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table creation, mosses, and the liverwort (lichen), now attract our notice.
Now nought is green upon the oak
Mosses are spread over the whole globe, so that, in some situations, the soil is exclusively covered by them; and thus, frequently, bare rocks gradually become fertile. As they grow most copiously on the north-west side of trees, it is probable that mosses serve to protect them from the severity of cold; but if these parasitical plants be suffered to increase too abundantly, they not only tend materially to injure trees, but also to stifle the more useful vegetables of the soil. Mosses are almost constantly green, and have the finest verdure in autumn. Some of the mosses spread in a continued leaf; others grow hollow above, like small cups; others round on the top, like mushrooms; and some shoot out in branches. All these have their different seeds, which do not require great delicacy of soil, but take root on any thing where they can grow unmolested.
Those mosses which rise immediately from the earth are more perfect; some of them white and hollow, or fistulous; and some of them not much inferior to regular plants. The more perfect sorts grow on stones, in the form of a fine pile or fur, like velvet, and of a glossy colour, between green and black. But the first sort, which appears like scurf or crust, seems to rise but one degree above the unwrought mould or earth. An unhealthy tree is never without these imperfect super-plants; and the more unhealthy the tree is, the better they thrive. A few of the most remarkable mosses, are, the greater water-moss (fontinalis antipyretica); bryum rurale; grey bog-moss (sphagnum palustre); yellow powderwort (byssus candelaris, or lichen flavus of Withering); and the common club-moss (lycopodium clavatum). This last grows in dry mountainous places,
heaths, and woods, and is principally found in the north of England; it produces a prostrate creeping stem from one to three yards in length, and flowers from July to August. Mosses, diminutive as they seem, are no less perfect plants than those of greater magnitude, having roots, flowers, and seeds.
Each shell, each crawling insect, holds a rank
Of the liverworts, or lichens, there are more than three hundred and sixty species, the greater number of which are natives of Britain. The various kinds of lichens are subservient to many important purposes; some are used as dying-drugs in Lapland, one species constitutes the sole winter subsistence of that useful animal the rein-deer; and, in Britain, the lichen islandicus, which grows much on the mountains of Wales and Scotland, is used as a medicine. In Iceland, food is prepared from it.
The red-breast is still heard to chaunt his cheerful strain,' and again demands our tribute of affection, which we cheerfully render to him in the following stanzas of an anonymous poet :
The summer's past-the swallow's fled,
DECEMBER's blasts no fears create,
As so few of the feathered tribe are seen in this dreary month, we must not forget to assign a place,
in our ornithological register, to the harmless, chirping, sparrow. No bird more frequently meets our eye than this, and if it does not charm the ear by its voice, it amuses the mind by its familiarity and craftiness. It frequents our habitations, and is seldom absent from our gardens and fields. Though its note is only a chirp, in a wild state; when early reclaimed, it may be taught to imitate the strain of the linnet or goldfinch. Few birds are more execrated by the farmers, and none, perhaps, more unjustly. It is true, indeed, they consume a considerable quantity of grain and fruit, but then it should be considered that a pair of them will destroy upwards of three thousand caterpillars in a week. Nor is the utility of these birds limited to this circumstance alone: they likewise feed their young with butterflies and other insects, which, if suffered to live, would be the parents of numerous caterpillars. Catullus has devoted an Elegy to the Sparrow, replete with poetic beauty. This fortunate bird was
D'une belle Romaine ami tendre, hôte heureux,
Fut pleuré par Lesbie, et chanté par Catulle. DE LILLE.
The shortest day, or winter solstice, happens on the 21st of December; and the joyful season of Christmas is now fast approaching.
How many a heart is happy at this hour
In ENGLAND! brightly o'er the cheerful hall,
Flares the heaped hearth, and friends and kindred meet,
Amid the world's wide way assembled now;
With smiles the eye that AGE has long bedimmed.
I do remember when I was a child,
Towards the end of the month, woodcock shooting commences. The predictive signs of his appearance are faithfully marked by the author of Fowling,' a poem; and the haunts and habits of this bird are prettily described by the same author 2.
Pope, in his Windsor Forest,' has the following picturesque description of the winter sports of the fowler :
With slaught'ring gun th' unwearied fowler roves,
Of the snipe (scolopax gallinago), which becomes a prey to the fowler in this and the following month, there are more than forty varieties, mostly breeding in Europe, and subsisting on insects. Some of these wild-fowl frequent moors, others delight in swampy bushes, and others in the open fields 3.
'From Lines written in Spain, on Christmas Day, by R. Southey, Esq. See his interesting Letters from Spain,' vol. i, p. 100.
2 See FOWLING, a Poem, pp, 101, 102, 109, 110. This poem is descriptive of Grouse, Partridge, Pheasant, Woodcock, Duck, and Snipe shooting, and forms a pleasing companion to the Chace' of Somerville.
3 See our last volume, p. 351.
With pleasure now the fisher-boy will take
To touch quite slimy, and in motion strong.
These fish constitute the major part of the winter's produce, though the fishermen are sometimes fortunate enough to procure soles, turbot, flat-fish, &c. &c. in the trolling-nets. The conger-eel is, upon the western coast, the most disgusting marine production that can meet the eye. The largest are nearly two yards in length, and proportionate in thickness; which the poor people are obliged to eat, for want of other victuals. Soup, it is said, made from this eel is very nutritive, and delicious to the palate. A conger eel was, some time since, taken in the Wash at Yarmouth, by a fisherman, which measured six feet in length, and twenty-two inches in girth, and weighed three stone seven pounds. The eel, on finding no way for escape, rose erect, and actually knocked the fisherman down before he could secure it.
In this month, those wild animals which pass the winter in a state of torpidity, retire to their hiding places. The frog, lizard, badger, and hedgehog, which burrow under the earth, belong to this class; as also the bat, which is found in caverns, barns, &c.
• The Trolling Net is by no means so large as the Seine, being affixed to what is called the troll-bar; this is a long piece of wood, each end of which is rivetted into a broad thick piece of solid metal, called the troll-irons, the weight of which sinks the net to the bottom; where, after remaining some time, the toil is closed by means of ropes communicating from the troll-net to the troll-boat, when it is hauled up, and the produce taken out.