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wilds of the Adirondack^ impatient and inquisitive as usual; a few weeks later, on the Potomac, I was greeted by the same hardy little busy-body. Does he travel by easy stages from bush to bush and from wood to wood? or has that compact little body force and courage to brave the night and the upper air, and so achieve leagues at one pull?
3. And yonder bluebird with the earth tinge on his breast and the sky tinge on his back,—did he come down out of heaven on that bright March morning when he told us so softly and plaintively that, if we pleased, spring had come? Indeed, there is nothing in the return of the birds more curious and suggestive than in the first appearance, or rumors of the appearance, of this little blue-coat.
4. The bird at first seems a mere wandering voice in the air; one hears its call or carol on some bright March morning, but is uncertain of its source or direction; it falls like a drop of rain when no cloud is visible; one looks and listens, but to no purpose. The weather changes, perhaps a cold snap with snow comes on, and it may be a week before I hear the note again, and this time or the next perchance see the bird sitting on a stake in the fence lifting his wing as he calls cheerily to his mate. Its notes now become daily more frequent; the birds multiply, and, flitting from point to point, call and warble more confidently and gleefully.
5. Not long after the bluebird comes the robin, sometimes in March, but in most of the Northern States April is the month of the robin. In large numbers they scour the fields and groves. You hear their piping in the meadow, in the pasture, on the hillside. Walk in the woods, and the dry leaves rustle with the whir of their wings, the air is vocal with their cheery call. In excess of joy and vivacity, they run, leap, scream, chase each other through the air, diving and sweeping among the trees with perilous rapidity.
6. In that free, fascinating, half-work and half-play pursuit,—sugar-making,—a pursuit which still lingers in many parts of New York, as in New England, the robin is one's constant companion. When the day is sunny and the ground bare, you meet him at all points and hear him at all hours. At sunset, on the tops of the tall maples, with look heavenward, and in a spirit of utter abandonment, he carols his simple strain. And sitting thus amid the stark, silent trees, above the wet, cold earth, with the chill of winter in the air, there is no fitter or sweeter songster in the whole round year. It is in keeping with the scene and the occasion. How round and genuine the notes are, and how eagerly our ears drink them in! The first utterance, and the spell of winter is thoroughly broken, and the remembrance of it afar off.
7. Another April bird, which makes her appearance sometimes earlier and sometimes later than Robin, and whose memory I fondly cherish, is the Phcebe-bird, the pioneer of the fly-catchers. In the inland farming districts, I used to notice her, on some bright morning about Easter-day, proclaiming her arrival with much variety of motion and attitude, from the peak of the barn or hay-shed. As yet, you may have heard only the plaintive, homesick note of the bluebird, or the faint trill of the. song-sparrow; and Phoebe's clear, vivacious assurance of her veritable bodily presence among us again is welcomed by all ears. At agreeable intervals in her lay, she describes a circle or an ellipse in the air, ostensibly prospecting for insects, but really, I suspect, as an artistic flourish, thrown in to make up in some way for the deficiency of her musical performance.
8. Another April comer, who arrives shortly after Robinredbreast, with whom he associates both at this season and in the autumn, is the golden-winged woodpecker, alias "high-hole," alias "flicker," alias "yarup." He is an old favorite of my boyhood, and his note to me means very much. He announces his arrival by a long, loud call, repeated from the dry branch of some tree, or a stake in the fence,—a thoroughly melodious April sound. I think how Solomon finished that beautiful climax on spring, "And the voice of the turtle is heard in the land," and see that a description of spring in this farming country, to be equally characteristic, should culminate in like manner, " And the call of the high-hole comes up from the wood."
The song-sparrow, that universal favorite and firstling of the spring, comes before April, and its simple strain gladdens all hearts.
9. May is the month of the swallows and the orioles. There are many other distinguished arrivals, indeed ninetenths of the birds are here by the last week in May, yet the swallows and orioles are the most conspicuous. The bright plumage of the latter seems really like an arrival from the tropics. I see them flash through the blossoming trees, and all the forenoon hear their jncessant warbling and wooing. The swallows dive and chatter about the barn, or squeak and build beneath the eaves; the partridge drums in the fresh sprouting woods; the long, tender note of the meadow-lark comes up from the meadow; and at sunset, from every marsh and pond come the ten thousand voices of the hylas. May is the transition month, and exists to connect April and June, the root with the flower.
10. With June the cup is full, our hearts are satisfied, there is no more to be desired. The perfection of the season, among other things, has brought the perfection of the song and plumage of the birds. The master artists are all here; and the expectations excited by the robin and the songsparrow are fully justified. The thrushes have all come; and I sit down upon the first rock, with hands full of the pink azalea, to listen. With me, the cuckoo does not arrive till June; and often the goldfinch, the king-bird, the scarlet tanager delay their coming till then. In the meadows the bobolink is in all his glory; in the high pastures the fieldsparrow sings his breezy vesper hymn; and the woods are unfolding to the music of the thrushes.
11. The cuckoo is one of the most solitary birds of our forests, and is strangely tame and quiet, appearing equally untouched by joy or grief, fear or anger. Something remote seems ever weighing upon his mind. His note or call is as of one lost or wandering, and to the farmer is prophetic of rain. Amid the general joy and the sweet assurance of things, I love to listen to the strange clairvoyant call. Heard a quarter of a mile away, from out the depths of the forest, there is something peculiarly weird and monkish about it.
. 12. Wordsworth's lines upon the European species apply equally well to ours:
"O blithe new-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice:
Or but a wandering voice?
Even yet thou art to nie
THOSE evening bells—those evening bells
Those joyous hours are past away,
XXXVIIL—PATIENT CONTINUANCE IN WELLDOING.
A GERMAN, whose sense of sound was exceedingly acute, was passing by a church, a few days after he had landed in this country, and the sound of music attracted him to enter, though he had no knowledge of our language. The music proved to be a piece of nasal psalmody, sung in most discordant fashion, and the sensitive German would fain have covered his ears. As this was scarcely civil, and might appear like insanity, his next impulse was to rush into the open air, and leave the hated sounds behind him.
2. "But this, too, I feared to do," said he, "lest offense might be given; so I resolved to endure the torture, with the best fortitude I could assume; when lo! I distinguished, amid the din, the soft, clear voice of a woman singing in perfect tune. She made no effort to drown the voices of her companions, neither was she disturbed by their noisy discord; but patiently and sweetly she sang in full, rich tones. One after another yielded to the gentle influence; and before the tune was finished, all were in perfect harmony."
3. I have often thought of this story, as conveying an instructive lesson. The spirit that can thus sing patiently and sweetly in a world of discord, must indeed be of the strongest as well as the gentlest kind. One scarce can hear his own soft voice amid the braying of the multitude; and ever and anon comes the temptation to sing louder than they, and drown the voices that cannot thus be forced into perfect tune. But this were a pitiful experiment: the melodious tones, cracked into shrillness, would only increase the tumult.
4. Stronger, and more frequently, comes the temptation to stop singing, and let discord do its own wild work. But blessed are they that endure to the end,—singing patiently and sweetly, till all join in with loving acquiescence, and