Obrazy na stronie

tering pearly drops, or silvery plumage, beyond the skill of any artist to imitate.

Sometimes it happens, that a sudden shower of rain falls during a frost, and immediately turns to ice. A remarkable scene is then produced, which the following lines most beautifully describe.

Ere yet the clouds let fall the treasur'd snow,
Or winds begun through hazy skies to blow,
At evening a keen eastern breeze arose,
And the decending rain unsullied froze.
Soon as the silent shades of night withdrew,
The ruddy morn disclos'd at once to view
The face of nature in a rich disguise,
And brighten'd every object to my eyes:
For ev'ry shrub, and ev'ry blade of grass,
And every pointed thorn, seem'd wrought in glass;
In pearls and rubies rich, the hawthorns show,
While through the ice the crimson berries glow.

PHILIPS, Lett. from Copenhagen.

In such a case, prodigious mischief has been done in the woods by the breaking down of vast arms of trees, which were over-loaded by the weight of the incrusting ice; and even rooks, attempting to fly, have been taken, owing to their wings being frozen together, by the sleet that congealed as it fell.

The inclemency of the season is shewn. by its effects on animals. Those which are called the cold-blooded, that is, where the whole of the blood does not circulate through the lungs, as the frog, the snake, and the lizard, are benumbed by it in their winter quarters, and continue in this death-like state till the return of warm weather. Others, as the dormouse, the marmot, and bear, sleep away the greater part of this uncomfortable period; while others, as the squirrel and field-mouse, which lay up stores of provision during the autumn, keep close in their retreats, sleeping a good deal during the frost, but, during the less severe part of the winter, being in an active state, have recourse to their hoards, for a supply of subsistence. But animals in a state of sleep require nourishment, though not in such large quantities as those which continue actively alive; the necessity of food being proportioned to the rapidity of the circulation of the blood. Since, however, in a state of torpor it is impossible to take in nourishment, these animals must perish, were it not for a store of food prepared and laid up within them, in the form of fat: for animals of this class become very fat before they retire to

their winter habitations, and come out again in the spring lean and emaciated, as is the case with the bear, marmot, &c. With respect to the cold-blooded animals, which do not grow fat, the continuance of their life is provided for by other means. All these animals are capable, during their active state, of supporting the want of food for a great length of time; at which period the beats of the heart, which make the blood circulate,amount to about sixty in a minute; but, during their inactive state, do not exceed the same number in the space of an hour: so that the beats of the heart, during the three months of winter that they become insensible, amount to no more than the usual number of thirty-six hours in their active state, and their demand for nourishment is probably diminished in the same proportion.

The other animals, that are not rendered torpid by the cold, feel yet very sensibly its effects, which are a want of food and heat; to obviate these pressing evils, the wild quadrupeds of prey, by which these islands are inhabited, such as the fox, the weazel, the polecat, and others, rendered bold by famine, make incursions into the hen-roost and farm-yard; happily, however, we are acquainted, only by report, with those formidable troops of wolves, which

at this season occasionally attack the villages among the Alps, and in other mountainous and woody parts of the continent: of these ravenous invaders, Thomson has given a most spirited decription.

By wintry famine roused from all the tract
Of horrid mountains, which the shining Alps,
And wavy Appennine, and Pyrences,

Branch out stupendous into distant lands,
Cruel as death, and hungry as the grave!
Burning for blood! bony, and gaunt, and grim!
Assembling wolves in raging troops descend;
And, pouring o'er the country, bear along,
Keen as the north-wind sweeps the glossy snow;
All is their prize. They fasten on the steed,
Press him to earth, and pierce his mighty heart:
Nor can the bull his awful front defend,
Or shake the murdering savages away.
Rapacious, at the mother's throat they fly,
And tear the screaming infant from her breast.
The god-like face of man avails him nought.
But if, apprized of the severe attack,
The country be shut up, lur'd by the scent,
On church-yards drear (inhuman to relate)
The disappointed prowlers fall and dig
The shrouded body from the grave.

At this season also, hares, forgetting their natural fearfulness, enter the gardens to browse on the cultivated vegetables, and leaving their tracks in the snow, are fre

quently hunted down, or caught in snares. Rabbits, pressed with hunger, enter into plantations, where they destroy multitudes of trees, by barking them as high as they are able to reach.

The numerous tribes of birds also quit their retreats, gather together in large flocks, and, in search of food, approach the habitations of man. Larks, and various other small birds, betake themselves for shelter to the warm stubble. Fieldfares, thrushes and blackbirds, nestle together under hedges and ditch banks, and frequent the warm manured fields in the neighbourhood of towns. Sparrows, yellow-hammers and chaffinches, croud into the farm-yard, and attend the barn-doors, to pick up their scanty fare from the straw and chaff. The titmouse pulls straw out of thatch in search of flies and other insects, which have sheltered there, From wet meadows many birds, such as red-wings, fieldfares, sky-larks and tit-larks, procure much of their winter subsistence; the latter bird, especially, wades up to its belly in pursuit of insects, and runs along upon the floating grass and weeds. They meet also with many gnats on the snow near the water. Birds which feed upon vegetables,

« PoprzedniaDalej »