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O'er the calm sky, in convolution swift,
The feather'd eddy floats: rejoicing.once,
Ere to their wintry slumbers they retire;
In clusters clung, beneath the mouldering bank,
And where, unpierc'd by frost, the cavern sweats.
Or rather into warmer climes convey'd,
With other kindred birds of season, there
They twitter cheerful, till the vernal months
Invite them welcome back.
On the same circumstance, Dryden writes:
This merry chorister had long possessed
Her summer seat, and feather'd well her nest,
Till frowning skies began to change their cheer,
And time turned up the wrong side of the year;
The shedding trees began the ground to strew
With yellow leaves, and bitter blasts to blow:
Such auguries of winter thence she drew,
Which by instinct or prophecy she knew;
When prudence warned her to remove betimes,
And seek a better heaven and warmer climes,
Her sons were summoned on a steeple's height,
And, called in common council, vote a flight.
The day was named, the next that should be fair,
All to the general rendezvous repair;
They try their fluttering wings, and trust themselves in air.
Who but the swallow now triumphs alone ?
The canopy of heaven is all her own :
Her youthful offspring to their haunts repair,
And glide along in glades, and skim in air,
And dip for insects in the purling springs,
And stoop on rivers, to refresh their wings.
As to what becomes of the birds that disappear
during the very cold months, Burns asks :-
Ilk happing bird, wee helpless thing,
That, in the merry months of spring,
Delighted me to hear thee sing,
What comes o' thee?
Where wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing,
And close thy e'e ?
In turn all our summer birds depart; and in their
stead come our winter visitants.
A summary of some of the facts mentioned in these lessons is contained in the following lines :
Birds—birds ! ye are beautiful things,
With your earth-treading feet and your cloud-cleaving wings;
Where shall man wander, and where shall he dwell,
Beautiful birds, that ye come not as well ?
Ye have nests on the mountain all rugged and stark,
Ye have nests in the forest all tangled and dark:
Ye build and ye brood 'neath the cottagers' eaves,
And ye sleep on the sod ʼmid the bonnie green leaves;
Ye hide in the heather, ye lurk in the brake,
Ye dive in the sweet flags that shadow the lake:
Ye skim where the stream parts the orchard-decked land,
Ye dance where the foam sweeps the desolate strand.
Beautiful birds ! ye come thickly around,
When the bud's on the branch, and the snow's on the ground;
Ye come when the richest of roses flush out,
And ye come when the yellow leaf eddies about.
Beautiful birds! how the school-boy remembers
The warblers that chorused his holiday tune;
The robin that chirped in the frosty Decembers,
The blackbird that whistled through flower-crowned June.
That school-boy remembers his holiday ramble,
When he pulled every blossom of palm he could see,
When his finger was raised as he stopped in the bramble,
With 'hark! there's the cuckoo; how close he must be.'
Who is there that does not love the beautiful flowers with which our beneficent Creator has adorned the earth ?
Those fairest of all mortal things,
That seem like gems from angels' wings,
Dropped by some guardian of the night
As he uprose in hasty flight. The exquisite colours of some, the elegance of others, the difference of size and variety of form among the several species, and the fragrance of most flowers, are so many illustrations of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God. It has been truly said that there is
Not a flower
But shows some touch in freckle, streak, or stain,
Of His unrivalled pencil. He spires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the sea-side sands,
The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth. Very thankful ought we to be to God for flowers: all of us have great reason to say with Mrs. Hemans
O Father, Lord !
The All-beneficent! I bless Thy name,
That Thou hast mantled the green earth with flowers,
Linking our hearts to nature
By the breath of flowers
Thou callest us, from city throngs and cares,
Back to the woods, the birds, the mountain streams,
That sing of Thee ! back to free childhood's heart,
Fresh with the dews of tenderness! ....
Thanks, blessings, love, for these, Thy lavish boons,
And most of all their heavenward influences,
O Thou that gav'st us flowers. Children especially are fond of flowers; and in the country it is one of their chief delights to range the fields and woods during the spring and summer months in searching for and gathering bunches of wild flowers. All our best and most gifted poets have admired and fondly loved them; and doing so have often painted their beauty, or from their bud, blossoming, and decline taught many useful lessons. Herrick, one of the earliest of our writers in verse, says :
I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,
Of April, May, of June and July flowers. The great Shakspeare speaks of the time
When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight.
And again he
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
A later poet, Thomas Campbell, writes thus of wild flowers :
Ye field flowers ! the gardens eclipse you, 'tis true;
Yet, wildlings of Nature, I dote upon you ;
For ye waft me to summers of old,
When the earth teem'd around me with fairy delight,
And when daisies and buttercups gladden'd my sight,
Like treasures of silver and gold.
I love you for lulling me back into dreams
Of the blue Highland mountains and echoing streams,
And of broken glades breathing their balm,
While the deer was seen glancing in sunshine remote,
And the deep mellow crush of the wood-pigeon's note
Made music that sweeten'd the calm ..
Even now what affections the violet awakes!
What loved little islands, twice seen in their lakes,
Can the wild water-lily restore !
What landscapes I read in the primrose's looks,
And what pictures of pebbled and minnowy brooks,
In the vetches that tangled the shore.
Robert Nicoll writes of them in a similar strain :-
Beautiful children of the woods and fields !
That bloom by mountain streamlets 'mid the heather,
Or into clusters 'neath the hazels gather-
Or where by hoary rocks you make your bields,
And sweetly flourish on through summer weather-
I love yo all!
Beautiful things ye are, where'er ye grow!
The wild red-rose—the speedwell's peeping eyes
Our own blue-bell—the daisy, that doth rise
Wherever sunbeams fall or winds do blow;
And thousands more, of blessed forms and dyes-
I love yo all!
Beautiful nurslings of the early dew,
Fanned in your loveliness by every breeze,
And shaded o’er by green and arching trees : I often wished that I were one of you, Dwelling afar upon the grassy leas
I love ye all !
THE SNOWDROP, CROCUS, AND PRIMROSE. TOWARDS the close of the month of February indications of the coming spring start up on every side. Now it is that the snowdrop discloses its drooping bells.
Like pendent flakes of vegetating snow,
The early herald of the infant year,
Ere yet the adventurous crocus dares to blow,
Beneath the orchard boughs thy buds appear.
While still the cold north-east ungenial lours,
And scarce the hazel in the leafless copse,
Or sallows show their downy powder'd flowers,
The grass is spangled with thy silver drops,
Another writer says of it:
winter's timid child,
Awakes to life, bedew'd with tears ;
And flings around its fragrance mild,
And where no rival flow'rets bloom,
Amid the bare and chilling gloom,
A beauteous gem appears !
All weak and wan, with head inclin'd,
Its parent breast the drifted snow;
It trembles while the ruthless wind
Bends its slim form; the tempest lours,
Its emerald eye drops crystal showers
On its cold bed below.
Mary Lewis says of the snowdrop :-
Hail! timid messenger of spring,
Thou dost glad tidings with thee bring,
Of lovely things for us in store,
Of wintry storm and tempest o'er.
Soft seem thy silvery tones, and sweet,
From the green moss-bed at my feet;
Telling of music and of mirth,
And the rich coming bloom of earth. This flower is worthy of the following beautiful lines :
The snowdrop is the herald of the flowers,
Sent with its small white flag of truce, to plead