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which extended from E. to W. across the welkin: but the moon rising at about ten o'clock, in unclouded majesty, in the E. put an end to this grand, but awful meteorous phenomenon.
BLACK SPRING, 1771
Dr. Johnson says, that "in 1771 the season was so severe in the island of Sky, that it is remembered by the name of the black spring. The snow, which seldom lies at all, covered the ground for eight weeks, many cattle died, and those that survived were so emaciated that they did not require the male at the usual season." The case was just the same with us here in the south; never were so many barren cows known as in the spring following that dreadful period. Whole dairies missed being in calf together.
At the end of March the face of the earth was naked to a surprising degree. Wheat hardly to be seen, and no signs of any grass; turnips all gone, and sheep in a starving way. All provisions rising in price. Farmers cannot sow for want of rain.
ON THE DARK, STILL, DRY WARM WEATHER, OCCASIONALLY HAPPENING IN THE WINTER MONTHS.
Th' imprison'd winds slumber within their caves Fast bound: the fickle vane, emblem of change, Wavers no more, long-settling to a point.
All nature nodding seems compos'd; thick steams From land, from flood up-drawn, dimming the day, "Like a dark ceiling stand"; slow thro' the air Gossamer floats, or stretch'd from blade to blade The wavy net-work whitens all the field.
Push'd by the weightier atmosphere, up springs
The ponderous Mercury, from scale to scale
While high in air, and pois'd upon his wings
Sooth'd by the genial warmth, the cawing rook Anticipates the spring, selects her mate, Haunts her tall nest-trees, and with sedulous care Repairs her wicker eyrie, tempest torn.
The plough-man inly smiles to see upturn His mellow glebe, best pledge of future crop: With glee the gardener eyes his smoking beds: E'en pining sickness feels a short relief.
The happy school-boy brings transported forth His long-forgotten scourge, and giddy gig: O'er the white paths he whirls the rolling hoop, Or triumphs in the dusty field of taw.
Not so the museful sage :—abroad he walks Contemplative, if haply he may find What cause controls the tempest's rage, or whence Amidst the savage season winter smiles.
For days, for weeks, prevails the placid calm. At length some drops prelude a change: the sun With ray refracted bursts the parting gloom; When all the chequer'd sky is one bright glare.
Mutters the wind at eve: th' horizon round With angry aspect scowls: down rush the showers, And float the delug'd paths, and miry fields.
1 The Barometer.