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is good; but it is nothing to “Duncan Gray,” sung by half a dozen tenor voices on the Table Rock.
I mean, when I have leisure, to continue these reminiscences of Scottish song, and as I at this time must have taxed the patience, and tried the politeness of my numerous Irish and English readers, I will, in some future number, leave Ramsay, Burns, Tannahill, and Ferguson—for Chaucer and Shakspeare, Goldsmith and Moore.
Tannahill has some pieces, scarce excelled by any of our Scottish poets—he has also a virtue which endears him to me beyond even Robert Burns. He does not often laud in song the drinking of ardent liquors. If, as a printer, I were to publish an American edition of Burns, I think I would leave his songs in praise of Highland whisky out. They have done much harm in his native land ; and to spread them here, would be like firing a match.
END of MAY
This month may close with a delightful sonnet, from one of the best books put forth in recent years for daily use and amusement.
Now have young April and the blue eyed May
For Joy, dim child of Hope and Memory,
Literary Pocket Book.
NATURA lists' cALEN DAR.
Mean Temperature . . . 57. 97.
The “ Mirror of the Months,” the pleasantest of “the year-books,” except “The Months” of Mr. Leigh Hunt, tells us that with June,—“Summer is come– come, but not to stay; at least, not at the commencement of this month: and how should it, unless we expect that the seasons will be kind enough to conform to the devices of man, and suffer themselves to be called by what name and at what eriod he pleases? ... He must die and eave them a legacy (instead of they him) before there will be any show of justice in this. Till then the beginning of June will continue to be the latter end of May, by rights; as it was according to the old style. And, among a thousand changes, in what one has the old style been improved upon by the new Assuredly not in that of substituting the utile for the dulce, in any eyes but those of almanacmakers. Let all lovers of spring, therefore, be fully persuaded that, for the first fortnight in June, they are living in May. We are to bear in mind that all shall thus be gaining instead of losing, by the imF. of any breath, but that of eaven, attempting to force spring into summer, even in name alone.” It seems fitting thus to introduce the following passages, and invite the reader to proceed with the author, and take a bird's eye view of the season.
Spring may now be considered as employed in completing her toilet, and, for the first weeks of this month, putting on those last finishing touches which an accomplished beauty never trusts to any hand but her own. In the woods and groves also, she is still clothing some of her noblest and proudest attendants with their new annual attire. The oak until now has been nearly bare; and, of whatever age, has been looking old all the winter and spring, on account of its crumpled branches and wrinkled rind. Now, of whatever age, it looks young, in virtue of its new green, lighter than all the rest of the grove. Now, also, the stately walnut (standing singly or in pairs in the fore-court of ancient manor-houses, or in the home corner of the pretty parklike paddock at the back of some modern Italian villa, whose white dome it saw rise beneath it the other day, and mistakes for a mushroom,) puts forth its smooth leaves slowly, as “sage grave men’’ do their thoughts; and which over-caution reconciles one to the beating
it receives in the autumn, as the best means of at once compassing its present fruit, and making it bear more; as its said prototypes in animated nature are obliged to have their brains cudgelled, before any good can be got from them.
These appearancesappertain exclusively to the spring. Let us now (however reluctantly) take a final leave of that lovely and love-making season, and at once step forward into the glowing presence of summer – contenting ourselves, however, to touch the hem of her rich garments, and not attempting to look into her heart, till she lays that open to us herself next month: for whatever schoolboys calendar-makers may say to the contrary, Midsummer never happens in England till July.
To saunter, at mid June, beneath the shade of some old forest, situated in the neighbourhood of a great town, so that paths are worn through it, and you can make your way with ease in any direction, gives one the idea of being transferred, by some strange magic, from the surface of the earth to the bottom of the sea! (I say it gives one this idea; for I cannot answer for more, in matters of so arbitrary a nature as the association of ideas.) Over head, and round about, you hear the sighing, the whispering, or the Toaring (as the wind pleases) of a thousand billows; and o: upwards, you see the light of heaven transmitted faintly, as if through a mass of green waters. Hither and thither, as you move along, strange forms flit swiftly about you, which may, for anything you can see or hear to the contrary, be exclusive natives of the new world in which your fancy chooses to find itself: they may be fishes, if that pleases; for they are as mute as such, and glide through the liquid element as swiftly. Now and then, indeed, one of larger growth, and less lubricated movements, lumbers up from beside your path, and cluttering noisily away to a little distance, may chance to scare for a moment your submarine reverie. Your palate too may perhaps here step in, and try to persuade you that the cause of interruption was not a fish but a pheasant. But in fact, if your fancy is one of those which are disposed to “listen to reason,” it will not be able to lead you into spots of the above kind without your gun in your hand,-one report of which will put all fancies to flight in a moment, as well as every thing clse that has wings. To re
turn, therefore, to our walk, what do all these strange objects look like, that stand silently about us in the dim twilight, some spiring straight up, and tapering as they ascend, till they lose themselves in the green waters above—some shattered and splintered, leaning against each other for support, or lying heavily on the floor on which we walk—some half buried in that floor, as if they had lain dead there for ages, and become incorporate with it? what do all these seem, but wrecks and fragments of some mighty vessel, that has sunk down here from above, and lain weltering and wasting away, till these are all that is left of it ! Even the floor itself on which we stand, and the vegetation it puts forth, are unlike those of any other portion of the earth's surface, and may well recall, by their strange appearance in the half light, the fancies that have come upon us when we have read or dreamt of those gifted beings, who, like Ladurlad in Kehama, could walk on the floor of the sea, without waiting, as the visiters at watering-places are obliged to do, for the tide to go out.
Stepping forth into the open fields, what a bright pageant of summer beauty is spread out before us!—Everywhere about our feet flocks of wild-flowers
“Do paint the meadow with delight.”
We must not stay to pluck and particularize them; for most of them have already had their greeting—let us pass along beside this flourishing hedge-row. The first novelty of the season that greets us here is perhaps the sweetest, the freshest, and fairest of all, and the only one that could supply an adequate substitute for the hawthorn bloom which it has superseded. Need the eglantine be named? the “sweet-leaved eglantine;” the “rainscented eglantine;” eglantine—to which the sun himself pays homage, by “counting his dewy rosary” on it every morning; eglantine — which Chaucer, and even Shakspeare—but hold—whatsoever the poets themselves may insinuate to the contrary, to read poetry in the presence of nature is a if of impiety: it is like reading the commentators on Shakspeare, and skipping the text; for you cannot attend to both : to say nothing of nature's book being a vade mecum that can make “every man his own poet” for the time being; and there is, after all, no poetry like that which we create for ourselves.
Begging pardon of the eglantine for
having permitted any thing—even her
own likeness in the poet's looking-glass— to turn our attention from her real selflook with what infinite grace she scatters her sweet coronals here and there among her bending branches; or hangs them, half-concealed, among the heavy blos. soms of the woodbine that lifts itself so boldly above her, after having first clung to her for support; or permits them to peep out here and there close to the ground, and almost hidden by the rank weeds below; or holds out a whole archway of them, swaying backward and forward in the breeze, as if praying of the passer's hand to pluck them. who will praise the hawthorn—now it is no more The wild rose is the queen of forest flowers, if it be only because she is as unlike a queen as the absence of every thing courtly can make her. The woodbine deserves to be held next in favour during this month; though more on account of its intellectual than its F. beauty. All the air is faint with its rich sweetness; and the delicate breath of its lovely rival is lost in the luscious odours which it exhales. These are the only scented wild flowers that we shall now meet with in any profusion; for though the violet may still be found by looking for, its breath has lost much of its spring power. But, if we are content with mere beauty, this month is perhaps more profuse of it than any other even in that department of nature which we are now examining—namely, the fields and woods. The woods and groves, and the single forest trees that rise here and there from out the bounding hedge-rows, are now in full foliage; all, however, presenting a somewhat sombre, because monotonous, hue, wanting all the tender newness of the spring, and all the rich variety of the autumn. And this is the more observable, because the numerous plots of cultiwated land, divided from each other by the hedge-rows, and looking, at this distance, like beds in a garden divided by box, are nearly all still invested with the same green mantle; for the wheat, the oats, the barley, and even the early rye, though now in full flower, have not yet become tinged with their harvest hues. They are all alike green; and the only change that can be seen in their appearance is that caused by the different lights into which each is thrown, as the wind passes over them. The patches of purple or of white clover that intervene here and there, and are now in flower, offer striking exceptions to the above, and at the same time load the air with their sweetness. Nothing can be more rich and beautiful in its effect on a distant prospect at this season, than a great patch of purple clover lying apparently motionless on a sunny upland, encompassed by a whole sea of green corn, waving and shifting about it at every breath that blows.
The hitherto full concert of the singing birds is now beginning to falter, and fall short. We shall do well to make the most of it now ; for in two or three weeks it will almost entirely cease till the autumn. I mean that it will cease as a full concert; for we shall have single songsters all through the summer at intervals; and those some of the sweetest and best. The best of all, indeed, the nightingale, we have now lost. So that the youths and maidens who now go in pairs to the wood-side, on warm nights, to listen for its song, (hoping they may not hear it,) are well content to hear each other's voice instead.
We have still, however, some of the finest of the second class of songsters left; for the nightingale, like Catalani, is a class by itself. The mere chorus-singers
of the grove are also beginning to be silent; so that the jubilate that has been chanting for the last month is now over. But the Stephenses, the Trees, the Patons, and the Poveys, are still with us, under the forms of the woodlark, the skylark, the blackcap, and the goldfinch. And the first-named of these, now that it no longer fears the rivalry of the unrivalled, not seldom, on warm nights, sings at intervals all night long, poised at one spot high up in the soft moonlit air.
We have still another pleasant little singer, the field cricket, whose clear shrill voice the warm weather has now matured to its full strength, and who inust not be forgotten, though he has but one song to offer us all his life long, and that one consisting but of one note; for it is a note of joy, and will not be heard without engendering its like. You may hear him in wayside banks, where the sun falls hot, shrilling out his loud cry into the still air all day long, as he sits at the mouth of his cell; and if you chance to be passing by the same spot at midnight, you may hear it then too."
Yet by him who holds this “Mirror,” we must not be “charmed" from our repose, but take the advice of a poet, the contemporary and friend of Cowper.