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THE CUCKOO, AND THE NIGHTINGALE.
Some fine day towards the end of April, as
green fields, or in the woods, a sound is borne to our ears, which causes us suddenly to stop and listen! Surely we were not deceived! No, there it is again ! Cuckoo ! cuckoo !' comes ringing through the air, as clear as though sounded on a bell.
Hark! the cuckoo's sprightly note,
And who directs thy wandering journey far? The note of this bird always gives pleasure, especially to the young, because it reminds us that blue skies and sunny hours are coming. Who does not know the beautiful lines of Logan :
Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove !
Thou messenger of spring !
And woods thy welcome sing.
Thy certain voice we hear:
Or mark the rolling year?
· I hail the time of flowers,
From birds among the bowers.
To pluck the primrose gay,
And imitates thy lay.
Thou fliest the vocal vale,
Another spring to hail.
Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
No winter in thy year!
We'd make, with joyful wing,
Companions of the spring.
O blithe new comer! I have heard,
I hear thee, and rejoice.
Or but a wandering voice ?
Thy two-fold shout I hear,
As loud far off as near
Even yet thou art to me
A voice, a mystery.
I listened to; that cry
In bush, in tree, and sky.
Can lie upon the plain
That golden time again.
The cuckoo is one of the most remarkable of our periodical bird-visitants, not only because of the peculiar notes it utters, but also on account of its singular habit of making provision for its young. It deposits its eggs in the nests of other birds, that of the hedge-sparrow being often selected for this purpose. One egg only is laid in each nest chosen. The young cuckoo is duly hatched, and tended by the unwitting foster-parents with as much care as their own proper nestlings. When about eight days old it ejects its helpless companions, by forcing itself under them, and with a jerk throwing
them successively over the edge of the nest. Although we hail the cuckoo as the messenger of spring, yet it is not a welcome visitor amongst the birds of the grove; they all look upon it as their enemy, and persecute it
The nightingale, the most famous of the feathered tribe, is never long after the cuckoo in visiting us. And as we listen at evening to its musical notes, we may say with Scott:
Beautiful nightingale! who shall portray
Thy plaintive lamont goes floating along.
of this bird :-
She now prolongs her lays;
The wakeful heifers gaze. Most writers ascribe melancholy and plaintive strains to the nightingale. Coleridge, however, is of a different opinion. He writes thus:
'Tis the merry nightingale
Of all its music. And the famous angler, Isaac Walton, after listening to this delightful songster at late hour, thus expresses what he thought of it:
He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have heard, the clear air, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above the earth, and say, 'Lord ! what music hast Thou provided for the saints in heaven, when Thou affordest bad men such music on earth!'
SEVERAL birds build a domed dwelling, with an opening at the side ; for example, the long-tailed titmouse, commonly called the bottle-tit, from the shape of the nest. The well-known cunning magpie also roofs its domicile, which is built with surprising labour and ingenuity, and has the entrance at the side. This circumstance is alluded to in the following fableThe Magpie's Lecture’:
In early times, the story says,
When birds could talk and lecture,
To teach them architecture.
They all began to chatter,-
'Tis such an easy matter!'
Resumed her speech demurely,
The nest may sit securely.'
Two sticks for the foundation.'
• Without this long oration.'
The round sides of the dwelling.'
• Without a magpie's telling !'
And bind it well together.'
• As stars in frosty weather!'
While thus they talked, professor Mag
Her nest had half completed;
To see how she was treated, —
I see you are all so clever,
I leave you then for ever.'
Their folly to discover,
And cannot roof it over.
No rain nor hail can pelt her;
Themselves enjoy no shelter.
When self-conceit can lead them
And think they do not need them. Before May is over, all our summer birds are with us; then there is ‘harmony in every bush, a concert in every grove.' As their household cares increase, and when each pair of birds have many little gaping mouths to fill, the songs of the old ones are less frequently heard. Indeed, with so much business, they find little or no leisure for singing. The great heat of summer comes, and
No warbling tongues
As loath to waken any warbling bird. In August, the cuckoo and several more wing their flight to warmer lands than ours; while others, such as the siskin and mountain-finch, now visit us. The swallows are seen to congregate in swarms, as if in preparation for their departure ; and before the middle of October they have all disappeared. Thomson says
When Autumn scatters his departing gleams,