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TO THE NIGHTINGALE*.
Sweet bird, that sing'st away the early hours,
And bindz in icy chains the sadden'd year;
And when he falls, he falls to rise no more? This note has been already too much extended to admit of Dr.Jortin's imitation of Moschus's lines. See Lusus Poet. p. 32.
* The ancients seem to have been equally attached to this bird as the moderns. Attentive mention is made of it in Homer, Theocritus, Virgil, and Horace; and Mr. Huntingford, in his Apology for the Monostrophics (one of the few controversial works in which the scho
What soul can be so sick, which by thy songs
lar and the gentleman are most happily blended), has, by many pas. sages, proved it the favourite also of Sophocles. See p. 89, &c. Some of the best poets of this country have signified their partiality to it, in strains almost as delicious as its own. Milton's regard for it must be well known to all his readers, as it has been remarked by almost all his commentators. Thomson *, pre-eminently the poet of nature, who wrote immediately from observation, has not been wanting in its praises. Gray has remembered it in his Ode to Spring. Is it not somewhat strange that Collins should have omitted to mention this bird? In all his poetry I recollect no allusion to this subject, and have always considered the absence of Philomel as no trivial blemish in his Ode to Evening. But above all the panegyrics that have been deservedly passed upon this universal favourite, I have seen nothing yet that in any degree approaches the notice of one who was certainly no poet; my reader will be surprised, perhaps, when I name honest Isaac Walton. But let him read this and judge. “ But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descantst, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, ' Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when thou affordest bad men such music on earth'?” Complete Angler,
I will subjoin a few descriptions from our older poets. Niccols has been very minute on this head :
The little Philomel with curious care
* The elegant and ingenious Mr. Pennant has very properly quoted in his Britisha Zoology every passage from Milton in which it is mentioned.
... The wakeful nightingale She all night long her amorous descant sung. P. Lost, IV. 603. + This is Thomson's :
... on the bough Sole-sitting.
Sweet artless songster, thou my mind dost raise
Drummond's Flowers of Sion.
One while the mean part she did sweetly warble,
The Cuckow, p. 12, 1607.
Bird-fanciers are accustomed to call the practice of old birds teaching their young to sing, recording ; from this circumstance Drayton very poetically and fancifully dates the origin of music, which I think exceeds what Lucretius has advanced on the same subject, Lib. V. 1378:
. Philomel in spring
The Owl. Browne, a very minute observer, and sometimes an accurate describer of nature and rural objects, has remarked the same property of this bird :
Under whose shade the nightingale would bring
Brit. Past. B. i. Song 5. In mentioning the time before sun-rise he introduces it again :
For the turtle and her mate
Sitten yet in nest :
But attends her rest.
Not a bird hath taught her young,
In the shady grove:
She records her love. Shepherd's Pipe, Eclog. 3. But Browne attributes the custom of teaching to other birds as well as the nightingale: describing a place of retirement, he says,
Wherein melodious birds did nightly harbour;
Book 1. Song 3. See Andrew Marvel's “ Appleton House," who touches upon the nightingale, Vol. I. p. 65, Cooke's Edit.
Drayton describes with great spirit a consort of birds, in which the nightingale is highly distinguished:
When Phæbus lifts his head out of the winter's wave,
* This is Milton's :.
as the wakeful bird Sings darkling.
P. Lost, III. 38.
Each bird to her own kind this season doth invite,
Poly-Olbion, Song 13. See likewise a very minute and accurate description in Sylvester's Du Bartas, p. 44, fol. Edit. 1641. See Vol. IV. p. 1319, 1536, Drayton, Oldys's Edit.
To accumulate yet more instances of a similar nature would be neither difficult nor unpleasing :
Sed fugit interea, fugit irreparabile tempus,
Singula dum capti circumvectamur amore. To him who has been “ long in populous cities pent,” who has seldom been accustomed to view “ each rural sight” with poetical eyes, and to “ each rural sound” has turned a deaf or an undelighted ear, these notices, it is feared, will seem most diminutive and frivolous; but to others who have heard from this bird
. Strains that might create a soul Under the ribs of Death, in the luxurious groves of Hertfordshire, it is hoped, however unimportant they may be, that they will at least be considered as not incurious.