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I think of human sorrow
And when they hoot and when they shout,
Oh bush, of ivy-trees the prime, Men find thee out at winter time, From the distant town through frost and snow To the woods of Winter-burn they go; And if care were killed by an ivy-bough, What a killer of care, old tree, wert thou! And high in the hall, with laughter merry, They hang thy twigs with their powdered berry; And the red-gemmed holly they mix also, With the spectral branches of misseltoe. Rare old tree! and the cottage small Is decked as well as the baron's hall, For the children's hands are busy and fain To dress up the little window-pane, And set in the chinks of the roof-tree wood The holly and ivy, green and good.
"Twere well for us, thou rare old tree, Could we gladden the human heart like thee; Like thee and the holly, that thus make gay The lowliest cot for a winter's day!
THE summer sun is shining
The dew upon each grassy blade;
From giant trees, strong branched,
I think of angel voices
When the birds' songs I hear; Of that celestial city, bright With jacinth, gold, and chrysolite, When, with its blazing pomp of light, The morning doth appear!
I think of that great River
That from the Throne flows free; Of weary pilgrims on its brink, Who, thirsting, have come down to drink; Of that unfailing Stream I think, When earthly streams I see!
I think of pain and dying,
As that which is but nought, When glorious morning, warm and bright, With all its voices of delight, From the chill darkness of the night, Like a new life, is brought.
THE stock-dove builds in the old oak wood,
"Tis the pheasant that lures us hence away;
Away to the woods with the silvery rind,
The streams run on in music low,
Then on through hazelly lanes away
Where the great colt's-foot grows wild at will;
So on and away to the mossy moor,
Yet on and on, o'er the springy moss, -
On the white sea-gull, the wild sea-gull,
As he lies like a cradled thing at rest,
The little waves rock to and fro,
As the fisher's bark, with breeze and tide,
The ship, with her fair sails set, goes by,
The sea is fresh, the sea is fair,
And the sea-gull lies on the deep, deep sea,
Oh the white sea-gull, the bold sea-gull,
Sitting, like a king, in calm repose
On the breast of the heaving sea!
And the winds pipe ever so high,
And he loves with the storm to sail;
Like a sea-weed, to and fro;
The tall ship reels like a drunken man,
On the torn-up breast of the night-black sea, Like a foam-cloud, calm and white.
The waves may rage and the winds may roar, But he fears not wreck nor need,
For he rides the sea, in its stormy strength, As a strong man rides his steed!
Oh the white sea-gull, the bold sea-gull!
And he tries what the inland fields may be ;
What matter to him is land or shore,
And away to the north 'mong ice-rocks stern,
And among the frozen snow,
For he careth not for the winter wild,
In the midst of the cold, as on calm, blue seas,
And the dead whale lies on the northern shores,
Oh the wild sea-gull, the bold sea-gull!
As he screams in his wheeling flight:
All cometh to him as he liketh best;
And he rides on the waves like a bold, young king,
The Gull, notwithstanding the gormandizing and rather disgusting character given of it by Bewick,
I cannot tell you half the sights Of beauty you may see, The bursts of golden sunshine, And many a shady tree.
figures beautifully in his inimitable wood-cuts; giving the very spirit of wildness and freshness to his seaside sketches.
The Gull may occasionally be found far inland, domesticated in old-fashioned gardens, where it is an indulged and amusing habitant, feeding on slugs and worms, and becoming thus a useful assistant to the gardener. In this state it seems entirely to throw off its wild native character, and assumes a sort of mockheroic style, which is often quite ludicrous. We have seen one strutting about the straight alleys of such a garden, with the most formal, yet conscious air imaginable, glancing first to one side, then to the other, evidently aware of your notice, yet pretending to be busied about his own concerns. It was impossible to conceive that this bird, walking "in his dignified way," upon his two stiff little legs, and so full of self-importance, had ever been a free, wild, winged creature, wheeling about and screaming in the storm, or riding gracefully upon the sunshiny waters. His nature had undergone a land-change; he was transformed into the patron of poodles, and the conde scending companion of an old black cat. With these creatures, belonging to the same place, he was on very friendly terms, maintaining, nevertheless, an air of superiority over them, which they permitted, either out of pure good-nature, or because their simplicity was imposed upon. They were all frequently fed from the same plate, but the quadrupeds never presumed to put in their noses till the Gull was satisfied, and to his credit it may be told, that he was not insatiable, although a reasonably voracious bird on ordinary occasions.
We saw last summer, also, a Gull well known to northern tourists, which for twenty years has inhabited one of the inner green-courts at Alnwick Castle, and has outlived two or three companions. It is an interesting bird, of a venerable appearance; but, as it has been described in books, more need not be said of it.
In one of the towers of this same Castle, also, we were shown a pair of perfect bird-skeletons, under a glass shade, the history of which is mysterious. They are the skeletons of a pair of jackdaws, which had built in one of the upper towers of the Castle, and had been found in their present state, apparently nestled together. From the account given us by the porter, an intelligent old man, they appeared not to have been discovered in any confined place, where they might have died from starvation, but by their own tower, on the open roof, as if they had been death-stricken side by side.
COME ye into the summer-woods;
The green shoots grow above their heads,
'Mong them for mine and thine.
There is enough for every one,
THE MANDRAKE. THERE once was a garden grand and old, Its stately walks were trodden by few; And there, in its driest and deepest mould,
The dark-green, poisonous mandrake grew. That garden's lord was a learned man,It is of an ancient time we tell, He was grim and stern, with a visage wan, And had books which only he could spell. He had been a monk in his younger days, They said, and travelled by land and sea, And now, in his old, ancestral place,
He was come to study in privacy. A garden it was both large and lone,
And in it was temple, cave and mound; The trees were with ivy overgrown,
And the depth of its lake no line had found. Some said that the springs of the lake lay deep Under the fierce volcano's root;
For the water would oft-times curl and leap, When the summer air was calm and mute. And all along o'er its margin dank
Hung massy branches of evergreen; And among the pebbles upon the bank
The playful water-snakes were seen. And yew-trees old, in the alleys dim,
Were cut into dragon-shapes of dread; And in midst of shadow, grotesque and grim, Stood goat-limbed statues of sullen lead.
The garden-beds they were long, and all
With a tangle of flowers were overgrown; And each was screened with an ancient wall, Or parapet low of mossy stone.
This garden's lord was a scholar wise, A scholar wise, with a learned look; He studied by night the starry skies, And all day long some ancient book.
But now and then might with him be seen,
And from every crevice and broken ledge
Wild masses of tendrilled creepers hung;
By a ban-dog fierce at a grated door.
There were lords hard by who lived by spoil,
Who peered 'mong the leaves of the mandrake green And lightened with care the soil around.
For the king was sick and of help had need;
And at night when the moon was at the full, When the air was still and the stars were out, Came the three the mandrake root to pull,
With the help of the ban-dog fierce and stout.
Oh, the mandrake-root! and they listened all three,
And words they muttered, but what none knew,
And carried with them the mandrake root.
They all were scholars of high degree,
So they took the root of the mandrake fell, And cut it and carved it hideously,
And muttered it into a charmed spell.
Then who had been there, by dawn of day,
Might have seen the two from the grated door Speed forth; and as sure as they went away, The charmed mandrake root they bore.
And the old lord up in his chamber sat,
Blessing himself, sedate and mute, That he thus could gift the wise and great With more than gold — the mandrake root.
The reverence attached to the mandrake may be classed among the very oldest of superstitions, for the Hebrews of the patriarchial ages regarded it as a plant of potent influence. The Greeks, who held it in the same estimation, called it after Circe, their celebrated witch, and also after Atropos, the eldest of the three Fates. The Romans adopted the same opinions respecting it, and Pliny relates the ceremonies which were used in obtaining the root.
In the middle ages, when the traditional superstitions of the ancients were grafted upon the popular ignorance, the mandrake was a powerful engine in the hands of the crafty.
It was believed that when the mandrake was taken from the earth, it uttered a dreadful shriek; and that any human being who was presumptuous enough to remove it, was suddenly struck dead. Dogs, therefore, were used for this purpose. The earth was carefully lightened, and the plant fastened to the animal's tail; he was then made to draw it forth, and pay whatever penalty the demon of the plant thought fit to impose upon the disturber of his rest. The pretenders to medical skill in those days made great profit by the little hideous images which they fashioned out of the mandrake root, and sold as charms against
every kind of sickness and misfortune. They were brought over from Germany in the reign of Henry the VIII., under the name of Abrunes, and by the help of certain pretended magical words, the knowledge of which the credulous obtained at a great price, were said to increase whatever money was placed near them. It was believed, also, at that time, that the mandrake was produced from the decaying flesh of malefactors hung upon the gibbet, and was to be found only in such situations. Dr. Turner, who lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth, declares, that he had divers times taken up the roots of the mandrake, but had never found them under the gallows; nor of the form which the pedlars, who sold them in boxes, pretended them to have been. This form was that of an ugly little man, with a long beard hanging down to his feet. Gerard, the herbalist, also, who wrote thirty years later, used many endeavours to convince the world of the impositions practised upon them, and states, that he and his servant frequently dug up the roots without receiving harm, or hearing any shrieks whatever.
The mandrake grows naturally in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and the Levant, and it is also indigenous to China. It was introduced into this country about 1564. It is a handsome plant, and would, in particular situations, be ornamental to our gardens, independent of the strange, old associations connected with it, which would always make it an interesting object. I have seen it, however, only in one garden, that of the King of the Belgians, at Claremont.
"It is," says Mr. Phillips, in his pleasant garden companion, the Flora Historica, from which work the above historical notices of the mandrake have been principally taken, “a species of deadly nightshade, which grows with a long taper root like the parsnip, running three or four feet deep; these roots are frequently forked, which assisted to enable the old quacks to give it the shape of a monster. This plant does not send up a stalk, but, immediately from the crown of the root arises a circle of leaves, which at first stand erect, but when grown to their full size, which is about a foot in length and five inches broad, of an ovate-lanceolate shape, waved at the edges, these spread open and lie on the ground; they are of a dark-green, and give out a fetid smell. About the month of April the flowers come out among the leaves, each on a scape about three inches long; they are of a bell shape with a long tube, and spread out into a five-cleft corolla. The colour is of an herbaceous white, but frequently has a tinge of purple. The flower is succeeded by a globular soft berry, when full grown, as large as a common cherry, but of a yellowish-green colour, when ripe and full of pulp, intermixed with numerous reniform seeds." If any of my readers should wish to cultivate this plant of "old renown," they should do it by sowing the seed in autumn, soon after it is ripe; as the seed kept till spring seldom produces plants. It should be set in a light, dry soil, and of a good depth, so that the root may not be chilled or obstructed; and care should be taken not to disturb it when it has once obtained a considerable size.
THE HEDGE-HOG. THOU poor little English porcupine, What a harassed and weary life is thine! And thou art a creature meek and mild, That wouldst not harm a sleeping child. Thou scarce can'st stir from thy tree-root, But thy foes are up in hot pursuit ; Thou might'st be an asp, or horned snake, Thou poor little martyr of the brake!
Thou scarce can'st put out that nose of thine;
The poor Hedgehog! one would think he knew
How unkind the world must seem to him,
He's an innocent thing, living under the blame
He is weak and small, and all he needs,
Oh, poor little English porcupine,
"PEE! pee! pee!" says the merry Pee-Bird; And as soon as the children hear it,
The Cuckoo's a-coming," they say, "for I heard, Up in his tree the merry Pee-Bird,
And he'll come in three days, or near it!"
The days go on, one, two, three;
And the little bird singeth "pee! pee! pee!"