« ElőzőTovább »
The traveller deplores
Now, in the rude storm, folds it o'er her breast. The arrival of the swallow, about the middle of the month, foretels the approach of summer'. The swallow was a favourite bird among the Greeks: his first appearance made a holiday for the Greek boys, and a song has been preserved in Athenæus, by which the little mendicants used to levy contributions on the good nature of their fellow citizens'. It is the general opinion of naturalists that the same pair of swallows annually return to the village where they built the preceding year, and attach themselves to the same nest, if it remains: should it be destroyed, they erect another in the same station, and this as long as they escape the various contingencies of their migratory life. That rooks feel an attachment to their old nests is obvious, from their commencing the repair of them so long before they finally inbabit them, and the noisy warfare that resounds through the rookery in contending for their antient possessions. There is perhaps no bird more attached to particular sites than the muscicapa grisola, or common flycatcher; one pair, or their descendants, building for many years successively in the same hole in the wall, or on the same branch of a fruit-tree: being perfectly harmless, and hence never molested, instinct may teach them, that where they found safety for their young at one time, they may find it at another. A pair of these birds has been known in one season to bring off two broods from the same nest without its undergoing any repair.
i Of this bird and its migrations, we have treated at length in our former volumes : some curious anecdotes of the swallow will be found in T. T. for 1820, pp. 108-111.
? See Mitchell's Aristophanes, vol. I, p. 197, note, for a translation of the Song.
Young moles are now to be found in the nests; this is a good time, therefore, for destroying them. There are commonly four or five in a nest, and they are naked when first born. Weasels and stoats are great enemies to moles, and frequently get into their holes, kill the inhabitants, and take up their own abode there. Thus do the several sorts of vermin help to keep up a kind of balance of power among them.
The next bird which appears, after the swallow, is that sweet warbler, the motacilla luscinia, or nightingale. From the time of Homer to the present day, the poets have ever considered the nightingale as a melancholy bird; we have before combated this opinion', and have, we think, sufficiently proved, that it is entirely erroneous. To the authorities formerly adduced in support of our observations, we have now to add that of MR. RICHARD PAYNE KNIGHT, who in his Essay on Taste' has the following pertinent remarks on the subject. Comparing the Odyssey with the Iliad of Homer,' he says, there is generally less detail, as well as less variety and brilliancy of imagery in the Odyssey; but the attention to truth, in all circumstances of common observation, is so far the same, that we might securely pronounce the passage, in which the notes of the nightingale are treated as notes of sorrow”, to be the production of a later age, even if the judgment of the ancient grammarians, and the less questionable authority of modernisms in the language, had not marked the whole episode, in which it is introduced, to be spurious 3: for the habits of life both of the poet and his audience, in that early stage of society, must have forced them to observe that the notes of
'T.T. for 1817, p. 118-120. See also an account of that wonderful little bird, the mocking thrush, the substitute for the nightingale in North America, in our last volume, p. 114. 27. 518—23.
plund of both pa the more thrilling
singing birds are notes of amorous joy and exultation, and that they are all mute in grief or calamity. Accordingly we find that, when he does take an image of distress from the lamentations of birds for the loss of their young, he takes it from birds of prey, which do scream and make loud moan when their nests are plundered'. Virgil nevertheless, in his blended imitation of both passages, has, in defiance of truth and nature, retained the more delicate and interesting image, and attributed the thrilling note of sorrow, expressed in the scream of the eagle or the vulture, to the song of the nightingale 2; and there can be no doubt that the courtly critics, for whom he wrote, thought this a most judicious and elegant amendment; nor do the courtly or even scholastic critics of the present day probably entertain very different sentiments: but nevertheless bad the old Greek bard obtruded such a palpable misrepresentation of what every one knew upon the rude but observant assemblage of warriors, ploughmen, and herdsmen, for whom he sang, not all the melody of either the Homeric or Virgilian verse would have kept them together for many minutes; at the same time that they would have listened for hours, with all the mute and greedy attention of implicit faith, to the extravagant tales of Cyclops, Læstrygons, Scylla, Æolus, &c.: for of those they knew nothing, and had therefore no grounds for disbelief; which, among persons not used to speculative or analogical reasoning, is generally a sufficient motive for beliefs.'
That beautiful little bird, the wryneck (jynx torquilla) makes its appearance about the middle of the month, preceding the cuckoo by a few days. The wellknown cry of the cuculus canorus is heard soon after. the wryneck, and ceases the latter end of June; its
2 Georgic. iv. 3 Knight's Analytical loquiry into the Principles of Taste, p. 288-290.
stay is short, the old cuckoos being said to quit this country about the end of June.
Hail to thee, shouting CockOO! in my youth
Which thou, my planet flung-a pleasant fit,
And deem the spirit of delight ùnfled,
Wiffen's Aonian Hours. · The other summer-birds of passage which arrive this month, make their appearance in the following order: the ring-ousel (turdus torquatus), the redstart (motacilla phoenicurus ), frequenting old walls and ruinous edifices; the yellow wren (motacilla trochilus); the swift; the whitethroat (motacilla sylva); the grasshopper lark (alauda trivialis), the smallest of the lark kind'; and, lastly, the willow-wren,
· The LARK.
The fresh glow of the morn.
And though heaven-ward his flight,
He upholds with delight,
which frequents hedges and shrubberies, and feeds on insects, in search of which it is continually running up and down small branches of trees. The housewren destroys many pernicious insects. That most elegant little bird, the yellow wren, is only noticed by the frequenters and lovers of the country; it is a more early harbinger of spring than any other of the migratory tribe: it animates the woods by its constant motion; and the frequent repetition of its simple note has such a cheerful and varied modulation, that renders it very pleasing. Its arrival is commonly regulated by the season; but early in April, if the weather be at all mild, the little groves resound with its harmony. The stone-curlew or great plover arrives about this time.
Most birds awake early, but yet are abroad at different times. The rook is the first that awakes to salute the rising morn: roosting higher than most other birds, the rays of light first reach his abode. The restless inquisitive robin immediately follows: he is the last that retires to his dormitory, and is often about when the night birds appear, and, moving very early in the morning, he has less rest than any other bird. The cheerful melody of the wren comes next, and we hear him caroling when the songster is hardly visible in the twilight. The sparrow roosts in holes, and under caves, where the light of the morning does not so soon enter, and hence he is rather a tardy mover; we see him peeping from his shed, to note what is going forward: should any food be about, the sparrow in an instant descends and makes himself welcome; and, with a boldness that no other bird possesses, filches his grain from the trough of the pig, or shares with the gigantic turkey: scared away, he returns, and pilfers a portion undismayed. The constant attendant on man, he follows him to the desert, associates with him in a distant isle, and partakes the profit of his industry; he is not known in a solitary and independent state. The blackbird leaves his ivy