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Then came the jolly Sommer being dight
JUNE is really in this climate what the poets represent May to be, the most lovely month in the year. Summer is commenced and warm weather thoroughly established; yet the heats rarely arise to excess, or interrupt the enjoyment of those pleasures which the scenes of nature at this time afford. The trees are in their fullest dress, and a profusion of the gayest flowers is everywhere scattered around, which put on all their beauty just before they are cut down by the scythe, or withered by the heat.
Soft copious showers are extremely welcome towards the beginning of this month, to forward the growth of the young herbage. Such an one is thus described by Thomson.
Gradual sinks the breeze
In large effusion, o'er the freshen'd world.
One of the earliest rural employments of this month is the shearing of sheep; a business of much importance in various parts of this kingdom, where wool, being the basis of the principal manufactures, is one of the most valuable products that the country affords. England has been for many ages famous for its breeds of sheep, which yield wool of various qualities, suited to different branches of the manufacture. The downs of Dorsetshire and other southern and western counties feed sheep, the fine short fleeces of which are employed in making the best broad cloths. The coarser wool of Yorkshire and the northern counties is used in the narrow cloths. The large Leicestershire and Lincolnshire sheep are clothed with long thick flakes, proper for the hosier's use; and every other kind is applied to some valuable purpose.
The season for sheep-shearing commences as soon as the warm weather is so far settled that the sheep may, without danger, lay aside great part of their clothing. The following tokens are laid down by Dyer in his Fleece, to mark out the
If verdant elder spreads
Before shearing, the sheep undergo the operation of washing, in order to free the wool from the foulness which it has contracted.
On the bank
His lifted head above the limpid stream,
The shearing itself is conducted with a degree of ceremony and rural dignity, being a festival as well as a piece of labour.
At last, of snowy white, the gather'd flocks
A profusion of fragrance now arises from the fields of clover in blossom. Of this plant there are the varieties of white and purple; the latter of which is sometimes called honeysuckle, from the quantity of sweet juice contained in the tube of the flower, whence the bees extract much honey. A still more exquisite odour proceeds from the beans in blossom, of which Thomson speaks in this rapturous language :
Long let us walk
Beans and peas, which now adorn the fields with their purple flowers, belong to a large natural family of plants called the papilionaceous, or butterfly-shaped-blossomed, and also leguminous, from the pods which they bear. Most of these in our climate afford food for man or beast; of some the seeds alone are used, as of pea and bean;, of others the entire pod, as of French or kidney-bean ; and of some the whole plant, as of clover, lucerne, and vetch.
Our hedges are now beginning to be in their highest beauty and fragrance. The place of the hawthorn is supplied by the flowers of the hip or dog-rose, the different hues of which from a light blush to a deep crimson, form a most elegant variety of colour. The bittersweet nightshade with its fine purple petals, and bright orange stamina, merits the second rank in beauty to the rose. The woodbine or honeysuckle is unequalled in fragrance, and as an ornamental plant almost rivals the nightshade ; while the graceful climbing shoots of the white bryony and tufted vetch connect by light festoons the other vegetable beauties that grace peculiarly the hedges of this country:
The several kinds of corn come into ear and flower during this month, as well as most of the numerous species of grass, which indeed are all so many smaller kinds of corn ; or rather corn is only a larger sort of grass. It is peculiar to all this kind of plants to have long slender-pointed leaves, a jointed stalk, and a flowering head, either in the form of a close spike like wheat, or a loose bunch called a panicle, like oats. This head consists of numerous husky flowers, each of which bears a single seed. The bamboo, sugar-cane, and reed, are the largest of this family.
Those kinds, of which the seeds are large enough to be worth the labour of separating, are usually termed corn, and form the chief article of food of almost all the nations of the world, for very few are so little civilised as not to raise it. In Europe the principal kinds of corn are wheat, rye, barley, and oats. In Asia the chief dependence is placed on rice ; in Africa and America on maize or Indian corn.
The smaller kinds, called grasses, are most valuable for their leaves and stalks, or herbage, which make the principal food of domestic cattle. This cut down and dried is hay, the winter provision of cattle in all the temperate and northern regions. Grass is most fit to cut after it is in ear, but before its seeds are ripened. If it be suffered to grow too long, it will lose its juices and become like the straw of
The latter part of June is the beginning of hay-harvest for the southern and middle parts of the kingdom. This is one of the busiest and most agreeable of rural occupations;
both sexes, and all ages, are engaged in it; the fragrance of the new-mown grass, the gaiety of all surrounding objects, and the genial warmth of the weather, all conspire to render it a season of delight and pleasure to the beholder.
Now swarms the village o'er the jovial mead;
In order gay.
The increasing warmth of the year calls forth fresh species of insects. Of those which appear during this month the chief are the grasshopper; brass or green beetle; various kinds of flies, ephemera, or angler's may-fly, cicada spumaria, cuckoo-spit insect, or frog-hopper; stag-horn beetle, one of the largest of this class; and the formidable gadfly, a single one of which strikes terror into the largest herd of cattle, for it is in the skin of the back of these animals that this insect deposits its eggs.
The principal season for taking that delicate fish, the mackarel, is in this month.
About this time also birds cease their notes; for after the end of June an attentive observer heard no birds except the stone curlew (thick-kneed plover of Pennant) whistling late at night; the yellow-hammer, goldfinch, and goldencrested wren now and then chirping. The cuckoo's note also ceases about this time.
The groves, the fields, the meadows, now no more