Page images
[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][ocr errors]

"FEBRUARY fill-dike" is an appropriate name for this damp month; but we know that "the time of the singing of birds" is at hand, and we bear patiently the dearth and desolation around us, and look upon the lengthening days as sure heralds of the coming sunshine and flowers. Hark! how the wind roars; and the leafless trees sway their naked forms to and fro, and toss their skeleton arms in the air like maniacs; and there is a loud howling in the " savage woods," a roar of clashing branches and uprooted trees, as if Fingal led his warriors forth

[ocr errors]

and had commenced the "stormy strife," or Ossian twanged his wild harp in the gale. How wonderful are the winds! We feel their power, and shrink beneath it, yet see them not: the ocean is uplifted by their might, the angry waves lash the sky; navies are destroyed, and forests are blown down; yet we see not the dim arm which strikes ;—

"He plants his footsteps on the sea,
And rides upon the storm."

And far stronger are some of these sublime passages in holy
"He did fly upon the wings of the wind ;" "the heaven
was black with wind ;"" there came a wind from the wilderness."
"The wind blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell.” “He
gathereth the wind in his fists." "The wind shall eat up all
chy pastures." "And the wind was in their wings."
"Like a
wave driven with the wind and tossed."-All these, and num-
berless other passages, show what an eye the holy writers had
for the poetry of the elements.

March is generally considered the month of winds, but it is in February when we too often feel their power; when the blinding sleet is blown upon our faces, and the dense rain comes streaming down our cheeks; or, as Shakspeare describes it,

"When icicles hang by the wall,

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail.

When blood is nipt, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-whoo, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,

And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,

And Marian's nose looks red and raw;

Then roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
And nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit, tu-whoo, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot."

Very few people who have not sojourned in the country can form an idea of the dreadful state of the roads that lead from one village to another, especially after a thaw. Some of the narrow lanes in the clay countries are almost impassable, and you see waggons locked up axle-deep in the mire, while the horses plunge up to the knees at every step. In vain the poor waggoner has recourse to whipping or patting his horses, or planting his shoulder to the wheel; all is useless, and he is compelled to leave his team and walk back perhaps several miles for an additional supply of horses, or to call in the assistance of labourers to liberate his charge by using the spade and pickaxe.

"Good morrow to my Valentine!" sings sweet Ophelia ; and we turn back our memories, and remember with what anxiety we arose on the morning of Valentine's Day, hoping that the first person we saw would be she whom we loved, and sometimes shutting our eyes and turning aside at the sight of some old woman emerging from her cottage, whom we would fain not own as our Valentine. And in villages where we had no postman, excepting perhaps the old servant at the Hall, who brought letters from the market-town twice a-week, or as he might be sent by the squire, we were compelled to deliver our own productions. Well do I remember our stealing softly up the garden and looking for some crevice in the cottage-door, depositing the messenger of love under the chink, or between the window-shutters. Others, more daring, would throw open the door, and hurl the love-breathing document in the centre of the family. Then there were shoutings of fathers and hobbling of old mothers to see who it was that had selected their rosy daughter for his Valentine. But the youth was generally too nimble; and ere they had crossed the threshold, he was over the garden, and away across the fields hidden by the darkness. Then the candle was snuffed, and the blushing girl to whom it was addressed, after many entreaties from father and mother, drew it from her bosom and

allowed them to look at the picture. And although the female face was hideously drawn, with a nose projecting like a buttress, and an eye horribly black with ink, and a patch of hideous red upon the cheek, still the mother declared "that it was the very moral of their Mary."

And there were little Cupids, limbed like callow crows, and flying like harpies, with red hearts in their hands; some round and suspended by a string, pierced with arrows resembling hayforks. Then there was a tree like a walking-stick, with a piece of green-baize twined round the top, thick in the middle. and tapering upward; and beneath that, something which was intended to represent a man, whilst from his mouth issued the following couplet :

[blocks in formation]

And all along the edges ran such lines as

"The rose is red, the violet 's blue,

Carnation's sweet, and so are you."
"The ring is round, and has no end;
So is my love to you, my friend."
"First we cast lots, and then we drew,
And Fortune said, it must be you."


But these rude hieroglyphics are to the heart of the lovesmitten maiden as plain as pike-staves; and her candle will be seen burning an hour later in the cottage-window that evening, as she sits, half-disrobed, twisting the rude figures in her own mind into meanings that to others would be incomprehensible and committing the simple rhymes to memory, she will warble them all day over her work, to a tune of her own. And if she is fortunate enough to wed the youth who was the donor, she will have her valentine framed after marriage; and the callow Cupids, and the pointed tree, and the red hearts, and two figures with blotches for legs and feet, will grin at each other under a glass for many a year.

The mole, or mould-warper, commences its operations this month, by throwing up hillocks, as soon as the earth is softened. Several writers have contended that they do much mischief in gardens, by loosening and destroying the roots; others have defended them, as being of advantage to vegetation, in lightening the soil around plants. Buffon accuses them of eating all the acorns in a newly-set soil. They are also charged with piercing the sides of dams and canals, and letting out the water but this is rather doubtful: the otter and the water-rat are more open to this charge, as the mole takes great pains to keep its nest dry. The mole never searches for food near its habitation, but generally labours for it in the morning early, or late in the evening, and then returns to its home, which is so constructed, that the upper runs, being formed into a kind of circle, vibrate when anything passes, and give sufficient warning for it to escape by some of its safety-runs. Shakspeare says,

"Tread softly, that the blind mole may not
Hear a foot fall; we now are near his cell."

Le Court was surprised when a naturalist asserted that the mole was blind; and to convince himself that it was not, he contrived the following experiment:He had two openings made in a dry tiled drain, at one of which several moles were successively introduced. Le Court took his stand at the other. If he stood quite still, the mole soon came out and escaped; but if, at the moment in which she showed herself at the hole, he moved only his finger, she stopped and turned back. By repeating this as often as she reappeared, the mole was kept imprisoned in the drain.

The fur of the mole is remarkably fine, and yields in every direction, soft as the skin of an infant. Were it strong, as in the rat or mouse, it would have retarded its progress underground, not only by resisting its motions, but by loosening the earth from the sides and roof of its arched galleries, which are

« PreviousContinue »