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And when they hoot and when they shout,
'Tis woe to the wood-mice all about, And when the fires of their eyes appear, The weak little birds they quake for fear,
For they know that the owls, with a fierce delight, Riot and feast, like lords, at night.
Oh bush, of ivy-trees the prime,
From the distant town through frost and snow
"Twere well for us, thou rare old tree,
THE summer sun is shining
Upon a world so bright!
The dew upon each grassy blade;
From giant trees, strong branchèd,
I think of angel voices
When the birds' songs I hear;
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,
I think of human sorrow
But as of clouds that brood Upon the bosom of the day, And the next moment pass away; And with a trusting heart I say Thank God, all things are good!
THE stock-dove builds in the old oak wood,
Away to the woods with the silvery rind,
And the wind through the waving reeds to hear.
Then on through hazelly lanes away
Where the great colt's-foot grows wild at will;
And pike bask in the deep mill-pool.
So on and away to the mossy moor,
Yet on and on, o'er the springy moss,
To the sunny breeze, are the birch-woods seen,-
Oh! beautiful bird, in thy stately pride,
HARVEST.FIELD FLOWERS. COME down into the harvest-fields
This autumn morn with me; For in the pleasant autumn-fields
There's much to hear and see; On yellow slopes of waving corn
The autumn sun shines clearly; And 't is joy to walk, on days like this, Among the bearded barley.
Within the sunny harvest-fields
We'll gather flowers enow; The poppy red, the marigold,
The bugles brightly blue; We'll gather the white convolvulus
That opes in the morning early; With a cluster of nuts, an ear of wheat,
And an ear of the bearded barley. Bright over the golden fields of corn
Doth shine the autumn sky; So let's be merry while we may,
For time goes hurrying by.
They took down the sickle from the wall
When morning dews shone pearly; And the mower whets the ringing scythe To cut the bearded barley.
Come then into the harvest-fields;
The robin sings his song;
The corn stands yellow on the hills,
And autumn stays not long.
They'll carry the sheaves of corn away;
On the white sea-gull, the wild sea-gull,
As he lies like a cradled thing at rest
And the white gull lies asleep,
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 sky calm overhead,
Sitting, like a king, in calm repose
On the breast of the heaving sea!
To the sea that is roaring loud ;-
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,
As the gusty tempests blow.
But the sea-gull laughs at the pride of man,
On the torn-up breast of the night-black sea,
For he rides the sea, in its stormy strength,
Oh the white sea-gull, the bold sea-gull !
And away from land, a thousand leagues
What matter to him is land or shore,
For the sea is his truest home!
And away to the north 'mong ice-rocks stern,
And among the frozen snow,
To a sea that is lone and desolate,
Will the wanton sea-gull go.
For he careth not for the winter wild,
Nor those desert-regions chill;
In the midst of the cold, as on calm, blue seas,
And the dead whale lies on the northern shores,
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,
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 condescending 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;
There entereth no annoy;
All greenly wave the chestnut leaves, And the earth is full of joy.
I cannot tell you half the sights
There, lightly swung, in bowery glades,
And the dark-blue columbine.
There grows the four-leaved plant “true love,"
Unscared by lawless men;
And the golden-crested wren.
And far within that summer-wood,
Among the leaves so green, There flows a little gurgling brook,
The brightest e'er was seen.
Without a fear of ill;
And dash about and splash about,
The merry little things;
Down from their leafy tree,
A welcome kind and low.
""Tis merry living here!"
Oh, how my heart ran o'er with joy!
And many a wood-mouse dwelleth there,
Nor is, of aught, afraid.
The green shoots grow above their heads,
Beneath their feet, nor is there strife
'Mong them for mine and thine.
There is enough for every one,
And they lovingly agree; We might learn a lesson, all of us, Beneath the green-wood tree!
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
For the water would oft-times curl and leap,
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.
And from every crevice and broken ledge
Wild masses of tendrilled creepers hung;
By a ban-dog fierce at a grated door.
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.
There were lords hard by who lived by spoil,
But now and then might with him be seen,
For the king was sick and of help had need;
With the help of the ban-dog fierce and stout,
Oh, the mandrake-root! and they listened all three,
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,
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 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 hornèd snake, Thou poor little martyr of the brake! Thou scarce can'st put out that nose of thine; Thou can'st not show a single spine, But the urchin-rabble are in a rout, With terrier curs to hunt thee out.
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
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;
"Cuckoo," the Cuckoo doth cry,
And the little boys mock him as they go by. The wood-pecker laughs to hear the strain, And says "the old fellow is come back again; He sitteth again on the very same tree, And he talks of himself again!-he! he! he!" 137