Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

PART III.

THE CUCKOO, AND THE NIGHTINGALE.

we

wander among

Some fine day towards the end of April, as

the

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,
That tells the coming of the vernal prime,
And cheers the heart of youth and aged man.
Say, sweet stranger, whence hast thou ta’en thy flight,
From Asia's spicy groves or Afric's clime;

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 !
Now heaven repairs thy rural seat,

And woods thy welcome sing.
What time the daisy decks the green,

Thy certain voice we hear:
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,

Or mark the rolling year?
Delightful visitant ! with thee

· I hail the time of flowers,
And hear the sound of music sweet

From birds among the bowers.
The school-boy, wandering through the wood

To pluck the primrose gay,
Starts, thy curious voice to hear,

And imitates thy lay.
What time the pea puts on the bloom,

Thou fliest the vocal vale,
An annual guest in other lands

Another spring to hail.

Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,

Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

No winter in thy year!
Oh, could I fly, I'd fly with thee!

We'd make, with joyful wing,
Our annual visit o'er the globe,

Companions of the spring.
The poet Wordsworth says, in his 'Address to the
Cuckoo

O blithe new comer! I have heard,

I hear thee, and rejoice.
O cuckoo ! shall I call thee bird,

Or but a wandering voice ?
While I am lying on the grass,

Thy two-fold shout I hear,
That seems to fill the air's whole space,

As loud far off as near
Thrice welcome, darling of the spring!

Even yet thou art to me
No bird: but an invisible thing,

A voice, a mystery.
The same whom in my school-boy days

I listened to; that cry
Which made me look a thousand ways

In bush, in tree, and sky.
And I can listen to thee yet;

Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget

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

[ocr errors]

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

without mercy,

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
All the varying turns of thy flowing lay?
And where is the lyre, whose chords shall reply
To the notes of thy changeful melody?
We may linger indeed, and listen to thee,
But the linked chain of thy harmony
It is not for mortal hands to unbind,
Nor the clue of thy mazy music to find.
Thy home is the wood on the echoing hill,
Or the verdant banks of the forest rill;
And soft as the south wind the branches among,

Thy plaintive lamont goes floating along.
Akenside

says

of this bird :-
Hark! how through many a winding noto

She now prolongs her lays;
How sweetly down the void they float!
The breeze their magic path attends,
The stars shine out; the forest bends;

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
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates,
With fast thick warble, his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburden his full soul

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!'

6

PART IV.

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’:

6

[ocr errors]

In early times, the story says,

When birds could talk and lecture,
A magpie called her feather'd friends,

To teach them architecture.
• To build a nest, my courteous friends,

They all began to chatter,-
• No need to teach us that, good Mag;

'Tis such an easy matter!'
• To build a nest,' professor Mag

Resumed her speech demurely,
• First choose a well-forked bough, wherein

The nest may sit securely.'
Of course,' said Jenny Wren. “Now cross

Two sticks for the foundation.'
O, all know that,' quoth Mr. Rook,

• Without this long oration.'
Now bend some slender twigs, to form

The round sides of the dwelling.'
A fool knows that,' exclaimed the Thrush,

• Without a magpie's telling !'
Next take some wool, and line the nest,

And bind it well together.'
Why, that's as clear,' exclaimed the Owl,

As stars in frosty weather!'

6

6

6

[ocr errors]

While thus they talked, professor Mag

Her nest had half completed;
And, growing quite indignant now,

To see how she was treated, —
• Ladies and gentlemen,' she said,

I see you are all so clever,
My lessons are superfluous,-

I leave you then for ever.'
Away she flew, and left the birds

Their folly to discover,
Who now can build but half a nest,

And cannot roof it over.
The magpie sits beneath her roof;

No rain nor hail can pelt her;
The others brooding o'er their young,

Themselves enjoy no shelter.
No better fate do men deserve,

When self-conceit can lead them
Friendly instructions to despise,

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
Now talk unto the echoes of the groves;
Only the curlèd streams soft chidings keep,
And little gusts that from the green leaves sweep
Dry summer's dust, in fearful whispering stirred

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,
Warn’d of approaching Winter, gather'd, play
The swallow-people; and toss'd wide around,

« ZurückWeiter »