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But it is much to be regretted that it is scarce possible for any observer to be so full and exact as he could wish in reciting the circumstances attending the life and conversation of this little bird, since it is fera naturû, at least in this part of the kingdom, disclaiming all domestic attachments, and haunting wild heaths and cominons where there are large lakes ; while the other species, especially the swallow and house-martin, are remarkably gentle and domesticated, and never seem to think themselves safe but under the protection of man.
It is curious to observe with what different degrees of architectonic skill Providence has endowed birds of the same genus, and so nearly correspondent in their general mode of life! for, while the swallow and the house-martin discover the greatest address in raising and securely fixing crusts or shells of loam as cunabula for their young, the bank-martin tercbrates a round and regular hole in the sand or earth, which is serpentine, horizontal, and about two feet deep. At the inner end of this burrow does this bird deposit, in a good degree of safety, her rude nest, consisting of fine grasses and feathers, usually goose feathers, very inartificially laid together.
Perseverance will accomplish any thing; though at first one would be disinclined to believe that this weak bird, with her soft and tender bill and claws, should ever be able to bore the stubborn sand-bank without entirely disabling herself ; yet with these feeble instruments have I seen a pair of them make great despatch, and could remark how much they had scooped that day by the fresh sand which ran down the bank, and was a different colour from that which lay loose and bleached in the sun.
The sand-martin arrives much about the same time with the swallow, and lays, as she does, from four to six white eggs. But as this species is cryptogame, carrying on the business of nidification, incubation, and the support of its young in the dark, it would not be so easy to ascertain the time of breeding, were it not for the coming forth of the broods, which appear much about the time, or rather somewhat earlier than those of the swallow. The nestlings are supported in common like those of their congeners, with goats and other small insects; and sometimes they are fed with libellulv, (dragon flies,) almost as long as themselves. In the last week in June we have seen a row of these sitting on a rail near a great pool as perchers, and so young and helpless as easily to be taken by hand; but whether the dams ever feed them on the wing, as swallows and house-martins do, we have never yet been able to determine; nor do we know whether they pursue and attack birds
When they happen to breed near hedges and inclosures, they are dispossessed of their breeding holes by the house-sparrow, which is on the same account a fell adversary to house-martins.
These hirundines are no songsters, but rather mute, making only a little harsh noise when a person approaches their nests. They seem not to be of a sociable turn, never with us congregating with their congeners in the autumn. Undoubtedly they breed a second time, like the house-martin and swallow : and withdraw about Michaelmas.
Though in some particular districts they may happen to abound, yet in the whole, in the south of England at least, is this much the rarest species. For there are few towns or large villages but what abound with house-martins ; few churches, towers or steeples, but what are haunted by some swifts ; scarce a hamlet or single cottagechimney that has not its swallow ; while the bank-martins, scattered here and there, live a sequestered life among some abrupt sandhills, and in the banks of some few rivers.
THE SWIFT.-As the swift or black-martin is the largest of the British hirundines, so is it undoubtedly the latest comer. For I remember but one instance of its
appearing before the last week in April ; and in some of our late frosty harsh springs, it has not been seen till the beginning of May. This species usually arrives in pairs.
The swift, like the sand-martin, is very defective in architecture, making no crust, or shell, for its nest; but forming it of dry grasses and feathers, very rudely and inartificially put together.
Swifts, like sand-martins, carry on the business of nidification quite in the dark, in crannies of castles, and towers, and steeples, and upon the tops of the walls of churches under the roof; and therefore cannot be so narrowly watched as those species that build more openly ; but, from what I could ever observe, they begin nesting about the middle of May; and I have remarked, from eggs taken, that they have sat hard by the ninth of June.
This hirundo differs widely from its congeners in laying invariably but two eggs at a time, which are milk white, long, and peaked at the small end ; whereas the other species lay at each brood from four to six. It is a most alert bird, rising very early, and retiring to roost very late ; and is on the wing in the height of summer at least sixteen hours. In the longest days it does not withdraw to rest till a quarter before nine in the evening, being the latest of all day birds. Just before they retire, whole groups of them assemble high in the air, and squeak and shoot about with wonderful rapidity. But this bird is never so much alive as in sultry thundery weather, when it expresses great alacrity, and calls forth all its powers. In hot mornings several, getting together in little parties, dash round the steeples and churches, squeaking as they go in a very clamorous manner ; these, by nice observers, are supposed to be males serenading their setting hens ; and not without reason, since they seldomi squeak till they come close to the walls or eaves, and since those within utter at the same time a little inward note of complacency.
When the hen has sat hard all day she rushes forth just as it is almost dark, and stretches and relieves her weary limbs, and snatches a scanty meas for a few minutes, and then returns to her duty of incubation. Swifts, when wantonly and cruelly shot while they have young, discover a little lump of insects in their mouths, which they pouch and hold under their tongue. In general they feed in a much higher district than the other species ; a proof that gnats and other insects do also abound to a considerable height in the air; they also range to vast distances, since locomotion is no labour to them who are endowed with such wonderful powers of wing. Their powers seem to be in proportion to their levers; and their wings are longer in proportion than those of almost any other bird.
At some certain times in the summer I had remarked that swifts were hawking very low for hours together over pools and streams, and could not help inquiring into the object of their pursuit that induced them to descend so much below their usual range. After some trouble, I found that they were taking phryganece, ephemerce, and libellulæ, (cadew-flies, may-flies, and dragon flies,) that were just emerged out of their aurelia state. I then no longer wondered that they should be so willing to stoop for a prey that afforded them such plentiful and succulent nourishment.
They bring out their young about the middle or latter end of July; but as these never become perchers, nor, that ever I could discern, are fed on their wing by their dams, the coming of the young is not so notorious as in the other species.
On the thirtieth of last June I untiled the eaves of a house where many pairs build, and found in each nest only two squab, naked pulli : on the eighth of July I repeated the same inquiry, and found they had made very little progress towards a fledged state, but were still naked and helpless. From whence we may conclude that birds whose way of life keeps them perpetually on the wing, would not he able
to quit their nest till the end of the month. Swallows and martins, that have numerous families, are continually feeding them every two or three minutes; whilo swifts, that have but two young to maintain, are much at their leisure, and do not attend on their uests for hours together.
There is a circumstance respecting the colour of swifts, which seems not to be unworthy our attention. When they arrive in the spring, they are all over of a glossy, dark soot colour, except their chins, which are white ; but, by being all day long in the sun and air, they become quite weather-beaten and bleached before they depart, and yet they return glossy again in the spring. Now, if they pursue the sun into lower latitudes, as some suppose, in order to enjoy a perpetual summer, why do they not return bleached ? Do they not rather perhaps retire to rest for a season, and at that juncture moult and change their feathers, since all other birds are known to moult soon after the season of breeding ?
Swifts are very anomalous in many particulars, dissenting from all their congeners not only in the number of their young, but in breeding but once in a summer ; whereas all the other British hirundines breed invariably twice. It is past all doubt that swifts can breed but once, since they withdraw in a short time after the flight of their young, and some time before their congeners bring out their second broods. We may here remark, that as swifts breed but once in a summer, and only two at a time, and the other nirundines twice, the latter, who lay from four to six eggs, increase at an average five times as fast as the former.
But in nothing are swifts more singular than in their early retreat. They retire, as to the main body of them, by the tenth of August, and sometimes a few days sooner ; and every straggler invariably withdraws by the twentieth, while their congeners, all of them, stay till the beginning of October ; many of them all through the month, and some occasionally to the beginning of November. This carly retreat is mysterious and wonderful, since that time is often the sweetest season in the year, But, what is most extraordinary, they begin to retire still earlier in the most southcrly parts of Andalusia, where they can be nowise influenced by any defect of heat ; or, as one might suppose, defect of food. Are they regulated in their motions with us by a failure of food, or by a propensity to moulting, or by a disposition to rest after so rapid a life, or by what? This is one of those incidents in natural history that not only baffles our researches, but almost eludes our guesses !
On the fifth of July, 1775, I again untiled part of a roof over the nest of a swift. The dam sat in the nest; but so strongly was she affected by natural love for her brood, which she supposed to be in danger, that, regardless of her own safety, she would not stir, but lay sullenly by them, permitting herself to be taken in hand. The squab young we brought down and placed on the grass-plot, where they tumbled about, and were as helpless as a new-born child. While we contemplated their naked bodies, their unwieldy disproportioned abdomina, and their heads, too heavy for their necks to support, we could not but wonder when we reflected that these shiftless beings, in a little more than a fortnight, would be able to dash through the air almost with the inconceivable swiftness of a meteor ; and perhaps, in their emigration, must traverse vast continents and oceans as distant as the equator.
30.-THE VOLUBLE LADY.
JANE AUSTEX. [Of the hundreds of Novels that have been published since the beginning of the present century, who can remember even the names of a twentieth part? The larger nuniber are quietly sleeping on the shelves of the circulating libraries of the country towns, destined only to see the light when some voracious spinster has exhausted all that is new of a teeming press, And in desperation plunges into the antiquities of a past generation. But there are six novels that can never be old--the works of the inimitable Jane Austen. No dust will ever settle on them, even in the libraries of the least tasteful of communities. Old and young, learned and unlearned, equally delight in the productions of the marvellous young woman, who drew the commonest incidents and characters of the most ordinary domestic life, with a skilfulness that manifests, more than anything we know, the surpassing power of that Art which makes realities more true than the thing itself beheld through a common medium. This is, indeed, genius. Jane Austen, the daughter, of the rector of Steventon, in Hampshire, was born in 1775; died in 1817.]
Miss Bates and Miss Fairfax, escorted by the two gentlemen, walked into the
Everybody's words were soon lost under the incessant flow of Miss Bates, who came in talking, and had not finished her speech under many minutes after her being admitted into the circle at the fire. As the door opened she was heard,
“ So very obliging of you !-No rain at all. Nothing to signify. I do not care for myself. Quite thick shoes. And Jane declares—Well! (as soon as she was within the door), well! This is brilliant indeed! This is admirable. Excellently contrived, upon my word. Nothing wanting. Could not ave imagined it. So well lighted up! Jane, Jane, look ! did you ever see anything? Oh! Mr. Weston, you must really have had Aladdin's lamp. Good Mrs. Stokes would not know her own room again. I saw her as I came in; she was standing in the entrance. 'Oh! Mrs. Stokes,' said 1-but I had not time for more.” She was now met by Mrs. Weston. “Very well, I thank you, ma'am. I hope you are quite well. Very happy to hear it. So afraid you might have a headache ! seeing you pass by so often, and knowing how much trouble you must have. Delighted to hear it indeed, --Ah ! dear Mrs. Elton, so obliged to you for the carriage ; excellent time ; Jane and I quite ready. Did not keep the horses a moment. Most comfortable carriage. Oh! and I am sure our thanks are due to you, Mrs. Weston, on that score. Mrs. Elton had most kindly sent Jane a note, or we should have been. But two such offers in one day! Never were such neighbours. I said to my mother, · Upon my word, ma’am.' Thank you, my mother is remarkably well. Gone to Mr. Woodhouse's. I made her take her shawl,—for the evenings are not warm,—her large new shawl, Mrs. Dixon's wedding-present. So kind of her to think of my mother ! Bought at Weymouth, you know; Mr. Dixon's choice. There were three others, Jane says, which they hesitated about some time. Colonel Campbell rather preferred an olive.—My dear Jane, are you sure you did not wet your feet ? It was but a drop or two, but I am so afraid: but Mr. Frank Churchill was so extremelyand there was a mat to step upon. I shall never forget his extreme politeness. Oh! Mr. Frank Churchill, I must tell you my mother's spectacles have never been in fault since; the rivet never came out again. My mother often talks of your goodnature : does not she, Jane ? Do not we often talk of Mr. Frank Churchill ? Ah! here's Miss Woodhouse. Dear Miss Woodhouse, how do you do? Very well, I thank you, quite well. This is meeting quite in fairy-land. Such a transformation! Must not compliment, I know (eyeing Emma most complacently)—that would be rude ; but upon my word, Miss Woodhouse, you do look-how do you like Jane's hair ? You are a judge. She did it all herself. Quite wonderful how she does her hair ! No hairdresser from London, I think, could.—Ah! Dr. Hughes, I declare -and Mrs. Hughes. Must go and speak to Dr. and Mrs. Hughes for a moment. IIow do you do? How do you do? Very well, I thank you. This is delightful, is it not ? Where's dear Mr. Richard ? Oh! there he is. Don't disturb him, Much better employed talking to the young ladies. How do you do, Mr. Richard ? I saw you the other day as you rode through the town. Mrs. Otway, I protest ! and good Mr. Otway, and Miss Otway, and Miss Caroline. Such a host of friends! and Mr. George and Mr. Arthur! How do you do? How do you all do ? Quite well, I am much obliged to you. Never better. Don't I hear another carriage ? Who can this be ?—very likely the worthy Coles. Upon my word, this is charming, to be standing among such friends! And such a noble fire! I am quite roasted. No coffee, I thank you, for me ; never take coffee. A little tea if you please, sir, by and by; no hurry.
Oh! here it comes. Everything so good!”
Supper was announced. The move began ; and Miss Bates might be heard from that moment without interruption, till her being scated at table and taking up her spoon.
“Jane, Jane, my dear Jane, where are you? Here is your tippet. Mrs. Weston begs you to put on your tippet. She says she is afraid there will be draughts in the passage, though every thing has been done-one door nailed up-quantities of matting—my dear Jane, indeed you must. Mr. Churchill, oh! you are too obliging! -How well you put it on !--so gratified ! Excellent dancing indeed! Yes, my dear, I ran home as I said I should, to help grandmamma to bed, and got back again, and nobody missed me. I set off without saying a word, just as I told you. Grandmamma was quite well, had a charming evening with Mr. Woodhouse, a vast deal of chat, and backgammon. Tea was made down stairs, biscuits and baked apples and wine before she came away : amazing luck in some of her throws : and she inquired a great deal about you, how you were amused, and who were your partners.
Oh!' said I, 'I shall not forestall Jane; I left her dancing with Mr. George Otway; she will love to tell you all about it herself to-morrow : her first partner was Mr. Elton ; I do not know who will ask her next, perhaps Mr. William Cox.' My dear sir, you are too obliging. Is there nobody you would not rather ?—I am not helpless. Sir, you are most kind. Upon my word, Jane on one arm, and me on the other ! Stop, stop, let us stand a little back, Mrs. Elton is going ; dear Mrs. Elton, how elegant she looks—beautiful lace !--Now we all follow in her train. Quite the queen of the evening !-Well, here we are at the passage. Two steps, Jane, take care of the two steps. Oh! no, there is but one. Well, I was persuaded there were two. How very odd! I was convinced there were two, and there is
I never saw anything equal to the comfort and style candles everywhere. I was telling you of your grandmamma, Jane,—there was a little disappointment. The baked apples and biscuits, excellent in their way, you know; but there was a delicate fricassee of sweetbread and some asparagus brought in at first, and good Mr. Woodhouse, not thinking the asparagus quite boiled enough, sent it all out again. Now there is nothing grandmamma loves better than sweetbread and asparagus—so she was rather disappointed ; but we agreed we would not speak of it to anybody, for fear of its getting round to dear Miss Woodhouse, who would be so very much concerned !-Well
, this is brilliant! I am all amazement !--could not have supposed anything !—such elegance and profusion! I have seen nothing like it since. Well, where shall we sit ? Where shall we sit ? - Anywhere, so that Jane is not in a draught. Where I sit is of no consequence. Oh! do you recommend this side? Well, I am sure, Mr. Churchill-only it seems too good—but just as you please. What you direct in this house cannot be wrong. Dear Jane, how shall we ever recollect half the dishes for grandmamma? Soup too! Bless me! I should not be helped so soon, but it smells most excellent, and I cannot help beginning.”
31.--MAY. The May of the Poets is a beautiful generalization, which sometimes looks like a mockery of the keen east winds, the leafless trees, the hedges without a blossom, of late springs. In an ungenial season we feel the truth of one poetical image,-Winter lingering chills the lap of May;"