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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 nests 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 congencrs 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 hirundines 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 early 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 southerly 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.
80.-THE VOLUBLE LADY.
JANE AUSTEN. (Or 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 number 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 room. 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 have 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 I—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. How 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 seated 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 dcar, 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 but one. 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. Tue 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;"
but we are apt to believe that those who talk of haloyon skies, of odorous gales, of leafy thickets filled with the chorus of nature's songsters,—to say nothing of Ladies of the May, and morrice-dancers in the sunshine,-have drawn their images from the Southern poets.
In such a season,—which makes us linger over our fires, when we ought to be strolling in the shade of bright green lanes, or loitering by a gushing rivulet to watch the trout rise at the sailing fly,—some nameless writer has seen a single feeble swallow, and has fancied the poor bird was a thing to moralize upon :
THE FIRST SWALLOW.
The dangers of those fickle skies ; The sunniest noon hath yet its chills, Away the pleasure-seeker flew
The cuckoo's voice not yet is heard, Nipp'd by untimely frosts he dies. The lamb is shivering on the lea,
There is a land in Youth's first dreams The cowering lark forbears to sing,
Whose year is one delicious May, And he has come across the sea
And Life, beneath the brightest beams, To find a winter in the spring.
Flows on, a gladsome holiday ; Oh! he has left his mother's home : Rush to the world, ungvided youth,
He thought there was a genial clime Prove its false joys, its friendships hollow, Where happy birds might safely roam, Its bitter scorns,—then turn to truth,
And he would seek that land in time. And find a lesson in the unwise swallow.
Away with these wintry images. There is a south wind rising; the cold grey clouds open ; the sun breaks out. Then comes a warm sunny shower. A day or two of such showers and sunshine, and the branches of the trees that looked so sere
“Thrust out their little hands into the ray.". The May of the Poets is come;—at any rate we will believe that it is come. WORDSWORTH shall welcome it in a glorious song :
Now while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound,
And I again am strong:
And all the earth is gay
Land and sea
And with the heart of May
Thou Child of Joy,
Ye to each other make; I see
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all. * We quote Leigh Hunt from memory; for he has not printed the poem in which this line occurs, in the recent edition of his works.
Oh evil day ! if I were sullen
This sweet May-morning,
On every side,
Fresh flowers ; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother's arm. WORDSWORTH. SPENSER shall paint “ fair May" and her train, in noble words
Then come fair May, the fairest maid on ground,
And leapt and danced as they had ravish'd been,
SPENSER. JAMES I. welcomes the May, as if Scotland had no cutting winds to shame his song of “Away, winter, away!"
Now was there made, fast by the Toure's wall,
A garden fair, and in the corners set
Railed about ; and so with trees set,
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,
Beshaded all the alleys that there were,
The sharpe, greene, sweete juniper,
Growing so fair with branches here and there,
The little sweete nightingale, and sung
Of love's use, now soft now loud among,
That of the gardens and the walles rung
For of your bliss the kalends are begun,
Come, summer, come, the sweet season and sun ;
Awake, for shame ! that have your heavens won,
JAMES I OF SCOTLAND.