« AnteriorContinuar »
up the rivers in this month in order to spawn. They are of so tender a nature, that the least mixture of snow-water in the river drives them back again into the sea.
But nothing in the animal creation is a more pleasing spectacle than the sporting of the young lambs, most of which are yeaned this month, and are trusted abroad when the weather is tolerably mild. Dyer, in his poem of the Fleece, gives a very natural and beautiful description of this circumstance—
Spread around thy tenderest diligence
Another agreeable token of the arrival of the spring is, that the bees begin to venture out of their hives about the middle of this month: as their food is the honey-like juice found in the tubes of flowers, their coming abroad is a certain sign that flowers are now to be met with. No creature seems possessed of a greater power of foreseeing the weather, so that their appearance in a morning may be reckoned a sure token of a fair day.
THE BEE. 87
Several species of bees are natives of Great Britain, some of which lay up honey, while others do not; some of which are gregarious, or live in large societies, and others are solitary. But that species which is commonly meant by the generic term bee, is the one that is at present domesticated, lays up honey, and dwells in numerous communities. These little animals, in a wild state, form their nests in the hollow of some tree, or the cleft of a rock; in which situation they were frequently seen and described by the old Greek and Latin poets. Homer particularly, in the very first simile of the Iliad, gives the following animated picture of them:—
As from some rocky cleft the shepherd sees,
The poet Virgil, who has appropriated a whole book in his Georgics to the subject of bees, has there repeated in most beautiful language as much of the polity and natural history of this insect as was known to the ancients. Since the time, however, in which he wrote, many errors have been detected, and many new circumstances have been added, by the zeal and attention of modern observers.
Early in the spring, each hive contains one queen or female, from 200 to 1000 drones or males, and from 15,000 to 18,000 labourers or mules; the first and last kind alone have stings, the males being entirely unarmed. As soon as the plants begin to flower, the inhabitants of the hive put themselves in motion; the greater part of the labourers take wing, and disperse themselves through the neighbourhood in search of honey and wax; the former of which is a sweet limpid juice found in the nectaries of flowers, and the latter is made by the bees from the dust contained within the anthers of blossoms. These different materials are brought to the hive, and the labourers in waiting take the wax, and form of it those little hexagonal cells which serve as storehouses for the honey, or nests for their young; the honey is partly distributed for present food to the inhabitants, and the remainder laid up against winter. While the labourers are thus engaged, the queen begins to deposit her eggs to the number of about 200 each day in the empty cells: the egg being soon hatched into a little white grub, increases the employment of the labourers, to whom is allotted the task of feeding it with the purest honey; when it has attained its full size, the mouth of its habitation is closed up with wax, it becomes a chrysalis, and in a few days breaks through its waxen covering, being changed into a perfect bee, and instantly quits the hive in search of honey for the public store. This rapid accession, however, of inhabitants, soon begins to crowd the hive, and commonly in the months of May and July large emigrations take place, called swarms, which settling in an empty hive (or in their wild state in a hollow tree or rock), in a few days lay the waxen foundations of their state, and begin collecting honey for their winter supply. Each swarm consists of a single female, 1000 or more males, and from 24,000 to 28,000 labourers. Thus they live in perfect harmony with each other, and daily adding to their numbers and stores; till, sometime in the six or seven weeks between the latter end of July and the beginning of September, the particular time varying in different hives, the whole state becomes all uproar and confusion, a loud angry humming is heard, accompanied by a general massacre and expulsion of the drones: every male is destroyed or turned out to perish: the young grubs that would have changed into drones participate in the ruin, and in the whole interval from September to March, only a few hundred males are allowed to arrive at maturity.
The gardens are now rendered gay by the crocuses, which adorn the borders with a rich mixture of the brightest yellow and purple. The little shrubs of mezereon are in their beauty. The fields look green with the springing grass, but few wild flowers as yet appear to decorate the ground. Daisies, however, begin to be sprinkled over the dry pastures; and the moist banks of ditches are enlivened with the glossy star-like yellow flowers of pilewort. Towards the end of the month, primroses peep out beneath the hedges; and the most delightfully fragrant of all flowers, the violet, discovers itself by the perfume it imparts to the
surrounding air, before the eye has perceived it in its lowly bed. Shakspeare compares an exquisitely sweet strain of music, to the delicious scent of this flower.
0 ! it came o'er my ear, like the sweet south,
There are several kinds of violets: but the fragrant (both blue and white) is the earliest, thence called the March violet. To these flowers Shakspeare adds the daffodil,
Which comes before the swallow dares, and takes
Beside the hazel, the sallow now enlivens the hedges with its catkins full of yellow dust; and the alder trees are covered with a kind of black bunches, which are the male and female flowers. The leaves of honeysuckles are nearly expanded. In the gardens, the peach and nectarine, the almond, the cherry and apricot trees, come into full bud during this month. The gardeners find plenty of employment in pruning trees, digging and manuring beds, and sowing a great variety of seeds, both for the flower and kitchen garden.
In the latter part of this month the equinox happens, when day and night are of equal length all over the globe: or rather, when the sun is an equal time above and below the horizon. For the morning and evening twilight make apparent day considerably longer than night. This takes place again in September. The first is called the vernal, the latter, the autumnal equinox. At these times storms and tempests are particularly frequent, whence they have always been the terror of mariners. March winds are boisterous and vehement to a proverb.
THE FIRST DAY OF MARCH.
It is the first mild day of March,
Each minute sweeter than before,
That stands beside our door.
There is a blessing in the air Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
My sister! ('tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste your morning task resign,
Edward will come with you; and pray
And bring no book; for this one day
No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar;
The opening of the year.
Love now an universal birth,
One moment now may give us more
Than fifty years of reason;
The spirit of the season.
Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey; We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.
And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
They all shall turn to love.
Then come, my sister! come, I pray,
And bring no book; for this one day