancy, simple enough. He was
reconciled to his second home and attached to the animals he consorted
with, and had no desire to return to his former home in ordinary
circumstances.  But in the intense discomfort induced by a seemingly
endless spell of bad weather, when he was being lashed with cold rain
perpetually day and night, he was reminded of his home; he had an
image of the wide green plains bathed in everlasting genial sunshine:
the image, the vision, produced the illusion that even thus would he
see it again if he returned to it, and in the end he fled back a
distance of forty miles to escape from his misery.

We know that animals are capable of visualising past scenes in this
way. I have given instances of this faculty and the delusions it gives
rise to, in writing of the horse and guanaco in my _Naturalist in La

It remains to speak of the sense of direction in man.  He is dependent
on the same senses and faculties as any other rapacious mammal in his
quest for food. No doubt the higher we go in the organic scale the
less dependent the animal is on instinct pure and simple: in other
words, the more does intelligence enter into the instinctive act.
Thus, we will find an instinct common to mammals and birds less
intelligent and more perfect in the latter. In birds, we may say, the
sense of direction is more nearly infallible than in mammals.  Thus,
you will see a basketful of homing pigeons released at the Marble
Arch, the birds all flying off in various directions to their homes in
different parts of the country, from twenty or thirty to a couple of a
hundred miles distant; and the chances are that not one out of
twenty-five or thirty will fail to turn up at its destination. As the
pigeon has existed in a domestic state for thousands of generations,
it may be assumed that its homing faculty is not as perfect as in the
wild bird. The bird has this faculty in greater perfection than the
mammal because he needs it owing to his wings, which give him an
immensely wider range and swifter motion. The mammal, moving on the
ground, has more need of intelligence in every act of its life, in
every step it takes, and no doubt memorises more. Yet I would say that
the mammal, including man in a state of nature, is no more able to do
without that sense than the small ant, that "lone wanderer, but not
lost," on the grassy down.

I would say, then, that as mentality enters more into the actions of
man, even in his most primitive state, than in other mammals, the
sense of direction is less perfect in him than in them. Also that in
highly civilised man, especially in urban districts, the sense is so
weak as almost to be regarded as obsolescent. Like the sense of smell
it is not needed, and in that condition its decay is inevitable.
Nevertheless, when the need comes it revives, and when one is among
savages or semi-civilised men much given to roaming, one meets with
instances of the sense as acute and efficient as in the lower animals.

I heard a good deal said on this subject early in life; as a boy it
interested me because when I took to long solitary rambles, on foot or
horseback, I made the discovery that I had a rather poor sense of
direction, and when I got lost, which happened from time to time in a
fog or at night and even in broad daylight when I was out of sight of
all known landmarks, it had an extremely distressing effect on me and
appeared to be a danger. Later, when I had grown up, I had some
discussion on the subject with a young gaucho friend.  One day in
company he told us of a day spent in a search after lost horses at a
long distance from the ranch where he had his temporary home. He had a
companion with him, and when they were from nine to ten leagues from
home night came very suddenly on them, with a black cloud covering the
whole sky and rain in torrents. His companion cried out that there was
nothing to do but dismount and spend the night sitting on their
saddles and trying to keep themselves dry by wrapping their skin
horse-rugs and ponchos round them. My friend laughed at such a
proposal and said that they would go back and would be at home in
about four hours or so, and would then be able to dry their clothes
and get something to eat. The other was incredulous; it was all a flat
plain with no road and not a star to show them the way. Nevertheless,
they set out and arrived before midnight at the hovel which was their
destination, and only when they dismounted and pushed the door open
could he convince his companion that no road or light of star was
needed to find your way back; nothing, in fact, was wanting but one's
own sense.

It was just that sense, I told him, that I was without, and I knew
that many others were in the same condition, otherwise we would not
hear of people getting lost. That he possessed this sense in such
perfection seemed almost incredible.

He replied that to him it seemed incredible that any sane person
complete in his senses should be without it. He had to believe there
were such men, just as there were others blind or deaf or idiots from
birth.  It made him laugh. For how could anyone, no matter how far he
might go in a strange district, or how many turns he might take, fail
to know just where he was and the exact direction of the place he
wished to return to? You could take him blind-folded fifty leagues off
into any place unknown to him, and lead him now in this direction, now
in that, then take off the bandage in a dark night and set him free,
and he would not be lost. Naturally he would know the right direction
to take. How could he help knowing it?

I was surprised at hearing all this, as up till then I had looked on
this young gaucho friend who did not know a letter of the alphabet as
a good-natured half-fool.  He was a big fellow, so dark, with such
thick lips and such broad nostrils, that one supposed he had negro
blood in him, and, negro-like, he was much given to laughter. But he
had coarse lank black hair which was not negro-like. As he had been so
much on horseback he waddled on the ground, and was like a big clumsy
animal walking with difficulty on his hind legs.  Then there were his
garments: a waistcoat or blouse as a rule, new and of some crude,
glaring colour, yellow or scarlet or blue, and all the others old and
frayed and the colour of clay. As a rule he was without boots, being a
poor devil, with his big iron spurs buckled on his bare feet. But now
I conceived a great respect for him, and envied him the possession of
something which I lacked and greatly missed.

This is perhaps an extreme case; nevertheless, men of that kind, who
were never lost and never at a loss, were not uncommon on our
Argentine frontiers. A!  man of that kind who had a bold and
adventurous spirit as well was called a _Rastreador_, and was employed
to go out into the desert and spy on the Indians.

It is probable that even in our ultra-civilised state there are
individuals among us who possess the sense in a high degree although
they may not know it themselves, just as there are those who have a
sense of smell acute as that of any pure savage. This would not be
strange: more wonderful is the fact that on some rare occasion the
faculty should revive and burn in its pristine power in an individual
in whom it had appeared to be non-existent. Here is a case in point.

Years ago, when following a discussion on a sense of direction in man
in one of the weekly journals, I read of an instance of this reversion
of the brain to a past state--a recovery of a lost sense. It occurred
to a man, a dweller in a town, who went with a friend for an autumn
holiday in a forest district in North America. They camped on the
borders of a forest at a distance from any settlement, and the
narrator, taking his gun, went off alone into the woods to look for
something to shoot. He spent long hours in the forest, and at last
when he was deep in it, surrounded on all sides by trees, and
remembered that he had taken many turns, it suddenly came on him with
a shock that he was lost, miles distant probably from his
starting-point, and had not the faintest idea in which direction it
was.  He was terribly distressed, for the day was drawing to a close
and he feared that to whichsoever side he directed his steps it would
perhaps only take him further away. He fired several shots in the hope
that some hunter or someone looking for him would hear them and come
to his rescue. But no one came, and no answering shot or shout broke
the silence. Then, when his distress was greatest, when he was in
despair, all at once a light came to him, a sudden sense of relief, a
feeling and a conviction that he knew exactly which direction to take.
So convinced was he, that he set out not only confidently but gladly.
And his instinct proved right: he came out of the wood and found the
camp before him.

This narrative interested me deeply, simply because it so closely
resembled an experience I once had--the one and only time when I have
known the full meaning of such a sense--its certitude and its value to
the lower animals and to man living in a state of nature, as he has
existed for (let us say) a million years. My case was this. I was in a
forest, and in the middle of a thick wood covering an area of several
miles, with dense thickets and bogs and streams on its borders. I had
been in it for several hours watching some woodland birds I was
interested in, and, absorbed in my occupation, night surprised me and
a sudden darkness caused by a cloud overspreading the sky; I realised
that I was lost, since I did not know in which part of the wood I was,
or which direction to take, and could not see on which side the sun
had gone down. I feared, too, that if I tried to get out I should
probably get among the bogs and streams and dense thickets. And it was
getting cold, as I was in the thinnest summer clothes and had been
perspiring profusely. And suddenly, while standing there peering into
the thick blackness all round me and feeling keenly distressed, relief
came, and it was as if I had been captive and was unexpectedly set
free. I did not know where I was and where the feared bogs were, but I
knew in which direction to go. There was no hesitation, no shadow of a
doubt. Off I went rejoicing where my supernatural faculty, as it then
almost seemed to be, commanded, and after walking for half an hour
came upon a blacker blackness where the undergrowth was so dense that
it was extremely difficult to force my way through it. Again and again
I came to places like that, yet dared not attempt to get round these
thickets, fearing that if I varied the least bit from the bee-line I
was making I might lose the sense of direction that guided me. I must,
I felt, keep the line.  Eventually I got free of the wood, and coming
into an open space I dimly discerned a dwarf tree with a stout
malformed trunk which I recognised as one of my landmarks on the
borders of the wood, and there saw that I was actually making a
bee-line for my destination.  _Now_ I knew where I was, and remembered
that another smaller wood lay before me; then a mile or so of open
grassland to the lonely farmhouse I was making for.

The feeling I had experienced on that one occasion, from the moment it
came to me in the depths of that dark wood that I knew my way, was one
of intense elation: it affected me like the recovery of something
infinitely precious, so long lost that I had been without hope of ever
finding it again; and it was like the recovery of sight to a blind
man; or like that "vision of Paradise" which a temporary recovery of
the sense of smell had seemed to Wordsworth as he sat in a garden full
of flowers; or like the recovery of memory in one who had lost that
faculty. And this elation lasted until I recognised the landmark, the
deformed tree, and began to memorise the wood that yet remained to be
got through and the open ground beyond it. Memory and thinking took
the place of something which had been like an inspiration, an
intuition, and had a sobering effect. I had only to rely on my memory
and reasoning faculties now.

It was a strange experience--perhaps the strangest I have ever had,
when I remember the many occasions on which I have lost myself and
have had long anxious hours of wandering in some unfamiliar place with
no faintest intimation of any such helpful sense in me.  For if this
sense is so feeble in or so lost to us, how came it to revive and
function so perfectly on this one occasion? The psychologist cannot
help me, seeing that he takes no account of such a faculty; nor the
physiologist, since there is no corresponding organ known to his
science. But there is, there must be, an organ, albeit unrecognisable,
a specialised nerve in the brain, I suppose, which keeps a record of
all our turns and windings about, and ever, like the magnetic needle,
swings faithfully round to point infallibly in the direction to which
we desire in the end to return. This, at all events, is how it must be
in the lower animal and in savage men. Admitting so much, how came it
to revive and function so perfectly in an individual who had appeared
to be without it? I can only suppose that it is not actually obsolete
in us, that it still exists and continues to function feebly--so
feebly, indeed, that we rarely or never become conscious of it. If
this be so, I take it that on this one occasion the nerve was highly
excited by my mental agitation, the sense of being lost in that dark
wood, and that in that state it recovered its function and the record
of all the changes of direction I had taken in my roamings about, and
eventually produced that conscious feeling of confidence and elation.


Migration unrelated to a sense of direction--Personal
observations--The old simple account of the phenomenon--Migration a
mystery still--Newton and Addison: the supernatural theory--Dr. Henry
More--Erasmus Darwin and his tradition theory--Wallace and
others--Canon Tristram's theory of the origin of life in the Arctic
regions--Glacial epochs and Seebohm in search of evidence--Benjamin
Kidd and the simple sun theory--Aspects of migration in England--We
are still left wondering--Recent futile methods of attacking the
problem--A new method suggested.

It is inevitable in considering the subject of a sense of direction
that one should think often of migration--of the seasonal migration of
birds, let us say. Inevitable, because, viewed superficially, these
two senses (for that is what they are) appear as one. There is at all
events a close resemblance in their action, just as there is in other
instinctive acts which are distinct--fight and play, for example.
Probably nine persons in every ten who had never given a thought to
the question, if interrogated, would say at once that they were
essentially one. And the nine men in the street in any ten would have
Romanes to support them.

It is not so. They are distinct in their origin and functions: they
are senses, with nerves in the brain for organs--nerves that respond
to distinctly different stimuli. We can only describe such a sense as
that of direction by metaphor or illustration, likening it to
something else. Or we might, _a la_ Frankenstein, construct a
mechanical monster full of an infinite number of wheels and springs
and numbered buttons--one, two, three, etc.--to be touched in order at
each and every turn the monster may take in his peregrinations. A less
clumsy contrivance might be made to illustrate migration--a flying
machine with the necessary clockwork in its bowels, wound up to fly
north and south a given distance--five hundred to nine or ten thousand
miles, let us say--then to drop quietly down on a suitable predestined

The sense of direction is like the unconscious sense of smell, or
rather of the _specialised_ olfactory nerves, which to my thinking
convey knowledge from outside without our knowing it. It is an
unconscious power or faculty in us--in that particular nerve of the
brain.  Yet although it functions independently, like our breathing,
we are conscious that we possess it--and by we I mean man in a state
of nature--that we can rely on it as we can on our legs to carry us
whithersoever we desire to go, and that finally it will guide us
safely to our destination.

But in migration--to project ourselves, let us say, into the bird
mind--there is no reliance on anything in us, no conscious guiding
principle: it is simply a rushing away from we know not what into the
unknown.  A passion, a panic, like that which sometimes falls on a
herd of wild horses and sends them rushing away from some real or
imaginary danger.

Migration does not present itself in this aspect to the casual
observer. The migrant has not told him what it feels, and he is
perhaps accustomed to witness the birds congregating previous to
departure; and although he can't quite believe that they call a
council, state the certain day, form the phalanx, and so on and so
forth, it does yet seem to him that the whole business is managed in a
rather well-considered way--that there is, in fact, knowledge and a

The answer to this anticipated objection will be given later on. My
words were not wild and extravagant; they express a considered belief,
founded not on other men's observations and writings, but solely on
personal observation. My ideas were formed long before I ever saw a
book on the subject or knew that any such book had been written. The
elementary and general works on natural history which I read as a boy
and youth contained only the usual statements, that birds migrated
chiefly to escape the rigours of winter in a warmer climate; that when
winter was passed they returned to their natal home; and that the
increasing scarcity of food was another cause of, and reason for,
their departure.

This was too simple; even as a boy (in southern South America) I saw
that the autumnal departure of birds began and continued throughout
the most perfect season of the year--in nearly all species from
mid-February to the end of May. The most perfect season, that is to
say, for the birds, when the passionate wooing and fighting
spring-season was long past and forgotten; when the labour and
anxieties of reproduction were over, and the young safely reared and
able to fend for themselves; when clouds and showers had mitigated the
excessive heats and dryness of midsummer, and the weather was most
genial and all bird food--fruit, seed and insects--most abundant; and
finally when they had come into the serenest and sweetest time of
their lives, with nothing to do but rejoice in the sunshine, feast and
grow fatter and tamer every day, and, one would imagine, when they
would be least inclined to set out on a weary and perilous journey of
hundreds and thousands of miles.

It is not only in southern South America that birds quit their homes
just when the life conditions are most favourable; it is the rule in
all temperate regions, although it may not seem so in these brumous
northern islands.

However, the easy explanation that birds went away because they would
do better elsewhere, although it is still put forward in Newton's
_Dictionary of Birds_ and the _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, was never
regarded as a quite sufficient cause. How did the bird _know_--the
young bird, let us say, that migrates alone--that he would do better
elsewhere? After all, then, migration was a mystery; so much a mystery
that the greatest man of science this country has produced, who
discovered the laws that govern the motions of the heavenly bodies,
said of the migration of birds that it was directly inspired by the
Creator, since no other explanation was possible.

If I remember rightly something I read as a boy, this notion was
adopted by Addison and beautifully commented on in one of his

How odd it seems that just this one of the innumerable problems in the
organic world that ask for solution should have been singled out for
preferential treatment! I think the once famous Dr. Henry More of that
age was more logical when he denned the "Spirit of Nature" as "a
substance incorporeal, but without sense and animadversion, pervading
the whole matter of the universe, and exercising a plastical power
therein, according to the sundry predispositions and occasions in the
parts it works upon, raising such phenomena in the world, by directing
the parts of matter and their motions, as cannot be resolved into mere
mechanical powers, which goes through and assists all corporeal
beings, and in the vicarious person of God upon the universal matter
of the world. This suggests to the spider the fancy of spinning or
weaving her web, and to the bee of her forming of her honeycomb, and
especially to the silkworm of conglomerating her both funeral and
natal clue, and to the birds of building their nests and of their so
diligently hatching their eggs."

He did not mention migration, probably because he always wrote in a
hurry; he could not otherwise have produced a whole cart-load of
books. But I have not quoted this passage just for fun, as a sample of
his queer, rock-me-to-sleep, free-verse prose, nor as an example of
the seventeenth-century mind, with its metaphysical bias, its
religiosity and fantasticalness, when it speculated on the problems of
biology. I quote it only because it accords with a bent or tendency of
many modern minds that are in revolt against the mechanicians, who
will allow no soul to man, nor spirit or purpose or ruler or maker to
the world. We have seen how this temper is the cause of a perpetual
harking back to the things of the past, to the time when man thought
as a child, finding or trying to find some comfort in them--some
justification of their mental attitude. If some of our physicists are
coming to think that an electron may be spirit as well as substance,
it may be profitable as well as soothing to return to Dr. Henry More.

Erasmus Darwin was born well in the age of Reason, when miracles had
ceased, and he accordingly sought for a natural explanation of this
phenomenon and attributed it to tradition. Now it is true that most of
the acts of social and gregarious animals are due to tradition, but
unfortunately for this theory we know that very many of the migrants
are solitary and that their young travel alone to their destinations.
Finally this notion throws no light on the origin of the instinct.
Nevertheless, it has persisted in a modified form, or in various
forms, and may be considered the parent of the idea of traditional,
racial, and unconscious memory as the cause of migration. Romanes
adopted this view, and also stated that migration was founded on a
sense of direction. Alfred Russel Wallace also held it, but not
satisfied that the explanation was a sufficient one, he gathered up
the old simplicities and put them in. He says:

The actual causes that determine the actual time, year by year, at
which certain species migrate will of course be difficult to
ascertain.  I will say, however, that they will be found to depend on
those climatic changes which most affect the particular species. The
changes of colour or the fall of certain leaves, the change to the
pupa state of certain insects, the prevalent winds or rains, or even
the decreased temperature of the earth or water, may all have their
influence. (_Nature_, 1874.)

Next comes Canon H. B. Tristram, a diligent student of birds and bird
problems during his long life of eighty-six years, who late in the
last century advanced his theory that all animal life originated in
the Arctic regions; that when that portion of the globe grew too cold
for comfort the birds were driven south. And that was the genesis of
the instinct of migration. Then we have the addition of the glacial
epoch notion advanced by others; how, when it passed away, the birds,
remembering their ancient natal home, returned to or as far towards it
as the conditions would allow to breed; then, when the short Arctic
summer ended, they had to fly south again. Seebohm, the ornithologist,
took up this notion with enthusiasm, and having extended it by
inventing a succession of glacial epochs, went to Africa, where many
wonderful things are found, to look for evidence.  It was said that as
he had sailed with four glacial epochs and returned with only three he
must have accidentally dropped one overboard on his voyage home.

But although laughed at by some, others think there is something in
this theory, and some even believe that it holds the field.

Nevertheless it is incredible when we consider that the inherited
memory of the birds in their southern home must have continued as a
living force or faculty, always ready to display itself in action, for
thousands, or tens of thousands, of generations before a change in the
climatic conditions made it possible for them to return.

Perhaps this list of guesses would not be complete without a mention
of what may be called the sun theory, pure and simple. It has never to
my knowledge been distinctly stated excepting by Benjamin Kidd in his
last and posthumous work, _A Philosopher with Nature_. He regarded it
as original, but the idea is, of course, implicit in all theories of
migration. They are built on it. He says:

It is one of the facts in the migration of birds over which
naturalists have always found a difficulty, that the migrants both in
the eastern and western hemispheres should in their journey to the
south often begin to leave their haunts before the food supply in any
way fails them, and before they have any physical want known to us
indicating a coming change in the conditions of life.  But students of
the subject have probably not fully reckoned with the deep emotional
effect on all wild nature of the waning light in the declining year,
and on the uncontrollable instinct to follow the sinking sun begotten
in those whose habits of life it affects.

It is, we see, beautifully simple: the sun is the source of light and
heat, which means life; when cold and darkness threaten death as a
consequence of its withdrawal, what more natural than that all
creatures capable of swift and easy motion should follow it so as to
keep alive by keeping near it! At the very outset we are confronted
with the upsetting fact of many species that go further north to
breed--in latitude of 80 degrees to 85 degrees--and fly south when the
Arctic summer is over, but do not come to a stop when they have
entered into warm regions, but fly on and on and across the zone of
greatest heat and still on until they have left the Equator 30 to 40
or 45 degrees behind, and would probably go further towards the
Antarctic if the conditions permitted.

I think it was Aristotle who once remarked that it is always best to
get the facts and then consider the causes.  Doubtless he meant _all_
the facts.

To conclude the survey, I will quote from a letter written to me on
these questions by my friend Morley Roberts, whose recent work on
_Warfare in the Human Body_ entitles him to a respectful hearing.

He begins hopefully: "The problem of bird migration, though one of the
most difficult in zoological investigation, does not seem to me wholly
incapable of solution." His notion is what I have called the
sun-theory, and he has been led to it by a study of the movements or
reactions of the minute marine plant-animal, _Convoluta roscoffensis_.
The north and south movements of birds "suggests a theory of negative
and positive tropisms, a theory of behaviour, enforced by light and
heat, which has become part of the avian nervous and muscular
mechanism. This would mean the acquisition of a north and south sense'
(or set of reactions), which would save those who went towards or from
the sun." He then touches on the glacial epochs and inherited memory,
and concludes with the following suggestions:

If we conclude that we are dealing with more or less explicable
tropisms, the most diligent and skilful observer among naturalists
would acknowledge that those learned in biology, physiology and
physiography might be of service in solving the problem. He might even
go further and, considering that the earliest mass movements of birds
must have originated soon after they were differentiated from reptiles
and acquired powers of flight, would acknowledge that the geologist,
palaeontologist and astronomer, all of whom are conversant with earth
variations over great periods of time, could be of assistance.
Furthermore, as tropistic movements must in the end be considered as
questions of energetics, it would not be absurd to ask a physicist to
sit at the round table of inquiry.

These may be valuable suggestions, and I will only add that, as those
who sit at round tables are not as a rule all equally open-minded or
tolerant of other persons' opinions, it would be well to remove any
chunks of old red sandstone which may be lying about in the conference
chamber before the members meet.

The fact is, all these theories are equally satisfactory so long as
the difficulties, all the facts, are not taken into account.

When I consider migration as it appears to me in this northern island,
I think that if I had been born and bred here, seeing it in no other
aspect, the problem would have appeared to me, as to so many others,
an insoluble one. Year by year I have watched it so far as I was able.
In March, April and May, one becomes aware of the arrival of the
migrants, the summer visitors; they are here all about us after many
months' absence, but we did not see them arrive. Only from some rocky
headland in the south-western extremity of the country we may see a
few pelagic species returning from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
seas to their ancient breeding haunts on our coast. Gannets sweeping
by in wide curves, bird following bird, an endless procession;
guillemots, razor-bills and puffins in black and white strings flying
close to the surface, and shearwaters dashing by with wild, erratic

But it is chiefly in the autumn that I watch the migrants; the
swallows congregating, often many days before departure, flying south
in flocks and settling down in a reed-bed or thick wood at sunset to
roost. Then for days and weeks flying up and down the south coast from
Kent to Cornwall, as if searching for a suitable crossing-place.

Again, one notes that from the end of August onwards passerine birds
are mysteriously decreasing in numbers, and that species after species
disappear entirely.  We see them concentrating in immense numbers on
the south coast. Wheat-ears are abundant on the South Downs, coming in
from all over the land; while on the downs and the maritime district
between the downs and the sea, you find flocks of wagtails of all
species; meadow pipits in small companies; stonechats in half-dozens;
linnets in hundreds and thousands, and many other species, all resting
from their journey or deterred by the sight of the cold grey water
before them. By-and-by they vanish, having taken their departure on
some early morning.  But they do not all go; a great many individuals
of the species that cross the Channel and travel on to the
Mediterranean, and even to Africa, remain to winter in southern

Again, in October and November I have watched the winter visitants
coming in from the North Sea, as a rule early in the morning in serene
weather. Hooded crows travelling laboriously as if tired, bird
following bird, or in small companies and at short distances apart;
and at intervals redwings and fieldfares, flock succeeding flock,
tired travellers too, all keeping to the same line or route.

This then is what we see of migration in England, which leaves us
still wondering what the impulse may be in its origin and nature, the
compelling force which takes the bird--plucks it, we may say, out of
its familiar haunt, its home and place in which it knows just where to
find its food, to seek a shelter from wind and storm, its sure refuge
from sudden danger and its safe roosting-place at night. Outside of
this familiar place all is a strange and hostile region. Only those
who have made a close study of the habits of wild birds know how
strong this attachment to locality is, especially in the small birds,
the species that spend six months of each year scattered all over the
continent of Africa, to reappear with us in April, every bird in its
old haunt, the homestead, the copse, the hedge, the field or common it
lived in, to sing and build again in the same tree, the same bush, as
in former years. We wonder and still ask with the poet:

  What is this breath, ye sages, say,
  That in a powerful language, felt not heard,
  Instructs the fowl of heaven?

And answer there is none, seeing that after due consideration of all
the answers so far received we conclude that it would have been just
as well if they had not been given.

Seeing then that so far no progress has been made, and that the new
methods devised in recent years of tackling the problem by keeping
records at lighthouses and other points of observation of the
migratory movements--the species engaged, the dates of their
appearance and of the great rushes, the state of the barometer, and so
on; also the capturing and marking individual migrants all over the
country--have all proved futile, I would suggest that another method
be tried. This is to observe the birds more closely, not only here and
in Europe generally, but in Asia and Australasia, Africa and America,
and wherever birds migrate; to observe their behaviour, not only on
migration, but previous to departure, for I do believe that this would
be a more hopeful way; and my best way of explaining my meaning would,
I imagine, be to give an account of my early observations in the
country of my birth--the Argentine plains or pampas south of Buenos
Ayres, and in Patagonia.


Aspects of migration in southern South America--Migrants from the
northern hemisphere--The abundance of bird life--Golden plover--Eskimo
curlew--Buff-breasted sandpiper--Glossy ibis--Cow-bird--Military
starling--Upland plover--The beautiful has vanished and returns not.

It would not be possible for me to convey to readers whose mental
image of the visible world and its feathered inhabitants was formed
here in England the impression made on my mind, in my early years in
the land of my birth, of the spectacle of bird migration as witnessed
by me. They have not seen it, nor anything resembling it, therefore
cannot properly imagine or visualise it, however well described. I can
almost say that when I first opened my eyes it was to the light of
heaven and to the phenomenon of bird migration--the sight of it and
the sound of it. For migration was then and there on a great, a
tremendous scale, and forced itself on the attention of everyone.
Nevertheless, it is necessary for me to say something about it before
entering into a relation of certain facts concerning migration which
other writers on the subject have failed to observe or else ignored.

Birds, it is granted, migrate north and south, but here in this
northern island, cut off from Europe by a comparatively narrow sea,
and again by a wider sea from the African continent, the winter home
of the majority of our migratory species, it is plain that they could
never get to their destination--from England to South Africa, let us
say--without deviating a good deal from the north and south direction.
America, North, South and Central, is land pretty well all the way
north and south from pole to pole, seeing that the only break is a few
hundred miles of deep sea between the Magellanic region and the
Antarctic continent.

Migration as I witnessed it was not composed exclusively of South
American species: many of the birds were from the northern hemisphere.
The rock swallow (_Petrochelidon pyrrhonota_), for example, that
breeds in Arizona and New Mexico, and migrates to southern Patagonia;
also the numerous shore birds that breed as far north as the Arctic
regions, then migrate south to the Argentine and to the extreme end of
Patagonia--or as near as they can get to the Antarctic. The spectacle
of the migration of these birds mat come to us from another
hemisphere--from another world, as it seemed, so many thousands of
miles away--was as a rule the most arresting, owing to their
extraordinary numbers and to their loquacity, their powerful,
penetrative and musical voices--whimbrel, godwit, plover and sandpiper
of many species.

My home was an inland one, a good many miles from the sea-like Plata
river, the vast grassy level country of the pampas, the green floor of
the world, as I have elsewhere called it. There were no mountains,
forests or barren places in that region; it was all grass and herbage,
the cardoon and giant thistles predominating; also there were marshes
everywhere, with shallow water and endless beds of reeds, sedges and
bulrushes--a paradise of all aquatic fowl. Thus, besides the numerous
shore birds, the herons of seven species, the crested screamer, the
courlan, the rails and coots and grebes, the jacana, the two giant
ibises--the stork and wood ibis--and the glossy ibis in enormous
flocks, we had two swans, upland geese in winter, and over twenty
species of duck. Most of these birds were migratory.

South America can well be called the great bird continent, and I do
not believe that any other large area on it so abounded with bird life
as this very one where I was born and reared and saw, and heard, so
much of birds from my childhood that they became to me the most
interesting things in the world. Thus, the number of species known to
me personally, even as a youth, exceeded that of all the species in
the British Islands, including the sea or pelagic species that visit
our coasts in summer, to breed and spend the rest of the year on the
Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans.

It was not only the number of species known to me, but rather the
incalculable, the incredible numbers in which some of the commonest
kinds appeared, especially when migrating. For it was not then as,
alas! it is now, when all that immense open and practically wild
country has been enclosed in wire fences and is now peopled with
immigrants from Europe, chiefly of the bird-destroying Italian race.
In my time the inhabitants were mostly the natives, the gauchos,
descendants of the early Spanish colonists, and they killed no birds
excepting the rhea, which was hunted on horseback with the bolas; and
the partridge, or tinamu, which was snared by the boys.  There was
practically no shooting.

The golden plover was then one of the abundant species. After its
arrival in September, the plains in the neighbourhood of my home were
peopled with immense flocks of this bird. Sometimes in hot summers the
streams and marshes would mostly dry up, and the aquatic bird
population, the plover included, would shift their quarters to other
districts. During one of these droughty seasons, when my age was nine,
there was a marshy ground two miles from my home where a few small
pools of water still remained, and to this spot the golden plover
would resort every day at noon. They would appear in flocks from all
quarters, flying to it like starlings in England coming in to some
great roosting centre on a winter evening. I would then mount my pony
and gallop off joyfully to witness the spectacle.  Long before coming
in sight of them the noise of their voices would be audible, growing
louder as I drew near.  Coming to the ground, I would pull up my horse
and sit gazing with astonishment and delight at the spectacle of that
immense multitude of birds, covering an area of two or three acres,
looking less like a vast flock than a floor of birds, in colour a rich
deep brown, in strong contrast to the pale grey of the dried up ground
all round them.  A living, moving floor and a sounding one as well,
and the sound too was amazing. It was like the sea, but unlike it in
character since it was not deep; it was more like the wind blowing,
let us say, on thousands of tight-drawn wires of varying thicknesses,
vibrating them to shrill sound, a mass and tangle of ten thousand
sounds.  But it is indescribable and unimaginable.

Then I would put the birds up to enjoy the different sound of their
rushing wings mingled with that of their cries, also the sight of them
like a great cloud in the sky above me, casting a deep shadow on the

The golden plover was but one of many equally if not more abundant
species in its own as well as other orders, although they did not
congregate in such astonishing numbers. On their arrival on the pampas
they were invariably accompanied by two other species, the Eskimo
curlew and the buff-breasted sandpiper. These all fed in company on
the moist lands, but by-and-by the curlews passed on to more southern
districts, leaving their companions behind, and the buff-breasted
sandpipers were then seen to be much less numerous than the plover,
about one bird to ten.

Now one autumn, when most of the emigrants to the Arctic
breeding-grounds had already gone, I witnessed a great migration of
this very species--this beautiful sandpiper with the habits of a
plover. The birds appeared in flocks of about one to two or three
hundred, flying low and very swiftly due north, flock succeeding flock
at intervals of about ten or twelve minutes; and this migration
continued for three days, or, at all events, three days from the first
day I saw them, at a spot about two miles from my home. I was amazed
at their numbers, and it was a puzzle to me then, and has been one
ever since, that a species thinly distributed over the immense area of
the Argentine pampas and Patagonia could keep to that one line of
travel over that uniform green, sea-like country.  For, outside of
that line, not one bird of the kind could anywhere be seen; yet they
kept so strictly to it that I sat each day for hours on my horse
watching them pass, each flock first appearing as a faint
buff-coloured blur or cloud just above the southern horizon, rapidly
approaching then passing me, about on a level with my horse's head, to
fade out of sight in a couple of minutes in the north; soon to be
succeeded by another and yet other flocks in endless succession, each
appearing at the same point as the one before, following the same
line, as if a line invisible to all eyes except their own had been
traced across the green world for their guidance. It gave one the idea
that all the birds of this species, thinly distributed over tens of
thousands of square miles of country, had formed the habit of
assembling, previous to migration, at one starting-point, from which
they set out in successive flocks of a medium size, in a disciplined
order, on that marvellous journey to their Arctic breeding-grounds.

Among the other species that swarmed in all the marshy places the
glossy ibis was the most abundant, so that the whole air seemed laden
with the strong musky smell of their plumage. In the autumn I have
often watched their migration, usually in flocks of fifty to a hundred
birds; and these would continue passing for hours, flying at a height
of twenty or thirty feet, and invariably, on coming to water, dropping
down and sweeping low over the surface as if wanting to alight and
refresh themselves, but unable to overcome the impulse urging them to
the north, they would rise again and travel on.

Then there were the species that had only a partial migration; birds
that were residents all the year with us, but were migrants from the
colder country to the south.  One was our common dove (_Zenaida_),
seen passing in flocks of many thousands; and, among the small birds,
the common parasitical cow-bird. The entire plumage of this species is
a deep glossy purple which looks black at a little distance, and in
late autumn, when great flocks visited our plantation, the large bare
trees would sometimes look as if they had suddenly put on an
inky-black foliage. This bird too, when migrating from the southern
pampas and Patagonia, would appear and pass in an endless series of
flocks, travelling low and filling the air with the musical murmur of
their wings and the musky smell which they too, like the ibis, give
out from their plumage.

But of the smaller birds with a limited or partial migration, the
military starling on his travels impressed and delighted me the most.
Like a starling in shape, but larger than that bird, it has a dark
plumage and scarlet breast. On the approach of winter it would appear
all over the plains, not travelling in the manner of other migrants,
speeding through the air, but feeding on the ground, probing the turf
as starlings do, the whole flock drifting northwards at the same time.
The flock, often numbering many hundreds of birds, would spread itself
out, showing a long front line of scarlet breasts all turned one way,
while the birds furthest in the rear would be continually flying on to
drop down in advance of those at the front, so that every two or three
minutes a new front line would be formed, and in this way the entire
body, or army, would be slowly but continuously progressing.

How pleasant it was in those vanished years of an abundant bird life,
when riding over the plain in winter, to encounter those loose,
far-spread flocks with their long lines of red breasts showing so
beautifully on the green sward! My memories of this bird alone would
fill a chapter.

The autumnal migration, which was always a more impressive spectacle
than that of the spring, began in February when the weather was still
hot, and continued for three long months; for after the departure of
all our own birds, the south Patagonian species that wintered with us
or passed on their way to districts further north would begin to come
in. During all these three long months the sight and sound of passage
birds was a thing of every day, of every hour, so long as the light
lasted, and after dark from time to time the cries of the
night-travellers came to us from the sky--the weird laughter-like cry
of rails, the shrill confused whistling of a great flock of whistling
or tree duck; and, most frequent of all, the beautiful wild
trisyllabic alarm cry of the upland plover.

Of this bird, the last on my list for this chapter, I must write at
greater length; in the first place, for the purely sentimental reason
that it was the one I loved best, and secondly, on account of the
leading place it came to occupy in my mind when I thought about the
problem of migration. It inhabits, or formerly inhabited, a great
portion of the United States of North America, its summer or breeding
home, then migrated south all the way to southern Argentina and
Patagonia, and it was, I believe, most abundant on the great level
pampas where I had my home. In North America it is known as the upland
plover, and is also called the solitary plover and Bartram's
sandpiper--for a sandpiper it is, albeit with the habits of a plover
and a preference for dry lands. In the Argentine its vernacular name
is Batitu, from its trisyllabic alarm note--one of the most frequently
heard sounds on the pampas. It is a charming bird, white and grey with
brown and yellow mottlings on its upper plumage, beautiful in its
slender graceful form, with a long tail and long swallow-like pointed
wings. All its motions are exceedingly graceful: it runs rapidly as a
corncrake before the rider's horse, then springs up with its wild
musical cry to fly but twenty or thirty yards away and drop down
again, to stand in a startled attitude flirting its long tail up and
down. At times it flies up voluntarily, uttering a prolonged bubbling
and inflected cry, and alights on a post or some such elevated place
to open and hold its wings up vertically and continue for some time in
that attitude--the artist's conventional figure of an angel.

These birds never flocked with us, even before departing; they were
solitary, sprinkled evenly over the entire country, so that when out
for a day on horseback I would flush one from the grass every few
minutes; and when travelling or driving cattle on the pampas I have
spent whole weeks on horseback from dawn to dark without being for a
day out of sight or sound of the bird. When migrating its cry was
heard at all hours from morning to night, from February till April:
and again at night, especially when there was a moon.

Lying awake in bed, I would listen by the hour to that sound coming to
me from the sky, mellowed and made beautiful by distance and the
profound silence of the moonlit world, until it acquired a fascination
for me above all sounds on earth, so that it lived ever after in me;
and the image of it is as vivid in my mind at this moment as that of
any bird call or cry, or any other striking sound heard yesterday or
but an hour ago. It was the sense of mystery it conveyed which so
attracted and impressed me--the mystery of that delicate, frail,
beautiful being, travelling in the sky, alone, day and night, crying
aloud at intervals as if moved by some powerful emotion, beating the
air with its wings, its beak pointing like the needle of the compass
to the north, flying, speeding on its seven-thousand-mile flight to
its nesting home in another hemisphere.

This sound lives in memory still, but is neard no more, or will
shortly be heard no more, on earth, since this bird too is now on the
list of the "next candidates for extinction." It seems incredible that
in this short space of time, comprised in the years of one man's life,
such a thing can be. But here on my writing-table is the book of the
first authority in America on this subject: William T. Hornaday, in
_Our Vanishing Wild Life_, gives a list of the eleven species which
have become wholly extinct in North America since the middle of the
last century, most of them in very recent years; also a _partial_ or
preliminary list of the species, numbering twenty-one, now on the
verge of extinction. The first list includes that beautiful bird, the
Eskimo curlew--the fellow-traveller and companion of the golden plover
referred to in this chapter. The list of those now verging on
extinction includes the golden plover, upland plover, buff-breasted
and pectoral sandpiper. This last species is not mentioned above, but
it was perhaps the commonest of all the small sandpipers in my time,
and from August to March any year was to be met with by any stream or
pool of water all over the pampas.

All this incalculable destruction of bird life has come about since
the seventies of the last century, and is going on now despite the
efforts of those who are striving, by promoting legislation and by all
other possible means, to save "the remnant." But, alas! the forces of
brutality, the Caliban in man, are proving too powerful; the lost
species are lost for all time, and a thousand years of the strictest
protection--a protection it would be impossible to impose on a free
people, Calibans or not--would not restore the still existing bird
life to the abundance of half a century ago.

The beautiful has vanished and returns not.


The migrants' cry--Unrest previous to departure--Upland plover,
swallows and others--Demonstrative and undemonstrative
species--Parental solicitude--Swifts and house-martins--Strange case
of a captive cuckoo--Night migration of diurnal species--Woodland
migrants on the pampas--Reluctant migrants--Thistledown as an
illustration--Migration of a troupial--Fear in birds and false
associations--Direction of migration--Unrest--Flying north--Migration
of rock-swallow--Pull of the north--Perturbations in migration--Upland

When in my boyhood I listened day and night to that cry of the upland
plover, it came to me that the explanation of the passage birds' cry
given in the books could not be true, or not true in all cases. Birds,
it was said, emitted these calls as a sort of watchword, and to
prevent their followers from scattering. Certainly it was not true of
the upland plover, seeing that it travelled alone day and night.
Moreover, the sound was not a call but a cry of alarm--the cry
invariably uttered by the bird, when flushed by man or dog, as it
rushed wildly away through the air.

I then made the further discovery that this same cry of alarm was
frequently uttered by the bird, without visible or audible cause, on
the eve of migration, or rather for some days previous to departure.
The time varied every year, from two or three or four to ten or twelve
days; the cry and action always being simultaneous, the bird springing
up and rushing away as from an enemy, and after flying forty or fifty
yards dropping down again.

After seeing this, I began to pay close attention to the other
migrants, mostly the small birds, and especially to the swallows, of
which we have seven species in the country. Five of the seven were
very common, and their habits familiar to me; probably not fewer than
fifty pairs of four of the five species bred in or under the eaves of
the house and out-houses of my home, and in the trees in the nests of
other birds. The fifth species, a small _Atticora_ with the habits of
a sand-martin, bred in holes all about the plain, only it did not
excavate the holes itself, but took possession of those made by a
small mining species, called the "little housekeeper." All these
swallows, excepting the tree-martin, which lived in pairs during the
breeding season and was afterwards solitary or mixed with swallows of
other kinds, had the habit of assembling in numbers previous to
migration.  The more I watched these birds the more convinced I became
that they too, like the upland plover, were subject to a strange
disquiet before the time of departure.  They kept close and sought the
highest places to rest on, especially the large purple martin
(_Progne_); these would assemble on the tops of the tallest trees,
while the smaller kinds would sit on the fences, roofs and any other
elevation. They would rest silent and motionless, as if brooding; then
suddenly, with cries of alarm, they would spring into the air as if
they had seen a hawk, and after rushing and wheeling about the air for
some time, return once more to the resting-place.

This same spirit of unrest, or of a "state of nerves," was observable
in a majority of the migrants, and manifested itself in an increasing
wildness; in signs of suspicion or fear, and extreme readiness to take
alarm at slight causes which would not have moved them a short time
before. They were like the bird population of a marsh or copse or
plain where a hawk has suddenly descended to strike down and carry one
of them off. The excitement was not so acute, but it did not pass away
in a little while to leave them at peace, as after the raid of a
falcon; it continued from day to day, and increased till the moment of

This spirit of unrest was not visible in all the migrants; it was most
marked in the most volatile species, the swiftest of wing and wildest;
in others in a less degree, down to those in which it was not
noticeable.  There were, in fact, with regard to this as well as to
other emotions which birds experience, demonstrative and
undemonstrative species.

The differences in behaviour here are similar to those we see in the
manifestations of parental solicitude.  Many species, when the nest
with eggs or young is in danger, are excited in a violent degree; they
scream their loudest, and in some instances are so carried away with
anxiety and rage that they will attack any animal, however dangerous,
or man himself, as I have been attacked in South America again and
again by plover, by hawks, and even by small birds. And here, too,
there is a gradation in the display of feeling from this extreme down
to the birds that look on when their nests are robbed, or their young
taken and destroyed, and make no sign. But if at such times you look
at the parent bird closely, you will see that its agitation is not
less powerful and painful than that of the bird that wheels screaming
about your head.

To take a glance at English bird life, I should say that the swift is
one of the demonstrative species. In a book of mine, _Afoot in
England_, I have described the behaviour of a crowd of these birds in
a seaside town in Norfolk, belated breeders in August urged by the
migratory instinct into a sort of frenzy before they could bring their
young off.

In another book--_Adventures among Birds_--I described the efforts,
painful to witness, of a pair of house-martins in October, in cold
rainy weather, to induce their full-grown young to come out and fly
away with them, and how as soon as the last of the young had perished
from cold and insufficient nourishment in the nest, the released
parents vanished from the scene.

Again, we are familiar with the fact that caged migrants are stirred
by this impulse to fly away, in some instances so powerfully that they
injure and even kill themselves in their efforts to escape from their

One of the most extraordinary instances of this inherited impulse to
fly--to escape, as it were, from some imminent danger--of the captive
migrant is related by Benjamin Kidd in his posthumous book, "_A
Philosopher with Nature_. The bird was a pet cuckoo which had been
reared from the nest, and he gives the following account of its

As the year waned and the time for the migration of my young cuckoo
approached and passed, its behaviour grew interesting. The bird always
became very restless in the evening. Being much attached to me, it
generally settled at last so as to be near me, on the stationery case
on the table on which I was writing, in the dim light thrown by the
upper surface of the green shade of the reading-lamp by which I
worked. Here, as the hours wore on, the same thing happened every
night. After a short interval the muscles of the wing began to quiver,
this action being to all appearance involuntary. The movement
gradually increased, the bird otherwise remaining quite still, until
it grew to a noiseless but rapid fanning motion of the kind one sees
in a moth when drying its wings on emerging from its chrysalis. This
movement tended to grow both in degree and intensity, and it usually
lasted as long as I sat up during the night. In the early stages of
this mood the bird responded when I spoke to it; but in time it ceased
to do this, and became lost in a kind of trance, with eyes open and
wings ceaselessly moving. Brain, muscles, nervous system, and will,
all seemed inhibited by the stimulus that excited it. The bird became,
as it were, locked in the passion of that sense by which the movements
of flying were thus simulated. It was one of the strangest sights I
have ever witnessed. This young migratory creature of the air, which
had never been out of my house and which had never known any of its
kind, sitting beside me in the gloom of our northern winter and in the
dim lamplight, and by a kind of inherited imagination, in one sense,
flying through the night, leagues long, over lands and oceans it had
never seen.

I should say that the rapid motion of the wings as in flying gave
relief to the bird, just as I believe that when the migrant is once
launched on his passage, flying with all his power, he finds relief
from the sting of the impulse, and its accompanying sense of disquiet
or fear.  And no doubt fatigue, hunger and thirst tend further to
allay the sense of disquiet, so that the traveller is able to descend
to earth to feed and rest until, restored, the pain returns to urge
him on his way.

It seems marvellous to me, this account of a pet cuckoo driven while
in captivity--stung, we may say--into simulated action where action
was impossible, by a motive, an impulse, an instinct, beyond all
others in its power over the bird; escaping and flying by night, and
night after night, straining towards its distant bourne over a
thousand leagues of land and sea, and all the time sitting motionless
on the table in a room by the dim light of a reading-lamp!

The very fact that strictly diurnal species do travel by night is a
proof of the power of the migratory impulse.

Montagu, the author of the _Dictionary of Birds_, and an observer of
birds all his life, refused to believe that such a thing was possible.
He says, truly enough, that there is nothing birds that see and have
their active time by day fear so much as the dark. At the approach of
night they hide themselves away and fall asleep, and if disturbed are
in terror and act as if blind or senseless.  Yet we know that he was
wrong, that many diurnal species (and I would place all or most
migratory cuckoos among them) do travel by night, and that the impulse
to escape, to rush away, becomes in these night-travellers most
active, painful and insistent in the waning light.

There is another matter closely connected with the subject I have been
considering; and this relates to the peculiar conditions of the
country where I first observed migration--a sea-like expanse of level
grassy plain without a native tree-vegetation excepting in a few
widely separated spots. When these plains, or this one great
continuous plain, was settled on by Europeans, they planted groves and
orchards around their houses.  These small plantations were far apart,
scattered about all over the pampas, a purely grazing country, and
stood up conspicuously at a great distance like islands of trees on
the green sea-like surface of the land. One would suppose such
conditions unsuited to woodland species; for the wood is their true
home, the only safe place for them, and they naturally fear the wide
open flat space, where there is no refuge, no escape, from the
ever-present bird of prey on the watch for them. I found that there
were, in fact, quite a number of summer visitants to my district that
never ventured over the wide open spaces; they came south, but kept
strictly to the forest growing on the marshy shores of the Plata
river. Anywhere in this forest I could see a dozen or more species any
day that were never seen out of it, not even in the plantations within
a few miles of the coast, since to get to them they would have to fly
across a few miles of treeless country.

Nevertheless, the wave of migration brought to us a considerable
contingent of woodland species each spring. Doubtless many were
night-travellers. Thus, in the seven or eight acres of shade and fruit
trees at my home, our spring visitors included goatsuckers, cuckoos,
humming-birds, swallows, finches, tanagers, troupials, tyrant-birds,
and wood-hewers of several species.

Here, despite my continual watchfulness, it was as in England--the
birds that were absent yesterday and for the past six months were
present to-day, and singing all about us. It was, indeed, the rarest
thing to witness the arrival of any bird; so rare, that on one
occasion it was a matter of great joy to me when, walking on the north
side of our plantation one spring day, I spied a small bird slowly and
laboriously flying towards me over the plain, and recognised it at a
distance as the very bird I had been waiting and watching for, the
brilliant little scarlet tyrant-bird--most brilliant in colouring and
most musical in its small bell-like voice of all our little birds.
Arrived at the trees, he alighted and was doubtless glad to reach his
summer home and refuge--that oasis of trees on the wide grassy desert.

When the time came, in February, March and April, for the migrants to
return to the north, it was a different matter. The birds, as I have
said, were then manifestly in a state of disquiet: one saw from their
behaviour how they were moved--one may say driven--reluctantly from
their place by that strange influence, that fear, which affected them
in different degrees, so that from the time migration began it was
well-nigh three months before it ended with the departure of those
that feared most to go and clung most tenaciously to their leafy

Let me give one instance of this reluctance of the woodland species to
leave all shelter of trees. This relates to a species of cuckoo which
did not breed in our plantation, but I recognised the bird when I saw
it, as I had made its acquaintance the summer before. It was one of
the North American cuckoos of the genus _Coccyzus_, an exceedingly
rare species in Argentina--so rare, that it was not known to visit
that country till I found it. This solitary bird appeared in our trees
late in the season, after all the early migrants had departed.  I
first caught sight of it on the trees growing on the north side of the
plantation. Beyond that was the level treeless plain. I kept it under
observation for three days, and could find it at any hour skulking in
the foliage at that same spot, afraid, as I imagined, to quit its
shelter. Then it disappeared, and it at once occurred to me to pay a
visit to the next plantation, situated due north from ours and plainly
in sight, to look for it there. And there, sure enough, I came upon it
on the north side of the grove, skulking in a skimpy thorn hedge.
Again, on the following day, I found it in the same place; but on the
third day it had vanished, and the next plantation to the north was
too far off for me to try to keep up with it.

This reluctance of the woodland bird to cross an open treeless space
is like that of the migrants on coming to the sea. I see it every year
on our south coast, when swallows and other birds sometimes spend days
before they venture across.

One must constantly bear in mind that all birds are reluctant to quit
their homes. His home, his little territory, is the one spot on earth
the bird knows--every hill, wood, stream, tree, bush, every grass, is
intimately known to him: his feeding and recreation grounds, his safe
roosting-place, his shelters and refuge from inclemency of weather and
all dangers, are there, and outside of its limits it is all a strange
world, and he a stranger in it. He will cling to his home even when
persecuted, and robbed year after year of eggs and young; and even
when it is destroyed, as when new land is brought under cultivation,
and when forests are cut down or blasted by fire, he will continue to
haunt the spot, as if unable to adapt himself to new and different

Among the notes (and there are hundreds of them) recording my
observations during my early years on what I called the "Passion of
Migration," there is one in which I compare the autumnal migration of
the birds to thistledown as I used occasionally to see it.  The
cardoon thistle, a big plant which in my time covered hundreds of
square miles of the plain in my district, has a very large flower,
twice as large as that of the artichoke, which it resembles, and the
down it produces is correspondingly large. In the late summer, at the
end of January, on a windy day the sky was often seen full of the
great silvery floating globes of down.  When the wind fell they would
settle on the earth in such abundance that the whole plain would be
thickly sprinkled over with them, so that it would have a misty or
downy appearance. I have sat on my horse on a calm hot day in late
summer viewing the plain, burnt yellow after the two hottest months of
December and January, stretching level before me to the horizon, and
as far as one could see glistening with the million million balls of
down lightly resting on the surface of the grass. Then there would be
a slight tremor in the down at the first faint breath of a coming
wind; a tremor that would momentarily increase until the topmost
globes, resting lightly on the surface, would begin to sway and move
and finally rise, to float off like soap bubbles, while still others
would tremble and sway, but fail to rise because obstructed by the
grasses they rested against. These too would eventually free
themselves as the current of air increased in strength, and would
float too; while others, still more obstructed, would remain behind
until, the wind still increasing, even these would be torn away from
the blades and stems that held them and rise after the others, and
eventually the whole air would be full of the down flying before the

Even so it is with the birds, I have said, when they are touched with
that breath--that first disturbing influence and impulse; when the
first tremor, the first indication of it, is seen in their behaviour,
and when it increases until first the most volatile and swift-winged
and most sensitive among them are lifted up and carried away, while
others still hold on to their places, to be at last torn away by a
power thatjpvercomes all resistance--whirled away on their long aerial

Nor is it only the woodland birds in that woodless land that are seen
to cling so tenaciously to their homes: the tenacity, the shrinking
from that long voyage over an unknown hostile waste, is equally strong
in some species that live and spend their summer in the open grassy
plains. I am tempted to give one remarkable instance of the kind. This
refers to a migratory troupial, _Leistes siiperciliaris_, a beautiful
starling-like bird resembling the military starling in its dark
plumage and scarlet breast. That is the male: the female has a modest
colouring, and differs in habits from her mate.  It is a solitary bird
that comes alone from the north in spring to inhabit and breed on the
open grassy plain.  The male finds a tall grass or thistle or herb of
some kind which he makes his stand, and there he spends most of his
time, looking very conspicuous with his scarlet breast, and at
intervals he springs aloft to utter his song in the air, then drops
back to his stand. The female lives alone also, but skulking like a
landrail under the grass. After breeding they again separate, and in
March and April the males, alone or in small companies of three or
four, migrate north. A little later the females depart, after uniting
in parties of about half a dozen. It looks then as if their fear had
brought them together, when one watches them on their passage. They
come over the plain, flying north and very low, just above the
surface, and their flight is like a series of dashes, for now they
dash away to this side, now to that, and every time they come to a
spot where there is thick long grass, the sort of cover they live in,
they dash into it as if they were being pursued by a hawk, and after
remaining a minute or two in hiding, they recover courage enough to
set out again to continue their eccentric progress.

We see, then, from all this, that what I have called the "Passion of
Migration" is an emotion which accompanies the instinct, the act; that
it is fear, and is not the cause but an effect (an incidental effect,
one may say) of the impulse of impelling birds to migrate.

Fear in birds is caused by something seen or heard: scent does not
come in here, as it does in the case of mammals. Something inimical in
the bird's life which he recognises as a danger, in some instances by
experience, but as a rule by tradition handed down from generation to
generation. Thus, a bird in England flies from a man, not because he
has been hurt by a man (although this does sometimes happen), but
because his parents and other adults he consorts with after leaving
the nest, have invariably uttered a warning note on his approach.
This has infected him, and for the rest of his life man is viewed as a
dangerous being, and the lesson is handed on to his offspring. The
effects of this lesson, we know, may be overcome, and some of us have
stroked eiderdown ducks and thrushes and black-birds sitting on their
eggs without frightening them, and I have also been accustomed to have
wood-pigeons in the London parks fly on to my hand to be fed. But in a
vast majority of wild birds it is practically an ineradicable habit,
although, as we see, not instinctive nor yet an inherited habit.

But what the wild bird fears most acutely is the sight of a bird of
prey, because, albeit traditional like the fear of man, it is an older
fear, which has become instinctive (or so I think), and the enemy,
from the bird's point of view, is the more deadly one; for man, an
often-seen creature, is not always harrying the bird, but the hawk is
out to kill always, and each and every bird is in terror lest it
should be struck down. Now the fear in the migrant has no visible nor
audible cause; nevertheless, it is also an associate feeling, and can
only be ascribed to a state of nerves due to something else affecting
the bird in a disquieting way; and this disquiet, this mysterious
trouble in it, which increases until it is a pain, simulates the state
the bird is in when he sees his deadly enemy or when the trouble and
terror visible in the bird population surrounding him produces the
same effect. A state of suspicion, of alarm, of readiness to rush away
into some place of safety. This delusion, or false association as it
may be called, is common enough throughout the animal world, and even
human beings, who, it has been said, are a little lower than the
angels, are subject to it. Thus, my neighbour's evil eye must be the
cause of the otherwise inexplicable fact that my cow or my baby has
fallen sick and doesn't get well in spite of all the drugs I make it
swallow.  It is very common in the dog, which, according to the
Youatts, Lubbocks and other authorities, ranks next to man in his
mentality. I have seen a good deal of it in the dog. He is by nature a
greedy, jealous and quarrelsome beast, and in his frequent rows
inflicts and receives many painful bites: he thus knows what pain is,
and the cause of it. If he suffers from some malady--rheumatism, let
us say--when he gets a twinge, he associates it with former
experiences of pain, and he can make a pretty good guess as to the
cause of his twinge. He turns round and growls savagely at the other
dogs, who are surprised at him, and he is still more surprised at
their surprise. But this innocent demeanour of the others doesn't
always placate him, and in some instances he will spring up and
savagely attack the dog next to him to avenge the insult.

The emotion described as the accompaniment of migration, which
probably intensifies and may be regarded as ancillary to the impulse
and the act, does not perhaps bring us any nearer to the origin of the
instinct itself; nevertheless it is a fact hitherto unnoticed, which
if well considered may be of assistance in dealing with the problem. I
discovered it for myself in my youth, and the longer I observed birds
the more convinced was I of its truth: and now, after half a century
has elapsed since I made the notes I am drawing on in the early
seventies, I am of the same opinion still.

There are two other subjects concerning migration in its inception to
be touched on in this place, as they connect themselves in my mind
with the one I have been discussing--the impulse which leads to
migration, and the passion of fear which accompanies it. The first of
the two concerns the direction of migration; the second, the
perturbations or irregularities to which it is occasionally subject.
Keeping still to my own observations on the autumnal behaviour of
birds previous to departure, I have asked myself: When, or how soon,
does this trouble in the bird, which manifests itself as fear of an
invisible danger or enemy from which it seeks to escape, first incline
it to the north as the side where safety is to be found? I failed to
detect any special inclination to fly to that side in the swallows,
even when the preliminary disquiet and agitation lasted many days,
during which the birds would rise or rush away with cries of alarm to
this side or that and scatter and then return to their perch and their
brooding intervals, until the very eve of their departure, for you
could then see that when they rose or sprang away into the air it
would be to the north side. It was different with the upland plover:
from the very beginning of its period of unrest it invariably, when
rising, rushed off to the north side.

And here again I would emphasise the difference in the behaviour of
different species when affected by the same influence and impulse. It
is, to my mind, an extraneous influence--a "breath," as the poet of
The Seasons has called it, and he could not have found a better
metaphor. Touched by the breath as by a coming wind, the migratory
birds were compared by me to globes of thistledown, resting in still
weather on the grass, trembling at the first faint movement of the
air, and finally lifted and carried away by the increasing wind. It
was perhaps a better simile or comparison which occurred to me
later--I think it was when riding through the bush on the Patagonian
table-land in a strong wind, and noting how the trees and bushes of
various kinds were acted on by the current. Some with slender boles,
pliant branches and a loose feathery foliage would be swayed about and
bent almost to the ground at every gust, others would bend a little,
and still others not at all, although their whole foliage trembled
violently, and finally some with stiff holly-like leaves would
scarcely show a tremor. Migration once started, the line of flight was
almost invariably due north in all species, although they travelled at
different heights.

The very large birds--wood ibis, swan, spoonbill, etc.--journeyed at
so great a height they were scarcely visible in the sky. Plover and
shore birds generally, inland-breeding gulls, duck and pigeon and the
glossy ibis, travelled at a moderate height; swallows lower still, and
lowest of all were the small short-winged birds--all the kinds whose
only refuge when a hawk appears is on the ground.

The most notable exception as to the route in all these birds was the
rock-swallow in its passage from South Patagonia to Arizona in North
America. The manner of this bird when migrating and the direction of
its flight was a continual puzzle to me. Its movement northwards began
in January, and continued for about a month, sometimes longer. But its
appearance was irregular; in some seasons very few birds appeared, in
others they were passing in numbers any day all through February; they
did not travel in flocks, but singly, though as a rule many birds were
in sight and sound of each other. They travelled in a singularly
leisurely manner, stooping or rising and sweeping in wide circles
about, hawking after flies, and continually emitting their clicking,
jarring and twittering notes; and the direction of their flight always
appeared to be east of north. This would eventually bring them to the
Atlantic side of the continent, and their entire journey would form an
immense curve at least a thousand miles longer than it need be, since
a direct line to their breeding-ground would be on the Pacific side.

One year in April, a full month after the last of the swallows had
vanished, there occurred one of those rushes of belated migrants which
were not uncommon, and I then saw a lot of rock-swallows, and saw them
well, as I was out on horseback and they passed directly over me, not
more than thirty feet from the ground.  They were not now travelling
in the way I had been accustomed to see them; they were packed
together in a flock just like our chimney-swallow on its migration,
flying at their greatest speed and due north. This slight alteration
in the direction of its flight and complete change in its manner of
travelling gave me the idea that in the early stages of migration in
the rock-swallow and other species the pull of the north is not so
powerful and insistent as to prevent the birds from deviating to this
side or that according to the abundance of food or other conditions of
the territories they pass over, but that as time progresses the pull
increases in power and brings them back to the right line.

The power of this pull was observable in all the late migrants during
these rushes, which often came a month after the usual time of the
ending of migration, and it was easiest to observe in plover and shore

When, out on horseback in the morning in late March or in April, I
encountered flocks of these belated travellers--plover, curlew and
sandpiper--I often tried to force them to fly south. They appeared
tired as if they had been travelling all night, and were hungry and
seeking food in the short dew-wet grass, but always with their heads
to the north. Not a bird would be seen to turn aside in any other
direction. Riding to the north side of the flock, I would suddenly
wheel round and charge at it, and up they would spring, almost
vertically, and fly over my head to a distance of forty or fifty
yards, then drop down and go on looking for something to eat, still
walking north.

One can but infer that the attraction, the impelling force--the "pull
of the north," as I have called it--increases until in the belated
travellers it is an actual physical pain, a pain and a sense of
extreme fear, which is intensified if the bird attempts to fly south.

Then as to the perturbations or aberrations in migration also
manifested in the migrant previous to departure--the irregularities
which suggest that the cause of migration, the force behind the
impulse, is itself subject to permutations and aberrations, which
affect the nervous system of the migrants. On this subject, together
with the one just discussed, the observations I made would fill a very
long chapter, but I will confine myself to one, and this one relates
to the upland plover, the bird I have had to mention so many times.

The north migration as a rule begins about the 15th of February and
continues to the 15th of March, and it is at the beginning of the
former month that the disquiet becomes noticeable. Now on one occasion
the season of unrest began much earlier, in the month of January,
increased from day to day and week to week in the most extraordinary
way, and continued to about the middle of March before the birds began
to fly north, the migration continuing through March. On any day in
February when out riding I would see from time to time a bird spring
up with its wild alarm cry and flight, and after going a little
distance drop down again. Then in a minute or two another, farther
away, would start up with its cry; and sitting still and watching and
listening, I could see the birds rise up here and there all over the
plain--rise with a cry, then settle down again; and if one rode a
hundred miles to any side he would find it the same everywhere. The
birds were in a continual state of agitation, of fear; and though this
state began so much sooner than usual, the actual migration did not
begin till a month later than the usual time.

If in this chapter I have reverted again and again to that one subject
of the behaviour of birds prior to migration, it is because these
simple facts, which seem to me to be essential in studying the
problem, have never been recorded or considered; also that they could
not have been known to closet naturalists who have constructed
theories about migration, nor can they be known to anyone except to
someone like myself who has lived long and intimately with birds until
their language has been mastered--language of sound and motion--which
tells you what they feel and what they mean.


No hard and fast line between migrants and non-migrants--Swallows and
partridges--Contrasted behaviour in two mocking-birds--Spur-wing
lapwing--An instinct in a state of flux--Migration in other
creatures--Fishes and insects--Kirby and Spence
speculate--Spiders--Mammals--Migration a danger--Sand-grouse and the
"Tartar invasions of Europe"--A "sense of polarity" the origin of
migration--A trace of this sense in man.

One of the first facts confronting us concerning the migration of
birds is that there is no dividing line between migrants and
non-migrants. One would say offhand that there is a great difference
indeed--a very hard and fast dividing line between the swallow, let us
say, and the partridge. It is not so when we come to consider that
swallows are not always migratory; that there are regions where they
remain all the year round; that in some countries this migration is
only a partial one; that even in a country so far north as England,
where the flies they subsist on do not exist in winter, the impulse to
migrate fails in some individuals, and these remain in a torpid
condition like bats and female bumble-bees and wasps, and no doubt
perish in most instances before the return of warm weather.

When we come to a milder climate, such as that of the Argentine
pampas, every observer must see that a considerable number of one of
the most common house-swallows, _Hirundo leucorrhoa_, remain hidden
away in a torpid condition during cold weather, since they could not
otherwise reappear on any bright warm day during the winter months as
they frequently do. Another species, a small _Atticora_, has actually
been found in a semi-torpid state among the roots of the tall grasses
on the pampas in winter.

Nor is it improbable that even so sedentary a species as the partridge
is wholly unaffected by the disquieting impulse. We know that the
red-legged partridge made its appearance on one or two occasions in
England before its final introduction into this country, and these
strangers must have flown over the Channel. The quail, a small
partridge, is one of the strictest migrants, yet we know that some
individuals do not go with the wave in autumn, but remain and live
through the European winter.

Let me now give an example in two closely allied species of the two
extremes in bird behaviour prior to migration--excessive disquiet in
the one, while the other appears quite unmoved. Patagonia has two
mockingbirds--the common, and the white-winged or white-branded
species; the first is an all-the-year-round resident, the other a
migrant from Brazil and Bolivia. It appears in September or October,
breeds and departs in March, but long before its departure its habits
change.  The most voiceful of all our songsters during the summer
months, it is now silent except for the harsh alarm cry uttered when
taking flight. It becomes excessively wild, and perches on the topmost
twigs of trees and bushes, and on the slightest cause flies up high in
the air and away to a great distance--often quite out of sight.

Meanwhile, the other species, which inhabits and breeds in the same
thickets, not only keeps its place but appears to be in the same
temper as at other times of the year.  It sits as always on the top of
a bush, trilling out a few notes from time to time, then listening to
the notes of its neighbours, then singing again, and again listening.
Yet we know that many individuals of this sedentary species of a
placid temper do migrate to North Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. We
may say, then, that this Patagonian mocking-bird has a migration
similar to that of our song-thrush and red-breast. These two species
are resident with us, but we know that a very large number do migrate,
crossing the Channel on their passage, but whether many or few return
we do not know.

Another instance is that of the spur-wing lapwing of the pampas. It is
a non-migrant, and no bird is more strongly attached to its home--to
the portion of ground it lives on, and of which it is so jealous that
it furiously attacks and drives away other lapwings and even plover,
or other species that venture to trespass on it. Winter and summer,
they occupy the same ground. I have known a pair of these birds that
occupied and bred on the same spot year after year, and when the
ground was enclosed with a wire fence and ploughed they refused to
quit, but laid the eggs in a furrow and after the harrowing which
destroyed the first eggs, they laid again, to lose their eggs again
when the corn was hoed. And for three years they persisted in trying
to breed on that one spot, which was their own home.

All over the country it was the same: thousands of miles of unenclosed
grazing lands were all parcelled out among these birds, each pair in
possession of its own well-defined territory. Yet even this bird, so
bound to its own place--the spot of earth it claims as its very own
and holds against all intruders--even this species is not unmoved by
the migratory impulse, nor wholly without a migration. Towards the end
of summer a few are to be seen every day, at all hours, flying
steadily due north at a considerable height; and it is plain to see
that these are migrating. And as with the spur-wing lapwing on the
pampas, so it is with hundreds of species all the world over--resident
species and races of which many individuals migrate. And no doubt the
reason of it is that the impulse which drives birds to migrate weakens
in races inhabiting districts where the conditions are favourable all
the year round; that the weakened impulse is not strong enough to
overcome the attachment to place--the intense reluctance of the bird
to abandon its home; that the impulse is stronger in the young, and
that in species in which the young are persecuted and driven from
place to place, first by their parents then by other adults, jealous
of intruders, as it happens with this lapwing and with our red-breast
and numerous other species, the impulse is unrestrained and eventually
sets them off.

Looking at the whole bird world, from the species in which the
migratory instinct has attained its highest perfection, as in the
swallow, cuckoo and nightingale in this country and the upland plover
and other plover and sandpiper in America, down to those with a
partial, an occasional, an erratic or spasmodic migration, and to
those in which some individuals migrate or have no migration at all,
yet do exhibit some signs of disquiet or disturbance of the season, we
see that there is a gradation; and I conclude that the impulse (and
the instinct) is in a continual state of flux, that it waxes and wanes
and appears to die out in the adults of some species and to revive in
their offspring, and is like that elaboration and degeneration so
admirably described by Ray Lan-kester as perpetually going on side by
side in the organic world. And if this be so, there is no necessity to
set up the hypothesis of the origin of life in the north polar
regions, with successive glacial epochs to make it appear more
plausible, and an inherited memory that can fall asleep for a thousand
years to wake up refreshed and resume the old business just where it
was left off.  Inquirers into the problem would do better by sweeping
all this aside--forgetting all about it or regarding it merely with
amusement, like a castle or tower built by a child with his toy
bricks--brick on brick as high as he can make it before, at a careless
touch, the whole ill-balanced structure comes tumbling down.

All these theories, we have seen, are based on the one fact of a
seasonal north-and-south migration in birds, and all fail when other
facts, or when all the facts, are considered--that is to say, the
facts concerning bird migration. What shall we then say of them when
we look from birds to other beings--fishes, mammals, insects, and even
spiders? For in all these classes we find migration, and it is quite
probable that the inhabitants of the sea are as regularly and as
powerfully moved by the impulse as the fowls of the air.

The subject of fish migration is now being investigated; from personal
observations I know nothing about it, and as to insect migration I
know very little.  The little I have seen, however, has served to
convince me that there are great occasional migratory movements
corresponding in time and direction to the seasonal migration of
birds, and I conclude that they are due to the same compelling force.
>From what one has read, one thinks chiefly of locusts, dragon-flies
and butterflies in this connection.

The grasshopper plague was of frequent occurrence on the pampas in my
time; but this insect was incapable of sustained flight, and the
movement was a sort of drifting, flying and settling and feeding as
they went, as a rule in a southerly direction. The migratory locust
was unknown in southern Argentina. Only once, about midsummer, we saw
a cloud coming from the north, which turned out to be a flight of
locusts that must have travelled several hundreds of miles from the
sub-tropical northern provinces of the country. The cloud settled in
my district, and there remained and laid its eggs. People looked
apprehensively at what would happen in the following summer, when
these millions of packets of little yellow eggs would hatch and the
young arrive at maturity, since one of these huge insects would devour
as much green-stuff in a day as half a dozen grasshoppers. And
grasshoppers were bad enough. But the eggs never hatched; the locusts
had flown too far south, where there were occasional sharp frosts in
the winter, and the eggs had probably been spoilt by the cold.

As to dragon-flies, great migrations of two or three of the large
species were common on the pampas, always in a north-east direction,
since the insects invariably appeared flying before the south-west
wind, called _pampero_, a wind that in summer, as a rule after a spell
of hot weather, springs up suddenly and blows with extreme violence.
>From a minute or two to as much as fifteen or twenty minutes before
the wind struck, the dragon-flies would appear flying at their utmost
speed, so that when out on the plain on foot or horseback one could
not tell what those swift creatures were that came flashing and
rustling past one's face. They always appeared to be in a panic, and
if the wind was close behind, on coming to a grove or plantation they
would rush into it for shelter and there remain, and on the following
morning they would be seen hanging from the trees, clinging together
in masses, like swarms of bees, and the masses would sometimes cover
entire trees as with a brown and crystal drapery. These panic rushes
from the wind are in a sense migrations, but one hesitates to put
them, as to their cause, in the same category as the seasonal
movements of birds, fishes and insects.  One can only suppose that
these dragon-flies have a sense of the coming atmospheric change; that
it is an impulse more sudden and violent than that of migration, and
inspires them with a greater terror, and sends them flying hundreds of
miles over a parched waterless region at such a speed that they are
able to keep ahead of a wind blowing as a rule at a rate of about
seventy miles an hour.

Twice on the pampas I witnessed a great butterfly migration: on both
occasions it was the same insect, a species of _Vanessa_, resembling
our large tortoise-shell, and the commonest as well as the hardiest of
all our butterflies. Both of these migrations occurred in spring,
about the middle of September, and the direction was the same as with
the birds arriving and passing on to the south. They did not migrate
in clouds or masses, as in many other instances of butterfly migration
on record; like that one, for instance, described by Darwin when the
_Beagle_, off the Patagonian coast, was in a cloud of white
butterflies, so that the sailors cried out that it was "snowing

The red _Vanessa_ butterflies travelled close to the surface, singly
or in twos and threes together, passing at intervals of a second or
two, so that it was easy to count them as they flew by. On the
occasion of the second migration I marked a space of a few feet,
staked at the sides, and counted all those passing over it in an hour,
and calculated that 65,000 butterflies had passed over every hundred
yards during the flight, which lasted from nine o'clock in the morning
to a little after five in the afternoon. The breadth of the migration
column was about three miles. On the following day they continued for
about seven to eight hours passing in the same numbers, then the
numbers began to decline, and on the third day the whole migration

During the whole time of my watching, the butterflies kept always so
close to the surface as to be almost touching the grass, travelling
always at the same swift rate of speed, and never did I see one alight
to rest.

It cannot be supposed that this migration of butterflies, travelling
in their millions over a vast tract of country, had a different cause
to that of bird migration going on at the same time over the same
tract and in the same direction.

Migrations of this character of butterflies and many other insects
have been witnessed and described By hundreds of observers, so that
there is an abundance of material for the thinkers to work on, but so
far the only speculation on the subject I have come across is in Kirby
and Spence's great work: I find it in the early unabridged editions in
four volumes. They speculate as to the reasons which induced the
Creator to endow these insects--butterflies, beetles, dragon-flies,
bugs, locusts, aphides, and others--with such an instinct, seeing that
they are only influenced by it occasionally and that it invariably
leads to the destruction of the entire migrating host, as there is no
return migration, and they are in most cases blown out to sea and
perish there. They concluded that they were forced to migrate for this
very reason--to get rid of them on account of their excessive numbers.
And it was not an improbable notion for the time they wrote in, during
the early years of the nineteenth century--quite half a century before
the doctrine of Evolution came into vogue, when the idea of such
interpositions or interferences with the order of Nature began to fall
into disregard.

On the migrations of spiders I can throw no light.  The grass in any
temperate region is alive with the multitudes of these little
aeronauts: on the pampas they are so abundant that when the sun is low
in the west it casts a broad silver track over the grass to the
observer's feet, like moonlight on the water, so covered is the
surface of the grass with their gossamer webs.  And all the time, all
the summer long, one can see them perpetually drifting into the air,
to this side or that. Twice only have I witnessed great migrations,
when thousands of millions of the minute creatures must have risen
high into the air at the same time, since for a whole day the sky was
full of the floating webs. This was in the late summer, and a gentle
wind was bearing them away in a northwest direction.

On the second occasion it was a local migration in April--the very end
of the migrating season--and the direction was north, owing to a south
wind at the time.  It really looked as if the little creatures had
waited for just that wind, since for several days they had been coming
up from the moist green grass of a valley to the higher, drier land on
its border on the north side, and there they remained congregated in
incredible numbers until the south wind sprang up and took them away.
Looking closely at them, they appeared to be in an intense state of
excitement. Every spider was trying to get away from the others to
some point above them, and would no sooner throw up a thread than it
would strike another thrown at the same instant, and the little
creature, knowing the cause of the obstruction, would turn upon and
savagely attack the other spider, and drive him off. Every minute one
could see a score of incidents of this kind, and in spite of this
trouble numbers were continually getting away.

How marvellous it seemed that these minute beings, averaging about a
tenth of an inch in length, though some were much larger and they were
of at least five or six different species, appeared to know so well
just what to do and how to do it. The difficulty they had in getting
off seemed to make them desperate, as if they also knew that every
time they failed to rise they were so much the poorer in spinning
material and in that dynamic energy with which these atomies are
supposed to be charged, which enables them to dart out a line of eight
to twelve inches long to lift them from the earth. Every failure thus
diminished their chances of getting away, seeing that it was necessary
in each case to cut the line and create a new one. I watched their
efforts for two days, and then it was over, for though the wind was
still favourable and many remained in the spider belt, these had
apparently used up all their energy and made no further attempt to

About the migration of mammals I can only say, from my own
observation, that bats are strictly migratory all over the pampas.
Everywhere in that flat country of some 60,000 square miles extent,
bats appear with the birds in spring, arriving later than the early
spring visitors, and vanishing with them in March and April.  Anyhow,
I never found a hibernating bat nor heard of one, although they were
abundant all the summer, hanging in the trees by day, where in an hour
or two I used to be able to find and capture a dozen or twenty, just
to release them in a large room to observe them in confinement.

It is, however, my considered belief, which may go for what it is
worth, that the impulse and disquiet is in mammals as well as in
birds, fishes and insects, albeit it does not lead to actual migration
except in some species and on rare occasions.

I have long suspected that our common little shrew is powerfully moved
by the impulse at the end of summer, as invariably from July onwards
and through the autumn months dead shrews are found lying on roads and
other open bare spaces; and this is not the case only here in England,
but all the world over where the animal is found, in Europe, Asia,
Africa and America. It is possible that the little creatures are
subject to a mysterious malady which kills them in numbers in the
autumn; but if this be so, one wonders why they do not die at home. I
think that at this season there is a widespread migratory movement,
and that many perish by the way.

The squirrel is also, I think, a would-be migrant occasionally. I have
read an account of a great squirrel migration in North America, in
which the animals perished in the water, like migrating lemmings in
Norway, when attempting to cross a river. I have some reason to think
that it is always in the autumn when squirrels first make their
appearance in newly-planted woods at long distances from any place
where the animal inhabits.

Rat migrations are common in England all over the country: they are
regular local movements, and may not have the same cause as the
seasonal migrations of birds, although they invariably occur in the
spring and autumn.  We know, however, that there have been great
migrations of the brown rat in the past; that early in the eighteenth
century it invaded Russia from China, and spread all over Europe and
the world. But to go to books is to find that great migrations of
mammals, big as well as little, have often occurred; that even the
royal tiger is a colonist in India, and was unknown in that land when
its sacred writings were composed. An account of the migration of the
larger animals in Africa and North America would make a big volume.

To go back to bird migration: I trust that these observations of mine,
made so many years ago, will serve to show that it would or might be
well in dealing with the problem to view it in its widest aspect--to
regard migration as originating in an impulse common in the animal
world, from mammals to insects. From this impulse the instinct itself
has been evolved and brought to a high state of perfection in some
birds. Nevertheless we can see that in all cases, even in the most
perfect, it is liable to derangement, so that an entire race, or even
species, might be driven by it to destruction. Thus, we have seen on
several occasions that the sand-grouse, which in Central Asia has a
perfect migration, has gone wrong, and instead of flying north and
south has rushed away west all over Europe, to perish at last in the

It is not necessary to suppose that a similar disaster overtook the
famous passenger pigeon and, a little later, the golden plover, Eskimo
curlew, pectoral sandpiper and upland plover, since, as we have seen,
the deadly war waged against the birds in North and South America
during the last four or five decades sufficiently accounts for the
disappearance of these species.

The fact that so highly perfected a species as Pallas's sand-grouse,
in its organism, instincts and habits so admirably adapted to its
peculiar environment, so hardy and abounding in vitality, should on
occasions be driven away in a wrong direction, to end its flight when
exhausted in lands and climates unsuited to it, or flying beyond
Europe to perish in the sea, is enough to show that bird migration
too, like that of the crazed lemmings and the insects that rush away
in myriads to inevitable destruction, is a danger as well as an
advantage to the bird. The reasons so far given for these great
"Tartar invasions of Europe," as they were called, first in 1863 and
on two subsequent occasions, are just about as convincing as any of
the other migration theories I have mentioned. This is, according to
Professor Newton's pronouncement on the subject, that the bird
increases beyond the capacity of the country it inhabits to sustain
it, for it is known to be prolific, breeding twice and even three
times a year, and is also well able to escape from its enemies on
account of its wariness and swift flight; that when the overpopulation
reaches a certain point, the birds fly away in search of fresh

But what made them fly to Europe when all Asia was open to them to
choose from? He might have taken his idea from Kirby and Spence. A
better explanation is wanted, and it may be found in the fact that the
impulse to migrate is occasioned by an extraneous force which is
itself subject to violent permutations, which have a disordering
effect on the sense.

As to my private views on the cause of migration, that is a matter of
minor consequence since I am better as an observer than a thinker. It
has been hinted at all through this chapter, and it has been suggested
twice before by two independent observers. From the first I was led
inevitably to the conclusion that the impulse was due to an extraneous
force, and that the force was in all probability terrestrial
magnetism. Afterwards I came upon a passage quoted from the
indomitable Arctic explorer, John Rae, who found the icy North a
"friendly" realm three-quarters of a century before Stefansson. He
says of the musk-ox that their north and south movements were due to a
"sense of polarity." The phrase delighted me, as it expressed just
what I believed to be the cause of all seasonal migration. Finally, in
Professor Newton's article on _Migration_ in the ninth edition of the
_Encyclopaedia_ _Britannica_, I came upon the account of the
naturalist Middendorf's observations on the migration of birds in
Russia (1855). He found that the flight of all the migrants was
towards the Taimyr Peninsula, the seat of one of the magnetic poles,
and concluded that the birds were drawn in that direction or, as he
strangely expressed it, were aware of that point and knew how to steer
their course.

Our great ornithologist dismissed the suggestion somewhat
contemptuously. In the last (the eleventh) edition of the
_Encyclopaedia_, for which Newton's article was re-written,
Middendorf's suggestion is omitted.  Nevertheless it was to me a
pleasing surprise; it was a gratification to learn that this idea,
which came to me in the early seventies in southern South America, had
occurred independently to two other observers so far apart--one in the
Arctic regions in 1845, the other in Russia ten years later.

Assuming that it is as I imagine; that there is in the brains of birds
and other creatures a nerve, or nerves, sensitive to such an
extraneous force, even as there are nerves sensitive to the often
fatal effects of animal magnetism (sometimes called fascination) and
to other extraneous forces; that it is a sense--an incipient sense or
a sense in the making in some and a perfected sense in others--and is
the origin of migration, which, as we see, is an irregular, erratic,
and as a rule disastrous, impulse and act in insects and even in some
vertebrates, while in others, in birds especially, it has developed in
a manner favourable to the species, and arrived at the state of
perfection we find in the swallow, the cuckoo and turtledove: assuming
all this, and that there is something of this sensitiveness in
practically all creatures endowed with nerves, may we not find some
traces, however faint, of it in our own species? I am inclined to
think there is a trace of it in the north-and-south position some
persons find it necessary to lie in to get a proper night's rest.  I
had often heard of the fact, as I suppose everybody has, but it was
only when I began to make a proper inquiry into it that I found how
common and widespread the belief is. Experimenting first on myself, I
found a slight advantage in sleeping in this position, but it was
probable that "thinking made it so," and the experiment was of no
value; but when I questioned others, as many as I could, I came upon
facts or experiences much more definite and convincing. The instances
I collected would fill a chapter, and in a majority of them the relief
found in lying in this position was an accidental discovery. It will
be sufficient to give three out of all the cases I have gathered.

The first I have at second hand from a friend who was acquainted with
the subject and had it from him. This man (the subject) is a
commercial traveller, a vigorous, healthy, commonplace person who
leads a tremendously active life, continually rushing all over the
country and sleeping for weeks at a stretch in a different hotel every
night, in any bed he can find vacant in the house. On retiring at
eleven or twelve o'clock to his room, he undresses and throws himself
on to his bed, and as a rule after two or three minutes jumps up
because he feels that he is not going to sleep in that position. He
then throws himself about in this and that direction until he finds
relief, and then getting up drags his bed's head round to the right
position, and when he has got it he drops to sleep and doesn't wake
till morning.

The second case is that of an acquaintance of mine, an old gentleman
of eighty-seven, who has been much abroad in different countries,
including many years in the tropics, in Government employment, and who
is now living in retirement. He assures me that he has never had a
day's illness in his life and doesn't know what a headache is. His
only suffering has been from insomnia when he was a young man;
eventually he found by accident that he slept remarkably well when
lying in a north-and-south position, and since he made that happy
discovery he has never had a restless night.

My third case is that of an old friend, a naturalist, who lives an
outdoor life. He too when a young man slept badly until he found by
chance that lying north and south he slept well, and has followed that
rule for the rest of his life. Having a "curious mind," he speculated
as to the cause and came to the conclusion that we naturally rest
better when our heads are cool and our feet warm; that his rule is to
lie with his head north and his feet south, because it must make a
difference in the temperature with head towards the north pole and
feet pointing to the torrid zone. One can't very well subscribe to his
theory, seeing that, the cold and hot zones being so far apart, the
difference of the earth's temperature in a space of five feet nine
inches from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet can hardly
be appreciable.

However, a poor theory is better than no theory, as it affords relief
to the mind; and as he has now rested comfortably in it for
thirty-five years, he doesn't want a new one.

Two or three years ago I was speaking on this subject to a friend who
is now the rector of a country parish, but before going into the
Church he was an employee of the Government of British Guiana. He said
that what I told him reminded him of a curious experience he had in
Guiana when it was his office to visit the Indians at various points
in the interior of the country. He had Indians with him as guides, and
whenever they camped at night, after putting up his hammock in the
place he selected for it, near the fire, they made a great fuss over
putting up their own hammocks. He wanted to know what the fuss was all
about, and they made him understand that they must lie north and south
in order to sleep, and trees were not always found growing in such
positions as to enable them all to swing the hammocks in the way they
wished.  He tried to laugh them out of such a fantastic idea, as he
imagined it, and asked them how they accounted for the fact that he
could sleep well enough in any position.  This had no effect on them;
they said he "was different"; and if there were not enough trees
standing north and south at convenient distances apart to hang all the
hammocks those who failed to find a place would make their beds on the
ground, despite the fact that these Indians hate sleeping on the
ground in the forest.

He came to the conclusion that it must be a superstitious notion of

These memories of my friend put it in my mind to interrogate on the
subject some of the famous travellers who have lived with or seen a
good deal of savage and primitive peoples in various parts of the
world. The reply has almost in all instances been that, although they
had heard all about the north-and-south position as restful to many
persons in the civilised world, it never occurred to them to make
inquiries on the subject among savages.  That, alas! is just the
answer I should have had to make if the same question had been put to
me. The subject was not in _my_ mind when I had intercourse with the
pampas Indians and the nomad Tehuelches in Patagonia.

The last letter I had was from Carl Lumholtz from America on the eve
of his departure to Borneo, where he had gone with the intention of
getting into the far interior of the country to make a study of that
strange, elusive, shy forest people, the Punans. When with them, he
says, he will bear my question in mind, and he only wishes he had had
it in his mind when with the cannibals of Queensland and other
primitive folk.

My reason for going fully into this matter here is the hope that the
subject will be kept in mind by others who may in the future have
opportunities of observing and interrogating primitive people on the

Some of the most interesting of the primitive races have quite
vanished, and others are vanishing--the Guanches, the remnant of the
race that inhabited the lost continent of Atlantis, and the
Tasmanians, and the Bushmen, perhaps the most interesting of all
savages. But happily some remain--a remnant of the Bushmen, the
Punans, the wild mysterious Andamanese, the little-known tribes of the
Amazonian forest region, and, best of all, the pigmy races of Africa.
A study of these little people--a search among the treasures concealed
in the muniment rooms of their forest hovels--would probably yield a
rich store of ancient documents relating to the early history of

I may mention in conclusion that the only scientific explanation of
the ease some persons find in sleeping in a north-and-south position
so far put forward is that it is so because of the effect of the
motion of the earth revolving on its axis from west to east. This
strikes me as about the craziest notion ever hatched from the brain of
a scientist. For if this motion affects us, why not the other one of
the earth's revolution round the sun, and that still other motion of
our planetary system through space? They may all affect us, but I
don't want to think of it. That way madness lies.


The pampas Indian's battle-cry--Terrifying effects of sound
generally--Other aspects of sound--Effect of a powerful sneeze--The
human voice at its loudest--Account of a man with a big voice--Sound
in the ears of the drowning--Sound of big bells heard in a belfry--A
great thunder-clap--The phenomenon and the dream--The wilderness of
the mind.

To go back to the old metaphor of the tree-climbing and exploring.
When I finished with the branch or the subject I was on in Chapter
VIII., which was the sense of smell in man and animals, I became aware
of another subject (or branch) left behind, and this was the sense of
direction, and it led to the question of migration, which was a long
subject and has occupied no fewer than four chapters. Let us now
return to Chapter VIII., and to the incident of the frontier tragedy
with which it concludes.

There is a word more to say about that terrifying battle-cry of the
pampas Indians. It has no doubt been a habit, universal in man, to go
into fight with a cry, this being the natural expression of the
emotions of the occasion--rage, and the hope to intimidate the enemy.
Animals of the dog kind growl and gnash their teeth, and all cats yell
at each other from the same motive. These savages were highly
accomplished in the art, and regarded their cry as of the first
importance in beginning a fight: long ages of practice had doubtless
served to make it so. It was a prolonged piercing yell, more powerful
and far-reaching than the best _coo-ee_ of the Australian bush, and
this is truly the most remarkable and effective set call invented by
civilised man; it might well have been made in imitation of the long
powerful calls of some of the big birds with great voices. And while
this long cry was being emitted, the mouth was rapidly slapped by the
fingers of the left hand, thus breaking it into a series of sounds;
and when it was delivered by hundreds of furiously charging men, it
produced an extraordinary and weird effect when first heard. Even
brave men would experience a cold sensation in the spine.

The terrifying effects of sound and its place in the scheme of life,
from insect to man, is, I imagine, a comparatively neglected subject,
one about which an entertaining and useful volume might be written.

There are other aspects of sound I wish to write about in this place,
in my own rambling, reminiscent, unsequen-tial manner, with apologies
to the reader for the coinage.

Some time ago the London newspapers contained an account of the
strange sudden death of a healthy child who was playing on the carpet
close to where his father was sitting in a chair reading his paper. On
the father delivering himself of a powerful sneeze, the child dropped
down and expired in a minute or two.

This incident served to remind me of a friend I once had in London
whose sneezing performances were the most tremendous I have ever
known; the whole house would be startled at his sneeze, as if a barrel
of gunpowder had exploded. It also reminded me of other facts
concerning these surprising little tempests or "earthquakes" the
organism is subject to, and how the sneeze came to be superstitiously
regarded as a sort of reminder that sudden death might fall upon us at
any moment. At all events, we find the custom of exclaiming "God help
you!" or some such words, when your neighbour sneezes very widespread
on the earth. It was universal among the natives of South America
where I was bred--I mean the Spanish natives.

One day in my boyhood I was left alone in a room with an old native
landowner neighbour of ours--a big, tremendously dignified old man
with a white beard, who inspired me with awe. He suddenly began
sneezing, sneeze following sneeze to the number of about twenty or
more, and after each one he cried, "Thank you! thank you!" Then, when
the fit was over, he glared angrily at me and asked why I had kept
silent. Through my not having said "Jesus help you," he might have

Perhaps the superstition was inherited from older non-Christian

A curious thing is that the manner of it--the character of the sneeze
and the noise it produces--should differ so greatly in individuals.
The animals of any species all sneeze in the same way, and it may be
so with savages and primitive folk; but we have infinite variety, from
the little pussy-cat puff of sound emitted by some women to the awful
outbursts of noise in some men that would do credit to a mastodon or
behemoth. Doubtless our civilisation, its infinite complexity, which
affects the entire organism, is the cause of the variety, but as a
rule each person keeps to his own individual manner of sneezing.  My
own sneeze shapes itself into a shrill crescendo sort of yell,
probably distressing to others. "O please don't!" was my wife's
invariable exclamation when she heard it, and I never succeeded in
convincing her that it was quite natural and involuntary. She believed
it was artificial, that I had invented or rather composed it for my
own amusement.

To return to my highly explosive friend. One Sunday morning I took him
and another friend to the Zoological Gardens, and in the small cats'
house we met with a curious adventure. We stood for a long time
watching two large ichneumons in their cage, fascinated at the sight
of their swift unresting motions. For they were certainly the most
restless creatures we had ever beheld: not for a second would they be
still; from end to end of their large cage they would run, leaping
over each other, and up against the bars at the ends, then back again.

Suddenly my friend sneezed, and the sound seemed to shake the whole
small cats' house, and the effect on the two restless ichneumons was
wonderful to witness. They both dropped down as if shot dead, and lay
without the faintest motion or sign of life, extended limp as two
stranded jelly-fish before us on the floor of their cage.  We stared
in troubled silence at them and at one another, wondering what would
happen when the keeper came upon the scene.

At last I remarked that the animals had probably cost a lot of money,
and someone would have to pay for them. My friend looked frightened,
but made no reply.  Fortunately the beasts were not really dead,
although I think they had had a pretty narrow escape. By-and-by they
recovered at the same moment, and jumping up and uttering the most
piercing, terrified screams, they rushed away into the sleeping
compartment at the back of the cage, and there buried themselves in
the straw and became silent and motionless. For an hour afterwards we
returned at intervals to the cage, but the ichneumons dared not
venture out again.

The effect produced by the sudden loud explosive sound of a sneeze is,
however, even less powerful than that of the human voice in some
instances, and the death of the child who was killed by the shock of a
sneeze was no great matter compared with an occurrence at a farm in
the neighbourhood of my home when I was a youth.

It was a small farm near the village, owned by a native named Bias
Escovar, a big, powerful man with a broad, immensely deep chest. He
lived with his wife and a hired man and a black boy who assisted him
in his work on the land, and as a carrier in his big ox-carts. He had
a deep voice, and as a rule conversed in a low tone, because, his
neighbours used to say, he was afraid of hurting you if he spoke out
loud. The strange thing about it was that, though deep, it had a
tremendous carrying power, so that when he let himself go and talked
to his man or boy out of doors, or got into a dispute with his wife,
his neighbours, a quarter of a mile or further away, would listen to
his words, and on the next occasion of meeting him would ask him how
the great question had been settled; had the turkey's nest been found?
was the pig going to be killed on Saturday next? had they got the
garlic for the sausages? and was he convinced that his wife really
wanted a new dress?--and so on and so forth.  This would make Bias
very angry, and he would refuse to believe they had heard him from
their own houses; he would say that some little spying sneak of a boy
had been hiding behind the wood pile listening, and had reported what
he had heard.

One day Bias was ploughing, and one of his couple of oxen refused to
work properly; the beast kept turning round, kicking at and getting
entangled in the traces, and Bias at length losing all patience let
his voice out to its full strength in a mad yell, and the ox dropped
down stone-dead in the furrow, to his amazement and dismay.

I dare say this will seem a tall story to some of my uninformed
readers--too tall to be within reach of their believing capacity;
nevertheless it is true, and when I related it to a scientific friend
who is deep in physiology and pathology, he said that he did not doubt
it for a moment, but that the cause of the bullock's sudden death was
heart disease, and that the beast would have dropped down dead even if
it had not been shouted at.

It may be so; but poor Bias, who had already been made to fear his own
voice, was greatly troubled; for if a creature big and tough as an ox
could be killed in that way, what might not happen to his nigger boy,
a cunning little liar and very impudent, but who shivered like an
aspen leaf when he scolded him; or to his wife when her foolishness
made him angry and he shouted at her!

I knew Bias well, and he was known to everyone in the district where I
belonged as the man who killed an ox by shouting at it.

This brain of mine has, I believe, registered a greater number and
variety of sounds than most brains, but when I recall the tremendous
or terrible sounds heard in my lifetime, I find that there are just
three which stand apart and are of far greater importance than all the

One was when I was a boy of twelve and came near to being drowned in
the Plata river: I was knocked off a rock I was standing on by another
bigger boy, and sinking to the bottom, thought it was all over with
me, that I should never come up again, and the roaring sound in my
ears was awful and unlike any noise I had ever heard before; the
sounds I had heard previously had been conveyed by means of
air-vibration and not by water.

The second awful sound was one I went out of my way to hear, when I
climbed into the belfry of St.  Cuthbert's Church at Wells, where
there is a peal of eight big bells, so as to be at the very
fountain-head of the great vibration during the ringing of the chimes.
I have described the experience in another book, _Afoot in England_,
and need say no more here except that it was a most fascinating as
well as painful one, and that so long as I endured it I had the fear
that it would make me deaf for ever or else deprive me of my senses.

My third was the most terrible of all--a strange experience, since
this sound was heard when I was unconscious, in a deep sleep.

I was eighteen years old at the time, at my home on the pampas, and
soundly sleeping at between one and two o'clock in the morning, when I
had a terrible dream. I dreamed that I was standing on the plain, and
that it was noon and a day of brilliant sunshine with a very pure blue
sky. Looking up, I saw a dark object like a cloud at a vast height,
but coming swiftly down towards the earth.  I then perceived that it
was no cloud but something solid, and as it came lower it resolved
itself into iron, in bars about twice the thickness round of a
hogshead, the bars being a mile or two in length. When the lowest,
which were very distinctly seen, were near the earth, I could see that
they extended in a stream of bars--tens of thousands or millions of
bars--far up into the heavens until they faded from sight. Gazing up
at this swift-coming torrent, I said: This is the end of everything;
all life will be killed on earth by the shock, and the earth itself
will be driven out of its orbit. Then the crash came, and I was killed
or stunned, and the next thing I knew was that I was wide-awake
sitting up in bed, trembling, and a sweat of terror pouring from me.

"Oh what an awful dream!" I thought; then the door of my room opened
and my sister in her night-dress, a lighted candle in her trembling
hand, stood there staring at me out of wide frightened eyes, her face
white as a sheet.

"You heard it?" she said.

"Heard what?" I asked.

"Oh, why do you ask," she returned, "when you are sitting up in bed
and looking like that? We are all up--the house has been struck!"

I got up and joined the others, going round from room to room and
finding no sign of damage.

The wonder was when next day we found that our neighbours on all sides
had had the same dreadful experience, and that in every house within a
circuit of about forty miles the inmates had been roused from sleep by
that awful sound and had started up, thinking that the house had been
struck or that the end of the world had come.

I have never found in my reading an instance of a thunder-clap heard
as in this case, as we are accustomed to hear thunder when sound and
flash come together, over so wide an area. But wonderful as the
phenomenon was, the dream about it interested me even more when I came
to think of it. The physicist might be able to explain to us why and
how that thunder-clap had had so widespread an effect, but how
mysterious, inexplicable, how almost unbelievable, the manner in which
it was dealt with by the mind! For the report we received from all
over the district was that there had been but a single clap, and,
heard by those who happened to be awake, it came with the suddenness
of an explosion of gun-powder or the discharge close by of a big gun.
And yet my mind, or that part of it which keeps awake, or which woke
first, with inconceivable rapidity had built up a whole series of
scenes and acts and sensations leading up to the shock, explaining its
cause or, rather, exhibiting it in a picture.

Yet this same awful dream is one of an exceedingly common type--I dare
say I have had hundreds of such.  Let me give the following invention
as an illustration. I receive a pin or needle prick in my hand or arm
when sleeping, and a dream follows to account for it, but albeit
following it at the same time leads up to it. Thus, my dream is that I
am rambling in a forest on a hot summer's day and throw myself down in
the shade to rest and cool myself, and while resting, and perhaps
dozing, I am startled by a slight rustling sound on the dead leaves,
and looking quickly round I spy a venomous serpent gliding towards me
with uplifted head. It is too late for me to jump up and escape the
threatened stroke; it is flashed into my mind that there is but one
thing to do to save myself, though a very dangerous thing, and that is
to strike first, and accordingly I make my blow at his head only to
feel the sting of his poison fang in my hand; the pain wakes me. Here
we see that the prick of the pin itself, the serpent's bite, is but
the culmination and the last act and word in a dramatic scene which
had taken some time in the acting. Yet the whole incident, with its
feelings, thoughts, acts, must both begin and end with the pin prick.

There is something else in a dream of this type, just as wonderful as
the inconceivable rapidity of the mind in framing its usually
far-fetched and fantastic story and series of scenes to account for
the sensation. This is that imagination--the creative faculty--often
appears to live and function brilliantly during sleep in persons who
when awake appear to be wholly without such a faculty.

But I have long been convinced that there is nothing in this dim spot
which men call earth, perhaps nothing in the entire universe, more
marvellous than the mind in its secret doings; also that all the
wonderful things, the apparitions, visitations and revelations, new
and old, the messages and tidings of strange happenings in other
worlds than ours, and in other states of being, are all, all, all to
be found, if properly looked for, in this same well-nigh unexplored
wilderness of the mind.


The rhea's voice--Sounds that carry farthest--Man and animals compared
as to voice power--The swift's flight--Melody--Music as art and
instinctive--Mammalian music--Capybara--Quis----Tuco-tuco----Singing
mouse and small rodents--Monkeys--Braying of the ass as music--A purge
for the mind--The ass in fable and folk-story.

Writing of my neighbour, Bias Escovar, who killed an ox by shouting at
it in his anger, I said that his voice was a very deep one. It was a
deep bass when he spoke in his usual subdued conversational tone--you
could well imagine that by "lifting up" that same voice the doors and
windows of the house would be made to shudder in their frames--and
nevertheless it had an extraordinary carrying power. An exceptional
case, for we know that it is the high-pitched voices that carry
farthest, and that the high clear notes of birds outrun all other
vocal sounds. The rhea, or ostrich of South America, appears to be an
exception among birds, like Bias with his bass voice among men.

The male rhea, like the male partridge and the males of many other
polygamous species, especially in the gallinaceous order, has the
habit of lifting up his voice to call his females together when they
have been accidentally scattered, as when there has been a big ostrich
hunt. The sounds uttered on these occasions are peculiar, for albeit
they are well understood of his own people, they may be described as
_inarticulate_ when compared with other bird sounds, seeing that they
are not _syllabled_ and are formless, like the sighing and murmuring
of the wind in rushes and sedges, or the hum of the insects on a
still, hot summer's day in some locality where they are excessively

The rock-dove, the great bustard, the giant jabini stork, the pinnated
grouse, the capanero or bell-bird, and various other species, have the
power of inflating their gullet and the bladder-like appendage
attached to their heads with wind to make it a "chamber of resonance."
And so with the rhea; heard at a distance, the sound produced is a low
one, in character something between a suspiration and a booming. I
remember that once, when riding late one afternoon in a lonely place
on the pampas, I pulled up my horse again and again to listen to that
mysterious noise which is like no other sound on earth.  A sound that
was like the thin blue summer or dry fog, which partially veils or
dims and appears to pervade the entire landscape, producing the
appearance of a heaven and earth mingled or interfused; a sound that
was everywhere in earth and air and sky, but changing in power; at
intervals loud as the summer humming of insects, then decreasing and
at last so faint as to be scarcely audible, so that listening you
almost came to think it an imaginary sound.

Doubtless the sound came to me from a great distance, as no male or
other rhea was visible to me at the time, although when emitting its
call the bird stands erect, a tall conspicuous object on the wide
level plain, his long neck inflated and the pinions with their white
plumes spread open. There had been an ostrich hunt that day, and the
sounds I listened to probably came from two or three birds calling
from widely separated points.

We note that in listening to the singing of birds the high shrill
notes invariably live longest in the ears as the distance increases,
while the lower guttural and harsh sounds die successively out of the
performance. This is most noticeable in the skylark's torrential song,
owing to the great variety of notes of different quality composing it.

The macaws in flocks, uttering their tremendous screams when flying
high above the forest trees, make a great noise, but it does not carry
half the distance of the bell-bird's metallic, clanging call.

I remember that in my home on the pampas, when I was a boy, we used to
stand out of doors on those exceptionally still, clear mornings when
all distant objects seemed near, and when all sounds appeared to
travel twice as far as at ordinary times. We would listen with delight
on such mornings, which were usually in the winter, to the calls and
cries of the great water-fowl in three or four rush-and sedge-grown
lagoons situated at different points and at various distances from our
home, from something over a mile to two miles and a half.  From all of
them we could distinctly hear certain species: the alarm cry and
song-like performances of the crested screamer; the short, rapidly
reiterated call of the great blue ibis, a sound as of hammer-strokes
on an anvil, only more aerial, more musical; the frenzied shrieks of
the large ypecaha rail, several birds shrieking in chorus, and the
prolonged sad wailing cries of the courlan, the "crazy widow" of the
natives; but other big loud-voiced birds were inaudible at that
distance--the scream of the great heron for example, and the
trumpeting of the Coscoroba swan, their notes being without the shrill
quality of the others. A human being with a voice proportionate to his
size, of the character of the bird voices I have described, would be
audible seven or eight miles away in a still atmosphere. As it is,
small as the big birds are compared with the big great-voiced beasts,
their voices carry much farther, and the call of an ibis will
outdistance the roaring of stags and lions, braying of asses and
neighing of horses, bellowing of cattle, howlings of "old man"
ara-guatos, monkeys and wolves, and screaming of hyaenas.

But we, poor human creatures, the weaklings of the animal world, are
surpassed in the same way in all physical powers and keenness of
senses. A man with the strength of an ant or beetle would be able to
place himself under a road engine, and raising it on his back, walk to
the Thames Embankment, and throw it into the river.

The swifts, or devilings, have been ingeminating this mournful truth
of our inferiority in my ears all day long, here where I am writing
this chapter, in Penzance, in the month of June. There are eight of
them; they arrived in May, and elected to spend the summer season in
that portion of the sky visible from my front windows on the first and
second floors of the house I inhabit. And from the time of my first
peep at the sky at six or seven o'clock in the morning until I light
my reading lamp at nine in the evening, they are to be seen rushing
madly through the air at an average speed of about a hundred miles an
hour, thus covering ten to fifteen hundred miles during those hours;
but I don't know how early they begin, nor how late they leave off.
And at this same rate, without resting by day, they will spend the
summer, and probably the eight remaining months of the year in distant
South Africa. When I look at them they are always madly chasing each
other, now all close together, now in a long train, describing an
immense circle, a wheel set obliquely to the earth, the long narrow
scythe-shaped wings all but touching the eaves and walls above my
window when they are lowest down, then off and away and up to the sky
again. Then after a dozen or more times of circling, they gather in a
bunch and float for a few seconds, then scatter suddenly to the four
winds of heaven and vanish from sight, to reappear and re-form in a
few minutes and re-start the living wheel on its everlasting

And even as the lower animals thus excel us in physical power and
speed and endurance, so do they surpass us in beauty of form and
colouring, grace of motion, and in melody. But as to the last point
much explanation is necessary.


Music--the concord of sweet sounds--harmony--music as an art, which
has been followed and perfected during thousands of years, is
immeasurably above the best the lower animals have, since theirs is
not an art but an instinct.

So we think and say, but it is not quite so. We see that it is not,
when we find that some song birds with highly-developed vocal organs
learn their songs from others--as a rule from the adults of their own
species; also that they imitate and adopt notes and phrases that
please them in the songs of other species. And this carried so far
that in some species almost all individuals have their own original
song or songs. Thus, when we speak of the "artistry of the
nightingale," we are probably expressing a literal truth. But just now
we are concerned only with the music of the mammalians, man included.

No doubt man, compared with many of his poor relations, is in many
ways a poor creature, but his big brains, and hands to do the brains'
biddings, have lifted him infinitely above them in various ways, and
in none more than in music. He is at the head of the highest class of
vertebrates, the highest division in the organic scale; yet, oddly
enough, in music these highest (man excepted) are lowest, since even
frogs and toads and grasshoppers put them to shame.

The mammalian music generally, that is to say when there is anything
in the sounds emitted which can be called music, is of the most
primitive type, and consists mainly of the excited cries of the beast
slightly modified to serve a new purpose. The purpose, I take it, is
the desire to express feelings experienced in play, in a sense of
satisfaction with life, an overflowing physical happiness which must
find an outlet somehow, and may show itself in mere rushings about,
flinging up of heels and bellow-ings, as we see in cattle. These
exercises undoubtedly tend to the improvement of the vocal organs and
the production of sounds less harsh and savage. The sounds, then,
which may be described as music in the mammals are bellowing of
cattle, barking of seals, trumpeting of elephants, howling of wolves
and other canine species and of monkeys, neighing of horses--wild
horses occasionally burst out in a neighing chorus as if for the mere
pleasure of it--and braying of asses. Large rodents have harsh voices,
and the largest of all rodents, the capybara of South America, unite
their voices in screaming concerts.  There are, however, many small
species with voices of a distinctly agreeable quality. Thus, when
camping among the tall grasses of the pampas, I have listened by the
hour with pleasure to the continuous flow of liquid bubbling sounds
all about me of a small creature named _quis_--a species of

Whether those sounds were uttered as conversation or song I don't
know; there is, however, in that same region another small mammal
whose voice is more song than talk. He is named tuco-tuco from sounds
he emits, as we name the cuckoo from its call; and he is also known as
_oculto_ because he exists unseen; for though a rodent with big eyes,
he has the habit of a mole, and lives in runs underground. This wee
beast takes as much pleasure in exercising his voice in a set
performance as any feathered songster, although it is a voice without
any musical quality. It is percussive, and is like blows of a heavy
mallet on a log of hard wood, blow following blow, at first slowly,
then faster and faster, and lighter, until at the end the strokes
almost run into each other.

What fantastic tricks Nature plays with her creatures!  It is odd
enough that a rodent with big eyes, a vegetable feeder, should have
been thrust underground like an earthworm-eating mole, but funnier
still that it should be made a songster that amuses itself in its
narrow dark subterranean habitations with those gnome-like hammerings.

If in your wanderings you come to a sandy waste, the soil in which the
animal loves to dwell, you will soon discover that he takes great
delight in his own performances.

At intervals by day and night its sound is heard--_took-took-took_,
blow following blow; and as soon as the series of sounds, its song, is
finished, another takes it up, and soon all about you, far and wide,
under your feet, the earth resounds with the strange hammer-song.

Here in England, we have a "singing mouse," as it is called, but
although Darwin took him seriously, he is a fraud, as the sounds he
emits are involuntary, and are supposed to be caused by a malformation
of the breathing apparatus. A log of wood on the fire, and sometimes a
poor human sufferer from bronchitis, will produce a music in the same
way. The singing mouse music has been likened to a bird-like warbling,
and it does slightly resemble the shrill twittered song of some small
finch, but the reader will get a better idea of it by imagining the
sound produced by a manikin the size of a mouse playing on a miniature
piccolo. Once only have I succeeded in hearing it properly, and that
was in a house in Cornwall where the family were much troubled to hear
this piccolo playing behind the wainscot, thinking it perhaps a
communication from another world.

There is, however, no doubt that the vocal organ is more highly
developed in the rodents, especially in some small species, than in
other animals. They come nearest to the birds, and it is a wonder to
me that the most bird-like of them all in its arboreal habits, swift
motions and volatile mind, should be inferior in voice to many
ter-restral species--the poor groundlings. One would like to hear of a
singing as well as of a flying squirrel.

Unfortunately we know next to nothing of the small animals of a
greater portion of the earth--Africa and Asia, let us say. From
America we have heard of one musical mouse of the genus _Hesperomys_,
described by a good observer, the Rev. S. Lockwood. Let us indulge the
hope that in due time, in another century or so, our travelling
naturalists will have finished their collecting and cataloguing and
begin to pay some attention to the habits of the creatures, and to
listen to the sounds they emit.

The gibbon has been described more than once as the one monkey with a
musical voice as well as a song. Alas!  I do not know the monkey
people in a state of nature, and I must again confine myself to my
proper limits--to the creatures I do know. Coming to these, I can only
say that the highest musical performance in the mammalian order known
to me is the bray of an ass. This is not a mere call or cry like the
shrill neigh of the horse and wrathful mutterings and prolonged clear
_crescendo_ lowing of the bull; it is uttered by the animal for its
own sake when he is in the mood, and is therefore as truly a set song
as the liquid warbling of the woodlark or the
_little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese_ of the yellow-hammer.  A song no
doubt evolved from various ancient equine cries and calls--a
resounding trumpet blast, followed by measured hee-haws, and
concluding with a series of prolonged stertorous and sibilant sounds,
diminishing in power till they cease. Heard in the proper
surroundings, as I have heard it from the wild or semi-wild animals in
a practically desert district, at a distance of half a mile, more or
less, it is a notable performance that startles and fascinates the
listener with its wildness and strange character.

The effect of the sound is enhanced when you catch sight of the
animal, standing at ease in a group, grey amidst the tall grey-green
plumed grasses, their great ears erect or pointing forward, and alarm
in their faces--a noble animal, horse-shaped but with a distinction of
its own, an element of strangeness in its beauty.

Fine as was the sight of these semi-feral asses, where they had a
large tract of land to roam over, and vividly as the picture of them
endures in memory, they were not there at their best--not as they are
sometimes seen by those who traverse the vast, empty, desolate waste
places of the world, where the animal is native and in perfect harmony
with a barren, harsh environment. Even in such a book of travel as
that of Vambery, who saw and endured so much to satisfy an almost
mystical desire and passion for an intimate personal knowledge of the
fierce fanatical peoples he visited, yet who tells it all in the
driest, briefest, most commonplace manner and language--even he gives
you a thrill when he recounts his experiences of the wild ass.

On the second occasion of his seeing a herd he was in a town of the
remote desert, when one day the wild cry that the enemy was coming was
given. A cloud of dust appeared on the horizon--their dreaded enemy
was on his way to destroy them! Every man rushed to get his weapons,
the women snatched up their little ones from the road and fled
screaming with terror into their houses, and all was panic and wild
confusion; for all knew that the swift-coming cloud of dust meant a
bloody fight and perhaps, to follow it, every conceivable outrage and
atrocity. Meanwhile the dusty cloud rushed on, and only when close to
the ramparts came to a stand, when it was seen that the raiders were
wild asses. For the space of a minute or two they stood motionless,
staring at the town and people who had gathered there, then tossing
their heads they wheeled round and rushed back the way they came, and
in a very few minutes the cloud of dust faded away on the horizon.

What was the animals' motive, Doubtless it was nothing but an impulse
of play, one of those outbursts of infectious joy which occasionally
seize on wild social animals, and set them off as if mad. It was as if
they had said to one another: "Come, let us rejoice in our power and
speed! Let us show ourselves to that fierce hunting double-beast,
man-and-horse, with his spear and dagger and far-killing gun--let us
stare at him in his own citadel just to mock at him and challenge him
to chase us!"

To return to the subject of the braying of the ass. Incidentally the
sound does (or should do) the listener a lot of good, since it purges
his mind of old, false, contemptible ideas, or rather old literary
conventions, which in the course of long ages have come to be articles
of faith, and are so common in the language that you can't read a book
or a chapter, scarcely a page, or listen to a speech or lecture or
sermon, but this vile lying notion of the ass as the incarnation and
type of stupidity will somehow be dragged in. Perhaps it originated in
early Greece; that nasty little jeering spirit which delights to mock
at and caricature the life of which we are part is not like an Eastern
growth. At all events I doubt that an Arab or Chinese or Thibetan or
East Indian, when he fails to hit the mark, or trips and drops
something from his hand, or is forgetful, or carelessly knocks
something over, instantly compares himself to a long-eared animal. How
it is in other western countries than ours I don't know, but every
Englishman must call himself or somebody else an ass more than once a
day. If we had a law or custom which no person would seek to evade,
that every time a man used the expression he should pay a fine of one
pound sterling into the nearest post office, the money thus accruing
to the state would go far towards paying off the National Debt before
the people as a whole began to inquire into the cause of the
increasing want of means; then, having ascertained it, the imbecile
habit or convention would automatically come to an end.

In all literature known to me there is but one story or fable against
the ass which gives me a smile; this is Tomas de Iriarte's fable of
the ass who, when grazing, came upon a flute dropped by chance or
forgotten in the grass. Naturally the animal approached his nose to,
and sniffed curiously at it, and in doing so accidentally drew from it
a beautiful sound. "Who says I am unable to make music?" cried the
animal, delighted at his success.  It is a "literary fable," and it is
the moral--the fact that a writer's first successful book or essay or
poem may be nothing but a fluke, to be followed by miserable failure
or perfect barrenness--that provokes the smile; and a melancholy smile
it is, since the truth in most cases may be that it was no fluke, but
that the one good work came before some accident or change distuned or
ruined the mind that produced it.

The Iriarte fable reminds me of a better one, one of the delightfully
funny folk-stories about animals I used to hear from the gauchos of
the pampas. This relates the encounter between an ass, taken by
surprise when grazing among the tall grasses on the plain, and his
deadly enemy the tiger, as the jaguar is called, which resulted in the
triumph of the ass, purely by accident as in the case of the ass that
played on the flute. The discomfited jaguar thereupon calls his
friends together to give them an account of his thrilling adventure,
and warns them not to meddle with that beast, seeing that despite his
smaller size he is a more unconquerable and dangerous animal than the
stoutest horse.

The reader must take my word for it that it is a very good story,
equal to anything in _Uncle Remus_ or in the folk stories about
animals from Africa and the West Indies; but as I am not writing this
book in Spanish, in which language it would seem perfectly natural and
innocent and would stain our purity no more than to look at a picture
by Wouverrnans or to walk through a farm yard, it cannot be told here.

The gaucho story is funny mainly because of the happy chance that
turns the table on the aggressor; but it is known in all that level
country and the adjacent Andean region, that the ass is the one beast
that does not lose his head in any circumstances, however unexpected
and dangerous.  Thus, he (or his son the mule) when cornered or in an
enclosure will save himself by a well-directed shower of blows, while
the more powerful horse, gone mad with terror, will be destroyed--torn
to shreds by the iron claws of the jaguar, or his neck dislocated by
the puma that leaps on to his back.

Instead of regarding the ass as a type and symbol of human stupidity I
regard him with affection as of my kith and kin, for a better reason
than Coleridge had, since with him it was purely the Franciscan
feeling of pity and love. A being with qualities that place him above
all the other domesticated animals. An incarnation of patient merit.
Not the hopeless, desponding patience of the conquered broken slave. A
slave with a heavy burden to bear for a thousand generations, he has
not lost the sense of the injustice of his lot, the power and spirit
to inflict blow for blow on his taskmaster and tyrant when the
occasion offers. And that's the "hoof of the ass," about which we hear
so much from our intellectual, spiritual-minded, uplifting preachers
and talkers and writers! Even now when writing this chapter I see in
the newspapers that yet another brilliant saying of that wise man
among us, the famous Dean of St. Paul's, has been caught up, and is
being wafted far and wide all' over the land. For wisdom is a rare and
precious thing, and we value it accordingly. We have left the tiger
and ape behind, he says: let us hope that by-and-by we may find it
possible to drop the ass's hoof.

Original, as well as beautifully expressed! The thought is always in
some people's minds, and the ape and tiger and wolf and ass are its
symbols. It has been spoken every day for centuries, millions of
times, in a thousand forms. I have admired the expression in one form
only, by a poet and dramatist of three centuries ago: but as it is
thirty or forty years since I read it I may not quote it quite

  I that spend out all my days
  And half my nights to get a wan pale face,
  Leave me! for something has come into my heart
  That must be said or sung, far and aloof,
  Safe from the wolf's black jaw and the dull ass's hoof.

It will be a sad day for our race when we have dropped the ass's hoof;
the day of universal degeneracy with not a kick left in us--not a Dean
of St. Paul's to tell us what he thinks of us.


Music of the lower animals--Of savage man and Hindoos--Music of the
stone age--The cannibal Pan--Singing of savages--Origin of
song--Diderot and Herbert Spencer--The cries of passion--Music founded
on passion and play--Music older than speech--Origin of
rhythm--Impassioned speech in savage and civilised man--Song in speech
and speech in song--Darwin's theory--Herbert Spencer's theory of the
function of music--What is Poetry?--Spiritual senses--Music and Poetry
sister arts--Furthest apart at their greatest, and nearest at their

When I stated in conclusion of the last chapter that the ass possessed
the highest musical performance of the mammalians known to me, I was
tempted to include primitive or savage man; but that would have been a
hasty judgment founded on what I have heard of savage music, which is
very poor, little if at all better than the musical performances of
howling animals. Nor is it in savages only that we find such poor
singing, seeing that in India we have a people civilised longer ago
than anyone can tell us; we know at all events that they were as
highly civilised in the time of Alexander the Great as they are
to-day. Yet their singing is of the most primitive or barbarous kind,
and offensive to European ears. Judging from the little I have heard,
it resembles the singing or chanting of savages, but is less pleasing
owing to some disagreeable quality in the tone--the timbre. We can
only say then that the inhabitants of Hindustan are not musical, or
that their music is not pleasing to us Europeans; or we may go further
and say that music has greatly developed in the West only; that
compared with European music that of Asia, for all its ancient
surviving civilisations, is of little more regard to us than that of
aboriginal America, Africa and Australasia. I have said in an early
chapter that palseolithic man probably had teeth-gnashing musical
performances; we know too that he was capable of higher things, that
he had the artistic mind; we can handle the fossilised bone flute with
which he "gave the soft winds a voice" not less than a thousand
centuries ago. And before he made him a flute of bone he had doubtless
piped on a reed in many forms for ages, and was perhaps altogether
something of a cannibal Pan.  That very ancient music is lost beyond
recovery: the question we are now concerned with is the origin of
music, especially in man. The singing of the savages to which I have
listened on the pampas and in Patagonia is a monotonous chant, not
unpleasing to the ear, since the voice is often of an agreeable
quality, but after a time it palls on you, and revolting against it, I
have said that I would prefer to listen to the howling of canines,
which is quite as tuneful, especially of the nobler species, heard in
desert lands forlorn--"the wolf's long howl from Oonalaska's shore,"
for example. The chief point in the chanting of savages is that we
recognise it as a reproduction of passionate speech, spoken or chanted
without passion, employed as an amusement of the mind and slightly
varied, the harsher sounds eliminated. Listening to it, anyone who has
heard savages and even civilised men speaking with passion becomes
convinced of the truth of Diderot's idea that the cadences used in
emotional speech afford the foundation from which vocal music has been
developed. I would, however, go further back than Diderot and Herbert
Spencer in his brilliant exposition, and say that music in man has its
origin in the emotional sounds emitted by the human and semi-human
species of the Pliocene before articulate speech was invented. In
other words, the root is the same in all mammals, man included. As the
poet says: First the root, then the stalk; more airy thence, the
leaves; and last, the bright consummate flower. We have it all in us,
root to flower, and may say if we like that the lower animals
(mammals) are still in the stalk stage, although some may hold that
they have developed leaves. Again, in listening to the lower or more
primitive music of Europe, in some of the folk-songs of all nations,
especially in the ballads of the peasant Basques and in some of the
more highly developed Hungarian music, one is sharply reminded of the
Asiatic civilised music and the barbarous and savage music of America
and Africa. The root in which it all originates is in itself a varied
language, since it expresses a great variety of emotions, the
war-cries expressing the fury and joy of battle with the shedding of
blood; all sounds emitted by hatred and malice and revenge and anger
in all degrees and shades; apprehension--the weight on the heart--fear
and desperation, and blank despair; fury and pain, and every form of
misery to utter desolation; and the softer emotions, sexual and
parental, love and affection, friendship and comradeship and loyalty;
also the sense of the supernatural--the invisible watching eyes, the
ever-following footsteps that make no sound, the evil beings that
inhabit the darkness--the mystery, the amazement; and finally the
strange intrusion of beneficent impulses, of tenderness, of a dawning
sense of beauty, of a changed aspect in Nature, of a sense of a
softened understanding mood in the Unseen, of compassion and

Through "inherited association" it all lives in music.  Shakespeare's
verse, "I am never merry when I hear sweet music," finds an echo in
everyone simply because each one of us puts his private interpretation
on the "sweet," which means for us music that produces a shade of
melancholy--in other words, the music which touches our deeper

At the same time we know a music of a lighter character, a music which
does not move us in the same way.

And this too is emotional, derived from the lighter, gayer emotions of
play, an instinct universal in children, and in a lesser degree
continuing through life both in man and the lower animals. You may
witness the effect of an appeal to children of this kind of music any
day when any lively or dance tunes are played and the child's face
begins to brighten and its feet and hands to move, and by-and-by, if
it is not a child whose child-instincts have been suppressed from the
cradle, it will break away and start dancing or whirling about. This
lighter music appeals less to adults than to children, because the
inherited associations of play are strongest in our early years.

We may say then that music is essentially a refined and beautiful
expression of all emotions common to all men in all stages of life;
that because of this origin its appeal is universal, its hold on us so
powerful. Beethoven, speaking of his own music, said that those who
listened to it were lifted above this earth into a higher sphere and
state. It may be so: I do not know; but I do know that it takes me
back; that it wears an expression which startles and holds me, that it
is essentially the "Passion of the Past"--not of mine only, my own
little emotional experiences, but that of the race, the inherited
remembrances or associations of its passionate life, back to a period
so remote that it cannot be measured by years. A dreadful past, but at
so great a distance that it is like the giant terrifying mountain, the
heart-breaking stony wilderness with winter everlasting for its crown,
seen afar off, softened and glorified with rose and purple colour, at

Thus then, to begin at the beginning, we may say that song does not
derive from speech, or not wholly from it; nor is it a twin birth with
speech, but existed before it in its elemental state, and was a
forerunner and prognostic of speech from the time of the marriage of
sound with emotion. And this union we know exists in animals as well
as in man. The faculty or invention of speech but served to develop
the original animal music to our higher music. Rhythm, which is rare
in animal and is essential in human music, is an outcome of emotional
speech--it comes, we may say, instinctively or automatically; it is a
relief, a rest, which the impassioned speaker falls into naturally,
which saves him from exhaustion, and has moreover an arresting effect
on the hearers, thus adding to the power of the performance.  Nor is
it an aid in emotional speaking only; it extends into all sustained
vocal expression; it is, as I have heard, in the crooning and
murmuring sounds with which the Indian mother puts her babe to sleep;
in groaning, moaning and the sobbings of poignant grief, pain and
misery, and more pronounced still in the lamentations for the dead.
Thus, among savages of the pampas, it is the custom when a man dies
for the women of the village to mourn his loss for the space of a
whole night, moving in procession round and round the hut where the
corpse lies, with endless ululations; and the sounds grow rhythmical,
and because of the rhythm the mourner's dreary task is lightened--if
it does not become a positive pleasure.

To one who has listened to savages in their ordinary and impassioned
speech and in their singing, it is interesting to note the survival of
their tones in civilised speech and song. You recall the savage in
listening to the impassioned speaking of a man anywhere in England; at
the same time I find that in most instances when the resemblance has
seemed greatest, the speaker was less Anglo-Saxon than Celtic or

The passion inherent in all is revealed more or less in the tone
according to the racial temperament. In French oratory there is a
tendency to music. Thus, listening to an impassioned speech by one of
their greatest speakers, the lamented Jaures, it struck me that it was
three parts cadenced speech and a fourth part recitative and song, and
that it was the frantic oration of a savage chief improved in shape
and colour, refined and beautified, with the long musical note to end
the sentence. The savage does not end his sentences with this musical
note in oratory or ordinary speaking; but in some tribes the woman
does, the last word or syllable always being sung, sometimes sweetly.
Here we have a transference, or an interchange of tones in two
distinct forms of expression--speech and song--speech taking back from
song something originally from itself and improved. And again, we have
the reverse process when music falls back on recitative and even
cadenced speech, as for example in Wagner's operas.  As in the
difference between the great French orator and the savage chief, so
between the recitative in the opera and the changing and impassioned
speech of the savage; in the opera the savage is still declaiming, but
with an improved, a more musical voice and a higher sense of musical

In all that goes before it will be seen that I am in the main in
complete agreement with Herbert Spencer. To my mind he is so obviously
right that it would have seemed incredible to me that anyone could
fail to be convinced had it not been that Darwin had examined the
theory and deliberately rejected it. He had come, he said, to an
exactly opposite conclusion. Astonishing; but one can see the reason
of it. He was devoted to his theory of Natural Selection; it was like
a beautiful mistress to him, and the supplemental theory of Sexual
Selection was her beautiful daughter, in delicate health, alas!  but
he did not like to hear it said so, and Herbert Spencer's theory of
the origin of music was like a prophetic unfavourable diagnosis, and
he would not have it, and even went so far, when rejecting it, as to
make a little fun of it.

"I conclude," he says, "that musical notes and rhythm were first
acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of
charming the opposite sex.  Thus musical tones became frequently
associated with some of the strongest passions an animal is capable of
feeling, and are consequently used instinctively, or through
association when strong emotions are expressed in speech. Mr. Spencer
does not offer any explanation, nor can I, why high and deep tones
should be expressive, both with man and the lower animals, of certain

The very simple explanation is that the high and deep notes are
expressive of the strongest passions, and are the root sounds of music
in its intensest moods and state.

He also says: "But if it be further asked why musical tones in a
certain order and rhythm give man and other animals pleasure, we can
no more give the reason than for the pleasantness of certain tastes
and smells."

It is on the contrary very easy to give the reason, since it lies on
the very surface. What we find good for us, what makes us feel
comfortable and happy inside, when it has been absorbed, is good to
smell and taste, and, I may add, to see, so that even an object ugly
in itself--a roast goose for example--not only smells nice, but looks
beautiful if we are hungry.

And he says too: "As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of
producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man, in
reference to his daily habits and life, they must be ranked among the
most mysterious with which he is endowed."

How the faculty and capacity came about we have seen plainly enough,
and as to their uselessness they are no doubt just as useless as many
other faculties and capacities which are a part of us, and are not
concerned with food-getting and so on, and, we may add, just as useful
from another point of view. As useless (and as useful) as the instinct
of play for example, of running and leaping and climbing and paddling
and swimming and diving, and of basking in the sun, and rolling on the
grass, and shouting when there's nothing to shout about.  Or, let us
say, of the sensation of well-being, of contentment with life, of
overflowing gladness and the actions and sounds that express it. What
then is the precise meaning of "mystery" in this instance? In a sense
everything is a mystery--our existence, for example, a universe
without beginning or end, and everything in it from an atom, an
electron, to a sun. We are conscious of even greater mysteries than
these when the vast unbounded prospect lies before us, and they appear
to us as the clouds and shadows that rest upon it. When a great
scientist encounters a difficulty, one of the ten thousand problems
that lie all about us challenging our attention, and after glancing at
it drops the word "mystery," and passes it by, one would like to know
if it is said to discourage those who come after him, as a warning
that they will only break themselves against it.  One can only
conclude that the word used in this way, without explanation, is a
stumbling-block and a nuisance in a scientific work.

To go back to Darwin's argument, he further says:

Women are generally thought to possess sweeter voices than men, and as
far as this serves as any guide, we may infer that they first acquired
musical powers in order to attract the other sex.  But if so, this
must have occurred a long time ago, before our ancestors had become
sufficiently human to treat and value their women merely as useful
slaves. The impassioned orator, bard or musician, when with his varied
tones and cadences he excites the strongest emotions in his hearers,
little suspects that he uses the same means by which his half-human
ancestors long ago roused each other's ardent passions during their
courtship and rivalry.

It is a passage one is sorry to read, because it was writ by Darwin
and--it is ridiculous: not the ironic sentence in the middle only, but
the whole of it. In the lower animals love and courtship is an
excitement which occurs once a year or at long intervals; it lasts but
a short time, and when it passes, other excitements, in some instances
just as violent, resume their sway. And primitive men are really
nearer to the lower animals in this respect than to civilised man.
Love is a somewhat sudden passion, or rage, in them, and the passion
of courtship is apt to be a brief one and somewhat violent.  There was
never a time in the early history of the human species when the female
courted the male and invented song to attract him.

I fancy that when a modern philosopher suggested that the aesthetic
sense, the sense of beauty in all things, is but an overflow of the
sexual feeling, he was not spinning it all out of his own brain, but
had taken the sexual selection theory at Darwin's own valuation, and
made the sex feeling _the_ root instead of making it one of the many
distinct elements contained in the root.

The scientific mind in its questing after the truth reminds one of the
stoat on the track of its quarry. Swift and elusive the quarry may be,
besides having had a good start, but nothing will serve to turn aside
or dishearten his pursuer, who follows steadily, patiently, without
haste and without rest, with a deadly resolution and staying power
which at last gets its reward. The difference is that the stoat makes
no mistakes, and the seeker after truth makes many. And that is how it
was with Herbert Spencer, when, after working out his theory of the
origin of music to a triumphant conclusion, he set himself to find out
and expound the function of music. On this second quest he goes off in
the same temper, the same cold, deadly zeal, as on the first, and in
the same way brings it to a victorious conclusion. Yet it was an
imaginary scent he was following all the time, and an illusionary
rabbit in which he set his teeth, and whose imagined heart he drains
of blood to its last drop. There was no rabbit because there is no
function. A function, as we all understand the word and as it is
defined in the _Oxford Dictionary_, is "the special kind of activity
proper to anything: the mode of action by which it fulfils its
purpose." Thus, the function--the use, the purpose--and thing--organ
or what not--are one and indivisible as in the eye and seeing, the ear
and hearing, the wings and flying, and so on. Undoubtedly the word is
sometimes used in a somewhat different or a more extended sense, and
is made to mean the use or purpose which a thing may acquire, and in
such cases what is called a function may be one of several functions.
But Herbert Spencer does not use the word in this sense when he writes
of _the_ function he thinks he has discovered, which, as it happens,
is not even _a_ function of music.

To give the gist of the matter contained in a great many pages of
argument, he contends that the cultivation of music must really have
_some_ effect on the mind, and this being so, what more natural than
to suppose this to be the developing of our perceptions of the
meanings of inflections of voice and giving us a correspondingly
increased power of using them. Or, to put it in seven words: music
reacts on and improves our speech.  Here we have Herbert Spencer at
his worst, even as we had him at his best a little while ago. He might
have found a dozen functions for music, and not one further off the
truth than this. It is, in fact, a reversal of the truth--a putting
the cart before the horse. To begin with, what he calls _music_ is
only the lesser half of it, since it does not include instrumental
music. Furthermore, vocal music is comparatively
non-progressive--necessarily so, seeing that it is only concerned with
certain aspects of life. Whereas speech progresses eternally, being
concerned with all life, and if there is any progress at all in vocal
music, it is due to the influence of speech.  Singing is a recreation
indulged in occasionally or at long intervals, and not by all. Where
it is very common, it is little more than the monotonous chant of
savages; and as we go higher we find it less and less common in
civilised peoples; but speaking is continual and used by everyone from
infancy to death--this being the only incident which can stop the
tongue from wagging. And the result of thousands of years and
thousands of centuries of practice has given it so marvellous a
flexibility and variety, which includes every emotion in every degree
and shade and shadow of a shade, that you will get more tones and
inflections and modulations in half-an-hour's talk from any
bright-minded voluble child of fourteen than from all the singing you
have heard in a lifetime.

It would be idle to labour the point further; the light of nature is
enough to show to anyone the falsity and the absurdity of Herbert
Spencer's theory of what he magnificently calls _the function of
music_. Here let me say that after this chapter had been written I
came by chance on Wallaschek's _Primitive Music_, a neglected and
perhaps a forgotten book, to find that he has anticipated some of my
criticisms of Darwin's and Spencer's theories, but about Spencer's
theory concerning the function of music he has nothing to say.
Something, however, must be said as to the other point already touched
on concerning the extended meaning sometimes given to the word.  Let
us suppose that Herbert Spencer, instead of being helplessly wrong,
was right about the improvement of speech through song; this would not
have been _the_ function of music, but merely an accidental benefit or
use which had come in course of time, one of numberless such chance or
accidental uses we get from other faculties and arts, which may endure
and which may come like shadows, and so depart in the long life of the
race, but are not functions proper to their faculties or arts.

What, for example, is the function of painting? Religious, historical,
decorative--anything you like; or you may say that it is to provide
wealthy persons with beautiful pictures in heavy gilt frames for the
decoration of their houses; or, better still, that it is for the
elevation of the lower orders at the East End of London by means of

These and all the other chance or incidental functions you may find or
imagine would not be the function of painting, and if you seek for
that you will not find it, because no such thing exists. And if this
should seem a bold thing to say, I would ask what is the function of a
soul growth?--of faith, hope and charity, reverence--in one word,
spirituality; of the sense of beauty, the love of humanity, altruism,
the aspiration towards a lovelier, higher, better state:

  The desire of the moth for the star,
    Of the night for the morrow;
  The devotion to something afar
    From the sphere of our sorrow.

"The light that never was on sea or land; the consecration and the
poet's dream."

And what, by the way, is the function of poetry? Let us inquire first
what is poetry, and then we shall perhaps know. Wordsworth said it was
"emotion recollected in tranquillity," the most famous definition yet
given, but it was wrong and would have been right if he had said it of
music, seeing that poetry is thought, imagination and emotion, whereas
music is wholly emotion--emotion recollected in tranquillity--passion
purified from pain, sublimated, beautified, glorified, but always
passion, passion, passion and nothing else.

Shelley said it was "something divine," which may be said, and has
been said, of so many things that it was not worth saying of poetry.
Carlyle called it "musical thought," a saying which in its essence is
a platitude.  Santayana says it is "speech for its own sake and
sweetness," which is a good deal less than half the truth.  Matthew
Arnold called it a "criticism of life," which is just what one would
expect Matthew Arnold would call it; and Dr. Johnson said it was the
"essence of common sense," which is also precisely what one would
expect Dr.  Johnson would say. Better still was Sir Isaac Newton's
definition of poetry as an "ingenious sort of nonsense." I remember
that my father was accustomed to say that poetry was the one thing he
could not understand. But he did not, like the great Newton, put the
blame on poetry. A humble-minded man, he owned that it was a defect in
himself, a blind spot which prevented him from seeing what others
could see. Best of all is the anonymous author of _The Faculty of
Language_ (1831), who held that poetry originates in a defect of the
mind--its inability to express what it means in literal language.

Has this inquiry then brought us no nearer to the understanding of
what poetry really is, to say nothing of its function? No and Yes. No;
but it was worth making, since it has incidentally given us a good
laugh at the wisdom of our wisest, who, in trying to define poetry,
succeed only in defining themselves. Yes; because, when we have taken
all these several pronouncements, and about forty more which any
"industrious fly" may gather from the books, and mixed and vigorously
stirred them up together, like the various ingredients of a
plum-pudding, we discover in the process and by tasting the mixture
that poetry is just what it is to you and to me and to each and
everyone who likes it; or, in other words, that we receive but what we

Here the reader will perhaps remark mentally that I am going beyond my
last, seeing that this book professes to be about the senses of
animals, man included. It is: and I take it that our senses of beauty,
wonder, reverence, of right and wrong, and so on, are senses in the
literal and restricted sense of the word--senses, with their special
organs, their specialised nerves, that vibrate in response to special
stimuli, even as the other senses respond to stimuli of another order,
such as the sense of direction, of polarity, of telepathy, of earth,
air and water, and many others we recognise vaguely or only surmise.

Nor can anyone ever say that these higher faculties and qualities of
mind are developed exclusively in the human brain. The more the
psychologists dig down to get at the roots of these faculties, the
deeper they find them--deeper far than the lowest level of the human
brain. What we call spirituality is not ours by miracle; it was
inherent in us from the beginning: the seed germinated and the roots
and early leaves were formed before man, as man, existed, and are ours
by inheritance.  It grows and flourishes side by side with reason, but
does not flourish in the same degree. This plant, which is to us the
most beautiful of all that the mind produces, is like a frail
herbaceous plant growing in the shelter and protection of a tough
thorny shrub; and this same shrub which enables it to exist, which
safeguards it from outside assaults, yet deprives it of sunlight and
rain, so that often enough it seems to us but a sickly and
seldom-flowering plant. That is how it is in man. To see and recognise
it for what it is in the lower animals it is necessary to live with
and observe them closely and sympathetically.  Little by little the
knowledge comes that, notwithstanding the enormous difference between
man and animals, mentally it is one of degree only, that all that is
in our minds is also in theirs.

Here I could insert a very full chapter giving instances of a sense of
beauty and humour, of conscience and altruism, in animals, drawn
wholly from my own observation and experience, but there would be no
room in the book for it, and we have not yet finished with the subject
of music. And first in conclusion of this chapter I will go back to
the question of music and poetry.

What is their relationship? They are to my mind the only sister arts,
though it may seem at first sight that they are not more nearly
related to each other than to the other arts.

They are two distinct beings, both beautiful beyond all others, but
differing in feature, expression, voice, personality.  Nevertheless,
they were born of one mother, thousands and thousands of generations
ago; they were cradled in a cave, nourished at the same savage
breasts, and slept on their bed of dry leaves with their arms twined
about each other. When, as children, they played in the sun the entire
tribe was drawn together to witness their gambols, their marvellous
grace and swiftness, and listen to their shrill beautiful voices, and
were so carried away at the sight and sound that they laughed and wept
and shouted their applause. But as they grew to womanhood they
changed, and progressing from beauty to beauty, they yet grew less and
less alike until, their sisterhood forgotten, they were become
strangers to one another and drew further and further apart; and
finally, each on her own throne, crowned a queen and goddess, and
worshipped by innumerable devoted subjects, they dwell in
widely-separated kingdoms.

Now to drop allegory and metaphor and come back to downright "literal
language," which even the blind spot in the mind can prevent no one
from understanding.

Milton was mistaken when he spoke or sung of "music married to
immortal verse," seeing that immortal verse means great poetry and
great poetry is great of itself; its greatness is lessened if not
degraded by union with another art, however lustrous that art may be.
In the same way music at its greatest is independent of poetry. When
great music is built on a story, as in opera and oratorio, the words,
although rhetorical, are not poetry. If they were, the poetry would go
unheeded. It has no effect as poetry. If there were anything one could
call poetry in such an opera, let us say, as _Tristan and Isolde_ and
I gave my attention to it, the opera, as music, would be spoilt for
me, seeing that the music means so much more than the story.

Poetry and music, we may then say, are furthest apart when at their
greatest; nevertheless their relationship is sometimes suggested in
great poetry, though never in music. This is only in poetry in which
the thought, however lofty, is felt and expressed with passion--when
thought and passion are welded into one. Thus, in Shelley's
_Intellectual Hymn to Beauty_ and his _Ode to the West Wind_ there is
a great thought, but it has fused in the heat of the poet's passion
and made one with the passion, and is like a flame within a flame.

A most perfect example from the older poets is Vaughan's _They are all
gone into a world of light_. Some of Keats's poems also produce the
effect of music, albeit the passion is less than in Shelley or
Vaughan. One may also find it in Swinburne's _Itylus_. Byron has one
lyric which might be included in this category--_O snatched away in
beauty's bloom_. Two or three of Cowper's shorter poems and two or
three lyrics by Blake have this quality; it also appears in a few of
Emily Bronte's somewhat crude verses such as _The Linnet in the Rocky
Dell_, and one or two others. One may be found even in E. B.
Browning--the only one I can re-read--the message to Camoens in his
absence from his dying wife. There are far more perfect examples in
Edgar Allan Poe, in _Ulalume, For Annie_ and _Annabel Lee_ for
example. Also two or three lyrics in Tennyson, the best being _Tears,
Idle Tears_, and _Crossing the Bar_.

It seems incredible that any of these poems, and others which produce
a like effect, should have tempted any composer to "set the words to
music." He who would do such a thing, however eminent in his own art
of music, is ignorant of the meaning of poetry at its best. That which
is perfect is perfect and cannot be bettered. You cannot improve a
statue of Phidias by dressing it in silks and embroidery.

This same effect of great music is produced by some passages in blank
verse, such as that one in _Paradise Lost_ which makes the sublime
dream of heaven and earth less to us than the poet's own
heart-cry--the revelation of a secret bitterness when he laments his
blindness. There are also passages that stir us like great and solemn
music in Keats and Wordsworth, and in Thomson's _Seasons_, though the
Georgians will snort at my saying it. I go even lower and find a
passage in Akenside's _Pleasures_, which are nothing but pains to most
modern readers.  There is also a passage in so inferior a poet as
Alexander Smith which lives in my memory like great music.

In prose, too, there are such passages, and one cannot but recall the
English Opium-eater's awful dream with its unforgettable
conclusion--its reverberated everlasting farewells, from which the
dreamer awoke to cry out aloud, "I will sleep no more!"

To return to the starting-point: when the two distinct supreme arts of
poetry and music do actually meet and become one, is when both (as
arts) are at their lowest, when the music is nearest to primitive
music, and the poetry is the lowliest, the simplest, the nearest to
emotional speech. It is only then (to resume the allegory) that these
two queenly ones, remembering their past sisterhood, put off their
crowns and purple, and, arrayed meanly, steal forth to meet again in
some desert place on the remote borders of their respective kingdoms,
to be to each other as in the ancient days when they played together
in the sun, and slept twined in one another's arms in a cave, on a bed
of dry leaves.

It is in the folk-songs and early ballads, of which the tunes as well
as words have survived, that we find this union of music and poetry.
That period passed away before the ages of a higher culture and of the
"perfect lyric," the witty, polished, intensely artificial poetry in
which the simple natural emotions, common to all humanity, had little
or no part. In the eighteenth century the Scotch peasant poet of
genius brought us back to nature and passion in his songs in which his
words were fitted to the old surviving melodies he found. Others
followed, and perhaps the most perfect example of that or any time in
our history of the union of words and music is found in the ballad of
_Auld Robin Gray_. At all events, we feel that after a century and a
half it has not yet lost its virtue.

The reason of this vitality is not merely that the story has a
universal appeal--a thousand as good have been told in verse--but
mainly because the words and the tune are so admirably fitted. All the
emotions described--the love, the weary waiting, the abandonment of
hope, the enduring grief and sad resignation--are jointly and equally
expressed by both: they are described in the words and echoed in the
tune with its wailing notes which simulate the very sounds in which
such emotions spontaneously, instinctively, express themselves.

Perhaps the only song of the nineteenth century to be mentioned in the
same breath with _Auld Robin Gray_ is _Swanee River_, which has now
been banished, but will no doubt return by-and-by, to sound in the
ears of all people that on earth do dwell for a second period of
sixty-five years, unless the poets and composers of the twentieth
century should succeed, in the meantime, in giving us something

I don't know enough to say positively whether or not such perfect
examples are as rare as I imagine them to be.  Every reader will
probably recall some song which, for him, has this character, and if
not sure about it, owing to the tricks association plays on all our
minds in such matters, he can compare notes with others. But he will
do well not to go to musical composers and performers for an opinion
on such a subject. They are bad judges, simply because they can't
escape the distorting reflex effect on the mind of a life vocation.
Music comes first with the musician; when music and poetry are joined,
the former must be the predominant partner. Nor can I say whether or
not more examples are to be found in the songs of other nations than
in our own. I have heard only one Italian song and two of the old
Spanish songs of love and grief, in a minor key, which seemed to me
perfect in the union of words and music: only, in all of these three
the poetry is less simple, less near to emotional speech, than in our
best examples.

The most perfect example I have heard, in any language, was a Breton
folk-song: and here again, as in _Auld Robin Gray_, we go back to the
early stages of art, and are nearest to the primitive. The singer was
a Breton peasant, an immigrant in South America who had drifted out to
the Argentine frontier and was a hired hand of a brother of mine at
his ranch in the wilderness.  He was a young man with a good voice,
and the song is the lament of a young girl in a decline who knows that
her life must shortly end. She is standing among the trees on a sunny
autumn day watching the yellow leaves fluttering in the wind and
falling all around her. It is her good-bye to nature and her life on
earth, for she will no more see the yellowing leaves in the autumn nor
spring when it returns to earth with bud and flower and the songs of
birds. And here, as in _Auld Robin Gray_, the melody and all the words
express are one; but it is better, since the passion is plangent and
the melody varies with the feeling, until, at its height, it is a cry
of exquisite anguish at the thought of all the sweetness and beauty of
life so quickly lost, then sinks again to sadness, to mournful
resignation and a vague hope.

This little song of a peasant haunted my mind for days; nevertheless,
I could not have said that it was good of its kind, being mistrustful
of my judgment in such matters, had it not been that my brother, who
was a lover of music, with a knowledge of it which I have never
possessed, was affected in the same way. It haunted his mind as it
haunted mine.

It remains to ask if this perfect union of music and poetry is ever
found in the higher stages of these arts.  We have seen that music is
not, and cannot, legitimately, be married to immortal verse; but the
union is possible, and perhaps frequent, between great music and the
simple poetry that is nearest to emotional speech. I recall King's
_Eve's Lamentation_ as a good example, and it occurs to me after
speaking of this folk-song, because the lament in both instances is
inspired by a similar feeling. The words, the poetry, set to the great
music are simple enough--"Must I leave thee, Paradise!"--and that cry
of the heart is in both words and music, and is ingeminated, and
grows, until, in the last abandonment of grief, it rises to the final
heart-broken and heart-piercing note.

The theme is the same--the everlasting farewell to Paradise in one
case, and to earth and life in the other--and the difference is that
between an art in its early undeveloped stage, and in its full
development. One, nearer to the common earth in the close resemblance
of the notes to the very sounds of lament with tears; the other, with
the same sounds cleansed of their earthiness--sublimated, glorified,
by a great art.


Instrumental music, one with vocal music in its origin--Instrumental
music in the lower animals--Insects--Cicada--Locusts--_Oecanthus_;
silence, moonlight and tears made audible--_Locusta viridissima_ and
music in insects and man--A robber fly's musical performance--Of
insect wing-music generally--Hover-fly--Birds as
instrumentalists--Storks and woodpeckers--Wings as instruments of
music--Wing slappings and clappings--Bleating of snipe--Origin of

The second part of the last chapter was not a digression, although, in
considering the relation between music and poetry, we seemed to have
got quite away from our own relationship with the lower animals; but
no sooner do we come to the subject of instrumental music than we find
ourselves once more mixed up with them. And this, to my thinking, is,
in our species, the better half of music.

In birds, owing to their soft feathery covering and to their hands and
arms being lost in their wings, music is mainly from the throat: so it
is with the batrachians that blow themselves out like bladders to get
them "a chamber of resonance" to pour out their souls in vocal sounds.
Here in England with our two modest frogs and a pair of toads, we know
little of the power of voice in that order of beings and the pure
musical sounds emitted by some species.

Insect music, on the other hand, is almost wholly instrumental and
would be entirely so but for the fact that in some species the sounds
are produced not solely by means of drums and bow and string apparatus
on the exterior of their scaly segmented body-casings, but partly from
the interior of their bodies.

The two forms of music--vocal and instrumental--are one and the same
in their origin, born simultaneously at the same impulse, consequently
Herbert Spencer is wrong in saying that all music is vocal in its
origin. In both, it is sound produced voluntarily for its own sake--a
sound or sounds originally produced for another purpose (sounds with
special functions), eventually produced in a modified form solely for

Thus, in instrumental music, it may be a call, like that of the
woodpecker when he drums on a tree; or of the _Anobius_ beetle, called
death-watch, when he makes his measured strokes on wood; or of the
rabbit thumping, a sound which, in that creature, has kept its
original purpose and is used for no other. But in the vizcacha, the
large burrowing rodent of the Argentine plains, the thumping has
developed into a performance practised for its own sake--a sort of
eccentric dance with an accompaniment of rapid thumpings or drummings
on the hard earth with the powerful hind feet.

Such sounds, then, produced solely for their own sake, for pleasure,
are the beginnings of instrumental music in both men and the lower
animals. In mammals and birds such sounds are as a rule accompanied by
vocal sounds, but not in the insects that have their tracheae in their
sides. On the other hand they have a horny case or covering, in
segments, with more or less horny wings which produce sound when
vibrated; thus they get sound from the surface of their own bodies by
means of friction of part against part, so that, except in a few
cases, it is purely instrumental. And as the sound is produced
voluntarily for its own sake it is their music.

We see, too, that its practice during millions of generations has led
to an infinite number of modifications in the structure of wings, legs
and segments in the hard covering; that in many kinds it has brought
about a complex stridulating apparatus; that wings and legs have
become studded with horny processes and are used just as the violinist
uses his bow to strike upon and draw across the embossed veinings,
which serve the purpose of strings.  In this way the music of the
orthopterous insects and in other orders is produced. Even the small
ants, which we know are a wise people, have their sesthetic sense and
have developed a stridulating instrument; albeit the sounds they draw
from it for their own pleasure are inaudible to us.

In some insects the modification of structure has been carried much
further, as in the cicada in which the entire body has become a
marvellously elaborate instrument of sound. A flat insect no bigger
than your thumb-nail can make himself heard a quarter of a mile away,
and often considerably further--think of it! With a voice like that,
proportioned to his size, a man in Kent could start singing and bring
thousands of people in France running out of their houses to listen to

As the entire body of this insect, inside and outside, has been
converted into an instrument of sound, with its drums and air
chambers, we can say of it that its music is both instrumental and
vocal, albeit without a vocal apparatus.

The loudness and shrillness of the sound, like an electric bell of
tremendous power, or the sound of sawing through an iron bar, was
distressing to the listener in the species I knew in South America;
like many others, I wondered how the ancient Greeks could have taken
delight in the music of their tettix. I discovered later, not from the
books but from my own observation, that there are cicadas and cicadas,
that some species are capable of pleasing sounds; and this knowledge,
oddly enough, came to me when listening to the _Cicada anglica_, the
one and only species we have in this country. The "song" of this
insect has been a debated question during the last hundred years or
more, many entomologists holding that it makes no sound at all: at
present it seems that I am the only naturalist in England who has
heard it, and could give an account of it, which I have no space to do
now, but will only say that it is a soft and a pleasing sound, and is
more like the music of a leaf-locust than of a cicada. If the cicada
of old Greece made as pleasing a sound as our British species their
partiality for it was not strange.

To come back to the orthopterous insects and their purely instrumental
music. It has been said that it can give us pleasure solely because of
its associations. This we can understand in the case of the "cricket
on the hearth"; also of the field cricket when we remember Gilbert
White's words: "Thus the shrilling of the field cricket, though sharp
and stridulous, yet marvellously delights some hearers, filling their
minds with a train of summer ideas of everything that is rural,
verdurous and joyous."

Into this question we need not go, but I am convinced that there are
many insects in this order that delight us with the intrinsic beauty
of the sounds they emit. They are few in this country, and owing to
their extremely local distribution they are not generally known; the
best among them is perhaps the large green grasshopper, _Locusta
viridissima_, which can have no associations for most of us, yet the
silvery shrillness of its sustained notes is pleasing to everyone.
This home insect, however, cannot compare in its music with many
exotic species. Of those known to me I will mention only one--a
leaf-locust of the genus _Oecanthus_, found throughout North and South

It is a slender, frail-looking insect, all of it, wings included, of a
pale, delicate green, the whole body like the wings looking almost
semi-transparent. By day it lies concealed in the clustered foliage of
trees and sings after dark and appears to be most tuneful on moonlight
nights.  It has a sustained note, repeated several times with silent
intervals of a second or less; then a longer interval of silence and
the strain once more. It is a soft and silvery sound, and differs also
from the music of other locusts and crickets in its _slowness_. For
the locust sound is not one, but a series of sounds following so
rapidly that they blend into one sustained chord of sound; whereas in
this insect the points or drops of sound are heard distinctly as
separate notes. Several American writers have tried to describe it;
thus Thoreau called it "slumberous breathing," and Hawthorne more
successfully describes it as "audible silence," and adds: "If
moonlight could be heard it would sound like that."

This is good, except that it omits a quality of the sound which is its
principal charm--its _expression_. That is, its tenderness, a quality
which we find in some bird music--our willow wren is an example--but
do not find in other insect music. It is the most melancholy of all
delicate sounds in nature; and because of its slow sadness and
musicalness you might imagine it to be a human sound, although not a
vocal one. Let us say, of a once human wood-haunting solitary
minstrel, now faded and dwindled away to an almost unsubstantial
entity, who no longer walks the earth but dwells in trees where he has
taken the colour and semi-transparence of the leaves he lives with;
that at night time, when the moon sheds a misty silveriness on the
dusky foliage, he wakes once more to memories of long-dead human
affections, and with moth-like fingers sweeps the strings, drawing out
those soft, low, yet clear penetrative sounds that make the silence
deeper, and float down to us like the sound of tears.

So far we have only considered insect music of the highest kind in
which sound is not only produced for its own sake, but is actually
drawn from elaborate musical instruments made for this sole purpose;
made or evolved, in any case a modification of the sound-producing
parts of the organism in response to a want and a desire in the
creature's life. This in man is what we call a desire to express
himself--to express something in him which is not solely, or not at
all, concerned with purely material needs; and as a result of this
desire we have singing, and playing on musical instruments; also
dancing, picture-painting and moulding or chiselling forms in
imitation of natural objects in clay, or wax, or stone, and various
other arts. The desire, the impulse, the instinct, is one and the same
in man and insect. To the musical and the artistic minded generally,
this may seem an unpleasant idea, a degradation of art to something
low and little. To the naturalist there is nothing low and little in
this sense. But we know that the fact of evolution in the organic
world was repellent to us for the same reason--because we did not like
to believe that we had been fashioned, mentally and physically, out of
the same clay as the lower animals.

When our great green grasshopper, _Locusta viridissima_, as described
by me in another book, sings to please himself and incidentally
pleases the listening female, he is so absorbed in his own performance
that he disregards her even when she follows him and casts herself in
his way. His musical passion overrules all others.  His attention is
drawn away to some other locust far from sight in some distant place
and insolently returning song for song; and forthwith he sets out to
find him, hidden somewhere in that thorny wilderness; and after much
labour having found him these two sing against one another, and
alternatively sing and listen, and listen and sing; then rush
together, whereupon each strives to tear the sounding instrument from
his opponent's back to silence him for ever, or, if possible, to kill
him outright.

We see, then, that this insect is moved by an artistic passion similar
to man's, only more powerful, and as sounds have a different value to
him owing to the difference in the senses, we can believe that his
shrill music gives him a greater delight than we receive from our best

>From the highest kinds of insect music let us now go to the
lowest--the humming sounds. These sounds are ordinarily supposed to be
produced solely by the vibration of the wings in flight and are wholly
involuntary. I was feelingly persuaded that this was not so, when,
during my early life, I used to go out to the bee-hives, and removing
a side from a hive would proceed to cut out honeycombs for the
breakfast table. I invariably knew just which one of a dozen or twenty
bees flying around would sting me from its strident humming, so
different from the soft, scarcely audible hum of the others; and no
sooner would I know it than the bee would be on me burying his sting
in my cheek. I also observed that when a long-legged house spider
captured a fly and enveloped it in a shroud-like webbing, the shrill
outcry of the fly was ten times louder than the sound he made when
flying.  Again, when a bumble bee entered the bell of a flower to find
a sweet store in its nectary, he emitted a shrill sustained sound
while drinking it without any movement of the wings. The sound
expressed its pleasure and doubtless the pleasure was all the greater
for the sound.

Much has been written on the anatomy of the fly with regard to its
sound-producing mechanism, and it is known that the sound is partly
produced by the vibrations of the wings and partly by other means,
also that it can be varied at will. Authorities differ as to the exact
process, but we are not concerned with these details.

The leaf-locust, _Oecanthus_, has been described as an example of the
best kind of music in the most musical insect order. Let me now
describe the highest performance known to me in the lower kind of
music the fly and other humming insects are capable of.

One of the most notable families in the Dipterous or Fly Order is the
Asilidse, our common Robber Flies; large rapacious flies that have a
world-wide distribution and vary greatly in form, size and colouring.
In the typical genus they are of a crane-fly grey in colour with long
hairy legs and under parts. The fly to be described is of this genus,
but I am in doubt as to the species, which is either _Asilus
rufiventris_ or a species closely allied. It is one of the commonest
robber flies in Argentina and its habits are similar to those of the
order generally. Thus, it places itself with head up, in a vertical
position on a stem or blade of grass in an open place where it can
watch for insects passing overhead. When an insect, not a wasp or bee,
though it sometimes makes a mistake, comes flying by, it darts swiftly
up as if shot from a tube and, clasping its victim with its long spiny
legs, brings it to the ground and there struggles with it, prodding it
in the softer parts with its proboscis until it is dead. Its ordinary
flight is silent, or the humming sound is so low as to be scarcely
audible. When the male catches sight of a female seated on a stem he
flies to her and balances himself motionless in the air about three
inches from and on a level with her. He then emits a clear sustained
humming sound, and after some seconds changes the key to a higher,
shriller note; and presently this again changes to a still higher
note, so sharp and fine that it is most like the piping of a large
species of mosquito. After these three notes the highest and brightest
is succeeded by a buzzing sound, like that of a buzzing wasp, but not
prolonged, and it comes like measured strokes--buzz, buzz, buzz, and
at each repetition the fly drops down a space of about two inches, and
at the same time throws out and oars his legs, then rises to the
former level; then after this note has been repeated a dozen or more
times, again the deeper sustained hum, and all the changes.

It is all a musical performance, and the only motive one can see or
divine is simply the pleasure it gives to the performer; for after it
has lasted a long time he flies away, or she flies off and leaves him.
But though it ends in nothing, and she sits immobile through most of
it, it is evident that it also affords her some pleasure to hear it,
since at intervals, especially during the highest and brightest note,
she responds, beating time, as it were, with a measured buzz, buzz,
buzz, and at each repetition of the sound throwing her wings out at
right angles to her upright body. I have watched and listened to this
performance hundreds of times since my childhood without losj ing
interest in it. It is the only humming and dancing performance in
insects known to me which may be described as a set artistic one and
on a par with bird performances of a similar character. But I believe
that all dipterous insects, albeit they have not evolved any such set
performances, yet in their freer way do find the chief pleasure of
their brief lives in aerial exercises with the accompaniment of music.
The fly, we are informed by the authorities, has three different tones
in humming when on the wing. I believe that if we had a sense of
hearing capable of catching the finer tones we could say that they had
many more than three; that if by means of some invention the sound of
a cloud of midges or gnats or of house-flies in a room, perpetually
revolving in their aerial dances, could be fully conveyed to our
sense, it would be a tangle of an infinite number of individual sounds
as varied as the concert singing of a multitude of linnets or
starlings. On any hot summer's day in the open country you hear a loud
continuous hum from aloft; it is the sound of tens of thousands of
individual sounds of insects flying high in the air all fused into one
sound, resembling the hum of a distant threshing machine. They spend
their days in these exercises; it is their happiness--music and motion
combined. Incidentally, it leads to pairing just as our own ball-room
exercises often lead to marriage.

One of the commonest flies in the world, found all over the world, is
the hover-fly; the species of its family in this country alone runs
into hundreds, consequently it should be familiar to everyone and
admired above all flies. Bee-shaped, but brighter in colour, it is
often mistaken by the dull myopic vision of those who are not
naturalists for a bee or wasp with a sting. It is to a honey-bee at
his slow pollen-gathering work as a fairy to a sweating harvester. So
active and swift is it, there is no other creature to compare with
it--not the swift itself, nor the humming-bird, swiftest of all birds.
It is more like a meteor than any organic thing, or an electron,
magnified and vitalised. Of all the myriads of organic forms thrown
off like a sparkling dust from the ever-revolving wheel of life, this
fly is the most aerial, most spirit-like, so that when it suspends
itself motionless in mid-air before your eyes it is like a fly made of
air with the sunlight coming through it. It is, in fact, the highest
achievement of Nature in this direction, in the fashioning of a living
thing so light and volatile that the down of dandelion or floating
gossamer threads seem heavy in comparison.

The whole life of this fly, as a fly, is passed in a perpetual joyous
game, or rather dance, with little intervals for rest and refreshment;
a miraculous dance in which it suspends itself, still as a stone-fly
suspended in the air, then suddenly vanishes to describe a hundred
fantastic figures in its flight, like a skater figure-skating on the
ice, with such velocity as to be now invisible and now seen a9 a faint
shadowy line by the onlooker.

It has the habit, like that of the humming-bird, of darting close to
your face and remaining motionless in the air for some time, and when
thus suspended close to your face you are able to hear and appreciate
the sounds it emits--the fine clear musical note and its changes. I
cannot but believe at such times that its wing-music is as much to the
insect itself as are its brilliant fantastic motions; that if the fly
could be magnified to the size of, let us say, a humming-bird, and the
sound it produced increased in the same degree and made audible to us,
we should find the music an appropriate and an essential part of the

Nor do I believe that this joy is confined to the dipterous insects: I
would say that all flying insects receive pleasure from the sounds
they emit, even as do the non-flyers that make their music on trees or
on the ground, or even under it, like the mole cricket; I would, in
fact, include all wing-made sounds, from the inaudible pipe of the
dancing midge to the drowsy hum of honey-bees and the booming of the
big carpenter and bumble-bees; the dry-leaf buzzing of wasps; the
sharp silky rustle of dragon-flies and the drone of beetles, such as
that of our own stag-beetle that swings by at eventide with a sound
like that of an aeroplane in the clouds.

Birds, we have seen, do not shine as instrumentalists; the wonder is
that, shaped as they are, they have been able to produce any music
other than vocal, and by music I mean sound for its own sake.

We may suppose that their inability to produce sound in any other way
owing to their conformation has only served to make them more vocal,
so that their voices exceed those of all other creatures, human or
animal, in power and brilliance and purity and all lovely qualities,
if we except the sounds which are lovelier to us because of their
expression, or, in other words, because they are human and ours.
Nevertheless, some species have succeeded in producing instrumental
sounds, and in a few the sound is made with the beak alone. Thus, the
storks rattle their long powerful horny beaks to express quite a
variety of emotions--alarm and anger, or as a challenge or threat to
an enemy; they also rattle greetings to their friends, and again
rattle to express a happy or contented frame of mind. The rattling
then becomes a sort of rude music, less elaborate but in character
similar to the teeth-gnashing musical performances of my friend the
Basque described in a former chapter.

Many other birds--the owls are an example--snap their beaks, but this
sound, so far as I know, is solely an expression of anger.

In the woodpeckers the beak is used as a stick to drum on wood, and
this drumming is a wonderful accomplishment.  I have watched all our
three species of woodpeckers in England when drumming scores of times,
and even when near and with my binocular on the bird it was hard to
see that the head moved at all, it moved with such celerity, rocking
from side to side, apparently delivering the blows on the wood with
the sides of the beak. If I drum with a vulcanite or metal pencil or
pen on a branch as hard and as rapidly as I am able, the sound would
not carry twenty yards, whereas I can hear the green woodpecker
drumming with his much smaller pencil and the small power in his neck
muscles not less than a quarter of a mile away. He also has the power
to modify the sound and use it to express different moods and
emotions.  It is a call to inform his mate of his whereabouts; it is
also a love call; also a challenge to a rival or intruder on his
domain; and he also indulges in it at intervals solely for its own
sake--for the pleasure the sound gives him--and it is then a sort of
instrumental music.

But almost all bird sounds that are not vocal are made with the
wings--chiefly with the hard stiff quills, or flight feathers. Thus,
some gallinaceous species trail their hard feathers and produce a
scraping sound when performing their dances. In other species there
are wing-slappings and clappings. The slapping performance is
remarkable in one species I am familiar with--the widgeon of South
America. Like its European relation, it is a loquacious bird with a
fine voice--whistles and trills. It has the habit of rising in small
companies of five or six to a dozen birds to an immense height, not
circling upwards, but climbing the air like a skylark, until it is so
far up as to appear like a floating black speck in the sky. At that
great altitude it will remain hovering for an hour, uttering its
various vocal sounds, the birds keeping a yard or so apart; but at
intervals they close in a bunch and with their wings strike resounding
blows on the wings of those nearest to them, and even when the birds
are no longer visible the sound is heard like hand-clappings in the

The best example of wing-clapping is that of our common nightjar, and
is most interesting in localities where the bird is abundant, when
half a dozen to a dozen or more meet of an evening to wheel about like
a company of playful swallows--a sort of wild aerial dance with the
accompaniment of various strange cries and wing-clappings.  Doubtless
long practice has greatly modified the structure of the wing joints,
so that the bird is able to smite his wings together over his back
with such violence as to produce a sound as loud as a hand-clap.

It is a very rough and primitive sort of music, but in the snipe--the
"goat of heaven"--the feathers have been modified to produce a more
elaborate kind of music--a filing or scraping sound in some species
and a tremulous bleating sound in others. These are so like vocal
sounds that one does not wonder that the controversy as to whether
they were vocal or instrumental lasted quite a hundred years in

One is not certain as to how the curious grunting followed by shrill
glass-shattering sounds emitted by the woodcock when roding, as its
aerial love-performance is called, are produced. To my ear they are
like a combination of the two kinds of sound.

Sound of some kind is produced by the wings in flying in most birds,
the notable exception being the owls that have softened feathers; and
it is from the involuntary sounds--creaking, humming and
whistling--that whatever wing-music exists has been evolved. There is
reason to believe that the birds themselves have as much enjoyment in
it as in their vocal exercises. We see this in the snipe, that makes
the most of its feather-sounding powers in its downward rushes, with
the feathers set at the right angle. Also in all those birds that
produce horn-blowing sounds with their wings. I have heard these from
birds of widely different orders--hawks, shore birds and others. It is
also probable, in all those song-birds, like the pipits, that have the
habit of rising high in the air to come down like a parachute, the
wings pressed to the sides with the flight feathers thrust out at a
sharp angle, that the wing-music as it descends singing is to the bird
itself an essential part of the performance.

Pigeons make a distinct musical sound with their wings when gliding,
and one cannot but think that they glide for the pleasure they have in
the sound. Again, there are numberless species that produce when
flying a more or less musical humming sound, continuous or
intermittent in those that have a rising and falling flight, and this
too I believe is a pleasure to the birds, and that they spend much
time on the wing for the sake of it.

In this chapter I have dealt briefly with an extensive subject, but a
great array of facts, which may be found in scores of books, were not
needed to enable the reader to see what I mean: I give but few facts,
and those mostly gathered by myself in the field. The larger part of
the subject, or at all events that part of it which seems most
interesting to us as human beings--instrumental music in man--remains
to be treated in the next chapter.


Instrumental music and its evolution--A book that is wanted--Fashion,
caprice and selection--The piano made perfect--The quality most
desired in musical sound--A bird and insect illustration--Naturalness
of instrumental music--A bird voice and the power of expression--Human
expression of instrumental music--The harp--Obsolete and reigning
instruments--A first experience of great music--Cause of different
effects produced by bird and human music--Conclusion.

Coming to the subject of instrumental music in man, I consider it
fortunate that I know absolutely nothing of music as an art--as music
presents itself to the informed and the adept. I know, that is to say,
just as much about it as is known to the vast majority of the
inhabitants of this country, who never had a music lesson and are
unable to read a note; who hear no music in their homes nor anywhere
except in a church or chapel or concert-room, if they ever go to such
places, or when they by chance hear a brass band in the street.

It was but yesterday that a lady, getting up from her seat at the
piano and sweeping round upon me like a queen of tragedy, exclaimed:
"But you don't understand!  You can't know what music is to me! It is
my life!"

And that is precisely why I am pleased to think I am not a musical
person, since if I were that it would disqualify me from treating such
a subject in a way proper to this book, that is to say, as a
naturalist, from the evolutionary point of view, as I have already
treated the instrumental music of birds, beasts, batrachians, and

I understand the lady's attitude only too well, alas!  and I shut my
eyes as tight as I can just not to see the Lamia or Lilith, or by
whatever name we like to name this too fascinatingly beautiful serpent
who steals into our heart and clouds and mocks our understanding.

It is unnecessary here to hark back to the origin of such music in
man--its small pitiful beginnings, which are alike in man and the
lower animals--in both a result of the impulse and desire to make a
sound for its own sake. It remains to speak of it as we find it in its
actual state of development.

We have noted a great difference in the instrumental music of the West
and East; that in the former this music has been progressive for many
centuries, while in the latter it appears to be non-progressive, also
that the instruments it retains and values are the same as or resemble
those which were also ours in a lower stage of music culture, and have
long been discarded.

It strikes me as a great want in our literature of music that we have
no comprehensive work on this development of European instrumental
music. There exists in our musical histories and dictionaries an
enormous amount of material for such a work. It is a subject which
could not fail to inspire and hold the interest of any student of
music who should undertake it. Such a book would appeal to a very
large public, which would not be of music-lovers only, but would
include all who are interested (and who is not?) in the history of our
race and civilisation from the point of view of evolution.

No doubt there is fashion in instruments as in many other things. Have
the old instruments been cast aside merely from caprice, or because
others were invented or improved and become the fashion, just as in
the case of lap-dogs, which ladies keep to fondle in their
drawing-rooms, one sees a pug or griffon in favour one day and cast
off the next for a Pekinese? The effect of fashion and caprice cannot
be wholly excluded, but the main cause of all changes has been a
principle of selection, of accumulating improvements, deliberately
sought or hit upon by chance. Thus, we know how it has been with the
pianoforte. We hardly want our musical masters to tell us, when we
listen to performances on the virginal, spinet and harpsichord, that
it was the thinness of the music of these and of the instruments which
preceded and were their prototypes--psaltery, dulcimer, monochord,
etc.--which acted as a perpetual prick to inventive musical minds--a
sense of dissatisfaction which was in itself prophetic of a fuller,
deeper, richer music. The better in due time came to be: thus, we have
the pianoforte-of to-day, and it is inconceivable that there should be
any further improvement in it, since any advance, any change, would
simply mean its transformation into a different instrument.

The evolution of the piano has not, however, proceeded on identical
lines with that of other instruments, wind and string. Thus, the chief
value of the piano is as an accompaniment to the voice, to assist and
strengthen it, to form a background to it and give it a richness it
would not otherwise have. It serves a similar purpose in orchestral
music, albeit as a background to violin, 'cello, and other orchestral
instruments, it has less value.

In listening to a great performer I may be so charmed, so carried
away, as to think the piano the supreme instrument; yet when it is
over I go away with a sense of something wanting: it has not wholly
satisfied me: after all it is not the supreme instrument. That which I
most desire in music, which most delights me, is a quality wanting in
the piano, or not possessed in the same degree as I find in other
instruments. This quality, this charm, is in the _expression_, by
which I mean the human associations of the sound. And as it is with
man so it is with all sound-producing beings, from the highest
vertebrate to the insect. Each has its own specific associations, its
recognition of a special sound, the meaning of the memories it

Here is an illustration. I had as a visitor to my window in London a
woodpigeon who came every day to devour any food it found on the tray
kept there for the birds. It was an excessively shy pigeon, and as
long as I remained in the room, even with the window closed, it would
stand motionless watching me suspiciously, and at any movement I made
it would rush off and not return for several hours. Probably someone
had attempted its capture, so that it looked on all of us who have the
human form as dangerous beings. This uncomfortable state of things
lasted for over a year; then one day it occurred to me to mimic the
cooing of a woodpigeon: this instantly attracted its attention, and
from that moment it began to lose its suspicion and allowed me to go
to the window and watch it feeding; then, in a short time, it actually
began coming into the room to feed on the table.

Again, take the case of the great green grasshopper, the most musical
of our insects. You may try him with a variety of sounds, and whistle
and sing your sweetest and play the flute or fiddle and he will pay no
attention; but try him with a zither, running a finger-nail over the
strings, and instantly he is all attention, listening and moving his
long antennse about, and presently he will start playing on _his_
zither in response to yours.

You have come down to his world, his species, and touched a chord in
his grasshopper heart. And as with grasshoppers so it is with man. We
are interested above all things in ourselves; in the sound that
touches a chord in us, and the chord may be touched by instrument or
voice. They are, so far as expression goes, one and the same, and the
closer we look at them the more indivisible they seem. When Izaak
Walton praises the sweet music the nightingale makes with "his little
instrumental throat" he is stating a literal truth: the bird's singing
organ is an instrument of music, only he carries it within his body
instead of attached to his exterior like that of locust and cricket.
One recalls Samuel Butler's notion concerning machinery; how that the
machine is an extension of or an addition to our own organs, a growth
as it were, which has come about just as the organs themselves have
come in response to a need, a desire. That is how it is with the
locust's instrument; and even as his came to the locust so have our
instruments come to us and are more like natural growths than any
machine.  One emanates from the brain, the other from heart and brain,
and this last is to man like the flower to the plant.  How like it
when we trace back the evolutionary history of the one and the other;
from the first small inconspicuous beginnings of the flower to the
marvellous result--the perfection in form and colour and fragrance!
And the instruments of sound, that have gathered into themselves all
the emotions of our lives and return them to us transformed to
something inexpressibly beautiful!

To return to the subject of bird-music and the expression in some of
it which constitutes its principal charm--the human note or quality
refined and brightened.  We recognize in it several of our common
species, the barn or chimney swallow, for example, the pied wagtail,
the willow wren, the blackcap, the rock dove, stock dove and ring
dove, the wood owl, the cuckoo and, best of all perhaps, in the
blackbird. John Davidson, the poet, spoke of the "blackbirds with
their oboe voices," and we usually describe their strains as
fluttering: and flute and oboe are sister voices in the choir.

We may then imagine and look at birds as musical instruments, which we
ourselves invented, which acquired from our hands and breath a life of
their own and wings to fly with; and now in their independent lives
they have made a music of their own but retain, mingled with it, some
of the old remembered sounds.

Here I cannot resist the temptation of recalling an old memory, an
incident of my youth on the pampas, for not only is it a story which I
think worth relating, but it is the best example I have ever met with
of the power of association a bird sound may have. Such associations
are never felt more than in lonely desert places, especially when we
are alone with a savage or unhumanised nature which brings the latent
animism in us to life.

I was at a dance in a gaucho's house, and going into a small room
adjoining the big living-room where the dancing was in progress I
found a dozen or fourteen men, all gauchos, engaged in a hot argument
as to which life was best for a man--that of the frontier and desert,
or that of the settled districts, where there was safety and human
companionship. Some held that the life of adventure and danger on the
frontier was the best for a man, as it taught him to rely on himself
for everything and brought out all the latent power and cunning in
him. It made him quick to see danger, to fly in time or to strike
before being struck: to be prepared against all emergencies, and above
everything to take proper care of his horses. It made him a man, a
_gaucho_--proud of his skill and strength. There was a savour in that
life which satisfied him above all others.

Then followed the speech from the other side which so impressed me,
from a man I knew, named Bruno Lopez. He was a middle-aged man, a
gambler and fighter and something of a ruffian; but in spite of his
faults there was that in him which made people like him; when not in a
quarrelsome mood he was very genial, and took everyone into his heart.

He said he knew what the life of the frontier and the desert was, none
better, since he had spent years as a frontiersman, also on several
occasions he had been a fugitive from justice in the desert on account
of some accident or misfortune which had befallen him. But he was
never happy there. He was contented enough when on horseback from
morning to night, or when doing something, also he could endure cold
and hunger and thirst and fatigue as well as any man. But when his
active day was finished, when he was alone in the desert under the
sky, or in a hovel on the plains, and there was no one with him, no
friend, no woman or child, he felt the loneliness. He felt it most
when the sun went down, and a shadow came over all the earth; when he
looked to this side and to that, and as far as he could see it was all
a waste of tall grasses where there was no thatched roof, no smoke
rising from any hearth; and then at that moment, the sun going down,
the big partridge called from the grass and another bird answered the
call, then another, until from all over the plain came the sound of
their calling. What was it in the voice of that bird that made his
heart so heavy, that there were times when he felt he could cast
himself face down on the ground and cry like a woman?  Was it that the
voice told him he was alone on the earth?

The bird he spoke of was the rufous tinamu, called _perdiz grande_
(big partridge) in the vernacular, on account of its superficial
resemblance in colour and shape to the partridge; a bird the size of a
fowl with a very beautiful voice, its evening call being composed of
two long clear notes followed by a trisyllabic note, or a phrase of
three notes strongly accented on the first, with the human
contralto-like quality which gave it the beautiful expression.

It was, I take it, this character of the sound which touched a chord
in him and gave him that divine despair, and made the tears rise in
his heart; his words, in fact, were almost those of the poet when he
says of such tears, "I know not what they mean."

It had seemed to me that he was talking poetry, but he spoilt the
effect when, in conclusion of his argument, he threw his head back,
and pursing out his lips attempted to give us a whistled imitation of
the bird's evening song. It was a ludicrous failure, and made us
laugh. But it was not wanted; his words had brought back to our minds
a memory, an image, of that voice of the desert, since we were all
familiar with it although the bird was not to be met short of two
hundred or more miles from where we were spending the night in the
settled country. For this tinamu with a beautiful voice vanishes when
cattle and their masters come to eat down the tall grasses and kill
the birds for the pot. It is essentially a bird of the desert pampas,
on which account the gaucho setting out for the frontier tells you he
is going to the plains "where the partridge sings."

No more need be said on this subject of the value that natural sounds
and particularly bird voices have for us as human beings. It is
precisely this element, the human expression, which gives its chief
attraction to instrumental music. Herbert Spencer was not quite right
in saying that _all_ music is an idealisation of human emotions. We
have seen that music for him was almost exclusively vocal music, or at
all events that he hardly touches on instrumental music when dealing
with this subject. There is instrumental music devoid of expression
that we cherish or tolerate solely because it is an intrinsically
pleasing sound and tickles our hearing.  And going back in time we
find that it is precisely the instruments of this character which have
successively lost their attraction and been discarded. Nevertheless,
the element of caprice and fashion cannot be excluded. I cannot, for
instance, see any other reason for the retention of such an instrument
as the piccolo, which in solo-playing may tickle even a modern's ear
with its million fantastic flourishes, as of a superior singing mouse
or a squealing piglet of genius, but in orchestral music is distinctly
offensive. Caprice, then, has served to retard progress, although
probably much more in home or domestic than in orchestral music
performed in public. Thus we find that an instrument beautiful to our
ears, and with the quality of expression which should make it dear to
our hearts, may yet lose favour. The harp is an example: and in this
case it may be said that it was ousted from the house by the piano, a
bigger, louder, more varied instrument; an important-looking piece of
furniture for a drawing-room; moreover, an instrument that any
daughter of the house, however stupid or unmusical she might be, could
be taught to strum on after a fashion. Again, we see that in
orchestral music the harp has become almost negligible, and for a good
reason, since that which is best in it, its delicate and tender
expression, is lost in sounds that express more to us, greater
emotions, and have a more violent appeal.

We may say then that the piano superseded the harp because it was more
suitable for everyone, including the coarser-minded and
stumpy-fingered, whereas the harp called for special qualities in the
player which are not common, certainly not universal--refinement and
what was once called sensibility, and above all spirituality.  May we
not go even further and believe that such an instrument in the house,
with such a history--it is really "older than history" and after a
thousand changes was brought down but a little over a century ago to
its present state of exquisite perfection--may we not believe that the
music of such an instrument, with the sight of its beautiful shape,
has a reflex effect on player and listeners to make them better than
they were made? I speak of it here solely as a home instrument, not as
a voice lost in the tumult of mightier orchestral voices.

To return. If we listen to the thin tinkling sounds of the instruments
which are now practically obsolete, seeing that those who are still
able to perform on them are but a few enthusiasts, we can yet
understand why they have had a great past and that they were once as
near and dear to those who listened to them as the very voices of
their loved ones. For they do still keep something of their ancient
charm, especially the clavicord, and we have to say of them, as of
many other things, "The beautiful has vanished and returns not." At
the same time we cannot but know the cause of their going; that they
cannot make the same appeal to us as to our forebears because we have
something better--instruments with a stronger human expression. But
those sounds that have the greatest charm on this account are not and
must not be like vocal sounds. They are like an echo of vocal music;
an echo which is not precise--an echo, but like voices of spirits that
hear us and take up and reproduce our singing; and in it we recognise
ourselves, all our deepest emotions, purified, brightened,
spiritualised; earthly passions recollected in regions beyond the

The instruments which have this quality in the highest degree are
undoubtedly the violin, the 'cello and double bass, the flute and the
oboes, the clarionet, the trombone, the bassoon: these with others in
a less degree give us the fullest satisfaction, their value varying
according to the degree of expression they are capable of. It is
always the human voice spiritualised and made unearthly; and no sooner
does it rise or, rather, degenerate into a too close resemblance to
the human voice (or any other natural sound) than it repels us: we
feel this in what is called the _vox humana_ of the organ. I have also
felt it where in an otherwise beautiful piece, descriptive of spring,
an exact imitation of the cuckoo's or the nightingale's song has been
introduced. The least touch of what may be called realism in music is
fatal to its charm and its mystery.

Listening to great music my feet are off the ground.  I float away as
in the dream called levitation and am in another realm far removed
from earth, inhabited by beings who were once of the earth. I hear
them, a great company, coming towards me, singing and chanting as they
come, and recognise in their clarified and infinitely beautiful voices
the voices that were once of earth, and in their singings hear their
memories of the earth.

These feelings which music invoke in me serve to remind me of my first
experience of great orchestral music.  My musical readers accustomed
to haunt the Queen's Hall and such places may smile at what I call my
_great_ music, but it came to me as a revelation as if, even I, a
little boy from the wilds, had been snatched up and borne away into
some unearthly region. The music I had so far heard was of the guitar,
an instrument to be found in every native ranch or hovel. There were
six or seven kept at my home, so that each of us children could have
one to play with and play on if he could learn how. No other
instrument was ever heard, except a trumpet, when by chance a troop of
soldiers in their scarlet uniforms came our way, or the sound of a
horn blown by the driver of a diligence. The _great_ music first came
to me when I was taken on one of our annual visits to Buenos Ayres
city. There I saw troops reviewed in the chief plaza and heard the
military bands. Then I discovered the cathedral and its orchestral
music, for there was no organ. Coming into this great building on a
great saint's day, I heard for the first time the wonderful sounds.
They came from above, and entranced and drawn by such sounds, although
I was as shy as any little wild animal, I crept up three or four
flights of broad stairs to find myself at length in the gallery
itself, where a dozen or fourteen men were performing on "instruments
of unknown forms." There I remained during the whole performance,
listening, absorbed, entranced, lifted out of myself, trembling with
an excess of delight such as I had never before experienced. For that
joy I had to pay pretty dearly, since the music haunted me afterwards
day and night for weeks, until it became a torment, at first a
delicious pain, but eventually almost pure pain.

This troubled me a great deal; for even after the pain had gone I
continued to remember and think about it; and as others I spoke to on
the subject appeared not to have suffered in the same way I began to
fear that I was "peculiar"--that there was something wrong with my
nerves. Then, at long last, when in my teens I first read Gilbert
White's _Selborne_, I came on a passage which exactly described my own
sensations and it was a comfort to me since I knew now that others had
felt about music as I did, and had not gone out of their minds. The
passage occurs in a letter to Daines Barrington:

You that understand both the theory and practical part of music may
best inform us why harmony or melody should so strongly affect some
men, as it were by recollection, for days after a concert is over.
What I mean the following passage will explain: "He preferred the
music of birds to vocal and instrumental harmony, not that he did not
take pleasure in any other, but because the other left in the mind
some constant agitation, disturbing the sleep and the attention;
whilst the several varieties of sound and concord go and return
through the imagination: whereas no such effect can be produced by the
modulation of birds because, as they are not equally imitable by us,
they cannot equally excite the internal faculty." (Gassendi, in his
_Life of Peiresc_.)

This curious quotation strikes me much by so well representing my own
case, and by describing what I have so often felt, but never could so
well express. When I hear fine music I am haunted with passages
therefrom, night and day: and especially at first waking, which, by
their importunity, give me more uneasiness than pleasure: elegant
lessons still tease my imagination, and recur irresistibly to my
recollection at seasons, and even when I am desirous of thinking of
more serious matters.

The only comment to be made on Gilbert White's comment is that if he
had given a moment's thought to the subject he would have seen how far
from the truth, how absurd even, was the explanation which he accepts
unquestioning because it was Gassendi's. Great music does not continue
to haunt my mind after hearing it, because it is imitable, and I am
resolved as soon as I can pull myself together to imitate it and am
furiously excited about it. And as to bird music, it doesn't haunt me
not because it is inimitable, and I am not such a fool as to imagine
it is, consequently I just enjoy it and think no more about it.

The true explanation of the haunting effect has already been given by
anticipation in this chapter. The continued agitation is due to the
expression in music which affects us in different degrees. And I take
it that we are far more powerfully affected by orchestral music than
by vocal, because singing is wholly, purely human and is ours, but
instrumental music is not ours in the same way: it is ours, as I have
said, but clarified, beautified, spiritualised beyond the range of the
human voice, and the expression is consequently intensified.

Lest this should not appear obvious I will state it in other words:
the effect is intensified for the very reason that it is not wholly
human--wholly of the earth, like our own voices; but is reminiscent of
the earth and our earthly lives. It stirs us more than the voice
because it _is_ the voice, clarified, beautified, coming to us from
otherwhere; and the effect is thus similar to that of any human-like
sound or tone, in itself beautiful, heard in solitude or in a lonely
desert place; or, to give a concrete instance, like the contralto
sound in the modulated evening call of the tinamu, which made the
tears gather in the heart and rise to the eyes of my friend the

Passages from other writers could be quoted on this point and I will
only quote one, perhaps the most remarkable, from Rousseau's _Nouvelle

But when, after a successsion of agreeable airs, came those vast
bursts of inspiration which arouse, and which depict, the turbulence
of mighty passions, I lost in a moment all idea of music, of
imitation, of song: I seemed to hear voices of grief, of transport, of
despair: I seemed to gaze on weeping mothers, on forsaken lovers, on
fierce kings: and in the agitation of my mind it was only by strenuous
effort that I refrained from leaping to my feet.  Such impressions
never _can_ be felt by halves; either they are violent to excess, or
they are nothing; poor, weak, or limited they cannot be; either the
mind remains insensible, or it breaks all bounds. For music is either
the vain and empty babble of an unknown tongue, or else a vast
tempestuousness of passion which sweeps away the soul.

It is true that music is a "vast tempestuousness"--to some of us, to
those in fact who feel that it is so, seeing that we are not all
susceptible in the same degree.  The whole passage is true in a sense
as conveying the feelings experienced to a reader. But Rousseau was a
literary person, an artist in words, and not a naturalist bound to the
literal truth, and when in order to get his effect it was necessary to
invent, he invented. Thus his vision of weeping mothers, forsaken
lovers, and fierce kings, was all an after-thought: all put in for the
sake of the colour. For there is this about music and its "vast
tempestousness"; the _expression_ due to its human associations,
without which it would tickle our ears but not touch our hearts, is
not a recollection of vanished scenes and faces, or of anything
definite, anything imaged by the mind--the passions that have swayed
the soul on particular occasions and long-past states of happiness and
misery; it is the _feeling_ that all these events and passions have
left in the mind, even after the actual facts, the cause of the
associations, have been forgotten.  The feeling creates the
expression, and as every individual life differs in its emotional
experiences and the subsequent associations from every other life, the
expression which each one of us finds in music, and in whatever he
sees and hears, is his own and differs from that of others.

To return to my own experiences. In time, when I had more and a fuller
experience of music, vocal and instrumental, in concert halls and
operas, the agitation grew less and less until after years I could
listen and take my pleasure without any painful after effects.
Something of the original disturbing power in music remains, when, for
instance, I have listened to a great symphony or a great opera and am
haunted for days by a persistent recurrence of certain passages; but
it is no longer a pain. Or, if a pain, it is a pain one would not
willingly forgo.

In conclusion of this chapter I am concerned to think that the musical
reader may have misunderstood the words used at the outset, when,
after confessing to my ignorance of music, I stated that the subject
would be instrumental music as it exists. The chapter itself will
serve to show that it was never my intention to deal with music as an
art and a science, but to regard it solely from the evolutionary point
of view as an outcome of life, as natural as singing--to treat of its
development, of the qualities which were most prized in it and of the
consequent changes that have come about in the construction of
instruments, and the successive improvements in those which possessed
the desired quality in the highest degree and the elimination of
others which were without it. I have not then gone beyond my last, the
modest ambition of a field naturalist to see the things that lie on
the surface. It is for the biologist to seek for pearls in the deep
waters; for me to keep to the safe shallows where the children paddle,
and the wet sands at low tide where I can gather my little harvest--my
ribbons of sea-weed and a few painted shells.


Difficulty of ending a story without end--Art as universal
instinct--Plastic art tracked by a footprint--Primitive expression of
the colour-sense--And of the actor's and story-teller's
arts--Santayana criticised--Insignificance of art in relation to
life--An image of a cloudy sky--The cry that calls attention to
something seen--An everlasting aspiration--The artist's creed--A way
to something better--The author's credentials--"Unemotional music" and
the ordinary man--A picture seen in boyhood--Sense of beauty a
universal possession--Definition of "field naturalist"--The perpetual
flux of artistic theory, a sign of progress beyond art--An unanswered

This being a story without an end, I have known all along that there
could be no proper coming down with the usual bird-like slide and
glide and the light touch of the dropped feet on its native earth. A
bump instead, and an uncomfortable tumble to the ground. One revolts
against such a termination, and no sooner have I put the pen down than
I pick it up again to add something that might, or ought to be said,
and, incidentally, to soften the fall. My trouble in making this
conclusion is that I have been drifting away from the Hind in Richmond
Park, with her trumpet ears, and from the animal which was my support.
It is clear that I should have to drift further away still, even into
speculative matters which are dangerous; that to go on in the way I
have been doing, obedient to the "suggestion of contiguity," the
subject of the last chapter would have to be continued, and to follow
that of art generally and its meaning. Not art as the artist sees it,
but art as seen from the outside, as an impulse, an instinct, as
sense, in all of us. For albeit we use the word in a metaphorical
sense when we speak of the sense of beauty, it is in reality a sense,
a subject as proper to the field naturalist as the senses of smell, of
direction and of polarity and migration. But to treat it fully as it
appears to my mind, would take me far beyond the limits set to this
book, and the most I can now do is to indicate as briefly as may be
the line the argument would follow.  It concerns the meaning of art,
as I have said, from the evolutionary naturalist's point of view,
founded mainly on observation of one's own feelings and experience.

Thus, to go back to music: certain sounds attract and please us on
account of their intrinsic beauty and novelty: by-and-by they draw to
themselves or become mixed with associations, some the result of
personal experience, others probably inherited, and the feeling they
produce in us is confounded with the desire to express it in just that
way--in sounds. Sound is but one thing that makes this kind of appeal
to us. Thus, the child that goes bare-footed over the smooth wet sands
looks at the perfect impression left by its foot, and is pleased at
the sight, and has even a dawning sense of creative power, and
eventually this feeling and idea leads to creation.  In Patagonia I
found in some fragments of ancient primitive pottery of baked clay an
ornamentation made by pressing the finger-tips with the curved nails
on the moist clay; then I found other fragments partly decorated
symmetrically with small rhomboidal marks, and this decoration had
been made by pressing the segmented shell of the armadillo on the clay
before baking. This, I should say, was the first conscious step taken
in the direction of plastic art after the involuntary print of a foot
on the wet sand had stirred the sense of beauty and the creative

This extremely primitive artistic effort of the ancient Patagonians
represents a stage of culture very far below that of the cavemen in
Europe with their graphic pictures of wild animals incised on rock and
bone. But we can see all the early stages in our own young barbarians
playing in a mud-puddle, progressing from printing a foot with all its
little toes complete to the moulding of "mud-pies," and so on till the
period of drawing human figures on a slate--an O with two eye-dots for
its head; a straight and broadened line for the body, with two lines
below for legs and two above for arms. And that is how the human form
is represented by the Green-landers and Samoyedes. The grey Samoyede
and the five-year-old civilised child are mentally on a level in art,
while both in a sense are contemporaries of the Pata-gonian savage of
a thousand years ago, and they are very much older than the cavemen of
Europe who probably perished of cold during the glacial epoch.

Again, when observing little children out in search of wild fruit,
first the children of Patagonian savages and later English village
children, I have seen them laughing with pleasure at the sight of each
other stained red and purple, and then deliberately rubbing the
coloured juices over their hands and faces.

Thus is the love of colour first expressed in us. In the Patagonian
this childish expression is continued to the end of life, and men and
women paint their faces black and crimson. But it has not stopped
there: it has led them to discover and invent permanent mineral dyes
with which they dye the bare side of their skin robes with a minute
herring-bone pattern in brilliant yellow, red, black, and green

We know how great has been the development in Eastern peoples in this
direction, and how perfect their taste, trained for ten thousand
years, is in their use of bright colours. This has led a great
Englishman to say that Eastern art begins where ours ends--one of the
very foolish sayings we are accustomed to receive from our great and
wise men. The truth is that most of the art of the East is art
arrested, crystallised, in a semi-barbarous state.

Again, we see in children, civilised and savage, from the polar
regions to the tropics and all the world over, whenever a few have met
together they chatter like starlings and parakeets about the things
that interest them--whatever appeals to their sense of fun, of the
novel, the grotesque, the beautiful. The little one who mimics his
playfellows and elders the best, or gives his relation in the most
lucid and impressive manner, excites most laughter and interest in the
others: and soon he discovers that he can make the interest greater by
exaggerating and inventing. Hence the actor's and the story-teller's
arts, and our Homer, Apuleius, Boccaccio, Cervantes, Swift and the
regiment of fictionists of the present time.

And thus it is with all the arts: they spring from one root, one
impulse, the sense of beauty in any mortal, which is not an overflow
of the sexual instinct as some of our philosophers imagine. And if we
look closely enough we find it in the animals as well--bird and beast
and fish and insect.

Santayana in his _Sense of Beauty_ says: "The arts must study their
occasions: they must stand modestly aside until they can slip in fitly
into the interstices of life." It is well said, but I can't follow him
when he describes this sense of beauty and its outcome in its relation
to the realities of life as the wild strawberry and other small
decorative growths which spring from the crevices of a granite
mountain. The mountain represents the realities of life. And he adds:
"This" (the insignificant results) "is the consequence of the
superficial structure in which they flourish: the roots, we have seen,
are not deep in the world, and they appeared as only unstable
superadded activities and employments of our freedom, after the work
of life is done and the terror of it allayed."

This, whether intentional or not, produces the idea that the sense of
beauty is a late development of the mind--a superficial structure;
whereas the truth is, that the spirit, the sense and the impulse, has
its roots very deep in the world and is in all sentient life, and, to
follow his metaphor, it is inherent in the granite itself and pervades
it like a subtle fire.

Looking at art from the outside, we may say that it is insignificant
in relation to the realities of life. To the artist, particularly when
he contemplates the immortal works, as he deems them, of the foremost
geniuses, it no doubt seems a very great thing--the highest
achievement of man. To the mass of humanity it is something
unimportant, negligible. The reason is that in the works of art the
universal sense of beauty, the fiery principle, a sweetener of life
and joy forever, can never find its fullest, freest and its final
expression.  The artist himself in spite of his delusion will
sometimes confess it. Thus, we can imagine a Buonarotti greater than
the Michael Angelo we know, who after a sculptured Moses, a painted
Last Judgment, a St. Peter's at Rome and a volume of poems, had also
excelled in wood carving and in metal and enamel work, and had
composed great symphonies and oratorios, and was also a performer on
various musical instruments, and had also delighted the world with his
acting on the stage, both in comedy and tragedy; who, after doing all
these wonderful things, going over them in his mind, had said: "They
have all failed to give me perfect satisfaction, though I found a
certain pleasure in doing them--just the common instinctive pleasure
which the worker takes in his work. But they have not given me the
full self-expression I sought for. Nor could they, seeing that the
feeling I desired to express was fundamentally one and comprehensive,
and earth and all life on earth evoked it; whereas in art it is as if
this feeling was many distinct feelings, each occupying a separate
compartment in the mind, to be tended like rare and delicate plants in
glass frames. Now, after having nursed and brought to flower many of
these plants, I think there must be some other and better way--a means
of self-expression which I have not found, and to which man has not
yet attained."

Or we may change this illustration for another: instead of plants, an
evening cloud, a uniform grey low down in the west which at sunset
appears to break up into many clouds and cloudlets, floating against
larger clouds, showing many different brilliant colours; why should
that emotion it is desired to express be concentrated on one
particular cloud or cloudlet, its form and colour, when presently,
even while we gaze, the brilliant colour will fade and the clouds will
reunite in one, and all again a uniform grey? In other words, why
should the artist, shut in his studio, concentrate on a block of
marble and toil for months with the chisel and hammer 'to bring it
into a semblance of a human form and expression, incidentally
suppressing or starving all other emotions just in order to overfeed
this one? The imaginary discontented artist would say: "O yes, it will
serve its purpose and make mankind gasp with astonished admiration for
a long time to come; but rather than the statue and picture and all
other great works of art would I have (and have all men to have) a
simpler, more natural, more spontaneous means of conveying to others
that which is in me."

It is not merely by thinking, or speculating, that I myself have come
to this conclusion, which my artistic readers will laugh at. It is
purely a result of experience, of my private personal feelings about
art and the changes which time has brought about in the feeling.

The artist, after having had his laugh, will explain to me that my
case is not singular. "You are not an artist," he will say; "your
interests, your activities, your pleasures, are in other
things--material and mental; the artistic side of your mind has been
too long neglected, with the inevitable result that you no longer see
or desire to see or even believe in the existence of all that once
attracted and charmed you."

This undoubtedly describes a quite common experience--the stockbroker,
the racing man and the physiologist afford us three awful
examples--only it does not happen to be mine, as I shall endeavour to
show presently.

Art, as I regard it (to repeat again what has already been said), is
an outcome of that universal sense of beauty--to put it in one
word--and the accompanying impulse to impart the emotion experienced
to others.  This impulse itself, it may be said in passing, has an old
history, and begins in animals and man in a cry that calls attention
to something seen, which eventually, when the human animal becomes
articulate, shapes itself in words: "I see something--come and look at
it!" From this invitation to come and look at something seen we rise
to the desire of exhibiting--conveying a feeling to others, and in the
long result we have art in a multiplicity of forms, each giving a
partial, never a full, satisfaction. And it never can, seeing that it
is not an end in itself but a means to an end, an everlasting
aspiration and striving after something unattainable or not yet

This has doubtless been often said, but it does not fit into the
artist's creed. What is his creed--what is the meaning of art to him?
I take it that for him there is nothing conceivable beyond art as a
means of self-expression, that the utmost he can do is to strive to
emulate just what others have been doing for thousands of years--that,
in fact, art is an end in itself.

Here I recall the statement of a great painter, a leading
post-impressionist, I think he is called, who flourished towards the
end of the last century, as given in his _Life and Letters_. He
affirmed his belief in immortality, and said that he looked forward to
a happy eternity in following his art of landscape-painting in other
spheres, since no greater happiness, no higher destiny could be
conceived by him.

It is an extreme statement of the feeling of the artist, who is an
enthusiast and absorbed in his art; but artists, as a rule, whether
they believe in immortality or not, do regard art as the highest
achievement of the human mind.

Doubtless there are exceptions, and I find one in a distinguished
composer of vocal music, who says that speech is infinitely more
beautiful than song. It is a truth known to many who are not musical
artists, but it was astonishing to have it from a professor in the
art. The one dyer whose hands had not been subdued to the material
they worked in.

To return. A means and a way, then, to something better than art, or
at all events more satisfying, not only to the artistic-minded person
and to those who specialise in some form of art, but to people
generally--to everyone. Something, it may be added, which will
inevitably come in due time if the world and its human inhabitants
continue to exist for a sufficiently long period without the usual
periodic set-backs. But such a change could never take the world by
violence. And here I recall Sir Arthur Keith's recent speculations
about future developments in the human mind, and I would qualify his
statement that it is impossible to foresee any coming change, any new
factor in the evolution of the brain, which may be imminent, yet will
take us by surprise.

Thus, as to art, one would imagine that any changes which may come
(and may possibly even now be coming) to our minds as to its meaning,
its value and true place in our lives, would come slowly and not to
mankind generally. It would be in the West, in races that have
developed the restless, inquisitive, progressive mind, while the East
would remain unaffected. There have been some new developments during
the last few centuries which have not come as a surprise: there were
but a few men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries able to
foresee the value that science would have a couple of centuries later,
and it may be there are few among us to-day who can foresee or even
imagine any great coming change in the estimate in which art is now
held.  But there will be no surprise. Three generations--a short
hundred years--is time enough to accustom men to anything new in their
lives. It is not yet a century since the doctrine of evolution was
accepted by the leading thinkers of Europe.

Just at present there is a mighty turmoil in the artistic
world--mainly in painting and music. Fierce revolts against the art of
the past--the old everlasting standards and conventions as the
revolters call them; new schools and societies and groups of artists
are occupied in doing the old things in new ways. But unless this
ferment can be taken as a sign that artists themselves are beginning
to feel the unsatisfactoriness of art, and in their subconscious minds
are becoming antagonistic to it (which is hardly credible), it is all
nothing, and the new movements that "come like shadows, so depart,"
are not worth mention in an inquiry of this kind.

If there are any signs of a change, they are in the minds of those who
are outside of the artistic world.  And outside of the scientific
world as well, seeing that in both cases the reflex effects of their
vocation on their minds is to distort the judgment. I refer to those
only who are outside of both fields, whose reasoning and aesthetic
faculties are balanced, whose interest is in the whole of life, and
who have succeeded in preserving perfect independence of mind in a
herd where those who have captured the first places dominate the
others, and impose their perverted judgments on them.

* * *

[Note: What follows was left unarranged by the author. (See Prefatory
Note, p. vii.)]

* * *

And now I cannot go back to the hind and its senses: I must therefore
continue with music and subjects which rise by the suggestion of
contiguity, such as what art is, what it means to us, what it does for
us, what place it occupies in life. But what are my credentials? What
can I say in justification of what I write? I confess, at starting,
that I am as ignorant of art in general as I have confessed to be of
music; nevertheless I am not just an unqualified critic. My
credentials are those of a field naturalist who has observed men: all
their actions and their mentality. But chiefly himself, for to know
others a man must first know himself. The psychologist has nothing but
his own mental powers to build on. He is not a field naturalist; his
field is not in the whole wide world, but in his brain and all that
goes on in it; his wishes, instincts, emotions, thoughts.

I take it that the only persons capable of seeing things as they are
in their right relations and proportions are those who have no
profession and no vocation or calling, which, when followed with
enthusiasm, absorbs their attention. One, let us say, untied,
unconfined in a groove, free and appreciating his freedom, intensely
interested in life in all its aspects and manifestations, not in human
life only, but in all life. His teaching should then be of the
greatest value in such a question as this.  Above all things he must
be one who judges for himself.  I also take it that there are many men
of this kind who are quite free, perfectly emancipated, and are,
perhaps, at the same time, prudently reticent. This reticence,
however, is not for me, and I have actually found others of a like
mind with mine who are not afraid to let their thoughts be known to

It is the range of the observer which trains the senses and the brain.
The danger is that he may take one branch of life and give all his
attention to that. To specialise is to lose your soul. To speculate is
to love your own soul. It might be said again by my imaginary critic
that too much may lead to the development of the reasoning faculties
at the expense of the aesthetic, that this may decay, and that in any
case it becomes less and less as we grow old. I can say that in my
case the exact contrary is the truth, since it is not continued
interest in phenomena, but the continued growth in strength of the
aesthetic faculty which produces decay of interest in art generally,
though I cannot say in all art, music and poetry still being

There is a modern orchestral music which is said to be not emotional,
but a recent higher development of the art. This is a matter which has
no place here, since I am concerned solely with the origin of music
(in frogs and other creatures as well as man) and its evolution till
it has risen to be an art; and as it is the outcome and beautiful
expression of emotion, "unemotional music" sounds like a contradiction
in terms, and one asks for a better term which is not merely a
negative to describe it by. For "unemotional music" simply means
demusicalised or castrated music. The average or ordinary person for
whom I write, being myself one of his kind, cannot go into these
higher developments of the art. Thus, music to me means just what
music meant to my great-grand-father and--mother, and to all men,
before and after them. Like Sir Thomas Browne, I am so sensitive to it
that I may be moved to tears by even the common and tavern sort of
music. It is so with many of us, only we don't say so: but Sir Thomas
Browne could afford to give himself away freely, simply because he
could do it in words of such charm, and with so godlike a gesture,
that the sophisticated and the simple both feared to laugh at him lest
their laugh should be taken for that of fools.

What the effect of music was in my early years I have told. It was the
same with the other arts, and I will give just one instance--the
effect of a painting when I was a big boy, when I first saw a big
landscape.  It was exhibited as the work of a young Anglo-Argentine
artist who had gone to Europe to study art, and on his return had
painted this large landscape, a scene in the wide open pampas, with a
pool and reeds and rushes, and a group of wild horses on its edge in
the foreground. This expression of the world I lived in so enchanted
me, that life without the power which such art confers on its
followers seemed hardly life at all. The effect of this picture of a
scene familiar to me was more powerful than I can describe in words.
To be a painter of landscape was my thought, all day and every day. It
seemed that what I had to do was to express all that was in me; by
this alone life was worth living. It haunted me and was as fierce a
pain as I had suffered from when I first heard music.

When Santayana in his _Sense of Beauty_ states that it is a small
thing in our lives, and its outcome no more than the wild and pretty
herbs that root themselves in granite mountains which represent the
realities of our nature, I disagree with him and his simile. Beauty is
not a casual growth, the result of a seed fallen from goodness knows
where into a man's life; it is inherent in the granite itself, and
another result from it is the development of a sense and impulse in
the whole of life.  It is in us all from birth to death--from the ant
to the race of men: in the lowest and meanest of us. And it is in the
animals, as we see from their games and music. All my long, close
observation convinces me that such a sense is well developed in the
bird--especially in the crow and parrot families--and in our domestic

It will doubtless be said by anyone who has followed the argument so
far that I cannot be free to criticise others on this point, seeing
that I have called myself a field naturalist all through this book
and, consequently, see like all others through a vocation, a calling,
which must soon shadow and distort my outlook in general and make me
see things in a wrong perspective. It is not quite so. I have called
myself a field naturalist for convenience' sake, and chiefly because I
do not exclude the non-human world from my survey. A field naturalist
is an observer of everything he sees--from a man to an ant or a plant.

We see that this question of art is in a perpetual state of flux. To
go back to the last century: we find that Ruskin was regarded as one
of the higher critics of art, and that now his teaching is almost
universally rejected; that his theory is all wrong for the young men.
We also see that there is a revolt of a host of young artists against
the art of all who came before them. We see groups in rebellion
against what they call conventional art: the very art one knows in
fact.  These outbursts occur from time to time and tend to grow more
frequent. In a little while they die out, and the generation that
follows laughs at their folly. But again others spring up to take
their place. Looking back, we see they do not and cannot lift art to a
high plane.  We see that art cannot progress; that on these lines and
in that particular direction it reached its highest level ages ago.
But the only explanation of these futile attempts is the sense of
dissatisfaction with art generally, which every individual, young or
old, with an alert progressive mind comes to in his own life. The
revolt against "conventional art," even when it results in something
we laugh at, is a sign of progress towards something above the arts,
which will satisfy the creative powers, the desire of self-expression.

What then would take the place of art, all the world made in a certain
form, if art should die out? How would the sense of beauty, and the
desire to express emotion that it creates, be expressed at last? That
is a question which directly rises out of the one under consideration,
but again it is a new question and the discussion would be a long one,
too long for this book, which must now come to an end. No sooner have
I finished a book, than I come, rover-like, to hate it: a proper


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