« PreviousContinue »
Who is he that cometh from the north, clothed in furs and warm wool ? He wraps his cloak close about him. His head is bald ; his beard is made of sharp icicles. He loves the blazing fire high piled upon the hearth, and the wine sparkling in the glass. He binds skates to his feet, and skims over the frozen lakes. His breath is piercing and cold, and no little flower dares to peep
above the surface of the ground, when he is by. Whatever he touches turns to ice. If he were to stroke you with his cold hand, you would be quite stiff and dead, like a piece of marble, Youths and maidens, do you see him ?
, He is coming fast upon us, and soon he will be here. Tell me, if who he is, and what is his name?
ON THE MARTIN.
Look up, my dear (said his papa to little William) at those bird-nests above the chamber windows, beneath the eaves of the house. Some, you see, are just begun,-nothing but a little clay stuck against the wall. Others are half finished ; and others are quite built-close and tight-leaving nothing but a small hole for the birds to come in and go out at.
What are they? said William.
They are Martins' nests, replied his father; and there you see the owners. How busily they fly backwards and forwards, bringing clay and dirt in their bills, and laying it upon their work, forming it into shape with their bills and feet! The nests are built very
strong and thick, like a mud wall, and are lined with feathers to make a soft bed for the young. Martins are a kind of swallows. They feed on flies, gnats, and other insects; and always build in towns and villages about the houses. People do not molest them, for they do good rather than harm, and it is very amusing to view their manners and actions. See how swiftly they skim through the air in pursuit of their prey! In the morning they are up by daybreak, and twitter about your window while you are asleep in bed; and all day long they are upon the wing, getting food for themselves and their young.. As soon as they have caught a few flies, they hasten to their nests, pop into the hole, and feed their little ones. I'll tell you a story about the great care they take of their young. A pair of Martins once built their nest in a porch ; and when they had young ones, it happened
that one of them climbing up to the hole before he was fledged, fell out, and lighting upon the stones, was killed. The old birds, perceiving this accident, went and got short bits of strong straw, and stuck them with mud, like palisades all round the hole of the nest, in order to keep the other little ones from tumbling after their
How cunning that was! cried William.
Yes, said his father; and I can tell you another story of their sagacity, and also of their disposition to help one another. A saucy cock-sparrow, (you know what impudent rogues they are !) had got into a Martin's nest whilst the owner was abroad; and when he returned, the sparrow put his head out of the hole and pecked at the Martin with open bill, as he attempted to enter his own house. The poor Martin was sadly provoked at this injustice, but was
unable by his own strength to right himself. So he flew away and gathered a number of his companions, who all came with a bit of clay in their bills, with which they plastered up the hole of the nest, and kept the sparrow in prison, who died miserably for want of food and air.
He was rightly served, said William.
So he was, rejoined papa. Well : I have more to say about the sagacity of these birds. In autumn, when it begins to be cold weather, the Martins and other swallows assemble in great numbers upon the roofs of high buildings, and prepare for their departure to a warmer country; for as all the insects here die in the winter, they would have nothing to live on if they were to stay. They take several short flights in flocks round and round, in order to try their strength, and then, on some fine calm day, they set out together for a long