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tion. Sir Alexander Cumming of Altyre, a careful observer, says, that during some cutting on a railway near Altyre, “I have myself seen numbers of living toads taken out of the conglomerate, at depths of from fifteen to twenty-four feet from the surface. An extensive and seemingly unbroken bed of rock covers the stratum in which these living toads are found.” What Sir Alexander states of his own observation is not disputed. The whole question turns upon the nature of the rock, which may contain fissures large enough to allow of the tadpole being washed in from the surface, and of the animal being afterwards fed, and even fattened, upon the insects and minute animals which the water filtering will convey. Now, the controversy turning upon the nature and solidity of the rock, the supporters of the miracle undertook that the workmen should
carry large pieces of the rock to a given place, where they were to be broken in presence of intelligent witnesses;” but that experimentum crucis has not been made, or, if made, the examination has not turned out to their mind, for we have had no more of the toads in solid rock.
The question, settled long ago among good naturalists, is not likely to be put quite out of court; because now and then a young observer, finding a toad imprisoned in rock or coal, is very much struck with his own discovery, and has neither time nor inclination to peer about for cracks or chinks, which would end the miracle. He will rather believe that the poor toad has lived in his tight prison for countless thousands of years than that his observation could be imperfect; and yet a really accurate observer is very rare.
Mr. Johns is curious in bird-music and knowing in bird language. The following is very discriminating:
“It is not every dweller in the country who can discriminate to a certainty between the song of the Blackbird and that of the Thrush. The following hints may perhaps assist a listener desirous of deciding which of the two is performing :—Most of the notes of the Blackbird are uttered in a loud flute-like whistle; the Thrush also pipes, but in a less mellow tone, and its song is interspersed with passages which partake of the nature of a chirp rather than of a whistle. The song of the latter bird is further characterized by the iteration of short passages, composed each of from two to four notes. Precisely the same strain is repeated four or five times without any intercalation of other notes. The performer then drops the theme, and after a short discursive passage
takes up another, which it treats in the same way, and then abandons it for a third. Before it has gone through its whole repertory it returns to one of its favourite strains, and again rehearses other previously heard passages, but observing no regular order, and repeating more frequently than the rest some one particular combinaThe Language of Birds.
tion of notes, which, though common to all birds of the same kind, is evidently the favourite lay of the individual bird. The Blackbird, on the contrary, after once uttering his favourite strain, which is generally longer than that of the Thrush, takes up another subject before he repeats it. His song contains iterations, indeed; but after each musical passage
has been once repeated there comes either a pause, or a sequence of piping notes, which fall on the ear without rhythm.'
Now with regard to the language of birds, he says, “ A child might fancy a thrush to be saying at intervals of its song, Bo-peep, Bo-peep, Bo-peep, Bo-peep-how d’ye do, how d’ye do, how d’ye do, how d'ye do-Judy, Judy, Judy, Judy, Judywhat a pity, what a pity-Judy, etc.' That is an English thrush; and we have no doubt he is well understood in the neighbourhood of Winchester. Our Scotch mavis uses a northcountry dialect. A poor half-witted creature in the country of our youth, named Kitty White, used to complain that the very mavis was jeering her, and calling after her "Kitty White, Kitty White, Kitty White-Be wise! be wise ! be wise!” The last word she pronounced like the German weiss.1
Mr. Johns explodes the theory of the “ bleating" of the snipe being caused by the vibration of his wings :
“ The characteristic note of the Snipe, which has received this name, is thus described by Yarrell, quoting Selby :- These calls are always uttered upon the wing, and consist of a piping or clicking note, often repeated, and accompanied at intervals by a humming or bleating noise, not unlike that of a goat, apparently produced by a peculiar action of the wings, as the bird, whenever this sound is emitted, is observed to descend with great velocity, and with a trembling motion of the pinions.'
“Recent observation tends to show that this statement is inaccurate,
“The male bird, it is now known, sometimes perches on a tree, and Toussenel states that he has twice shot male birds perched on the top branch of an oak which stood in a marshy meadow of the Val-de-Loire. M. Toussenel adds, that the birds, when he shot them, were making the bleating noise described above; and several writers in the Zoologist assert that they have heard the same note proceed from the bird while perched on the ground. If this be so, the commonly received opinion that the noise is caused by the vibration of the wings while the bird is in motion through the air, cannot be entertained. The fact that it occurs only during the season of song, for it is never heard in winter, seems to favour the idea that it is a plain song of the bird, not more singular, after all, than the whirr of the Night-Jar or Grasshopper Warbler."
1 There is some very amusing gossip about the language of animals in several successive numbers of the Field, of September and October last. Mr. W. Pinkerton has sought bird-language mostly among the French (and naturally, for, we know French is the language of birds !) As Scotsmen, we repudiate the “ A'am awa— Awa wi ye !” which is said to be the finale of the cat's caterwauling! Here is a bit of quaint old English humour as our forefathers loved to join it with sacred things. In a Sussex church are paintings on the walls, of animals, represented, with scrolls issuing from their mouths, as speaking of Christmas-tide. A cock crows—Christus natus hodie! An ox lows-Ubi? Ubi? A sheep bleats in answer-In Bethlehem! A drake quacks -Quando? Quando? A raven replies in a croak--In hac nocte !
It is worth while extracting the following, to mark the precise time kept by the nightingale :
“I have been scribbling on till it is not far from midnight, but I cannot put down my pen without making yet one more note. Yesterday, April 16th, is the day in which the Nightingale is generally heard for the first time in this part of Herts. I recollected just now that I had omitted to listen for it, so, to remedy my error as far as possible, I laid down my pen, and softly unbarred the front door, for all the household but myself were asleep. A charming calm night, a bright moon, clear starlight, no sound but the distant rumb railway train : it dies away; out of its ruins rises a faint shrill piping, indicating pain rather than rejoicing; and before that is well ended, out bursts the liquid gurgling note that no instrument but the throat of the Nightingale can produce. The Nightingale is arrived, and, happy augury, I have heard his song before that of the Cuckoo !"
Mr. Johns is worthy to dwell in a cherry country. He speaks with disgust of the cherries usually found in the city market:
"No one of the common fruits is so rarely eaten in perfection as cherries. Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, and currants, are perishable enough, and, the first two especially, ought to be gathered and eaten at once—and so they often are, for they grow in most gardens; but cherries are less frequent, and are grown, mostly to a limited extent, on trees trained against a wall in the gardens of the wealthy. Those which are sold in the market have been packed and shaken and unpacked, and tumbled from basket to basket, and handled so many times that they have lost the charm of freshness and almost their distinctive character. They are little better than clammy shrivelled skins, containing a mawkish sweet pulp and a large stone. But to plant a ladder against a tree as big as an oak, to mount ten or a dozen rounds, to turn round and lean against the bars, to pull towards you a branch thickly hung with dangling balls black as jet, smooth as glass, filled with juice, liquid, gushing, luscious, and to feel assured that however many you may eat, you have no worse effects to dread than the spoiling of your appetite for the next meal—this is an enjoyment which it would be unfair to call sensual. It ranks with nutting, bilberry-gathering, shrimping, angling, and other amusements which are pursued, not for the sake of indulging the appetite, but as fascinating pastimes."
Oh! to be again a little boy, and go fishing and birds’-nesting with the Rev. E. A. Johns, and to stand upon that twelfth Pleasures of the Country Parsonage.
round of the ladder and pull the “ black-hearts ” in handfuls into the mouth, till hands and lips were as purple as Bacchus !
The “Country Parson," whose " Recreations" stand next on the prefixed list, is not a sportsman-his cloth prohibits that, in Scotland-nor is he much of a naturalist, but he has a genuine love of the country, which entitles him to a place in our gallery; and some of his philosophy is to our present purpose, and we will use it. He has discovered that dwellers in town enjoy the country more than those who live there. He teaches what Shakspere told us before, that
“If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work ;” —that play is valued most by the hard-working man. The propositions are not new, but the author illustrates them happily. “The end of work,” says he, “is to enjoy leisure; but to enjoy leisure, you must have gone through work. ... There is no such thing as play, except to the worker. . . . It is one thing for a dawdling idler to set off to the Continent or to the Highlands, just because he is sick of everything around him, and quite another thing when a hard-wrought man, who is of some use in life, sets off, as gay as a lark, with the pleasant feeling that he has brought some worthy work to an end." In like manner, and with perfect analogy, the town man relishes rural scenes most keenly. The “ Country Parson" had once lived in Threadneedle Street, and of course thought green fields and trees made Paradise; but found it not so.
“I live in the country now, and have done so for several years. It is a beautiful district of country too, and amid a quiet and simple population; yet I must confess that my youthful notion of rural bliss is a good deal abated. Use lessens marvel,' it is said ; one cannot be always in raptures about what one sees every hour of every day. It is the man in populous cities pent, who knows the value of green fields. It is your Cockney (I mean your educated Londoner) who reads Bracebridge Hall with the keenest delight, and luxuriates in the thought of country scenes, country houses, country life. He has not come close enough to discern the flaws and blemishes of the picture; and he has not learned by experience that in whatever scenes led, human life is always much the same thing. I have long since found that the country, in this nineteenth century, is by no means a scene of Arcadian innocence; that its apparent simplicity is sometimes dogged stupidity; that men lie and cheat in the country just as much as in the town, and that the country has even more of mischievous tittle-tattle; that sorrow and care and anxiety may quite well live in Elizabethan cottages grown over with honeysuckle and jasmine, and that very sad cyes may look forth from the windows round which roses twine."
“Yet, though in a gloomy mood, one can easily make out a long catalogue of country evils,-evils which I know cannot be escaped in a fallen world, and among a sinful råce, -still I thank God that my lot is cast in the country. ... I like the audible stillness in which one lives on autumn days; the murmur of the wind through trees even when leafless, and the brawl of the rivulet even when swollen and brown. There is a constant source of innocent pleasure and interest in little country cares, in planting and tending trees and flowers, in sympathizing with one's horses and dogs,—even with pigs and poultry. And although one may have lived beyond middle age without the least idea that he had any taste for such matters, it is amazing how soon he will find, when he comes to call a country home his own, that the taste has only been latent, kept down by circumstances, and ready to spring into vigorous existence whenever the repressing circumstances are removed. Men in whom this is not so, are the exception to the universal rule. Take the Senior Wrangler from his college, and put him down in a pretty country parsonage; and in a few weeks he will take kindly to training honeysuckle and climbing-roses, he will find scope for his mathematics in laying out a flower-garden, and he will be all excitement in planning and carrying out an evergreen shrubbery, a primrose bank, a winding walk, a little stream with a tiny waterfall, spanned by a rustic bridge."
“ You look with indescribable interest at an acre of ground which is your own.
There is something quite remarkable about your own trees. You have a sense of property in the sunset over your own hills. And there is a perpetual pleasure in the sight of a fair landscape, seen from your own door.
Do not believe people who say that all scenes soon become indifferent, through being constantly seen. An ugly street may cease to be a vexation, when you get accustomed to it; but a pleasant prospect becomes even more pleasant, when the beauty which arises from your own associations with it is added to that which is properly its own. No doubt you do grow weary of the landscape before your windows, when you are spending a month at some place of temporary sojourn, seaside or inland; but it is quite different with that which surrounds your own home. You do not try that by so exacting a standard. You never think of calling your constant residence dull, though it may be quiet to a degree which would make you think a place insupportably dull, to which you were paying a week's visit.”
“I know a man—an exceedingly clever and learned man—who in town is sharp, severe, hasty, a very little bitter, and just a shade illtempered, who on going to the country becomes instantly genial, frank, playful, kind, and jolly: you would not know him for the same man if his face and form changed only half as much as his intellectual and moral nature."
Here is our author's description of his return to his own parsonage, after a little absence :
“You see the snug fire: the chamber so precisely arranged, and so fresh-looking: you remark it and value it fifty times more amid country