Because animal substances, its food, are more frequently to be met with there, than in inland places. In Greenland and Iceland, where putrescent fishy substances abound, they appear to be almost domesticated.
Because of its supposed longevity, its frequent mention and agency in holy writ; the obscure knowledge we possess of its powers and motives ; and the gravity of its deportment, like an " all-knowing bird," which has acquired for it, from very remote periods, the veneration of mankind. The changes in our manners and ideas, in respect to many things, have certainly deprived them of much of this reverence; yet the almost supernatural information which they obtain of the decease, or approaching dissolution, of an animal, claims still some admiration for them. This supposed faculty of " smelling death" formerly rendered their presence, or even their voice, ominous to all, as
The hateful messenger of heavy things, Of death and dolour telling; and their unusual harsh croak, still, when illness is in the house, with some timid and affectionate persons, brings old fancies to remembrance, savouring of terror and alarm. - Knapp.
The poets have highly embellished this superstition: Drayton says: The greedy raven, that doth call for death.
and quotes Pliny for his authority. Shakspeare The raven himself is hoarse,
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Macbeth.
Sir Walter Scott: All nations have their omens drear,
Their legions of wild woe and fear.
To Cambria look - the peasant see,
Bethink him of Glendowerdy,
And shun " the Spirit's Blasted Tree." - Marmion in the notes to the sixth canto of which are the following lines in a poem by the Rev. George Warrington, entitled ! the Spirit's Blasted Tree."
Three ravens gave the note of death As through mid air they wing'd their way ;
Then o'er his head in rapid flight, They croak - they scent their destined prey.
Ill omen'd bird ! as legends say,
Who hast the wondrous power to know,
While health fills high the throbbing veins, The fated hour when blood must flow .'
Or Raven on the blasted oak That, watching while the deer is broke, His morsel claims with sullen croak.
Lady of the Lake.