Page images
PDF
EPUB

that floated over his enchanted land ; and Thomson has thrown a portion of its sleepiness over his Castle of Indolence, making it an eternal season between May and June, “Half prankt with spring, with summer half embrowned;" a kind of lazy climate, where no man could work, nor yet muster energy enough to play. But when a bean-field chances be near at hand, then indeed is the odour overpowering ; and should an oak throw out its broad branches close by, springing up above some hedge laden with woodbine and wild roses, and a lazy poet chance to go

that way, a million to one that he throws himself under the tree. The field waving with its rich flowers, and clover-lands in full bloom--the very wind lazy under its load of fragrance, a drowsy murmur of bees singing or humming as they pass to and fro, the branches of the oak just stirring, the long grass giving half a nod, a bird or two making half a note, your own eyes half closed, and a lazy-pacing brook that hesitates before it passes over a pebble--(so low is its voice as scarcely to be heard)—these form the luxuries of country indolence.

6. Was nought around but images of rest,

Sleep-soothing groves, and quiet lawns between,
And flowery beds that slumberous influence cast,
From poppies breathed ; and beds of pleasant green,
Where never yet was creeping creature seen.
Meantime unnumber'd glittering streamlets play'd,
And hurled everywhere their waters sheen,

That, as they bicker'd through the sunny shade,
Though restless still themselves, a-lulling murmur made.

Join'd to the prattle of the purling rills,
Were heard the lowing herds along the vale,
And flocks loud bleating from the distant hills,
And vacant shepherds piping in the dale ;
And now and then sweet Philomel would wail,
Or stock-doves plain amid the forest deep,
That drowsy rustled to the sighing gale ;

And still a coil the grasshopper did keep ;-
Yet all these mingled sounds inclined all to sleep.

Full in the passage of the vale above,
A sable, silent, solemn forest stood,
Where nought but shadowy forms were seen to move,
As Idlesse fancied in her dreaming mood ;
And up the hills, on either side, a wood
Of blackening pine, aye waving to and fro,
Sent forth a sleepy horror through the blood ;

And where this valley winded out below,
The murmuring main was heard, and scarcely heard, to flow.

A pleasing land of drowsyhed it was,
Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye ;
And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
For ever flushing round a summer sky."

Thomson.

Reader! get thee into the fields and woods, and enjoy these “ dreams that wave before the half-shut eye,”— these mingled sights of purple and gold and azure, mirrored on the waters, and waving in the trees, or floating on the skirts of a silvercloud ;-enjoy for once this delightful indolence----this poetic vagabondizing — which money-getting men sneer at, because they never felt their enjoyments. Believe me that for many a day it will make

* Thy memory a dwelling-place

For all sweet sounds and harmonies." Forster, in his Perennial Calendar, says: “Various insects still continue to appear ;—the huge stag-beetle, the green scarabeus, the ephemera or angler's fly, and the terrible gad-fly, who deposits her eggs in the hides of cattle. The goatsucker makes a jarring noise on a still evening, and the stone-curlew is heard while flying overhead in the obscurity of night. Most of the grasses begin to flower in the meadows, and so continue through the month, until cut down for hay. Some young birds of the early broods also are seen about, and are hardly recognized in their first plumage. The bat is less frequently seen than during the last two months: they fit about more commonly in spring and autumn than in midsummer. During the mild evenings

of this month not a little amusement may be derived from watching the motions of the common barn-owl, the cunning of which is thus described by Butler :

"... As an owl, that in a barn

Sees the mouse creeping in the corn,
Sits still, and shuts his round blue eyes
As if he slept, until he spies
The little beast within his reach,
Then starts and seizes on the wretch.'

The fern-owl may be seen in the evening, among the branches of oaks, in pursuit of fernchaffers. In warm dry weather the snake, the viper, and the slowworm are seen on dry banks and beside ponds. Frogs now are abundant: they inhabit all our stagnant pools, marsh ditches, and swamps, all the summer : they are also found very numerous among the mowed grass ; and the first discovery of their bright yellow skins is accounted a good sign for the next month's hay-time. Towards the end of this month marygolds begin to blow: they seem to have been as great favourites with our poets as the violet or rose; nearly all the bards have noticed their closing their flowers in the evening. Chatterton says,

The marybudde that shutteth with the light.' And Browne in his Pastorals has

* But, maiden, see, the day is waxen old,

And ’gins to shut in with the marygold.' And Shakspeare says,

• The marygold that goes to bed with the sun,

And with him risés weeping.' “ The great viper buglos now flowers, and when growing among the long grass is sometimes found from four to five feet high. The general aspect of the meadows is delightful : in some the grass is cut, and in others it still stands, adorned by the yellow flowers of the crowfoot. Some fields are purple with saintfoin, and all are rich in the various grasses. The wheat

advances, and all the corn looks green and lively. The sportsman is anxious to save all the partridge-nests which are exposed by cutting down the grass, and the young birds are sometimes brought into the farmyard. In very early seasons the jasmine begins to bloom at the end of this month.

• 'Twas midnight; through the lattice, wreathed

With woodbine, many a perfume breathed
From plants that wake when others sleep,-
From timid jasmine-buds, that keep
Their odour to themselves all day,
But when the sunlight dies away,
Let the delicious secret out
To every breeze that roams about.'

MOORE.

“ The scarlet lychnis now begins to flower, and its brilliant scarlet adorns the gardens till the end of July or beginning of August, when it sheds its seed; but, being a perennial, it grows again each succeeding year. This plant grows wild in the northern parts of Europe, and consequently bears the severity of winter remarkably well: it forms agreeable clusters in the borders of the garden, alternating with beds of pinks, sweetwilliams, and orange lilies : its brilliant scarlet is also contrasted agreeably with the deep crimson of the China rose. The Canterbury bells begin to put out their large blue flowers, and continue to do so through the whole of the next month; and some of them may be seen blowing until the end of autumn. The Indian pink is now in bloom, and continues through the summer exhibiting the most splendid colour of any plant of

the genus.

* Each dry entangled copse empurpled glows
With orchis blooms; while in the moisten'd plain
The meadow-sweet its luscious fragrance yields.
And, ah ! what odours from the hedge-row breathe
When the soft shower calls forth the hidden sweets !
The clover richly feeds the stealthful gale.'”

“Sheep-shearing," says the Mirror of the Months, “is one of the great rural labours of this month. If not so full of variety, and so creative of matter for those in search of the picturesque, it is still more lively, animated, and spirit-stirring. It also retains something of the character of a rural holiday, which rural matters need, in this age and in this country, more than ever they did since it became a civilized and happy one. The sheep-shearings are almost the only stated periods of the year at which we hear of festivities, and gatherings together of the lovers and practisers of English husbandry: for even the harvest-home is fast sinking into disuse, as a scene of mirth and revelry, from the want of being duly encouraged and partaken in by the great ones of the earth. In a state of things like this, the Holkham and Woburn sheep-shearings do more honour to their promoters than all their wealth can purchase and all their titles convey.—But our business is with the pretty sights and sounds preparatory to and attendant on sheep-shearing, as a mere rural employment.

“ Now, then, on the first really summer's day, the whole flock being collected on the higher bank of the pool formed at the abrupt winding of the nameless mill-stream, at the point, perhaps, where the little wooden bridge runs slantwise across it, and the attendants being stationed waist-deep in the midwater, the sheep are, after a silent but obstinate struggle or two, plunged headlong, one by one, from the precipitous bank; when, after a moment of confused splashing, their heavy fleeces float them along, and their feet, moving by an instinctive art which every creature but man possesses, guide them towards the opposite shallows, that steam and glitter in the sunshine. Midway, however, they are fain to submit to the rude grasp of the relentless washer, which they undergo with as ill a grace as schoolboys do the same operation. Then, gaining the opposite shore heavily, they stand for a moment till the weight of water leaves them, and, shaking their streaming sides, go bleating away towards their fellows, wondering within themselves what has happened.

« PreviousContinue »