« PoprzedniaDalej »
acuteness and sensibility far beyond that as we ourselves had glimpses of in early of other animals; and it is a wonderful and life, when the animal excitement of childhood, mysterious instinct which makes them resign mingling with first bright dawnings of all they have loved and cherished, even reason, lifted us high into the regions of when no change is perceptible to other eyes, thought, and taught us to spurn at the harsh and when it is certain that no injury has discipline of real life. From flights such as been sustained. It is a refinement upon these we have so often fallen prone upon the feeling, which strikes the imagination with a carth, that they have ceased to tempt our strong resemblance to some of those mal-full-fledged powers, and even if the brillianoccurrences in human life, which divert the cy of thought remained to lure us on, the inner channel of the thoughts and affections, animal stimulus would be wanting, and we without the superficial observer being should be conscious of our utter inability on aware of any change-those lamentable en- the first attempt to soar again. But the croachments upon the sacredness of domes- memory of this ecstatic feeling still remains, tic confidence, which, by a word—a look-a and when we think of the aspirations of putouch, may at once destroy the blessedness rified and happy spirits, we compare them of that union, which is nothing better than to the upward flight of the lark, or to the a degrading bond after the spell of its secret boundings of that innocent joy which we ourcharm is broken.
selves have felt, but feel no more. And then The nightingale, whose charmed lays there is the glad voice of the lark, that have a two-fold glory in their native melody, spring of perpetual freshness, pouring forth and in the poet's song, claims unquestion- its untiring and inexhaustible melody. ably the first place in our consideration;
“ Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun." though I own I am much disposed to think that this bird owes half its celebrity to the Who ever listened to this voice on a clear circumstance of its singing in the night, spring morning, when nature was first rising when the visionary, wrapped in the mantle from her wintry bed, when the furze was of deep thought, wanders forth to gaze upon in bloom, and the lambs at play, and the the stars, and to court the refreshment of primrose and the violet scented the desilence and solitude. It is then that the licious south wind that came with the glad voice of the nightingale thrills upon his ear, tidings of renovated life-who ever listened and he feels that a kindred spirit is awake, to the song of the lark on such a morning, perhaps, like him, to sweet remembrances, while the dew was upon the grass, and the to sorrows too deep for tears, and joys for sun was smiling through a cloudless sky, which music alone can find a voice. He without feeling that the spirit of joy was still listens, and the ever-varying melody rises alive within, around, and above him, and and falls upon the wandering wind-he that those wild and happy strains, floating pines for some spiritual communion with in softened melody upon the scented air, this unseen being-he longs to ask why were the outpourings of a gratitude too rapsleep is banished from a breast so tuned to turous for words? harmony-joy, and joy alone, it cannot be, Nor is it the vocal power of birds which which inspires that solitary lay; no, there gives us the highest idea of their intellectual are tones of tenderness too much like grief, capacity. Their periodical visitations of parand is not grief the bond of fellowship by ticular regions of the globe, and the punctuwhich impassioned souls are held together? ality with which they go forth on their mysThus, the nightingale pours upon the heart | terious passage at particular seasons of the of the poet, strains which thrill with those year, form, perhaps, the most wonderful prosensations that have given pathos to his pensity in their nature. It is true that inmuse, and he pays her back by celebrating stinct is the spring of their actions, and it is her midnight minstrelsy in song.
possible that they are themselves unconThe skylark is, of all the feathered tribe, scious of any motive or reason for the impormost invariably associated with ideas of rap- tant change which instinct induces them to turous, pure, and elevated enjoyment; such | make; but in speaking of the poetry of birds, I wish to be understood to refer to the ideas ocean with that strange, deep wonder with which their habits naturally excite, not to which we regard the manifestations of a the facts which they elicit. We know that mysterious, but concentrated and individual birds are by no means distinguished, above power—to feel that he stretches his unfathother animals by their intellectual capacity, omable expanse from pole to pole—that he but so wonderful, so far beyond our compre- ruffles his foaming mane and rushes bellowhension, is the instinct exhibited in their ing upon the circling shore-or that he lies transient lives, that instead of having al- slumbering in his silent glory, beneath the ways in mind the providential scheme which blaze of our meridian sun, and through the provides for the wants and wishes even of still midnight of the island gardens that gem the meanest insect, we are apt to indulge the South Pacific; it is not less in unison our imaginations by attaching to the winged with poetic feeling, nor less productive of wanderers of the air, vague yet poetical ecstatic thought, to personify the trees, and ideas of their own mental endowments, and the flowers, and the rippling streams, and to half believe them to be actuated by a delica- welcome with gratitude the fairy forms and cy of sense and feeling, in many cases supe-glad voices that come to tell us of returning rior to our own. Whether this belief, with spring. which the minds of children are so strongly
Who that has tasted the delights of poetry, imbued, and which lingers about us long would be deprived of this power of the imafter we have become acquainted with its agination to people the air and animate the fallacy, be any bar to the progress of philo- whole creation ? Let the critic smile-let sophical knowledge, I am not prepared to the tradesman count his pence, and reckon say; but certainly it is the very essence of up how little imagination has ever added to poetical feeling; and for one visionary who his store-let the modern philosopher examwould scruple to kill a bird for dissection ine the leaf, and the flower, and the bird's because it had been the companion of his wing, and pronounce them equally material woodland walks, there will remain to be a and devoid of mind let the good man say thousand practical men who would care lit- that poetry is a vain pursuit, and that these tle what strains had issued from that throat, things are not worthy of our regard; I mainif they could but ascertain how the throat tain that these notions, visionary as they are, itself was constructed. It is precisely the tend to innocent enjoyment, and that innosame principle which inspires us with the cent enjoyment is not a vain pursuit, because sublimest ideas of the majesty of the uni- it may, and ought to inspire us with love verse, by imbodying in the stars, the moun- and gratitude towards Him who has not tains, the ocean, or the pealing thunder, only given us a glorious creation to enjoy, some unseen, but powerful intelligence, that but faculties to enjoy it with, and imaginaoffers for our enjoyment a never-ending com
tion to make the most of it. panionship in the woods and wilds, through
With the swallow we associate the everan ideal personification of every thing sweet cheering idea of returning summer. We and fair. It is this principle which makes watch for its coming, and rejoice to hear the us hail the periodical return of certain birds, merry twittering voice, that seems to tell of as if they had been thinking of us, and of a life of innocent and careless glee-an exour fields and gardens, in that far distant istence unruffled by a storm. As the sumland, of which they tell no tidings; and, mer advances, and we seek shelter from the taking into consideration the changes of the noon-day heat in the deep shade of the leafy seasons, had consulted upon the best means boughs that wave around the margin of the of escaping the dangers of the threatening glassy stream, it is here that the swallow is storm: as if they had spread their feeble not unfrequently our sole companion ; and wings to bear them over the wide waste of ever as we call to remembrance its swift yet inhospitable waters from the energy of their graceful flight, we picture it darting from own hearts, and had come back to us from the pendent branches of the willow, stooping their own unchangeable and fervent love. to cool its arrowy wing upon the surface of
If it be poetry to gaze upon the mighty | the glancing waters, and then away, swister
Or shadow dims her way.
Of sinful passion free,
than thought, into mid air, to sport one mo- But high she shoots through air and light, ment with aerial beings. Again it sweeps
Above all low delay,
Where nothing earthly bounds her fight, in silence past our feet, over the spiral reeds, around, above us, gliding through the shad
So grant me, God, from every stain ows, and flickering through the sunshine; but never resting, and yet never weary; for
Alont through virtue's purer air,
To steer my flight to thee! the spirit than animates its bounding bosom, and stretches forth its giddy wing, is one
No sin to cloud, no lure to stay,
My soul, as home she springs, that knows no sleep until light has vanished Thy sunshine on her joyful way, from the world, no sadness until the sweets
Thy freedom on her wings." of summer are exhausted. And then arises that vague mysterious longing for a milder But neither the wonderful instinct of this sphere—that irrepressible energy to do and undeviating messenger, nor even the classidare what to mere reason would appear im- cal association of the two white doves with practicable; and forth it launches with its the queen of love and beauty, are more faithful companions, true to the appointed the simple cooing of our own wood pigeon,
powerful in awakening poetical ideas than time, upon the boundless ocean of infinitude, trusting to it knows not what, yet trusting still heard sometimes in the silent solemnity of
With the cuckoo, our associations are in summer's noon, when there is no other sound some respects the same as with the swallow,
but the hum of the wandering bee, as he except that we are in the habit of regarding
comes laden and rejoicing home, when the it simply as a voice; and what a voice !
sun is alone in the heavens, and the cattle How calm, and clear, and rich! How full
are sleeping in the shade, and not a single of all that can be told of the endless profu- breath of air is whispering through the sion of summer's charms !—of the hawthorn, boughs, and the deep dark shadows of the in its scented bloom, of the blossoms of the elm and the sycamore lie motionless upon apple, and the silvery waving of the fresh the earth-or, in the cool evening, when the green corn, of the cowslip in the meadow,
shadows, less distinct, are lengthened out and the wild rose by the woodland path; upon the lawn, and the golden west is tingand last, but not least in its poetical beauty, ing here and there the bright green foliage of the springing up of the meek-eyed daisy,
with a brighter hue, when the shepherd is to welcome the foot of the traveller, upon turning to his rest
, it is then that the soft
numbering his flock, and the labourer is rethe soft and grassy turf.
Above all other birds, the dove is most in- sweet cooing of the dove, bursting forth, as timately and familiarly associated in our
it were, from the pure fount of love and joy minds with ideas of the quiet seclusion of within its breast, sounds like the lullaby of rural life, and the enjoyment of peace and nature, and diffuses over the mind that holy love. This simple bird, by no means re
calm which belongs to our best and happiest markable for its sagacity, so soft in its co
feelings. louring, and graceful in its form, that we
From the timid moor cock, the "whirring cannot behold it without being conscious of partridge,” and the shy water fowl that its perfect loveliness, is in some instances scarcely dares to plume its beauteous wing in
endowed with an extraordinary instinct, the moonlight of our autumnal evening, when which adds greatly to its poetical interest the floods are high, and the wind rushes That species called the carrier pigeon, has whispering through the long sere grass, often been celebrated for the faithfulness down to the russet wren that looks so gravewith which it pursues its mysterious way,
ly conscious of the proprieties of life, there is but never more beautifully than in the fol- scarcely one class of the feathered tribe to lowing lines by Moore.
which imagination does not readily and
naturally assign an intellectual, or rather a # The bird let loose in eastern skies,
moral character, associating it with feelings When hastening fondly home, Ne'er stoops to earth her wing, or flies
and capabilities, of which the little flutterer Where idler wanderers roam ;
is (perhaps happily for itself) unconscious.
The peacock is a striking illustration of this the owl is particularly distinguished; and fact. The beauty of his plumage is in all such is the grave aspect of its countenance, probability lost upon him, yet because it con- so nearly resembling the human face in the sists of that rich and gaudy colouring, which traits which are considered as indicative of is consistent with our notions of what vanity sagacity and earnest thought, that the andelights in, and because the lengthened cients dignified this bird by making it the garniture of his tail requires that for conve- emblem of wisdom, though there seems to nience and repose he should often place be little in its real nature to merit such exalhimself in an elevated situation, he has ob- tation. From the extreme timidity of the tained a character which there is little in his owl, and its habitual concealment from the real nature to justify, and as an emblem of light of day, it is difficult to become familiar pride, is placed by the side of Juno in her with its character. We see it sailing forth regal dignity. This tendency of the mind on expanded wings in the gray twilight of to throw over sensible objects a colouring of the evening, when other birds have retired its own, is also proved by the character to their nightly rest; or we behold it in the which mankind have bestowed upon the distance a misty speck, half light, half sharobin redbreast, in reality a jealous, quarrel-dow, just visible in the same proportion, and some, and unamiable bird; yet such is the with the same obscurity of outline and counobtrusive and meek beauty of its little lour, as in our infancy we fancied that spiriform, the touching pathos of its “still small tual beings from another world made themvoice," and the appeals it seems ever to be selves perceptible in this. Besides which, making to the kindness and protection of the voice of the owl, as it comes shrieking on man, that the poet perpetually speaks of the the midnight blast, and its mysterious breathrobin with tenderness and love, and even ings, half sighs, half whispers, heard the rude ravager of the woods spares a amongst the ivy wreaths of the ruin, all tend breast so lovely, and so full of simple melody. to give to this bird a character of sadness,
Birds as well as other animals, owe much solemnity and awe. of their poetical interest to the fabulous part The raven, strikingly sagacious and venof their history; thus, the pelican is said to erable in its appearance, is still believed by feed her young with the life-blood flowing the superstitious to be a bird of ill omen; from her own bosom, and this unnatural act and much as we may be disposed to despise of maternal affection is quoted by the poet such prognostications as the flight, or the as a favourite simile for self-devotion under cry of different birds, there is something in various forms. Of the swan it is said and the habits, but especially in the voice of the sung, that in dying she breathes forth a raven, which gives it a strange and almost strain of plaintive song; but even without fearful character. It seems to hold no comthis poetical fable, the swan is associated munion with the joyous spirits, to have no with so much that is graceful and lovely, association with the happy scenes of earth; that we cannot think of this majestic queen but leads a lengthened and unsocial life of the water, sailing forth like a snow-white amongst the gloomy shades of the veneragallery on the silver tide, without losing our ble forest, in the deep recesses of the pathselves in a romantic dream of lakes and ri- less mountain, or on the rocky summit of the vers, and that sylvan scenery which the beetling crag that overlooks the ocean’s blue swan is known to frequent.
abyss; and when it goes forth, with its saWe have yet given our attention only to ble pinions spread like the wings of a dark those birds whose nature and habits are pro- angel upon the wind, its hoarse and hollow ductive of pleasing associations. There are croak echoes from rock to rock, as if telling, others no less poetical, whose home is in the in those dreary and appalling tones, of the desert or the mountain, whose life is in the fleshy feast to which it is hastening, of the storm or on the field of carnage; and it is to death-pangs of the mountain deer, of the these especially that fabulous history has cry of the perishing kid, and of the bones of given importance and celebrity.
the shipwrecked seaman whitening in the For its mysterious and gloomy character, surge.
To the eagle mankind have agreed in as- or almost any other than what it is, it would signing a sort of regal character, from the have broken the harmony of the picture; majesty of his bearing, and the proud pre- but its
reast is of the form of the ocean eminence he maintains amongst the fea- waves, and the misty hue of its darker pluthered tribe; from the sublimity of his mage is like the blending of the vapoury chosen home, far above the haunts of man clouds with the cold blue of the deep sea and meaner animals, from the self-seclusion below. Not only in its colouring, but in the in which he holds himself apart from the wild gracefulness of its movements, in its general association of living and familiar shrill cry, in its swift and circling flight, and things, and from the beauty and splendour in the reckless freedom with which it sails of his sagacious eye, which shrinks not from above the drear abyss, its dark shadow rethe dazzling glare of the sun itself. Innu- flected in the hollow of the concave waters, merable are the fables founded upon the pe- and its white plumage flashing like a gleam culiar habits of this bird, all tending to ex- of light, or like the ocean spray, from rock to alt him in the scale of moral and intellectual rock, it assimilates so entirely with the whole importance; but to the distinction conferred character of the scene, that we look upon it upon him by the ancients when they raised as a living atom separated from the troubled him to a companionship with Jove, is mainly and chaotic elements, a personification of the to be attributed the poetical interest with spirit of the storm, a combination of its foam which his character is universally invested. and its darkness, its light and its depth, its
There are many birds whose peculiar swiftness and its profound solemnity. haunts and habits render them no less useful Inferior to birds in their pictorial beauty, to the painter than the poet, by adding to though scarcely less conducive to poetical the pictorial effect of his landscape. In the interest, are the various tribes of insects that sheet of crystal water which skirts the no- people the earth and animate the air ; but bleman's domain, and widens in front of his before turning our attention to these, it may castellated halls, we see the stately swan; be well to think for a moment in what manon the shady margin of the quiet stream, ner the poet's imagination is affected by imbosomed in a copes-wood forest, the shy fishes and reptiles. Of the poetry of fishes water hen; the jackdaw on the old gray little can be said. Two kinds only occur to steeple of the village church; and a com- me as being familiar in the language of pany of rooks winging their social way, poetry, and conducive to its figurative charm wherever the scenery is of a peaceful, culti- | -the flying fish and the dolphin. The forvated, or rural character. By these means mer, in its transient and feeble flight, has our inimitable Turner delights to give his been made the subject of some beautiful pictures their highly poetical character. The lines by Moore; and because of the perpeheron is one of his favorite birds, and when tual dangers which await it from innumerait stands motionless and solitary upon a bro- ble enemies, both in sea and air, it is often ken fragment of dark rock, looking down adopted as a simile for the helpless and perinto the clear deep water, with that imper- secuted children of earth ; while the dolturbable aspect of never-ending melancholy phin, from the beauty of its form, and the which marks it out as a fit accompaniment gorgeous colours which are said to be proof wild and secluded scenery, we feel almost duced by its last agonies, is celebrated in the as if the genius of the place were personi- poet's lay as an emblem of the glory which fied before us, and silent, and lonely, and shines most conspicuously in the hour of unfrequented as these wilds may be, that death. there is at least one spirit which finds com
-parting day panionship in their solitude.
Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues But above all other birds, the seagull, as
With a new colour, as it gasps away: it diversifies the otherwise monotonous as
The last still loveliest, till,—'tis gone--and all is gray!” pect of the ocean, is an essential accompaniment to every representation of a sea view. In fearful pre-eminence amongst those Had the colour of this bird been red or yellow, animals commonly considered repulsive and