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PAIRING TIME ANTICIPATED:
I shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau",
If birds confabulate or no;
'Tis clear that they were always able
To hold discourse at least in fable;
And ev'n the child, who knows no better
Than to interpret by the letter
A story of a cock and bull,
Must have a most uncommon skull.
It chanc'd then, on a winter's day,
But warm, and bright, and calm as May,
The birds, conceiving a design,
To forestal sweet St. Valentine,
In many an orchard, copse,
Assembled on affairs of love;
And with much twitter, and much chatter,
Began to agitate the matter.
At length a bulfinch, who could boast
and wisdom than the most,
Entreated, op'ning wide his beak,
A moment's liberty to speak ;
And, silence publicly enjoin'd,
Deliver'd briefly thus his mind.
“ My friends, be cautious how ye treat
“ The subject upon which we meet ;,
“ I fear we shall have winter yet.”
A finch, whose tongue knew no control,
With golden wing and satin poll,
A last year's bird, who ne'er bad tried
What marriage means, thus pert replied :
• It was one of the whimsical speculations of this philosopher, that all fables which ascribe reason and speech to animals should be withheld from children, as being only vehicles of deception. But what child was ever deceived by them, or can be, against the evidence of his senses?
“ Methinks the gentleman,” quoth she,
6 Opposite in the apple tree,
“ By his good will, would keep us single
“. Till yonder heav'n and earth shall mingle,
“ Or, (which is likelier to befal,)
« Till death exterminate us all.
“ I marry without more ado;
“ My dear Dick Redcap, what say you ?"
Dick heard, and tweedling, ogling, bridling,
Turning short round, strutting, and sideling,
Attested, glad, his approbation
Of an immediate conjugation..
Their sentiments so well express’d,
Influenc'd mightily the rest,
All pair'd, and each pair built a nest.
But though the birds were thus in haste,
The leaves came on not quite so fast,
And destiny, that sometimes bears
An aspect stern on man's affairs,
Not altogether smild on theirs.
The wind, of late breath'd gently forth,
Now shifted east and east by north;
Bare trees and shrubs but ill, you know,
Could shelter them from rain or snow;
Stepping into their nests, they paddled,
Themselves were chill'd, their
eggs were addled :
Soon ev'ry father bird and mother
Grew quarrelsome, and peck'd each other;
Parted without the least regret,
Except that they had ever met;
And learn'd'in future to be wiser,
Than to neglect a good adviser.
Misses, the tale that I relate
This lesson seems to carryChoose not alone a proper mate,
But proper time to marry.
There is a field through which I often pass,
Thick overspread with moss and silky grass,
Adjoining close to Kilwick's echoing wood,
Where oft the bitch-fox bides her hapless brood,
Reserv'd to solace many a neighb'ring squire,
That he may follow them through brake and brier,
Contusion hazarding of neck or spine,
Which rural gentlemen call sport divine.
A narrow brook, by rushy banks conceald,
Runs in a bottom, and divides the field;
Oaks intersperse it, that had once a head,
But now wear crests of oven-wood instead;
And where the land slopes to it's wat’ry bourn,
Wide yawns a gulf beside a ragged thorn;
Bricks line the sides, but shiver'd long ago,
And horrid brambles interwine below;
A hollow scoop'd, I judge, in ancient time,
For baking earth, or burning rock to lime.
Nor yet the hawthorn bore her berries red,
With which the fieldfare, wintry guest, is fed ;
Nor autumn yet had brush'd from ev'ry spray,
With her chill hand, the mellow leaves away;
But corn was hous'd, and beans were in the stack,
Now, therefore, issu'd forth the spotted pack,
With tails high mounted, ears hung low, and throats
With a whole gamut fillid of heav'nly notes,
For which, alas! my destiny severe,
Though ears she gave me two, gave me no ear.
The sun, accomplishing his early march, His lamp now planted on heav'n's topmost arch; When, exercise and air my only aim, And heedless whither, to that field I came, Ere yet with ruthless joy the bappy hound Told hill and dale, that reynard's track was found,
Or with the high-rais'd horn's melodious clang
All Kilwick * and all Dinglederry * rang.
Sheep graz'd the field ; some with soft bosom press'd
The herb as soft, while nibbling stray'd the rest;
Nor noise was heard but of the basty brook,
Struggling, detain'd in many a pretty nook.
AM seem'd so peaceful, that from them convey'd
To me their peace by kind contagion spread.
But when the huntsman, with distended cheek,
'Gan make his instrument of music speak,
And from within the wood that crash was heard,
Though not a hound from whom it burst appear'd,
The sheep recumbent, and the sheep that graz'd,
All huddling into phalanx, stood and gaz'd,
Admiring terrified the novel strain,
Then cours'd the field around, and cours'd it round, again;
But, recollecting with a sudden thought,
That flight in circles urg'd advanc'd them nought;
They gather'd close around the old pit's brink,
And thought again—but knew not what to think..
The man to solitude accustom'd long
Perceives in ev'ry thing that lives a tongue; ,
Not animals alone, but shrubs and trees,
Have speech for him, and understood with ease;
After long drought, when rains abundant fall,
He hears the herbs and flow'rs rejoicing all;
Knows what the freshness of their hue implies,
How glad they catch the largess of the skies ;
But, with precision nicer still, the mind
He scans of ev'ry locomotive kind ;
Birds of all feather, beasts of ev'ry name,
That serve mankind or shun them, wild or tame;
The looks and gestures of their griefs and fears.
Have, all, articulation in his ears :
He spells them true by intuition's light,
And needs no glossary to set him right.
This truth premis'd was needful as a text,
To win due credence to what follows next.
Awhile they mus'd ; surveying ev'ry face,
Thou hadst suppos'd them of superior race;
* Two woods belonging to John Throckmorton, Esq.
Their periwigs of wool, and fears combin’d,
Stamp'd on each countenance such marks of mind,
That sage they seem'd, as lawyers o'er a doubt,
Which, puzzling long, at last they puzzle out;
Or academic tutors teaching youths,
Sure ne'er to want them, mathematic truths ;
When thus a mutton, statelier than the rest,
A ram, the ewes and wethers sad address’d.
“ Friends ! we have liv'd too long. I never heard “ Sounds such as these, so worthy to be fear'd. • Could I believe, that winds for ages pent " In earth's dark womb have found at last a vent, “ And from their prisonhouse below arise 6. With all these hideous howlings to the skies, “ I could be much compos’d, nor should appear - For such a cause to feel the slightest fear. “ Yourselves have seen, what time the thunder rollid * All night, me resting quiet in the fold. 6 Or heard we that tremendous bray alone, “ I should expound the melancholy tone; “ Should deem it by our old companion made, “The ass; for he, we know, has lately stray'd, “And being lost, perhaps, and wand'ring wide, “ Might be suppos'd to clamour for a guide. “ But ah! those dreadful yells what soul can hear, “ That owns a carcase, and not quake for fear? “ Demons produce them, doubtless ;. brazen-claw'd “ And fang’d with brass the demons are abroad ; “ 1 hold it, therefore; wisest and most fit, That, life to save, we leap into the pit,"
Him answer'd then his loving mate and true, But more discreet than he, a Cambrian ewe.
“ How! leap into the pit our life to save? “To save our life leap all into the grave? “ For can we find it less ? Contemplate first “The depth how awful! falling there, we burst; “ Or should the brambles, interpos'd, our fall “ In part abate, that happiness were small; 6. For with a race like theirs no chance I see, “Of peace or ease to creatures clad as we..