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FOED'S IIJTIST AND NIGHTINGALE.
without danger; now dashing through the sandbanks; now sleeping, half hidden, beneath the alders, and hawthorns, and wild roses, with which the banks are so profusely and variously fringed, whilst flags, lilies, and other aquatic plants almost cover the surface of the stream. In good truth, it is a beautiful brook, and one that Walton himself might have sitten by and loved—for trout are there; we see them as they dart up the stream, and hear and start at the sudden plunge when they spring to the surface for the summer flies. Izaak Walton would have loved our brook and quiet meadows; they breathe the very spirit of his own peacefulness, a soothing quietude that sinks into the soul. There is no path through them, not one; we might wander a whole spring day and not see a trace of human habitation. * * * I always have loved these meadows, so fresh, and cool, and delicious to the eye and to the tread, full of cowslips, and of all vernal flowers.
"* * * But, hark! cuckoo! cuckoo! sounds from a neighbouring tree, for these meadows are dotted with timber like a park. I have a prejudice very unpastoral and unpoetical—but I cannot help it, I have many such— against this harbinger of spring. His note is so monotonous, so melancholy, and then the boys mimic him; one hears 'cuckoo! cuckoo!' in dirty streets, amongst smoky houses, and the bird is hated for faults not his own.
"* * * I sate listening, not to my enemy the cuckoo, but to a whole concert of nightingales, scarcely interrupted by any meaner bird, answering and vieing with each other in those short delicious strains which are to the ear as roses to the eye; those snatches of lovely sound which come across us as airs from heaven. Pleasant thoughts, delightful associations, awoke as I listened; and almost unconsciously I repeated to myself the beautiful story of the Lutist and the Nightingale, from Ford's ' Lover's Melancholy.' Here it is. Is there in English poetry anything finer?
Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales
Which poets of an older time have feign'd
To glorify their temple, bred in me
Desire of visiting paradise.
To Thessaly I came, and living private
Without acquaintance of more sweet companions
Than the old inmates to my love—my thoughts,
Nature's best skill'd musician, undertakes
The challenge; and for every several strain
The well-shaped youth could touch, she sang him down.
He could not run divisions with more art
Upon his quaking instrument than she,
The nightingale, did with her various notes
Some time was spent, the young man grew at last
Into a pretty anger, that a bird
Whom art had never taught clefs, moods, or notes,
Should vie with him for mastery whose study
Had buried many hours to perfect practice.
To end the controversy, in a rapture
Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly,
So many voluntaries, and so quick,
That there was curiosity and cunning,
Concord in discord, lines of differing method
Meeting in one full centre of delight.
The bird, ordain'd to be
Music's first martyr, strove to imitate
These several sounds; which when her warbling throat
Fail'd in, for grief down dropp'd she on his lute
And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness
To see the conqueror upon her hearse
To weep a funeral elegy of tears.
He look d upon the trophies of his art,
Then sigh'd, then wiped his eyes; then sigh'd and cried,
'Alas! poor creature, I will soon revenge
This cruelty upon the author of it,
Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood,
Shall never more betray a harmless peace
To an untimely end I' and in that sorrow,
As he was dashing it against a tree,
I suddenly stept in!"
A WALK THROUGH MAY-WOODS.
"In the early part of this month, if we walk into woods, we shall be struck with their peculiar beauty. Woods are never more agreeable objects than when they have only half-assumed their green array. Beautiful and refreshing is the light of the young leaves bursting forth from the grey boughs, some trees at one degree of advance, some at another. The assemblage of the giants of the wood is seen, each in its own character and figure, neither disguised nor hidden in the dense mass of foliage which obscures them in summer—you behold the scattered and majestic trunks, the branches stretching high and wide, the dark drapery of ivy which envelopes some of them, and the crimson flush that glows in the world of living twigs above. If the contrast of grey and mossy branches, and of the delicate richness of young leaves gushing out of them in a thousand places be inexpressibly delightful to behold, that of one tree with another is not the less so. One is nearly clothed, another is mottled with grey and green, struggling, as it were, which should have the predominance, and another is still perfectly naked. The wild cherry stands like an apparition in the woods, white with its profusion of blossom, and the wilding begins to exhibit its rich and blushing countenance. The pines look dim and dusky amid the lively hues of spring. The abeles are covered with their clusters of albescent, and powdered leaves, and withering catkins; and beneath them the pale spathes of the arum, fully expanded and displaying their crimson clubs, presenting a sylvan and unique air."—William Howitt.
A MAY FESTIVAL.
In Germany the festival of May is much more universally celebrated than with us. The author of "An Art-Student in Munich" describes a May festival, witnessed by her, where not alone the painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, and good Munich turned out upon a bright May honour to the season, but royalty itself also. A lovely lake, about ten English miles from the city, was the scene of festivity, it seems; and from early morning till far into the night did kings, painters, and poets rejoice themselves in a truly Arcadian fashion. "Past old orchards, and through meadows, knee deep in grass and lovely flowers, we walked," says the writer, "people streaming along with us in happy groups of all ranks and all ages—young and old, rich and poor, parents, children, friends, acquaintance, lovers, citizens, peasants, painters, poets, the learned
citizen-folk of morning to do
A GERMAN MAT FESTIVAL. 235
and the ignorant—all had issued forth to celebrate with true heart-worship God's beautiful gifts of May and Nature. It was indeed a sight which sent a strange thrill to the heart; these crowds of human beings, scattered for miles and miles along the green lovely banks of the beautiful lake, united in the celebration of so simple and so poetical a usage. These crowds reminded one of the angelic groups painted by old Fra Angelico, who wander hand in hand through meadows of the richest grass, starred by clusters of quaint mystical flowers. And how lovely it was higher up in the woods. People arrived even faster and faster; parties in carriages, with servants and grandeur; parties on foot— the gentlemen with wreaths of ivy or stag's-horn moss twisted round their straw or felt hats, with gentians, and cowslips, and the lovely lilac primula, which blooms in these Bavarian fields, stuck into their button-holes—and ladies and children with bouquets of the same flowers in their hands. "Whole families or little knots of friends came together; there were lads from the Gymnasium, students from the University, and youths from the Art-Academy. Now we recognised one well-known painter and his family!— now another! and friends greeted friends—and tables were brought out—extra tables from the near Wirthshaus—the fixture tables and benches in the wood being long since occupied—and people seated themselves upon the green mossy sward, and talked and laughed, and were right merry, eating and drinking marvellously. Others, like ourselves, having seen what was going on, and having greeted their acquaintance, betook themselves again to the lake, which all the day was gay with brilliant little skiffs, like dragon-flies, darting about over its smooth mirror, streamers flying in the soft breeze, and garlands of fresh flowers and greenery dropping into the emerald waters from the prows. And here came the little steamer, dashing along through the sunshine, royalty on board of her, her flags flying, her garlands wreathed around a bevy of royal and courtly personages which crowded the little deck; there were shouts from the shore, waving of hats and handkerchiefs, and the king's voice, as the steamer hurried past, was heard demanding from the people 'a cheer for Starnberg and May.' In the evening there were dances and fireworks upon the little lake,