Abbildungen der Seite

such an exertion of voice as would have hailed a ship at the distance of a mile, and still these insects pursued their various employments undisturbed, and without showing the least insensibility or resentment.

Some time since its discovery this echo is become totally silent, though the object, or hop-kiln, remains: nor is there any mystery in this defect; for the field between is planted as an hop-garden, and the voice of the speaker is totally absorbed and lost among the poles and entangled foliage of the hops. And when the poles are removed in autumn the disappointment is the same; because a tall quick-set hedge, nurtured up for the purpose of shelter to the hop ground, interrupts the repercussion of the voice : so that till those obstructions are removed no more of its garrulity can be expected.

Should any gentleman of fortune think an echo in his park or outlet a pleasing incident, he might build one at little or no expense. For whenever he had occasion for a new barn, stable, dog-kennel, or the like structure, it would be only needful to erect this building on the gentle declivity of an hill, with a like rising opposite to it, at a few hundred yards distance; and perhaps success might be the easier ensured could some canal, lake, or stream, intervene. From a seat at the centrum phonicum he and his friends might amuse themselves sometimes of an evening with the prattle of this loquacious nymph; of whose complacency and decent reserve more may be said than can with truth of every individual of her sex; since she is “always ready with her vocal response, but never intrusive:”

quæ nec reticere loquenti, Nec prior ipsa loqui didicit resonabilis echo.”

The classic reader will, I trust, pardon the following lovely quotation, so finely describing echoes, and so poetically accounting for their causes :

“Quæ benè quom videas, rationem reddere possis

Tute tibi atque aliis, quo pacto per loca sola
Saxa pareis formas verborum ex ordine reddant,
Palanteis comites quom monteis inter opacos
Quærimus, et magnâ dispersos voce ciemus.
Sex etiam, aut septem loca vidi reddere voces
Unam quom jaceres: ita colles collibus ipsis
Verba repulsantes iterabant dicta referre.
Hæc loca capripedes Satyros, Nymphasque tenere
Finitimi fingunt, et Faunos esse loquuntur;
Quorum noctivago strepitu, ludoque jocanti
Adfirmant volgo taciturna silentia rumpi,
Chordarumque sonos fieri, dulceisque querelas,
Tibia quas fundit digitis pulsata canentum :
Et genus agricolûm latè sentiscere, quom Pan
Pinea semiferi capitis velamina quassans,
Unco sæpe labro calamos percurrit hianteis,
Fistula silvestrem ne cesset fundere musam."

(LUCRETIUS, Lib. iv l. 576.)
"" This shows thee why, whilst men, through caves and groves,
Call their lost friends, or mourn unhappy loves,
The pitying rocks, the groaning caves return
Their sad complaints again, and seem to mourn:
This all observe, and I myself have known
Both rocks and hills return six words for one:
The dancing words from hill to hill rebound,
They all receive, and all restore the sound:
The vulgar and the neighbours think, and tell,
That there the Nymphs, and Fauns, and Satyrs dwell:
And that their wanton sport, their loud delight,
Breaks through the quiet silence of the night:
Their music's softest airs fill all the plains,
And mighty Pan delights the list’ning swains :
The goat-faced Pan, whose flocks securely feed;
With long-hung lip he blows his oaken reed :
The horned, the half-beast god, when brisk and gay,
With pine-leaves crowned, provokes the swains to play.”.

(CREEch's Translation.) SELBORNE, Feb. 12, 1778.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

MONG the many singularities attending those amusing birds the swifts, I am now confirmed in the opinion that we have

every year the same number of pairs invariably; at least the result

my inquiry has been exactly the same for a long time past. The swallows and martins are so numerous, and so widely distributed over the village, that it is hardly possible to re-count them; while the swifts, though they do not all build in the church, yet so frequently haunt it, and play and rendezvous round it, that they are easily enumerated. The number that I constantly find are eight pairs; about half of which reside in the church, and the rest build in some of the lowest and meanest thatched cottages. Now as these eight pairs, allowance being made for accidents, breed yearly eight pairs more, what becomes of this annual increase; and what determines every spring which pairs shall visit us, and reoccupy their ancient haunts ?

Ever since I have attended to the subject of ornithology, I have always supposed that that sudden


reverse of affection, that strange årtiotopgn, or antipathy, which immediately succeeds in the feathered kind to the most passionate fondness, is the occasion of an equal dispersion of birds over the face of the earth. Without this provision one favourite district would be crowded with inhabitants, while others would be destitute and forsaken. But the parent birds seem to maintain a jealous superiority, and to oblige the young to seek for new abodes; and the rivalry of the males, in many kinds, prevents their crowding the one on the other. Whether the swallows and house-martins return in the same exact number annually is not easy to say, for reasons given above: but it is apparent, as I have remarked before in my Monographies, that the numbers returning bear no manner of proportion to the numbers retiring.

SELBORNE, May 13, 1778.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

HE standing objection to botany has always been, that it is a pursuit that amuses the fancy and exercises the memory,

without improving the mind or advancing any real knowledge: and, where the science is carried no farther than a mere systematic classification, the charge is but too true. But the botanist that is desirous of wiping off this aspersion should be by no means content with a list of names; he should study plants philosophically, should investigate the laws of vegetation, should examine the powers and virtues of efficacious herbs, should promote their cultivation; and graft the gardener, the planter, and the husbandman, on the phytologist.* Not that system is by any means to be thrown aside; without system the field of Nature would be a pathless wilderness : but system should be subservient to, not the main object of, pursuit.

* The structure and organization of plants as a science, as well as the study of their properties and cultivation, have advanced with immense strides since our author wrote, and few matters are now better understood by those who take an interest in them.-ED.

« ZurückWeiter »