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entire pod, as of French or kidney-bean; and of some the whole plant, as of clover, lucerne, and vetch.
Our hedges are now beginning to be in their highest beauty and fragrance. The place of the hawthorn is supplied by the flowers of the hip or dog-rose, the different hues of which from a light blush to a deep crimson, form a most elegant variety of colour. The bittersweet nightshade with its fine purple petals, and bright orange stamina, merits the second rank in beauty to the rose. The woodbine or honeysuckle is unequalled in fragrance, and as an ornamental plant almost rivals the nightshade; while the graceful climbing shoots of the white bryony and tufted vetch connect by light festoons the other vegetable beauties that grace peculiarly the hedges of this country.
The several kinds of corn come into ear and flower during this month, as well as most of the numerous species of grass, which indeed are all so many smaller kinds of corn; or rather corn is only a larger sort of grass. It is peculiar to all this kind of plants to have long slender-pointed leaves, a jointed stalk, and a flowering head, either in the form of a close spike like wheat, or a loose bunch called a panicle, like oats. This head consists of numerous husky flowers, each of which bears a single seed. The bamboo, sugar-cane, and reed, are the largest of this family.
Those kinds, of which the seeds are large enough to be worth the labour of separating, are usually termed corn, and form the chief article of food of almost all the nations of the world, for very few are so little civilised as not to raise it. In Europe the principal kinds of corn are wheat, rye, barley, and oats. In Asia the chief dependence is placed on rice; in Africa and America on maize or Indian corn.
The smaller kinds, called grasses, are most valuable for their leaves and stalks, or herbage, which make the principal food of domestic cattle. This cut down and dried is hay, the winter provision of cattle in all the temperate and northern regions. Grass is most fit to cut after it is in ear, but before its seeds are ripened. If it be suffered to grow too long, it will lose its juices and become like the straw of corn. The latter part of June is the beginning of hay-harvest for the southern and middle parts of the kingdom. This is one of the busiest and most agreeable of rural occupations;
both sexes, and all ages, are engaged in it; the fragrance of the new-mown grass, the gaiety of all surrounding objects, and the genial warmth of the weather, all conspire to render it a season of delight and pleasure to the beholder.
Now swarms the village o'er the jovial mead;
The increasing warmth of the year calls forth fresh species of insects. Of those which appear during this month the chief are the grasshopper; brass or green beetle; various kinds of flies, ephemera, or angler's may-fly, cicada spumaria, cuckoo-spit insect, or frog-hopper; stag-horn beetle, one of the largest of this class; and the formidable gadfly, a single one of which strikes terror into the largest herd of cattle, for it is in the skin of the back of these animals that this insect deposits its eggs.
The principal season for taking that delicate fish, the mackarel, is in this month.
About this time also birds cease their notes; for after the end of June an attentive observer heard no birds except the stone curlew (thick-kneed plover of Pennant) whistling late at night; the yellow-hammer, goldfinch, and goldencrested wren now and then chirping. The cuckoo's note also ceases about this time.
The groves, the fields, the meadows, now no more
With melody resound. 'Tis silence all,
As if the lovely songsters, overwhelm'd
By bounteous Nature's plenty, lay intranced
In drowsy lethargy.
Some of the most observable plants in flower are the vine: the wood-spurge, and wood-pimpernel, the one in dry, the other in moist thickets; buckbean, water iris, and willowherbs, in marshes; meadow-cranes-bill, vipers-bugloss, and corn-poppy, in fields; mullein, foxglove, thistles, and mallow, by road-sides and in ditch banks; and that singular plant the bee orchis, in chalky or limestone soils.
Gooseberries, currants, and strawberries, begin to ripen in this month, and prove extremely refreshing as the parching heats advance. About an hour before sunset, in the mild evenings of this month, it is highly amusing to watch the common white or barn owl in search of its prey, which consists almost wholly of field-mice. The large quantity of soft plumage with which this bird is covered, enables it to glance easily, and without noise, through the air. Its manner of hunting is very regular, first beating up the side of a hedge, then taking a few turns over the meadow, and finishing by the opposite hedge, every now and then dropping among the grass in order to seize its food. It has been found by careful observation, that when a pair of owls have young, a mouse is brought to the nest about once in every five minutes.
Another interesting nocturnal bird is the goat-sucker, or fern-owl, nearly allied to the swallow genus in its form, its mode of flight, and food; it is by no means common, but may be occasionally observed hawking among the branches of large oaks in pursuit of the scarabeus solstitialis, or fernchaffer, which is its favourite food.
The balmy evenings, about the middle of this month, offer yet another interesting object to the naturalist; this is the angler's may-fly (ephemera vulgata), the most short-lived in its perfect state of any of the insect race; it emerges from the water, where it passes its aurelia state, about six in the evening, and dies about eleven at night. They usually begin to appear about the fourth of June, and continue in succession nearly a fortnight.
On the twenty-first of June happens the summer solstice, or longest day; at this time in the most northern parts of the island there is scarcely any night, the twilight continuing almost from the setting to the rising of the sun; so that it is light enough at midnight to see to read. This 259 JUNE FIELDS.
season is also properly called Midsummer, though, indeed, the greatest heats are not yet arrived, and there is more warm weather after than before it.
There are the mowers at work! there are the haymakers! Green swathes of mown grass, haycocks, and wagons ready to bear them away—it is summer indeed. What a fragrance comes floating on the gale from the clover in the standing grass, from the new-made hay, and from those sycamore trees, with all their pendant flowers. It is delicious; and yet one cannot help regretting that the year has advanced so far. There, the wild rose is putting out; the elder is already in flower; they are all beautiful, but saddening signs of the swift-winged time. Let us sit down by this little stream, and enjoy the pleasantness that it presents, without a thought of the future.
Ah! this sweet place is just in its pride. The flags have sprung thickly in the bed of the brook, and their yellow flowers are beginning to show themselves. The green locks of the water ranunculus are lifted by the stream, and their flowers form snowy islands on the surface; the water-lilies spread out their leaves upon it like the pallettes of fairy painters; and that opposite bank, what a prodigal scene of vigorous and abundant vegetation it is! There are the blue geraniums as lovely as ever; the meadow-sweet is hastening to put out its foam-like flowers, that species of golden-flowered mustard occupies the connecting space between the land and water, and harebells, the jagged pink lychnis, and flowering grass of various kinds, make the whole bank beautiful. Every plant that is wont to show itself at this season, is in its place, to give its quota to the accustomed character of the spot; every insect to beautify it with its hues, and enliven it with its peculiar sound.
The may-flies, in thousands, are come forth to their little day of life, and are flying up and dropping again in their own peculiar way. The stone-fly is found head downwards on the bole of that tree. The midges are celebrating their airy and labyrinthine dances with an amazing adroitness. Dragon-flies of all sizes and colours are hovering and skimming and settling amongst the water-plants, or on some natural twig, evidently full of enjoyment. The great azure bodied one, with its filmy wings, darts past with reckless speed, and slender ones—blue and purple, and dun and black, made as of shining silk by the fingers of some fair lady, and animated for a week or two of summer sunshine by some frolic spell, now pursue each other, and now rest as in sleep. The white-throat goes flying with a curious, cowering motion over the top of the tall grass from one bush to another, where it hops unseen, and repeats its favourite chaw-chaw. The willow-warbler, the mocking-bird of England, maintains its incessant imitations of the swallow, the sparrow, the chaffinch, the white-throat, flitting and chattering in the bushes that overhang the stream. The land-rail repeats its continuous crake-crake from the meadow grass, and the