The condor, like all the vulture tribe, discovers his food from a great distance; the body of an animal is frequently surrounded by a dozen or more of them, almost as soon as it has dropped dead, although five minutes before there was not a single bird in view. Whether this power is to be attributed to the keenness of his olfactory or his visual organs, is a matter still in dispute; although it is believed, from a minute observation of its habits in confinement, to be rather owing to its quickness of sight.
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I was yesterday, about sun-set, walking in the open fields, till the night insensibly fell upon me. I at first amused myself with all the richness and variety of colours which appeared in the western parts of heaven; in proportion as they faded away and went out, several stars and planets appeared one after another, till the whole firmament was in a glow. The blueness of the ether was exceedingly heightened and enlivened by the season of the year, and the rays of all those luminaries that passed through it. The Galaxy appeared in its most beautiful white. To complete the scene, the full moon rose at length in that clouded majesty which Milton takes notice of, and opened to the eye a new picture of nature, which was more finely shaded, and disposed among softer lights, than that which the sun had before discovered to us.
As I was surveying the moon walking in her brightness, and taking her progress among the constellations, a thought arose in me, which I believe very often perplexes and disturbs men of serious and contemplative natures. David himself fell into it in that reflection, “When I consider the heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that though art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou regardest him!” In the same manner, when I consider that infinite host of stars, or, to speak more philosophically, of suns, which were then shining upon me, with those innumerable sets of planets or worlds, which were moving round their respective suns; when I still enlarged the idea, and supposed another heaven of suns and worlds rising still above this which we discovered, and these still enlightened by a superior firmament of luminaries, which are planted at so great a distance, that they may appear to the inhabitants of the former as the stars do to us; in short, while I pursued this thought, I could not but reflect on that little insignificant figure which I myself bore amidst the immensity of God’s works.