« PreviousContinue »
than to be converted into Normans before morning, to thy no small ease and comfort.'
“. The swine turned Normans into my comfort ! quoth Gurth ; 'expound that to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull, and my mind too vexed, to read riddles.'
Why, how do you call these grunting brutes running about on their four legs?' demanded Wamba.
Swine, fool, swine,' said the herd; 'every fool knows that.'
“« And swine is good Saxon,' said the jester : 'but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by the heels like a traitor ?'
Pork,' answered the swineherd.
I am very glad every fool knows that too,' said Wamba, ‘and pork, I think, is good Norman-French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name, but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles.
What dost thou think of this, friend Gurth-ha ?
“. It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy fool's pate.'
Nay, I can tell you more,' said Wamba in the same tone. « There is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calve, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner: he is a Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment.'
" By St. Dunstan,' answered Gurth, thou speakest but sad truths; little is left to us but the air we breathe, and that appears to have been reserved with much hesitation, clearly for the purpose of enabling us to endure the tasks they
lay upon our shoulders.' He had now got his herd before him; and, with the aid of Fangs, was driving them down one of the long dim vistas which we have endeavoured to describe.”
“ The pale descending year, yet pleasing still,
Still there are often fine days, when, instead of “the desolated prospect thrilling the soul,” the mind seems to share the calmness of the scene—to slumber in a contemplative quiet, as if partaking of the tranquillity of the blue autumnal sky. The shadows of objects sleeping in the clear deep waters have a fine appearance at this season ; we seem to look through immeasurable fathoms upon silent clouds mirrored therein.
In Forster's “Perrenial Calendar” are the following curious observations on birds :
“When great abundance of winter migratory birds, and particularly fieldfares, arrive early, they usually forebode a hard winter.
“ The same prognostic of a severe winter is to be inferred from the early or numerous migration of wild geese, wild ducks, and other winter fowls, or the appearance of sea-gulls in the inland marshes.
“The harsh screaming of aquatic fowls as they pass over us may be often heard at night, when they themselves are
Cranes, storks, geese, and ducks, all fly by night as well as by day; and the stork is the only one of them who is not clamorous : he takes to wing in silence, and pierces the aërial regions unheard. The cranes, on the contrary, are the most sonorous. We have no doubt that we once saw a flight of them in this country, in November, at Hackney in Middlesex : they flew at an immense height. The flight of cranes has been always notable, and Homer has a beautiful passage
in the third Iliad, in which he compares their bold flight to the march of the Trojan phalanx. In the summer they spread themselves over the north of Europe and Asia as far as the Arctic Circle, and in the winter are met with in the warmer regions of India, Syria, Egypt, &c. and at the Cape of Good Hope. The course of their flight is discovered by the loud noise they make, for they soar to such a height as to be hardly visible to the naked eye. Like the wild geese, they form themselves into different figures, describing a wedge, a triangle, or a circle. It is said that they formerly visited the fens and marshes of this island in large flocks; but they have now entirely forsaken it.
“We have seen storks in Alsace, and also in Holland, as late as the end of August ; and we believe they abide there much later.
“ Before the storks take their departure from their northern summer residence, they assemble in large flocks, and seem to confer on the plan of their projected route. Though they are very silent at other times, on this occasion they make a singular clattering noise with their bills, and all seems bustle and consultation. It is said that the first north wind is the signal for their departure, when the whole body become silent, and move at once, generally in the night; and, taking an extensive spiral course, they are soon lost in the air.
“ The heron is not actually migratory, but traverses the country to a great distance in quest of some convenient or favourite fishing spot, and in its aërial journeys soars to a great height, to which the eye is directed by its harsh cry, uttered from time to time while on the wing. In flying it draws the head between the shoulders, and the legs stretched out seem like the longer tails of some birds, to serve the office of a rudder. The motion of their wings is heavy and flagging, and yet they get forward at a greater rate than would be imagined.”
The elevated and marshalled flight of the wild geese seems dictated by geometrical instinct : shaped like a wedge, they cut the air with less individual exertion; and it is conjectured that the change of form from an inverted V, an A, and L, or a straight line, is occasioned by the leader of the van quitting his post at the point of the angle through fatigue, dropping into the rear, and leaving his place to be occupied by another.
We shall close our account of winter birds with the following anecdote from Bewick : “ In the winter of 1797, the gamekeeper of E. M. Pleydell, Esq. of Whatcombe, in Dorsetshire, brought him a woodcock, which he had caught in a net set for rabbits, alive and unhurt. Mr. P. scratched the date upon a bit of thin brass, and let it fly. In December the next year Mr. Pleydell shot this bird with the brass about its leg, in the very same wood where it had been first caught by the gamekeeper." Milton thus beautifully describes the habits of birds :
“ The eagle and the stork
common, ranged in figure wedge their way,
Her annual voyage, borne on winds; the air
The following interesting account of swallows originally appeared in the “ Sheffield Mercury :"
Early in the month of September 1815, that beautiful and social tribe of the feathered race began to assemble in the neighbourhood of Rotherham, at the Willow-ground, near the Glass-house, preparatory to their migration to a warmer climate ; and their numbers were daily augmented, until they became a vast flock which no man could easily numberthousands, and tens of thousands,—so great, indeed, that the spectator would almost have concluded that the whole of the swallow race were there collecting in one huge host. It was their manner, while there, to rise from the willows in the morning a little before six o'clock, when their thick columns literally darkened the sky. Their divisions were formed into four, five, and sometimes six grand wings, each of these filing off and taking a different route—one east, another west, another south, and so on,-as if not only to be equally dispersed throughout the country, to provide food for their numerous troops, but also to collect with them whatever of their fellows or straggling parties might be still left behind. Just before the respective columns arose, a few birds were first observed in