Page images
PDF
EPUB

thrush, fieldfare, and woodcock are of this kind; and they return to spend their summer in Norway, Sweden, and other parts of the north. It may be considered a rule almost without exception in this country, that all our winter visitors come from the north, and all our summer visitors from the south.

“ The gannets, or soland geese, resort during this month to the Scotch isles, where they breed in such numbers as to cover almost the whole surface of the ground with their eggs

and young.

[ocr errors]

Frogs, which during the winter lie in a torpid state at the bottoms of ponds or ditches, are enlivened by the warmth of spring, and early in this month rise to the surface of the water in vast numbers : they are at first very timorous, and dive to the bottom with great quickness as one approaches; but in the coupling season they become bolder, and make themselves heard to a great distance by their croaking. Those most elegant fish, smelts, or sparlings, begin to run up the rivers in this month in order to spawn: they are of so tender a nature, that a mixture of snow-water in the river will drive them back again to

the sea.

Another most agreeable token of the arrival of spring is, that the bees begin to venture out of their hives about the middle of this month. As their food is the honey-like juice found in the tubes of flowers, their coming abroad is a certain sign that flowers are now to be met with. No creature seems possessed of a greater power of foreseeing the state of the weather ; so that their appearance in the morning may be reckoned a sure token of a fair day. The speckled wood butterfly, the green rose-chafer, and the humming-bird hawkmoth are also on the wing.

“Besides the hazel, the sallow now enlivens the hedges with its catkins full of yellow dust; and the alder-trees are covered with a kind of black bunches, which are the male and female flowers. The leaves of honeysuckles are nearly expanded.” : One of the most beautiful sights to be witnessed this month

[ocr errors]

is the bounding of young lambs over the hills and meadows. I
never see them without thinking of innocent and happy chil-
dren gambolling and running races with each other over the
fields. Then they appear so bold, halting until you have near-
ly reached them, and fixing their little eyes knowingly upon
you; then bleating, and scampering off to their dams. The
shepherds have often to be in attendance all night during the
lambing season, to render assistance to the ewes, and to look af-
ter such lambs as are ailing,—which are taken home to the
farmhouses, and kept warm by the fire, and supplied with
milk. Dyer thus describes them:

• Spread around thy tenderest diligence
In flowery spring-time, when the new-dropt lamb,
Tottering with weakness by his mother's side,
Feels the fresh world about him, and each thorn,
Hillock, or furrow, trips his feeble feet.
Oh! guard his meek sweet innocence from all
The innumerous ills that rush around his life!
Mark the quick kite, with beak and talons prone,

Circling the skies to snatch him from the plain.”
Thomson's description of them is too good to be omitted.

“ His sportive lambs,
This way and that convolved, in friskful glee
Their frolics play. And now the sprightly race
Invites them forth ; when swift, the signal given,
They start away,

and
sweep

the
massy

mound
That runs around the hill."
I have often seen a pet-lamb in the country that followed the
farmer's daughter wherever she went. It would lie down and
sleep at her feet- sometimes on her knee. The girl had also a
deep affection for her lamb, and would garland its neck with
flowers, and fondle with it as though it had been a child.
Lambs and rabbits have always been considered meet play-
mates for children: they teach them to become affectionate.

The villagers may now be seen busied in their gardens. The la bouring man arises an hour earlier than the time appointed to begin his master's work, and prepares his own little ground for

the reception of his seeds, and looks with hope to the broad beans and green peas, which will so well harmonise with the thick flitches that already decorate his rafters.

The yellow, the blue, and the striped crocuses now light the garden border in a rich variety of colours ; the beautiful pinkflowered mezereon is also in bloom, and a few daisies have begun to sprinkle the pastures; and the high banks in lanes and moist ditches are illuminated with the glossy flowers of the pilewort. Primroses, too,

“ That die unmarried, ere they can behold

Bright Phoebus in his strength,” occasionally appear this month.

“Flowers,” says Knapp, “in all ages have been made the representatives of innocence and purity. We decorate the bride, and strew her path with flowers; we present the undefiled blossoms as a similitude of her beauty and untainted mind, trusting that her destiny through life will be like theirs, grateful and pleasing to all. We scatter them over the shell, the bier, and the earth, when we consign our mortal blossoms to the dust, as emblems of transient joy, fading pleasures, withered hopes ; yet rest in sure and certain trust that each in due season will be renewed again. All writers of antiquity make mention of their uses and application in Heathen and Pagan ceremonies, whether of the temple, the banquet, or the tomb—the rites, the pleasures, or the sorrows of man; and, in concord with the usages of the period, the author of the Book of Wisdom' says,

Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds and flowers before they wither. All orders of creation, 'every form of creeping things and abominable beasts,' have been perhaps, at one time or another, by some nation or sect, either the objects of direct worship, or the emblem of an invisible sanctity ; but though individuals of the vegetable world may have veiled the mysteries, and been rendered sacred to particular deities and purposes, yet in very few instances, we believe, were they made the representatives of a deified object, or bowed down to with divine

[ocr errors]

honours. The worship of the one true Being could never have been polluted by any symbol suggested by the open flowers and lily-work of the temple.

“ The love of flowers seems a naturally implanted passion, without any alloy or debasing object as a motive ;-the cottage has its pink, its rose, its polyanthus ; the villa, its geranium, its dahlia, and its clematis : we cherish them in youth, we admire them in declining days. But, perhaps, it is the early flowers of spring that always bring with them the greatest degree of pleasure, and our affections seem immediately to expand at the sight of the first opening blossom under the

sunny wall or sheltered bank, however humble its race may be. In the long and sombre months of winter, our love of Nature, like the buds of vegetation, seems closed and torpid ; but, like them, it unfolds and is reanimated with the opening year, and we welcome our long-lost associates with a cordiality that no other season can excite.

“ The violet of autumn is greeted with none of the love with which we hail the violet of spring : it is unseasonable, perhaps it brings with it rather a thought of melancholy than of joy

we view it with curiosity, not affection ; and thus the late is not like the early rose. It is not intrinsic beauty or splendour that so charms us, for the fair maids of spring cannot compete with the grander matrons of the advanced year; they would be unheeded, perhaps lost, in the rosy bowers of summer and of autumn. No—it is our first meeting with a long-lost friend, the reviving glow of a natural affection, that so warms us at this season. To maturity they give pleasure, as a harbinger of the renewal of life-a signal of awakening nature, or of a higher promise ; to youth they are expanding beings, opening years, hilarity, and joy; and the child let loose from the house riots in the flowery mead, and is

• Monarch of all he surveys.' “ There is not a prettier emblem of spring than an infant sporting in the sunny field, with its osier-basket wreathed with

seen.

buttercups, orchises, and daisies. With summer flowers we seem to live as with our neighbours, in harmony and good-will ; but spring flowers are cherished as private friendships.

“ The amusements and fancies of children, when connected with flowers, are always pleasing, being generally the conceptions of innocent minds unbiassed by artifice or pretence; and their love of them seems to spring from a general feeling and admiration, a kind of sympathy with objects as fair as their own untainted minds, and I think that it is early flowers which constitute their first natural playthings: though summer presents a greater number and variety, they are not so fondly selected. We have our daisies strung and wreathed about our dress; our coronals of orchises and primroses, our cowslip-balls, &c.; and one application of flowers at this season I have noticed, which, though perhaps local, has a remarkably pretty effect, forming for the time one of the gayest little shrubs that can be

A small branch or long spray of the whitethorn, with all its spines uninjured, is selected ; and on these its alternate thorns, a white and a blue violet, plucked from their stalks, are stuck upright in succession, until the thorns are covered, and when placed in a flower-pot of moss, the whole has the appearance of a beautiful vernal flowering dwarf-shrub, and as long as it remains fresh is an object of surprise and delight.

“No portion of creation has been resorted to by mankind with more success for the ornament and decoration of their labours than the vegetable world. The rites, emblems, and mysteries of religion-national achievements, eccentric masks, and the capricious visions of fancy, have all been wrought by the hand of the sculptor on the temple, the altar, or the tomb; but plants, their foliage, flowers, or fruits, as the most graceful, varied, and pleasing objects that meet our view, have been more universally the object of design, and have supplied the most beautiful, and perhaps the earliest embellishments of art. The pomegranate, the almond, and flowers, were selected even in the wilderness, by Divine appointment, to give form to the sacred

« PreviousContinue »