Imagens das páginas

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 caduce-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 the wing by their dams, the coming forth of the young is not so notorious as in the other species.

On the 30th of last June I untiled the eaves of a house where many pairs build, and found in each nest only two squab, naked young ones : on the 8th 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 be 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; while swifts, that have but two young to maintain, are much at their leisure, and do not attend on their nests for hours together. Sometimes they pursue and strike at hawks that come in

but not with that vehemence and fury that swallows express on the same occasion. They are out all day long in wet days, feeding about, and disregarding still rain : from whence two things may be gathered ; first, that many

their way;

insects abide high in the air, even in rain ; and next, that the feathers of these birds must be well preened to resist so much wet. Wintry, and particularly windy weather with heavy showers, they dislike; and on such days withdraw, and are

scarce ever seen.

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 weatherbeaten and bleached before they depart, and yet they return glossy again in the spring.

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 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 10th of August, and sometimes a few days sooner ; and every straggler invariably withdraws by the 20th : while their congeners, all of them, stay till the beginning of October; many of them all through that 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 more extraordinary, they begin to retire still earlier in the most southerly parts of Andalusia, where they can be in no ways 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 searches, but almost eludes our guesses !

These hirundines never perch on trees or roofs, and so never congregate with their congeners. They are fearless while haunting their nesting-places, and are not to be scared by a gun ; and are often beaten down with poles and cudgels as they stoop to go under the eaves.

Swifts are no songsters, and have only one harsh screaming note ; yet there are ears to which it is not displeasing, from an agreeable association of ideas, since that note never occurs but in the most lovely summer weather.


[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

I HEARD a thousand blended notes

While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link

The human soul that through me ran ; And much it grieved my heart to think

What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,

The periwinkle trails its wreaths; And 'tis my faith that every

flower Enjoys the air it breathes.


The birds around me hopped and played,

Their thoughts I cannot measure ; But the least motion which they made,

It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan

To catch the breezy air ;
And I must think, do all I can,

That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from Heaven be sent,

If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?



The district which surrounds the city of Fribourg in Switzerland, extending from it towards Berne, is of grey sandstone, considerably elevated, but presenting no object of striking interest to the passing traveller; so that, as it is generally seen in the course of a hasty journey from the Bernese Alps to those of Savoy, it is rarely regarded with any other sensation than that of weariness, all the more painful because accompanied with reaction from the high excitement caused by the splendour of the Bernese Oberland. The traveller, footsore, feverish, and satiated with glacier and precipice, lies back in the corner of the diligence, perceiving little more than that the road is winding and hilly, and the country through which it passes cultivated and tame.

Let him, however, only do this tame country the justice of staying in it a few days, until his mind has recovered its tone, and take one or two long walks through its fields, and he will have other thoughts of it. It is, as I said, an undulating district of grey sandstone, never attaining any considerable height, but having enough of the mountain spirit to throw itself into continual succession of bold slope and dale ; elevated, also, just far enough above the sea to render the pine a frequent forest tree along its irregular ridges. Through this elevated tract the river cuts its way in a ravine some five or six hundred feet in depth, which winds for leagues between the gentle hills, unthought of, until its edge is approached ; and then suddenly, through the boughs of the firs, the eye perceives, beneath, the green and gliding stream, and the broad walls

« AnteriorContinuar »