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infallibly perishes. Of this a remarkable instance occurred in London, during the spring succeeding the hard winter of the year 1794. The snow and ice collecting in the streets so as to become very inconvenient, they were cleared, and many cartloads were placed in the vacant quarters of Moorfields: several of these heaps of snow and frozen rubbish were piled round some of the elm-trees that grew there. At the return of spring, those of the trees that were not surrounded with the snow expanded their leaves as usual, while the others, being still girt with a large frozen mass, continued quite bare; for the fact was, the absorbents in the lower part of the stem, and the earth in which the trees stood, were still exposed to a freezing cold. In some weeks, however, the snow was thawed, but the greater number of the trees were dead, and those few that did produce any leaves were sickly, and continued in a languishing state all summer, and then died.
The farmer is now impatient to begin his work in the fields, as soon as the ground is sufficiently thawed. He ploughs up his fallows, sows beans and peaa, rye and spring wheat; sets early potatoes; drains wet lands; dresses and repairs hedges; lops trees, and plants those kinds that love a wet soil, such as poplars, alders, and willows.
Of all our native birds, none begins to build so soon as the raven: by the latter end of this month it has generally laid its eggs and begun to sit. The following anecdote, illustrative of its attachment to its nest, is related by Mr. White in his "Natural History of Selbourne:"—"In the centre of this grove there stood an oak, which, though shapely and tall on the whole, bulged out into a large excrescence about the middle of the stem. On this a pair of ravens had fixed their residence for such a series of years, that the oak was distinguished by the name of the raventree. Many were the attempts of the neighbouring youths to get at this eyry; the difficulty whetted their inclinations, and each was ambitious of surmounting the arduous task. But when they arrived at the swelling, it jutted out so much in their way, and was so far beyond their grasp, that the most daring lads were awed, and acknowledged the undertaking to be too hazardous. So the ravens built on, nest upon nest, in perfect security, till the fatal day arrived in THE RATES. 57
which the wood was to be levelled. It was in the month of February, when those birds usually sit. The saw was applied to the butt, the wedges were inserted into the opening, the woods echoed to the heavy blows of the beetle and mallet, the tree nodded to its fall, but still the dam sat on. At last, when it gave way, the bird was flung from her nest; and though her parental affection deserved a better fate, was whipped down by the twigs, which brought her dead to the ground."
Of the raven, Stanley says, in his interesting work on birds—" With us the raven may be called the herald of the year; for as early as the latter part of January, if the weather be mild, or, at all events, in the beginning of February, some faithful pair (for the union of male and female is for life) may be seen looking into the state of their nursery tenement, usually constructed on the upper and most inaccessible branching forth of some high tree, where they have been known to build beyond the memory of the most ancient chronicler of the parish."
Mr. Knox, in his "Ornithological Rambles in Sussex," gives a long and most interesting account of a pair of ravens, whose motions and operations he seems to have watched very narrowly. He says, speaking of Petworth Park, after describing the untimely fate of one pair of birds which had built in that locality, and which were destroyed by an ignorant keeper—" Years passed away, and the raven continued unknown in this part of West Sussex, until one day in March, 1843, when, riding in the park near a clump of tall old beech trees, whose trunks had been denuded by time of all their lower branches, my attention was suddenly arrested by the never-to-be-mistaken croak of a raven, and the loud chattering of a flock of jackdaws.
"I soon perceived that these were the especial objects of his hatred and hostility; for after dashing into the midst of them, and executing several rapid movements in the air, he succeeded in effectually driving them to a considerable distance from his nest. During this manoeuvre, the superior size of the raven became more apparent than when viewed alone, and his power of flight was advantageously exhibited by comparison with that of his smaller congeners. The latter, indeed, seemed to bear about the same relation to him, in point of size, that starlings do to rooks, when seen together. The raven's nest was placed on a fork, in the very summit of one of the highest of these trees, while their hollow trunks were tenanted by a numerous colony of jackdaws. Some of the holes through which these entered were so near the ground, that I had no difficulty in reaching them when on horseback, while others were situated at a much greater height. These conducted to the chambers in which the nests were placed, and which were generally far removed from the external aperture, by which the birds entered their tower-like habitation. On thrusting my whip upwards into many of these passages, I found it impossible to touch the further extremity, while a few cavities of smaller dimensions were within reach of my hand, and contained nests, constructed of short, dry sticks, some of which were incomplete, while in others one or two eggs had been deposited. The next day I returned to the place on foot, provided with a spyglass, for the purpose of observation. On my arrival, I found that the ravens were absent, and that the jackdaws, availing themselves of this, had congregated in considerable numbers, and were as busily employed about their habitations as a swarm of bees; some carrying materials for the completion of their frail and yet unfinished nests, others conveying food to their mates, and all apparently making the most of their time, during the absence of their tormentors. There being no cover or brushwood at hand, and the branches being yet leafless, I was unable to conceal myself effectually,; but having sat down at the foot of the tree containing their nest, I awaited the return of the ravens. Nearly an hour elapsed before the return of the male bird, and I was first made aware of his approach by the consternation it appeared to spread among the jackdaws. Like most animals under similar circumstances, when conscious of the approach of danger, they rapidly collected their forces on a single tree, keeping up all the time an incessant chattering, each bird shifting his position rapidly from bough to bough, while the raven, who held some food in his beak, satisfied himself on this occasion with two or three swoops into the terrified crowd, and having routed the mob, he approached the tree in which his nest was placed. Before arriving there, however, he
evidently became aware of my presence, and dropping his prey, which proved to be a rat, he ascended into the air to a great height in circular gyrations, after the manner of a falcon, where he was soon joined by his consort; and the two birds continued to soar over my head while I remained there, uttering not only their usual hoarse croak, but also an extraordinary sound, resembling the exclamation,' Oh!' loudly and clearly ejaculated. At first I could hardly persuade myself that it proceeded from the throat of either of the ravens, but my doubt was soon dispelled, for there was no human being within sight; and after carefully examining one of the birds for some time with my glass, I observed that each note was preceded by an opening of the beak, the distance, of course, preventing sight and sound from being exactly simultaneous."
We cannot follow Mr. Knox verbatim through the whole of his interesting narrative, but must give the remainder of it in a more condensed form. The following year, it appears, the pair of birds changed their retreat from the beech-grove to a clump of Scotch firs in the same part, where their nest was invaded by a truant school-boy, who bore away in his satchel the four " squabs " which it contained. The watchful naturalist discovered the loss of the parent birds, and after awhile traced out the depredator, and got possession of the fledgelings in a half-starved state; these it was determined to bring up by hand; and the operation of clipping was already performed upon three of them, when the idea occurred that the restoration of the remaining perfect bird to the nest might have the effect of attracting the old ones back to their now deserted, because empty home. The experiment was tried and proved successful, and, in the words of the pleased narrator, "the young bird was safely reared; the ravens have since brought up several families in the same nest."
Gilbert White has noticed a peculiarity in the habits of the raven, which he says "must draw the attention of even the most incurious," although we do not recollect to have seen it alluded to elsewhere. "They spend their leisure time in striking and cuffing each other on the wing in a kind of playful skirmish; and when they move from one place to another, frequently turn on their backs with a loud croak, and seem to be falling to the ground. When this odd gesture betides them they are scratching themselves with one foot, and thus lose the centre of gravity." Much more might be written about this grave, and, in the eyes of many, even of the present day, preternaturally cunning bird, the feathered soothsayer of the Greeks and Romans, the oracular voice of the future to the Scandinavian nations, the harbinger of evil and of death, the bird of night and of witchcraft, the grim watcher by the gibbet, where swing the bones of the murderer, that amid the pauses of the night wind, as it howls and whistles over the lonely moor, croaks ominous, and, as Malone says in " The Jew of Malta,"—
Doth shake contagion from his sable wings.
As the raven may be regarded as the harbinger of spring among birds, so may the lesser celandine be called spring's harbinger among flowers. See how Wordsworth welcomes her.
Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies,
Primroses will have their glory;
They will have a place in story:
Eyes of some men travel far
For the finding of a star;
Up and down the heavens they go,
Men that keep a mighty rout;
Since the day I found thee out,
Modest, yet withal an elf
Bold, and lavish of thyself;
Since we needs must first have met
I have seen thee, high and low,
'Twas a face I did not know; i