Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

and of Life and Habit           49

not only a vertebrate mammal, but a vertebrate machinate
mammal into the bargain.

It was a wise monkey that first learned to carry a stick
and a useful monkey that mimicked him. For the race of
man has learned to walk uprightly much as a child learns
the same thing. At first he crawls on all fours, then he
clambers, laying hold of whatever he can; and lastly he
stands upright alone and walks, but for a long time with
an unsteady step. So when the human race was in its gorilla-
hood it generally carried a stick; from carrying a stick for
many 'million years -it became accustomed and modified
to an upright position. The stick wherewith it had learned
to walk would now serve it to beat its younger brothers
and then it found out its service as a lever. Man would
thus learn that the limbs of his body were not the only limbs
that he could command. His body was already the most
versatile in existence, but he could render it more versatile
still. With the improvement in his body his mind improved
also. He learnt to perceive the moral government under
which he held the feudal tenure of his life—perceiving it
he symbolised it, and to this day our poets and prophets
still strive to symbolise it more and more completely.

The mind grew because the body grew—more things were
perceived—more things were handled, and being handled
became familiar. But this came about chiefly because
there was a hand to handle with ; without the hand there
would be no handling; and no method of holding and examin-
ing is comparable to the human hand. The tail of an opos-
sum is a prehensile thing, but it is too far from his eyes—
the elephant's trunk is better, and it is probably to their
trunks that the elephants owe their sagacity. It is here that
the bee in spite of her wings has failed. She has a high
civilisation but it is one whose equilibrium appears to have
been already attained ; the appearance is a false one, for the
bee changes, though more slowly than man can watch her;
but the reason of the very gradual nature of the change is
chiefly because the physical organisation of the insect changes,
but slowly also. She is poorly off for hands, and has never
fairly grasped the notion of tacking on other limbs to the
limbs of her own body and so, being short-lived to boot,
she remains from century to century to human eyes in statu