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Resident Birds; Owls and Hawks; Water Birds. If this is not a very scientific arrangement, it is one which well answers the purpose intended, ' to draw the attention of the young to the in'teresting objects around them'. Neat wood-cut portraits of the principal among the winged gentry, add to the pleasing character of the volume, with which we have not a fault to find, but only to regret that the original observations do not form a larger proportion of the matter.
The 'Minstrelsy of the Woods' is an odd designation of a work which opens with a description of the Eagle, and others of the order accipitres; but it will not be a fair ground of objection against the volume, that it contains more than it promises. The second order, Passeres, are treated of more at length, and occupy the greater portion of the volume, so far justifying the title. Then follow, in distinct chapters, the four other orders. Both the scientific and the popular names of the genera are given. The sketches are brief, enlivened by anecdotes, and illustrated by good cuts; but the prominent attraction consists of the songs of birds, of which a great portion of the volume is composed. We say songs of birds; and for the first time the Falcon is here made to treat us with a song.
'THE SONG OK THE FALCON.
'Time was, when fettered with jesses and hood,
And they called me the noble falcon then.
'Where the monarch lived in his royal towers,
Where the chieftain dwelt with his warlike crew,
There ever the falcon and merlin flew.
'On the slender wrist of the high-born dame,
The well-trimmed merlin rested then;
And knew his voice 'mid a thousand men.
'But I'm nobler now that, far and free,
Unfettered by toils and trammels like these, I sail abroad over land and sea, And follow the chase wherever I please. No bell on my foot, no hood on my brow, I am truly the noble falcon now.'
The song of the Goldfinch has been fancifully supposed to resemble the articulation of the words, ' Take me with you if you 'please',—chanted in recitative, with a strong emphasis on the first and fifth syllables. This conceit is happily employed in the following stanzas.
'SONG OF THE GOLDFINCH.
'Take me with you if you please;
And there my cheerful note is heard.
'I love the woods and meadows too,
And with them prune my glossy wing. Softly blows the summer breeze;Take me with you if you please.'
The goldfinch ranks among English residents, and its pleasing song is heard from April to the middle of September. Mr. Slaney gives the following account of him.
'The goldfinch, sometimes called sheriff's man or seven-coloured linnet, is one of the most brilliant little birds of this world, and his costume would not disgrace a peacock's levee. If the farmer has neglected his fields, and the thistles are abundant and coming into seed, there shall we find our handsome finch busy, endeavouring to mitigate the evil. His song is as pleasing as his plumage is attractive, and his docility in confinement greater than (that of) any other bird; so that his whole demeanour is worthy of a lady's regard. He, too, is fond of society; and when a little mirror is placed in his cage, as is sometimes the case, "he may be seen ", says Buffon, "taking his food, grain by grain, to eat it at the glass, believing, doubtless, he is eating in company." They live so long, that " the celebrated Gesner", as Buffon relates, "saw one white with age, feeble, almost unable to move, and whose nails and beak they cut every week, to enable him to eat. This patriarch was twenty-three years old."' Slaney, pp. 87, 8.
The Author of ' The Minstrelsy of the Woods,' has endeavoured to bespeak our interest in behalf of a bird which has neither song nor beauty of complexion to recommend it, and is almost universally regarded as a bird of evil omen. Sundry crimes are laid to the raven's charge, which his present advocate does not notice; mentioning only what may be regarded as its poetical character, which is not entirely accordant with its real habits. The raven is capable of being domesticated; is a fellow who loves a joke, mingling fun with his mischief, and sometimes making himself useful. We have heard of one who lived in a country inn-yard, where he never failed to announce the arrival of a traveller, by distinctly articulating the call, Ostler. A volume might be filled with anecdotes of this bird. There is 'a 'speculation in its eye,' which might seem to account for its being, in ancient days, consecrated to the god of divination. Its longevity is, for a bird, almost antediluvian. Its retired habits, and its fondness for lonely, deserted ruins, have invested it with gloomy attributes; and it must unquestionably rank among unclean birds, and birds of prey. The mention of the Raven in the Book of Proverbs, in connexion with a fearful threatening, may also have contributed, by the deep impression which the passage has made on many a youthful heart, to confirm this unfavourable association. Yet, remarks the present Writer,' there are many in'teresting recollections connected with its name, not at all of a 'mournful nature.'
'The raven sent forth by Noah, is familiar to us from our childhood; the first of all the voluntary prisoners in the ark of gopherwood, which escaped from its temporary prison, and flew over the ruined world with unfettered wing. Still more familiar and endeared to our feelings, is the touching and beautiful story of the persecuted prophet; hidden from his enemies by the secret brook Cherith, and daily fed, in time of famine, by the ravens, who brought him bread and meat every morning and every evening; commissioned to sustain the man of God, by Him who heareth the young ravens when they cry. Neither can we forget the beautiful allusion to this bird in the discourses of our blessed Saviour, as related by St. Luke . . .
'Dark raven, when thy note I hear,
'Thy rushing wing, dark-mantled bird,
* From fields uncheered by rain or dew,
'Dark-mantled bird, I'll welcome thee:
Recorded on the sacred page,
'I turn with fond delight to trace
In some parts of the country, (Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, for example,) the raven's nest is protected by a superstition which attributes to the prophet's bird a sacred character. The nests of five species of bird are indeed held sacred by our village urchins, where the saws and legends of the olden time are not quite forgotten or exploded by the march of intellect, viz. those of the robin, the wren, the swift, the swallow, and the raven. The reason may be gathered from the following homely couplets.
'The robins and the wrens
We have never heard the reason that protects the raven's nest conveyed in rhyme; but we obtained the explanation from a female octogenarian, who, in questioning her grandson why he abstained from climbing a tree after a raven's nest, had expressed her fear that it was only because he was afraid of the old bird. 'No, Grandmother,' said the boy; 'it is because them be the 'birds as fed Elijah.' 'I be very glad, child,' was the old lady's reply, ' that you can give me the right reason.'
We must not indulge ourselves or our readers with any further extracts; or we should be tempted to transcribe some very pleasing stanzas on the Fern-owl (Caprimulgus Europceus),—sacred to the memory of the amiable Naturalist of Selborne, the first writer who accurately noted the peculiarities of this singular bird, whose note has been aptly compared to the clattering of castanets. It is a bird of passage, arriving in England about the end of May, and quitting it about the middle of August. It is of the size of a cuckoo, for which bird it has sometimes been mistaken. Mr. Slaney does not mention it.
These specimens will afford sufficient means of judging of the merit and interest of the volumes to which we have invited the attention of our readers; and we must close this desultory, but, we hope, not uninteresting article, with strongly urging upon all our younger readers the cultivation of an intimate acquaintance with our fellow-bipeds of the feathered race, both sojourners and visiters, of which about seventy different species rank as British birds. The rich ornithology of England may well claim to be enumerated among the natural advantages and attractions of this favoured island. Yet, among our educated classes, how large a proportion have no other idea associated with a bird, than that of its being a thing to be shot at! The very word, bird, means only, with them, winged game. The lark that sings at heaven's gate, is regarded only as furnishing a dish for the epicure. Under the general and degrading name of small birds, hard-billed birds who devour grain, and soft-billed birds who destroy gnats, are indiscriminately and ignorantly confounded; and from the mischievous habits of one or two little marauders, Mr. Slaney remarks, a general war of extermination is often carried on against the feathered race. Yet, a very slight knowledge of their structure and habits, would exempt from destruction almost all the warblers that delight us with their song. And what page of the open book of Nature is not worthy of admiring and devout study!
Art. VI. Evening Exercises for the Closet: for every Day in the Year. By William Jay. 2 Vols. 8vo. pp. xxxvi. 1094. Price 1/. 1*. London, 1832.
HPHE peculiar acceptance which the venerable Author's " Morning Exercises for the Closet" have met with, the many testimonies of their usefulness he has received, and the various applications addressed to him by private individuals and Christian Ministers to send forth a companion work for the Evening,—are given as the reasons which have induced him to publish this second Series; and they are reasons which render any extended or critical notice of these volumes quite superfluous. Mr. Jay's style is particularly adapted to short meditations of a devout character. The simplicity and occasional felicity of expression, the very mannerism, savouring of the pithiness of our older divines, the familiar mode of illustration, and the rich vein of experimental wisdom that form the prominent characteristics of his writings, are all displayed to the greatest advantage in these 'Closet Ex'ercises.' Mr. Jay knows his forte, and never attempts any thing out of his proper line: he has consequently been able to maintain an undiminished and solid popularity. Usefulness has been his great aim; and while, as an expositor, he is prone to spiritualize, and is more inclined to be mystical than critical, still, his drift is always practical. He never deals in abstractions. To use his own expression, he does not set before us Christianity, but