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seldom made larger than is barely sufficient for it to pass. The mole seldom feeds on plants; its principal food is worms and insects, the larvæ of cockchafers and beetles, which even in winter penetrate deep into the ground. Their hillocks give an unsightly appearance to meadows; and in such as are destined to the scythe, the spreading or removing them occasions much trouble in spring: although, on the other hand, there can be no doubt that the finely-pulverised soil which they throw up is of great utility in enriching the land. Its sense of smelling is very acute; and some of the mole-catchers are so well aware of this, that they will draw the body of a captured animal through the traps and runs, to take away all suspicious scents which their fingers might leave. Their nests are very curious, and resemble in the interior an encampment, in the centre of which she plants herself, forming a separate place for her young, which is built differently from her own. In order to protect her habitation from the rain, she makes her apartments higher up than the runs, which serve as drains to carry off the wet. Her nest is built of moss, or the blades of wheat, which she spreads out like a bed; she breeds twice within the year, and has from four to six at a birth; her eyes are very small, and are entirely concealed by the fur.
It was a custom in the country in former days to decorate the houses with box on Old Candlemas Eve, as they did with holly and ivy at Christmas. From Valentine's Day until Easter the box remained, and was then replaced by yew; this again was removed at Whitsuntide, and boughs of birch were placed in the apartments; they in time gave room to the oak-branches, green rushes, and May-boughs. Our forefathers were sincere lovers of the seasons, and were doubtless happier in the simplicity of their ignorance than we are with all our boasted improvements. Listen to what Old Herrick has sung of the ceremonies of Valentine's Eve, or Old Candlemas Day.
"Down with rosemary and bays,
"The holly hitherto did sway;
Until the dancing Easter Day,
"Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Grown old, surrender must his place
"When yew is out, then birch comes in,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.
"Green rushes then, and sweeter bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
The missel-thrush sings this month. By some it is called the storm-cock, as they consider its song forebodes a tempest. It is the largest singing-bird we have, and remains with us throughout the year. It is very fond of the berries of the misletoe, whence it derives its name: it is rather a shy bird, and you can only obtain a good view of it by concealing yourself near the favourite tree on which it feeds. Its flight is rapid, but not level, being, as it were, a succession of jerks. Some have thought its song discordant and harsh, while others have declared it to be rich and musical: it certainly does not possess the full clear melody of the garden-thrush. Its song is very loud; but, when heard at a distance, it is far from being disagreeable it is only discordant when screeching before a storm. -I have been thus particular in describing its song, as it is one
of our earliest singing-birds, often commencing even in January; and it has afforded me great pleasure to listen to its loud notes when all around has been desolate,—when the fields have been white with frost, and scarcely another sound excepting the roll of the murderous gun awakened the silence of the valleys. It seemed like the voice of Spring calling upon the dormant flowers to awake, or trying to soften down the harsh breeze by its melody, and to allure the gentle zephyr from its cell. It is extremely pugnacious while breeding, and will wage war with any intruder who dares to approach its territories.
At this season the trunks of the trees exhibit a great variety of colours; the clear spring-green found upon the bole of the beech, the yellow or mottled that decorates the oak or elm, and the green olive and mingled black which mantles the oak: others, again, are purely white; and when the full sun streams upon such parts, they have the appearance of silver. By some the white moss is considered as a sure symptom of decay—it is but seldom found on any other but very aged trees. In one place the moss looks like mosaic-work tastefully fitted together; in another, it droops in knotted masses and fringes of fantastic forms, as if a river had once rolled above the trees, and left its trailing weeds upon the branches. Concealing the roots, and clustering around the lower parts of the trunk, are discovered the richest mosses the bright velvet-green, glittering like tiny trees wrought upon satin: such are most commonly found upon the stem of the beech.
On some trunks we see dashes of a deep red, relieved again by a dark brown, or softened by a rich silky-looking grey; others assume a gaudy orange or dusky yellow; and where the latter colour chances to be bright, it has the appearance of sunshine. Sometimes a light primrose-coloured moss spreads along the branches, and takes possession of the smaller sprays, giving to the boughs an appearance of coral. These mosses are botanically termed lichens; some are called liverworts, especially
those which are tenacious of the bark, and have a rough scaly appearance.
Byron has somewhere called ivy "the garland of Eternity," an expression of grandeur never surpassed. Still, if we see it climbing up a modern building, it brings no association of the grey and forgotten years upon our memory: it is only upon the ruined turret, the decaying castle, or the perishing abbey, that it becomes the "garland of Eternity." It seems a meet companion for the secluded monastery, a fitting tenant for the desolate walls, creeping and lurking in those crevices which stand like wrinkles upon the front of Time. It winds along the ornamental tracery of Gothic windows, now dropping from the massy arches, or wreathing itself around the brows of ancient images, saint, or seraph, or full-cheeked angel, leaning about the shattered columns as if blowing their stony trumpets to the hollow wind. The black buttress is covered by it; and we conjure up the "moping owl" complaining to the moon, and we think of the long ages and the dark nights that it has hung there. Nor is it less beautiful (although its associations are not so sacred) when twining around the stem of a goodly tree, sometimes standing out in its deep green when "the sere and yellow leaf" is falling: it gives an appearance of life to the furrowed trunk, spreading its bright leaf over the jagged bark, or mingling with the rich mosses in pleasing profusion. In summer it is lost amid the thick foliage; but in winter it has a pleasing appearance, climbing up the otherwise naked branches, and clothing them in a summer-looking greenness.
It is a truly pleasant study to contemplate the progress and changes of the seasons; for in this month you feel a growing delight, an increased sensation of happiness, a filling up of hope, a nearer verging to the reality of spring. The days are lengthening, the sun increases his power, here and there a bud is visible, the water-runnels rumble through the meadows;—a young lamb is occasionally seen bounding in innocent whiteness, or
moving its tail with delight while it drains the teats of its dam. Sometimes a solitary skylark wings its way up the clear blue of heaven, filling the silent sky with music; the thrush will also send forth its sweet song through the valleys, as if rejoicing in the increasing sunshine; while bird follows bird in vocal rivalry—not in the full swell of summer harmony, but as if attempting to make it known to their neighbours of field or forest that they have come again to usher in the spring. And yet how imperceptibly the changes take place! First a single flower or two appear; then a whole row are perceived budding;—another day and another succeeds, and whole tufts of them have blown. Some gooseberry or currant bush, in spite of our close observation, bursts upon us unaware ;—perhaps its situation is the most favoured by the sun,—and we behold it, with pleasure, covered with tiny leaves, the very foliage of a fairy forest, ere we were aware the change took place! A day or two ago, and we saw nothing but little brown buds, their tiny heads slightly dotted with green a few mild days, and they have burst forth from their prison-houses in the tenderest array of summer beauty, and we are almost ready to exclaim, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo! the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come." But, perhaps, before we have walked round the garden or field, the sky darkens, and the rain, snow, and sleet are descending. The following verses are very descriptive of the season: by whom they were written I know not.
"When the trees are all bare, not a leaf to be seen,
And the streams are fast bound with the frost ;
When the innocent flocks run for ease to the fold,