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T. T. for 1814, p. 269, and T. T. for 1815, p. 296.
Hips, haws, sloes, and blackberries, now adorn our hedges; and the berries of the barberry (berberis vulgaris), bryony (tamus communis), honeysuckle, elder, holly, woody-nightshade, and privet (ligustrum vulgare), afford a valuable supply of food for many of the feathered race, while passing their winter with us.
About the middle of the month, the common martin disappears; and, shortly afterwards, the smallest kind of swallow, the sand-martin, migrates. The Royston or hooded crow (corvus cornix) arrives from Scotland and the northern parts of England, being driven thence by the severity of the season. It destroys lambs, and young partridges and moor fowl, and is almost as mischievous as the raven. The woodcock returns, and is found on our eastern coasts. Various kinds of waterfowl make their appearance; and, about the middle of the month, wild geese leave the fens, and go to the rye lands, to devour the young corn. Rooks sport and dive, in a playful manner, before they go to roost, congregating in large numbers. Stares assemble in the fen countries, in vast multitudes, and, perching on the reeds, render them unfit for thatching, and thus materially injure the property of the farmer.
The gleamy gossamer now spreads
The ground is covered, about this time, with spiders' webs, crossing the path from shrub to shrub, and floating in the air. This gossamer appearance is thus noticed by Mr. White: On September 21, 1741, being then on a visit, and intent on field-diversions, I rose before daybreak: when I came into the enclosures, I found the stubbles and clover-grounds matted all over with a thick coat of cobweb, in the
meshes of which a copious and heavy dew hung so plentifully, that the whole face of the country seemed, as it were, covered with two or three setting-nets drawn one over another. When the dogs attempted to bunt, their eyes were so blinded and hoodwinked that they could not proceed, but were obliged to lie down and scrape the incumbrances from their faces with their fore-feet; so that, finding my sport interrupted, I returned home, musing in my mind on the oddness of the occurrence.
As the morning advanced the sun became bright and warm, and the day turned out one of those most lovely ones which no season but the autumn produces; cloudless, calm, serene, and worthy of the south of France itself.
About nine an appearance very unusual began to demand our attention, a shower of cobwebs falling from very elevated regions, and continuing, without any interruption, till the close of the day. These webs were not single filmy threads, floating in the air in all directions, but perfect flakes or rags; some near an inch broad, and five or six long, which fell with a degree of velocity that showed they were considerably heavier than the atmosphere.
On every side, as the observer turned his eyes, might he behold a continual succession of fresh flakes falling into his sight, and twinkling like stars as they turned their sides towards the sun.
6 How far this wonderful shower extended would be difficult to say; but we know that it reached Bradley, Selborne, and Alresford, three places which lie in a sort of a triangle, the shortest of whose sides is about eight miles in extent.
At the second of those places there was a gentleman (for whose veracity and intelligent turn we have the greatest veneration), who observed it the moment. he got abroad; but concluded that, as soon as he came upon the hill above his house, where he took his morning rides, he should be higher than this meteor,
which he imagined might have been blown, like thistle-down, from the common above: but, to his great astonishment, when he rode to the most elevated part of the down, three hundred feet above his fields, he found the webs, in appearance, still as much above him as before; still descending into sight in a constant succession, and twinkling in the sun, so as to draw the attention of the most incurious.
"Neither before nor after was any such fall observed; but on this day the flakes hung in the trees and hedges so thick, that a diligent person sent out might have gathered baskets full.
The remark that I shall make on these cobweblike appearances, called gossamer, is, that, strange and superstitious as the notions about them were formerly, nobody in these days doubts but that they are the real production of small spiders, which swarm in the fields in fine weather in autumn, and have a power of shooting out webs from their tails, so as to render themselves buoyant, and lighter than air. But why these apterous insects should that day take such a wonderful aërial excursion, and why their webs should at once become so gross and material as to be considerably more weighty than air, and to descend with precipitation, is a matter beyond my skill. If I might be allowed to hazard a supposition, I should imagine that those filmy threads, when first shot, might be entangled in the rising dew, and so drawn up, spiders and all, by a brisk evaporation into the regions where clouds are formed: and if the spiders have a power of coiling and thickening their webs in the air, as Dr. Lister says they have [see his Letters to Mr. Ray], then, when they were become heavier than the air, they must fall.
Every day in fine weather, in autumn chiefly, do I see those spiders shooting out their webs and mounting aloft: they will go off from your finger if you will take them into your hand. Last summer one alighted on my book as I was reading in the parlour; and,
running to the top of the page, and shooting out a web, took its departure from thence. But what I most wondered at was, that it went off with considerable velocity in a place where no air was stirring; and I am sure that I did not assist it with my breath. So that these little crawlers seem to have, while mounting, some locomotive power without the use of wings, and to move in the air faster than the air itself.' Natural Hist. of Selborne, vol. i, p.323-327.
When the garden-spider (aranea horticola) is desirous of flitting from one place to another, this animal fixes one end of a thread to the place where she stands, and then with her hind paws draws out several other threads from the nipples, which, being lengthened out and driven by the wind to some neighbouring tree, or other object, are, by their natural clamminess, fixed to it. When she finds that these are fastened, she makes of them a bridge, on which she can pass or repass at pleasure. This done, she renders the thread still thicker, by spinning others to it. From this thread she often descends, by spinning downward to the ground. The thread formed by the latter operation she fixes to some stone, plant, or other substance. She re-ascends to the first thread, and at a little distance from the second begins a third, which she fixes in the same manner. She now strengthens all the three threads, and, beginning at one of the corners, weaves across, and at last forms a strong and durable net, in the centre of which she places herself, with her head downward, to wait for her prey.
Her disemboweiled web she spreads
For some very curious particulars respecting the web of the spider, see our last volume, pp. 305-307.
And butterfly proud of expanded wings
Among the flowers which are still usually in blow, in this month, is the holy-oak, Michaelmas daisy, stocks, nasturtian, marigold, mignionette, lavender, wall-flower, red hips, china rose, virginia stock, heart's-ease, laurustinus, rocket, St. John's wort, periwinkle, &c. The hedges are now ornamented with the wreaths and festoons of the scarlet berries of the black briony; and now and then, that last pale promise of the waning year,' the wild rose, meets the eye— born, just to bloom and die. But so I have seen a ROSE newly springing from the clefts of its hood, and at first it was fair as the morning, and full with the dew of heaven as a lamb's fleece; but when a ruder breath had forced open its virgin modesty, and dismantled its too youthful and unripe retirements, it began to put on darkness, and to decline to softness and the symptoms of a sickly age; it bowed the head, and broke its stalk; and, at night, having lost some of its leaves, and all its beauty, it fell into the portion of weeds and outworn faces.'-JEREMY TAYLOR'.
The beautiful and well known lines of Cowper, 'The rose had been washed, just washed in a shower,' are written in a kindred spirit, and are almost equally touching with the above quotation from the eloquent Bishop Taylor. The following fragment of Sappho is of another cast:
Would Jove appoint some flower to reign