Page images
PDF
EPUB

Of years to come, in distance blue,
Wherein she meant to live and do.

Alas !” says she, “ how hard you

toil With undiverted sadness! Behold yon land of wine and oil

Those sunny hills of gladness; Those joys I wait with eager brow; “And so you always will;" said now.

“ That fairy-land that looks so real

Recedes as you pursue it;
Thus, while you wait for time's ideal,

I take my work and do it;
Intent to form, when time is gone,
A pleasant past to look upon ! ”

Ah, well!” said THEN," I envy not

Your dull, fatiguing labours ; Aspiring to a brighter lot,

With thousands of my neighbours, Soon as I reach that golden hill”. “ But that,” says Now, “you never will."

“ And e’en suppose you should,” said she,

(Though mortal ne'er attained it)“ Your nature you must change with me

The moment you had gained it; Since hope fulfilled (you must allow) Turns now to THEN, and THEN to Now!"

Jane Taylor.

5.-DR JOHNSON'S ACT OF PENANCE.

in-quir-ing men-tion-ing stalk-ed

ab-rupt-ness dis-o-be-di-ence in-clem-en-cy

il-lus-tri-ous
fil-i-al
con-tu-ma-cy

During the last visit the doctor paid to Lichfield, the friends with whom he was staying missed him one morning at the breakfast-table. On inquiring after him of the servants, they understood he had set off from Lichfield at a very early hour, without mentioning to any of the family whither he was going. The day passed without the return of the illustrious guest, and the party began to be very uneasy on his account, when, just before the supper-hour, the door opened, and the doctor stalked into the room. A solemn silence of a few minutes ensued, nobody daring to inquire the cause of his absence, which was at last relieved by Johnson addressing the lady of the house in the following manner :“Madam, I beg your pardon for the abruptness of my departure from your house this morning, but I was constrained to it by my conscience. Fifty years ago, madam, on this day, I committed a breach of filial piety, which has ever since lain heavy on my mind, and has not till this day been expiated. My father, as you recollect, was a bookseller, and had long been in the habit of attending Lichfield market, and opening a stall for the sale of his books during that day. Confined to his bed by indisposition, he requested me, this time fifty years ago, to visit

B

the market, and attend the stall in his place. But, madam, my pride prevented me from doing my duty, and I gave my father a refusal. To do away the sin of this disobedience, I this day went in a post-chaise to Lichfield, and going into the market at the time of high business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare an hour before the stall which my father had formerly used, exposed to the sneers of the standers-by and the inclemency of the weather-a penance by which I hope I have propitiated Heaven for this only instance, I believe, of contumacy towards my father.”

Boswell's 6 Life of Johnson.”

6. THE SWALLOW.

un-doubt-ed-ly
reg-u-lar-ly
bee-tle

suc-ceed
cir-cu-lar
gen.us

chimney fledge-ling de-vel-op-ing

Undoubtedly the swallow has seized upon our dwellings without ceremony; she lodges under our windows, under the eaves, in our chimneys. She does not hold us in the slightest fear. It might have been said that she trusted to her unrivalled wing, had she not placed her nest and her children within our reach. Where the mother has built her nest, the daughter and the granddaughter build theirs. They return there every year; their generations succeed to one house more regularly than do our own. A family dies out or is dispersed, the house passes into other hands ; but the swallow constantly returns to it. She is the bird of return. And if I bestow this title upon her, it is not alone on account of her annual return, but on account of her general conduct, and the direction of her flight, so varied, yet nevertheless circular, and always returning upon itself. She incessantly wheels and veers, indefatigably hovers about the same area and the same locality, describing an infinity of graceful curves, which, however varied, are never far distant from one another. Is it to pursue her prey, the gnat, which dances and floats in the air? Is it to exercise her power, her unwearying wing, without going too far from her nest ? We see her flight clearly, but never, or scarcely ever, her little black face. The swallow, caught in the morning, and closely examined, is seen to be a strange and ugly bird, we confess; but she is the being among all beings born for flight. To this object nature has sacrificed everything. She has laughed at form, thinking only of movement, and has succeeded so well, that this bird, ugly in repose, is, when flying, the most beautiful of all.

Scythe-like wings, projecting eyes, no neck (in order to treble her strength), feet, scarcely any, or none-all is wing; these are her great general features. Add a very large beak, always open, which in flight snaps at its prey without stopping, closes, and again reopens. Thus she feeds while flying; she drinks, she bathes, while flying; while flying she feeds her young.

She is the true queen of the air ; the incomparable agility of her motions makes all space her own. Who, like her, can change in the very moment of springing, and turn abruptly? No one. The pursuit of a prey which is ever fluttering—the gnat, the fly, the beetle, the thousand insects that waver to and fro, and never keep in the same direction—is undoubtedly the best training-school for flight, and renders the swallow superior to all other birds.

Nature, to attain this end, has suppressed the foot, In the large church-haunting swallow, which we call the martin, the foot is reduced to a mere nothing. The wing gains in proportion. The martin, it is said, accomplishes eighty leagues an hour. The foot is but a stump in the martin. If he would cling to any object, he has only his own small and feeble claws. But when he rests, he is infirm, and, as it were, paralysed. To take the range of a place is a great difficulty for him; 80, if he fixes his nest aloft, at his departure from it he is constrained to let himself fall into his natural element. Afloat in the air he is free, but until then he is a slave. Among this peculiar genus, the foot not supplying the place of the wing, the training of the young being confined to the wing alone and a long apprenticeship in flying, the brood keep the nest for a long time, demanding the cares, and developing the foresight and tenderness of the mother. The lessons are curious. The mother raises herself on her wings—the fledgeling regards her intently, and also raises himself a little; then you see her hovering—he looks, he stirs his wings. All this goes well, for it takes

« PreviousContinue »