Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

important and memorable to those whom it concerns as those of the
battle of Bunker Hill, at least.

I took up the chip oil which the three I have particularly described
were struggling, carried it into my house, and placed it under a
tumbler on my window-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a
microscope to the first-mentioned red ant, I saw that, though he was
assiduously gnawing at the near fore leg of his enemy, having
severed his remaining feeler, his own breast was all torn away,
exposing what vitals he had there to the jaws of the black warrior,
whose breastplate was apparently too thick for him to pierce; and the
dark carbuncles of the sufferer’s eyes shone with ferocity such as
war only could excite. They struggled half an hour longer under the
tumbler, and when I looked again the black soldier had severed the
heads of his foes from their bodies, and the still living heads were
hanging on either side of him like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow,
still apparently as firmly fastened as ever, and he was endeavoring
with feeble struggles, being without feelers and with only the
remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other wounds, to divest
himself of them; which at length, after half an hour more, he
accomplished. I raised the glass, and he went off over the window-
sill in that crippled state. Whether he finally survived that combat,
and spent the remainder

of his days in some Hotel des Invalides, I do not know; but I thought
that his industry would not be worth much thereafter. I never learned
which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war; but I felt for
the rest of that day as if I had had my feelings excited and harrowed
by witnessing the struggle, the ferocity and carnage, of a human
battle before my door.

Kirby and Spence tell us that the battles of ants have long been
celebrated and the date of them recorded, though they say that Huber
is the only modern author who appears to have witnessed them.
"Aeneas Sylvius," say they, "after giving a very circumstantial
account of one contested with great obstinacy by a great and small
species on the trunk of a pear tree," adds that "’this action was
fought in the pontificate of Eugenius the Fourth, in the presence of
Nicholas Pistoriensis, an eminent lawyer, who related the whole,
history of the battle with the greatest fidelity.’ A similar engagement
between great and small ants is recorded by Olaus Magnus, in which
the small ones, being victorious, are said to have buried the bodies of
their own soldiers, but left those of their giant enemies a prey to the
birds. This event happened previous to the expulsion of the tyrant
Christiern the Second from Sweden." The battle which I witnessed
took place in the Presidency of Polk, five years before the passage of
Webster’s Fugitive-Slave Bill.

Many a village Bose, fit only to course a mud-turtle in a victualling
cellar, sported his heavy quarters in the woods, without the
knowledge of his master, and ineffectually smelled at old fox
burrows and woodchucks’ holes; led perchance by some slight cur
which nimbly threaded the wood, and might still inspire a natural
terror in its denizens;- now far behind his guide, barking like a
canine bull toward some small squirrel which had treed itself for
scrutiny, then, cantering off, bending the bushes with his weight,
imagining that he is on the track of some stray member of the jerbilla
family. Once I was surprised to see a cat walking along the stony
shore of the pond, for they rarely wander so far from home. The
surprise was mutual. Nevertheless the most domestic cat, which has
lain on a rug all her days, appears quite at home in the woods, and,
by her sly and stealthy behavior, proves herself more native there
than the regular inhabitants. Once, when berrying, I met with a cat
with young kittens in the woods, quite wild, and they all, like their
mother, had their backs up and were fiercely spitting at me. A few
years before I lived in the woods there was what was called a
"winged cat" in one of the farm-houses in Lincoln nearest the pond,
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with