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and to strike more kindly into the soil, to find new nourishment. Thus is nature more effectually progressive when it seems to be stationary or even retrograde; and all things work together for good; which they could never do but under the foresight and direction of an all-wise Providence.
But above all, the showers of heaven, concurring with the sun, promote the work of vegetation. They keep the matter of the soil soluble, and consequently moveable; for salts cannot act but in a state of solution; they furnish matter for an expansive vapour, which acts internally and externally; and, what is but little understood, though equally worthy of admiration, the rain brings down with it an invigorating ethereal spirit from the clouds, which gives it an efficacy far beyond all the waterings which human labour can administer1.
A thousand hues flush o'er the fragrant earth,
That bursts with teeming life. Her various vest
The arrival of the swallow about the middle of this month announces the approach of summer, and now all Nature assumes a more cheerful aspect. The swallow tribe is of all others the most inoffensive, harmless, entertaining, and social: all, except one species, attach themselves to our houses, amuse us with their migrations, songs, and marvellous agility,
For further information on botanical subjects we refer the student to the Elements of Botany' prefixed to our last volume; and to Mr. W. Curtis's excellent Lectures on Botany.
and clear the air of gnats and other troublesome insects, which would, otherwise, much annoy and incommode us.
The gorse is yellow on the heath,
The banks with speedwell flowers are
The welcome guest of settled spring,
The Swallow, too, is come at last;
And hailed her as she passed.
To my reed roof your nest of clay,
There are four species of the hirundines that visit England; they arrive in the following order :(1.) The chimney swallow (hirundo rustica) builds its nest generally in chimnies, in the inside, within a few feet of the top, or under the eaves of houses. (2.) The house martin (hirundo urbica), known by its white breast and black back, glossed with blue, visits us in great numbers. It builds under the eaves of houses, or close by the sides of the windows. (3.) The sand martin (hirundo riparia) is the smallest of our swallows, as well as the least numerous of them. It frequents the steep, sandy banks, in the neighbourhood of rivers, in the sides of which it makes deep holes, and places the nest at the end. (4.) The swift (hirundo apus) is the largest species, measuring nearly eight inches in length. These birds build their nests in lofty steeples and high towers, and sometimes under the arches of bridges.
The return of the swallow, as well as of the numerous singing birds, which fill our woods, and 'pour their little throats' in praise of their great Creator, demands from us a grateful welcome; and
this we cheerfully give them, in the animated lines of the Abbé DE LILLE :
Revenez, peuple heureux, revoir votre patrie,
Quel bien manque à vos vœux, intéressants oiseaux?
The next bird which appears is that sweet warbler, the motacilla luscinia, or nightingale. Although the nightingale is common in this country, it never visits the northern parts of our island, and is but seldom seen in the western counties of Devonshire and Cornwall, or in Wales; though it annually visits Sweden. It leaves us sometime in the month of August, and makes its regular return in the beginning of April.
In England, nightingales frequent thick hedges and low coppices, and generally conceal themselves in the middle of some leafy bush. They commence. their song in the evening, and continue it the whole night. Perhaps part of its fame, and certainly much of its effect, are owing to this circumstance. During the solemn stilness of the night, when other animals are at rest, every sound is heard to advantage, and produces a deeper impression.
If aught can soothe the ruffling gales of grief,
* Trois Règnes de la Nature, Chant VII.
For then, sweet bird, thy lonely groves among,
Thy breast some barbed shaft of sorrow feels,
To pour thy pensive notes so sweetly here,
To the NIGHTINGALE.
Sweet bird, that sing'st away the early hours,
So various, sweet, and continuous, are the notes of this bird, that the songs of other warblers, taken in their utmost extent, are insignificant compared to his. His variety appears inexhaustible; he never repeats the same note twice, without some change of key or embellishment. As often, indeed, as this leader of the feathered choir prepares to conduct the hymn of Nature, he begins by feeble, timid, and indecisive tones, as if to try his instrument. By degrees he assumes more confidence, becomes gradually more warm and animated, till, at last, he captivates and overwhelms his audience with the full exertion of his astonishing powers. Pliny has given an admirable description of these qualities of the nightingale, in recording the spirit of emulation which it displays in its song. Two of them, he observes, will continue to carry on an obstinate contest for victory, till the vanquished bird drops lifeless on the ground'.
Well pleased with delights which present are;
1 For many interesting particulars of the nightingale, see our last volume, pp. 117–120; T. T. for 1815, p. 139; and T. T. for 1814, p. 99.
Thou thy Creator's goodness dost declare,
Attired in sweetness sweetly is not driven
Yet the notes of the Mocking-thrush of America are said to be of a livelier nature, a bolder strain, and of a more varied richness and force of tone, than the nightingale's. It sings both by day and night; and generally seats itself at the top of some small tree, where it exerts a voice so powerfully strong, and so sweetly melodious, as to charm, even to rapture, those who listen to its lays. If we may rely on the attestations of those who have resided on the western continent, all the thrilling sweetness and varied modulation of the nightingale must yield to the transcendent music of the songstress of America'.
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 well-known cry of the cuculus canorus is heard soon after the wryneck, and ceases the latter end of June;
It is about the size of a thrush, Its natural notes are musical and solemn; but it likewise possesses the singular power of assuming the tones of every other animal, whether quadru ped or bird. It seems to divert itself with alternately alluring or terrifying other birds, and to sport with their hopes and their fears. Sometimes it entices them with the call of their mates, and, on their approach, terrifies them with the scream of the eagle, or some other bird of prey. It frequents the habitations of mankind, and is easily domesticated; it builds its nest in the fruit trees, near the houses of the planters; and, sitting sometimes most of the night on the tops of their chimnies, assumes its own native melody, and pours forth the sweetest and most varied strains. The savages call it Cencontlatolli, or Four Hundred Languages. It is found in Carolina, New Spain, &c. and is very common in the savannahs of Jamaica,