Imatges de pàgina


of the ring. I'll make it as tight as the Hitty sat, statue-like, in her chair; promise; both of 'em 'll last to doomsday. stooping, the man unbound her, and she Give me the padlock, you scoundrel !” rose slowly and steadily to her feet, look

Bill, the man he addressed, knew too ing him in the face. much to hesitate after the savage look “ Look !” said she, raising her shackled that sent home the last words, — and, arm high in air,—“I shall carry it to drawing from a bag of tools and dies a God!”—and so fled, up the broken stairtiny padlock and key, he handed them to way, out into the moonlight, across the Dimock, who passed the chain about Hit- meadow,- the three men following fast, ty's thin white wrist, and, fastening it with -over the fallen boughs that winter had the padlock, turned the key, and, with strewn along the shore, out under the drawing it from the lock, dropped it into crooked elm, swift as light, poising on the silvery heat of the forge, and burst the stern of the boat, that had swung out into a fit of laughter, so savage and so in- toward the channel, - and once more human that the bearded lips of his two lifting her hand high into the white light, comrades


white with horror to hear with one spring she dropped into the the devil within so exult in his possession river, and its black waters rolled down of a man.

to the sea.


WANDERING along a waste
Where once a city stood,
I saw a ruined tomb,
And in that tomb an urn,-

A sacred funeral-urn,
Without a name or date,
And in its hollow depths
A little human dust!

Whose dust is this, I asked,
In this forgotten urn ?
And where this waste now lies
What city rose of old ?

None knows; its name is lost ;
It was, and is no more :
Gone like a wind that blew
A thousand years ago !

Its melancholy end
Will be the end of all;
For, as it passed away,
The universe will pass !

Its sole memorial
Some ruined world, like ours;
A solitary urn,
Full of the dust of men !


There are numerous swarms of insects when the young broods require almost and many small quadrupeds, requiring unremitted exertions, on the part of the partial darkness for their security, that old birds, to procure their subsistence. come abroad only during the night or twi- The true nocturnal birds, of which the light. These would multiply almost with- Owl and the Whippoorwill are conspicuout check, but that certain birds are form- ous examples, are distinguished by a peed with the power of seeing in the dark, culiar sensibility of the eye, that enables and, on account of their partial blindness them to see clearly by twilight and in in the daytime, are forced by necessity to cloudy weather, while they are dazzled seek their food by night. Many species by the broad light of day. Their organs of insects are most active after dewfall, of hearing are proportionally delicate and - such, especially, as spend a great por- acute. Their wing-feathers also have a tion of their lifetime in the air. llence peculiar downy softness, so that they fly the very late hour at which Swallows without the usual fluttering sounds that retire to rest, the hour succeeding sunset attend the flight of other birds, and are providing them with a fuller repast than able to steal unawares upon


prey, any other part of the day. No sooner and make their predal excursions without has the Swallow disappeared, than the disturbing the general silence of the hour. Whippoorwill and the Night-Jar come This noiseless flight is very remarkable forth, to prey upon the larger kinds of in the Owl, as may be observed, if a tame aerial insects. The Bat, an animal of an one be allowed to fly about a room, when antediluvian type, comes out at the same we can perceive his motions only by our time, and assists in lessening these multi- sight. It is a fact worthy of our attentudinous swarms. The little Owls, though tion, that this peculiar structure of the they pursue the larger beetles and moths, wing-feathers does not exist in the Wooddirect their efforts chiefly at the small cock. Nature makes no useless provisions quadrupeds that steal out in the early for her creatures; and hence this nocturevening to nibble the tender herbs and nal bird, which obtains his food by diggrasses. Thus the night, except the hours ging into the soil, and gets no part of it of total darkness, is with many species of while on the wing, has no need of this animals, though they pursue their objects contrivance. Neither stillness nor stealth with comparative stillness and silence, a would assist him in securing his helpless period of general activity.

prey. In this sketch, I shall treat of the Birds Among the nocturnal birds, the most of the Night under two heads, including, notorious is the Owl, of which there are beside the true nocturnal birds that go many species, varying from the size of abroad in the night to seek their subsist- an Eagle down to the little Acadian, ence, those diurnal birds that continue which is no larger than a Robin. The their songs during a considerable portion resemblance of the Owl to the feline of the night. Some species of birds are quadrupeds has been a frequent subject partly nocturnal in their habits. Such is of remark. Like the cat, he sees most 'the Chimney Swallow. This bird is sel- clearly by twilight or the light of the dom out at noonday, which it employs in moon, seeks his prey in the night, and sleep, after excessive activity from the spends the principal part of the day in earliest morning dawn. It is seen after sleep. The likeness is made stronger by wards circling about in the decline of his tufts of feathers, that correspond to day, and is sometimes abroad in fine the ears of the quadruped, — by his large weather the greater part of the night, head,— his round, full, and glaring eyes, set widely apart — by the extreme con- that accumulate in outhouses, orchards, tractility of the pupil,- and in his man- and fallows. ners, by his lurking and stealthy habit of When the Owl is discovered in his hidsurprising his victims. His eyes are par- ing-place, the alarm is given, and there tially encircled by a disk of feathers that is a general excitement among the small yields a peculiarly significant expression birds. They assemble in great numto his face. His hooked bill turned down- bers, and with loud chattering commence wards, so as to resemble the nose in a assailing and annoying him in various human countenance, the general flatness ways, and soon drive him out of his reof his features, and his upright position, treat. The Jay, usually his first assailgive him a grave and intelligent look; ant, like a thief employed as a thiefand it was this expression that caused taker, attacks him with great zeal and him to be selected by the ancients as the animation; the Chickadee, the Nuthatch, emblem of wisdom, and consecrated to and the small Thrushes peck at his head Minerva.

and eyes; while other birds, less bold, fly The Owl is re

also for the round him, and by their vociferation enacuteness of his hearing, having a large courage his assailants and help to terrify ear-drum, and being provided with an their victim. apparatus by which he can exalt this fac- It is while sitting on the branch of a ulty, when under the necessity of listen- tree or on a fence, after his misfortune ing with greater attention. Hence, while and his escape, that he is most frequenthe is silent in his own motions, he is able ly seen in the daytime ; and here he has to perceive the least sound from the mo- formed a subject for painters, who have tion of any other object, and overtakes commonly introduced him into their pichis prey by coming upon it in silence and tures as he appears in one of these open darkness. The stillness of his flight is situations. He is likewise represented one of the circumstances that add mys- ensconced in his own select retreats, aptery to his character, and which have parently peeping out of his hiding-place assisted in rendering him an object of while half-concealed; and the fact of his superstitious dread.

being seen in these lonely places has Aware of his defenceless condition in caused many superstitions to be attached the bright daylight, when his purblindness to his image. His voice is supposed to would prevent him from evading the at- bode misfortune, and his spectral visits tacks of his enemies, he seeks some ob- are regarded as the forewarnings of death. scure retreat where he may pass the day His connection with deserted houses and without exposing himself to observation. ruins has invested him with a peculiarly It is this necessity which has caused him romantic character; while the poets, by to make his abode in desolate and ruined introducing him to deepen the force of buildings, in old towers and belfries, and their gloomy and pathetic descriptions, in the crevices of dilapidated walls. In have enlivened these associations; and he these places he hides himself from the deserves, therefore, in a special degree, sight of other birds, who regard him as to be named among those animals which their common enemy, and who show him we call picturesque. no mercy when he is discovered. Here The gravity of the Owl's general apalso he rears his offspring, and with these pearance, combined with a sort of human solitary haunts his image is closely associ- expression in his countenance, undoubtated. In thinly settled and wooded coun- edly caused him to be selected by the tries, he selects the hollows of old trees ancients as the emblem of wisdom. The and the clefts of rocks for his retreats. All moderns have practically renounced this the smaller Owls, however, seem to mul- idea, which had no foundation in the real tiply with the increase of human popula- character of the bird, who possesses only tion, subsisting upon the minute animals the sly and sinister traits that mark the

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feline race. A very different train of mal voice of this bird, which is harmoassociations and a new series of pictu- nized with darkness, and, though in some resque images are now suggested by the cases not unmusical, is tuned, as it were, figure of the Owl, who has been portray- to the terrors of that hour when he makes ed more correctly by modern poetry than secret warfare upon the sleeping inhabitby ancient mythology. He is now uni- ants of the wood. versally regarded as the emblem of ruin One of the most interesting of this tribe and desolation, true to his character and of birds is the little Acadian Owl, (Stric habits, which are intimately allied to this Acarlica,) whose note bas formerly excitdescription of scenery.

ed a great deal of curiosity. In “ The I will not enter into a speculation con

Canadian Naturalist,” an account is give cerning the nature and origin of those en of a rural excursion in April, in the agreeable emotions which are so gener

course of which the attention of one of ally produced by the sight of objects that the party is called by his companion, just suggest the ideas of decay and desolation. after sunset, to a peculiar sound proceedIt is happy for us, that, by the alchemy ing from a cedar swamp. It was comof poetry, we are able to turn some of pared to the measured tinkling of a cowour misfortunes into sources of melan- bell, or regular strokes upon a piece of choly pleasure, after the poignancy of iron, quickly repeated. The one appealed grief has been assuaged by time. Nature to is able to give no satisfactory informahas beneficently provided, also, that many tion about it, but remarks, that, “during an object, which is capable of communi- the months of April and May, and in the cating no direct pleasur

sure to our senses, former part of June, we frequently hear, shall affect us agreeably through the me- after nightfall, the sound just described. dium of sentiment. The image of the From its regularity, it is thought to resemOwl is calculated to awaken the senti- ble the whetting of a saw, and hence the ment of ruin, and to this feeling of the bird from which it proceeds is called the human soul we may trace the pleasure Saw-Whetter.” The author could not we derive from the sight of this bird in identify the bird that uttered this note, his appropriate scenery. Two Doves but conjectured that it might be a Heron upon the mossy branch of a tree in a or a Bittern. It has since been ascerwild and beautiful sylvan retreat are the tained that this singular note proceeds pleasing emblems of innocent love and from the Acadian Owl. It is like the constaney; but they are not more sug- sound produced by the filing of a millgestive of poetic fancies than an Owl sit- saw, and is said to be the amatory note ting upon an old gate-post near a desert- of the male, being heard only during the ed house.

season of incubation. I have alluded, in another page, to Mr. S. P. Fowler, of Danvers, in forms the faint sounds we hear when the Night me that “ the Acadian Owl has another Birds, on a still summer evening, are fly- note, which we frequently bear in the ing over short distances in a neighboring autumn, after the breeding season is over. wood. There is a feeling of mystery The parent birds, then accompanied by excited by these sounds, that exalts the their young, while hunting their prey pleasure we derive from the delightful during a bright moonlight night, utter a influence of the hour and the season. peculiar note, resembling a suppressed But the emotions thus produced are of moan or a low whistle. The little Acaa cheerful kind, and not equal in inten- dian, to avoid the annoyance of the birds sity to the effects of the scarcely percep

he would meet by day, and the blinding tible sound occasioned by the flight of light of the sun, retires in the morning, the Owl, as he glides by in the dusk of his feathers wet with dew and rumpled the evening or in the dim light of the by the hard struggles he has encountered moon. Similar in its influence is the dis- in seizing his prey, to the gloom of the



forest or the thick swamp, where, perched destroying small birds, are very serviceon a bough, near the trunk of the tree, able in ridding our fields and premises he sleeps through a summer's day, the of mischievous animals. They likewise perfect picture of a used-up little fellow, destroy multitudes of large nocturnal insuffering from the sad effects of a night's sects, flying above the summits of the

But he is an honest bird, not- trees in pursuit of them, while at other withstanding his late hours and his idle times their flight is low, when watching sleeping days; he is also domestic in his for the small animals that run upon the habits, and the father of an interesting ground. It is probably on account of its family, close at hand, in a hollow white- low flight that the Owl is seldom seen birch, and he is ever ready to give them on the wing. Bats, which are employed his support and protection."

by Nature for the same kind of services, The Mottled Owl, (Strix Asin,) or fall victims in large numbers to the Owls Screech Owl, is somewhat larger than of different species, who are the principal the Acadian or Whetsaw, and not so means of preventing their multiplication. familiar as the Barn Owl of Europe,

I should wander from my present purthough resembling it in general habits. pose, were I to attempt a sketch of the He commonly builds in the hollow of an large Owls, as I design only to treat of old tree, also in deserted buildings, whith

those birds which contribute, either as er he resorts in the daytime to find re- poetic or picturesque objects, to improve pose and to escape annoyance. His voice the charms of Nature. I shall say but a is heard most frequently in the latter part passing word, therefore, of the Great of summer, when the young Owlets are Snowy Owl, almost exclusively an inabroad, and use their cries for purpos

habitant of the Arctic regions, where he es of mutual salutation and recognition. frightens both man and beast with his This wailing note is singularly wild, and dismal hootings,-or of the Cat Owl, the not unmusical.

It is not properly a prince of these monsters, who should be screech or a scream, like that of the consecrated to Pluto,-or of his brother Hawk or the Peacock, but rather a sort monster, the Gray Owl, that will carry of moaning melody, half music and half off a full-grown rabbit. There are sevbewailment. This wailing song is far eral other species, more or less interestfrom disagreeable, though it has a ca- ing, ridiculous, or frightful. I will leave dence which is expressive of dreariness them, to speak of birds of more pleasing and melancholy. It might be performed babits and a more innocent character. on a small flute, by commencing with D The next remarkable family of nocturoctave and running down by semitones nal birds comprises the Moth-Hunters, to a fifth below, and frequently repeating including, in New England, only two spethe notes, for the space of a minute, with cies,— the Whippoorwill and the Nightoccasional pauses and slight variations, Hawk, or Piramidig. These birds resometimes ascending as well as descend- semble the Owls in some of their habits; ing the scale. The bird does not slur the but in their structure, in their mode of passages, but utters them with a sort of subsistence, and in their general traits trembling staccato. The separate notes of character, they are like Swallows. may be distinctly perceived, with inter- They are shy and solitary, take their vals of about a semitone.

food while on the wing, abide chiefly in The Owl is not properly regarded as a deep woods, and come abroad only at useful bird. The generality of the tribe twilight or in cloudy weather. They redeserve to be considered only as mis- main, like the Dove, permanently paired, chievous birds of prey, and no more en- lay their eggs on the bare ground, and, titled to mercy and protection than the when perched upon the branch of a Falcons, to which they are allied. All tree, sit upon it lengthwise, unlike other the little Owls, however, though guilty of birds. They are remarkable for their


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