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Many trees come into blossom during this month, and form a most agreeable spectacle, as well on account of their beauty, as the promise which they give of future benefits. The blackthorn or sloe leads the way, and is succeeded by the apricot, peach, nectarine, cherry, and plum: but though
Hope waits upon the flowery prime,
yet it is an anxious time for the possessor, as the fairest prospect of a plentiful increase is often blighted by the frequent return of frosty winds.
Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring
Cowper describes the same circumstance in the following lines:—
Spring is but the child
Those of the earlier plants that now most strike the eye, are the primrose and wood-sorrel under hedges; the wood anemone in dry woods and thickets; the wood crowfoot and marsh-marigold in wet marshy places; and the lady-smock or cuckoo-flower in meadows.
The farmer is still busied in sowing different sorts of grain and seeds for fodder, for which purpose dry weather is yet suitable; though plentiful showers at due intervals are desirable for feeding the young grass and springing corn.
AN APRIL SONG.
Laud the first spring daisies j
Chaunt aloud their praises;
Send the children up
To the high hill's top;
Tax not the strength of their young hands
To increase your lands.
AN APRIL sONG. 127
Gather the primroses;
Make handful* into posies;
Take them to the little girls who are at work in mills:
Pluck the violets blue,—
Ah, pluck not a few 1
Knowest thou what good thoughts from Heaven the violet instils'
Give the children holidays,
(And let these be jolly days)
Grant freedom to the children in this joyous spring;
Better men, hereafter,
Shall we have for laughter
Freely shouted to the woods, till all the echoes ring.
Send the children up
To the high hill's top.
Or deep into the wood's recesses,
To woo Spring's caresses.
See, the birds together,
In this splendid weather,
Worship God,—(for he is God of birds as well as men);
And each feathered neighbour
Enters on his labour,—
Sparrow, robin, redpole, finch, the linnet, and the wren.
As the year advances,
Trees their naked branches
Clothe, and seek your pleasure in their green apparel.
Insect and wild beast
Keep no Lent, but feast;
Spring breathes upon the earth, and their joy 's increased.
And the rejoicing birds break forth in one loud caroL
Ah, come and woo the spring;
List to the birds that sing;
Pluck the primroses; pluck the violets;
Pluck the daisies,
Sing their praises;
Friendship with the flowers some noble thought begets.
Come forth and gather these sweet elves,
(More witching are they than the fays of old.)
Come forth and gather them yourselves,
Learn of these gentle flowers, whose worth is more than gold.
Come, come into the wood;
Pierce into the bowers
Of these gentle flowers,
Which, not in solitude,
Dwell, but with each other keep society;
And, with a simple piety,
Are ready to be woven into garlands for the good.
Or, upon summer earth,
To die, in virgin worth,
Or to be strewn before the bride,
And the bridegroom, by her aide.
Come forth on Sundays;
Come forth on Mondays;
Come forth on any day;
Children, come forth, to play :—
Worship the God of Nature in your childhood;
Worship Him at your tasks with best endeavour;
Worship Him in your sports; worship Him ever;
Worship Him in the wildwood;
Worship Him amidst the flowers;
In the green-wood bowers;
Pluck the buttercups, and raise
Your voices in His praise.
In April, the "bird-world" is in the very height of its " season." Many birds are arriving from their long travels; many are waging amorous musical war with the ardour of the old Minne-Sanger upon the Wartburg, whilst the critical hen-birds sit aloft in their bowers "queens of love and beauty," awaiting to crown with love the victor poets. Here and there, too, nests are already built, and patient mother-birds may be seen brooding in love over their delicate eggs. At such a time, when every grove, copse, and dingle resounds with the sweet jargonings of love and joy, we especially feel attracted with affection towards those wonderful little creatures, and read with especial interest anything which can throw light upon their physical nature and habits.
In the last edition of Bechstein's " Cage Birds"* we meet with some most interesting remarks regarding
The Voice And Song Of Bieds.
"Every species of bird has a peculiarity of voice possessed by no other. By this variety of vocal endowment, birds are not only distinguished above the rest of the animal creation, but are enabled to express to one another their wants and passions. There can be no doubt that this power of communication exists not only between the sexes, but between all individuals of the same species. The least experienced observer of nature knows that the approach of danger is expressed by a universally intelligible cry; which, if uttered by the wren, for instance, is understood by the turkey-cock, and vice versa. Of whatever species the one may be, which first perceives the approach of a bird of prey, it is able to excite the attention of all birds in the neighbourhood by its peculiar cry of warning. As soon as the blue-tit utters her Iss! so indicative of fear and terror,— which, nevertheless, she seems sometimes to do from pure love of mischief,—the wood is silent in an instant; and every bird either listens for the enemy's coming, or hastens to the aid of the comrade who is attacked. This peculiarity is so marked, that fowlers have not failed to turn it to purposes of profit. They build a hut, roof it with green boughs, and cover the roof with a plentiful supply of limed twigs. They then display a screech-owl or other bird of prey, imitate the sonorous cry of a jay or woodpecker in fear and distress; and birds of every size and species flock to the hut, and are caught.
"The tones of happiness and joy, by which one bird is able to call forth from another a similar expression of feeling, seem to be almost as universally intelligible. Nor is this joy shown by song alone; although when one little creature begins to sing, the whole wood, or the whole room, soon manifests its sympathy by a general chorus. The same is frequently indicated by single notes. In spring
* Bechstein's Cage and Chamber Birds, including Sweet's Warblers, with numerous plates. Bohn's Illustrated Library. 1853.