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Title: Love's Meinie - Three Lectures on Greek and English Birds
Author: Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
Language: English
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PREFACE                                                         v

    THE ROBIN                                                   1

    THE SWALLOW                                                25

    THE DABCHICKS                                              52

APPENDIX                                                      107


BRANTWOOD, 9_th June_, 1881.

_Quarter past five, morning._

The birds chirping feebly,--mostly chaffinches answering each other,
the rest discomposed, I fancy, by the June snow;[1] the lake neither
smooth nor rippled, but like a surface of perfectly bright glass, ill
cast; the lines of wave few and irregular, like flaws in the planes of
a fine crystal.

      [1] The summits of the Old Man, of Wetherlam, and Helvellyn,
      were all white, on the morning when this was written.

I see this book was begun eight years ago;--then intended to contain
only four Oxford lectures: but the said lectures also 'intended' to
contain the cream of forty volumes of scientific ornithology. Which
intentions, all and sundry, having gone, Carlyle would have said, to
water, and more piously-minded persons, to fire, I am obliged now to
cast my materials into another form: and here, at all events, is a
bundle of what is readiest under my hand. The nature and name of which
I must try to make a little more intelligible than my books have lately
been, either in text or title.

'Meinie' is the old English word for 'Many,' in the sense of 'a many'
persons attending one, as bridesmaids, when in sixes or tens or
dozens;--courtiers, footmen, and the like. It passes gradually into
'Menial,' and unites the senses of Multitude and Servitude.

In the passages quoted from, or referred to in, Chaucer's translation
of the Romance of the Rose, at the end of the first lecture, any reader
who cares for a clue to the farther significances of the title, may
find one to lead him safely through richer labyrinths of thought than
mine: and ladder enough also,--if there be either any heavenly, or pure
earthly, Love, in his own breast,--to guide him to a pretty bird's
nest; both in the Romances of the Rose and of Juliet, and in the
Sermons of St. Francis and St. Bernard.

The term 'Lecture' is retained, for though I lecture no more, I still
write habitually in a manner suited for oral delivery, and imagine
myself speaking to my pupils, if ever I am happily thinking in myself.
But it will be also seen that by the help of this very familiarity of
style, I am endeavoring, in these and my other writings on Natural
History, to compel in the student a clearness of thought and precision
of language which have not hitherto been in any wise the virtues, or
skills, of scientific persons. Thoughtless readers, who imagine that my
own style (such as it is, the one thing which the British public
concedes to me as a real power) has been formed without pains, may
smile at the confidence with which I speak of altering accepted, and
even long-established, nomenclature. But the use which I now have of
language has taken me forty years to attain; and those forty years
spent, mostly, in walking through the wilderness of this world's vain
words, seeking how they might be pruned into some better strength. And
I think it likely that at last I may put in my pruning-hook with
effect; for indeed a time must come when English fathers and mothers
will wish their children to learn English again, and to speak it for
all scholarly purposes; and, if they use, instead, Greek or Latin, to
use them only that they may be understood by Greeks or Latins;[2] and
not that they may mystify the illiterate many of their own land. Dead
languages, so called, may at least be left at rest, if not honored; and
must not be torn in mutilation out of their tumuli, that the skins and
bones of them may help to hold our living nonsense together; while
languages called living, but which live only to slack themselves into
slang, or bloat themselves into bombast, must one day have new grammars
written for their license, and new laws for their insolence.

      [2] Greek is now a living nation's language, from Messina to
      Delos--and Latin still lives for the well-trained churchmen
      and gentlemen of Italy.

Observe, however, that the recast methods of classification adopted in
this book, and in 'Proserpina,' must be carefully distinguished from
their recastings of nomenclature. I am perfectly sure that it is wiser
to use plain short words than obscure long ones; but not in the least
sure that I am doing the best that can be done for my pupils, in
classing swallows with owls, or milkworts with violets. The
classification is always given as tentative; and, at its utmost,
elementary: but the nomenclature, as in all probability conclusive.

For the rest, the success and the service of all depend on the more or
less thorough accomplishment of plans long since laid, and which would
have been good for little if their coping could at once have been
conjectured or foretold in their foundations. It has been throughout my
trust, that if Death should write on these, "What this man began to
build, he was not able to finish," God may also write on them, not in
anger, but in aid,

    "A stronger than he, cometh."


"Il etoit tout convert d'oisiaulx."

                           _Romance of the Rose._



1. Among the more splendid pictures in the Exhibition of the Old
Masters, this year, you cannot but remember the Vandyke portraits of
the two sons of the Duke of Lennox. I think you cannot but remember it,
because it would be difficult to find, even among the works of Vandyke,
a more striking representation of the youth of our English noblesse;
nor one in which the painter had more exerted himself, or with better
success, in rendering the decorous pride and natural grace of honorable

      [3] Delivered at Oxford, March 15th, 1873.

Vandyke is, however, inferior to Titian and Velasquez, in that his
effort to show this noblesse of air and persons may always be detected;
also the aristocracy of Vandyke's day were already so far fearful of
their own position as to feel anxiety that it should be immediately
recognized. And the effect of the painter's conscious deference, and of
the equally conscious pride of the boys, as they stood to be painted,
has been somewhat to shorten the power of the one, and to abase the
dignity of the other. And thus, in the midst of my admiration of the
youths' beautiful faces, and natural quality of majesty, set off by all
splendors of dress and courtesies of art, I could not forbear
questioning with myself what the true value was, in the scales of
creation, of these fair human beings who set so high a value on
themselves; and,--as if the only answer,--the words kept repeating
themselves in my ear, "Ye are of more value than many sparrows."

2. Passeres, [Greek: strouthos]--the things that open their wings, and
are not otherwise noticeable; small birds of the land and wood; the
food of the serpent, of man, or of the stronger creatures of their own
kind,--that even these, though among the simplest and obscurest of
beings, have yet price in the eyes of their Maker, and that the death
of one of them cannot take place but by His permission, has long been
the subject of declamation in our pulpits, and the ground of much
sentiment in nursery education. But the declamation is so aimless, and
the sentiment so hollow, that, practically, the chief interest of the
leisure of mankind has been found in the destruction of the creatures
which they professed to believe even the Most High would not see perish
without pity; and, in recent days, it is fast becoming the only
definition of aristocracy, that the principal business of its life is
the killing of sparrows.

Sparrows, or pigeons, or partridges, what does it matter? "Centum mille
perdrices plumbo confecit;"[4] that is, indeed, too often the sum of
the life of an English lord; much questionable now, if _indeed_ of
more value than that of many sparrows.

      [4] The epitaph on Count Zachdarm, in "Sartor Resartus."

3. Is it not a strange fact, that, interested in nothing so much for
the last two hundred years, as in his horses, he yet left it to the
farmers of Scotland to relieve draught horses from the bearing-rein?[5]
Is it not one equally strange that, master of the forests of England
for a thousand years, and of its libraries for three hundred, he left
the natural history of birds to be written by a card-printer's lad of
Newcastle?[6] Written, and not written, for indeed we have no natural
history of birds written yet. It cannot be written but by a scholar and
a gentleman; and no English gentleman in recent times has ever thought
of birds except as flying targets, or flavorous dishes. The only piece
of natural history worth the name in the English language, that I know
of, is in the few lines of Milton on the Creation. The only example of
a proper manner of contribution to natural history is in White's
Letters from Selborne. You know I have always spoken of Bewick as
pre-eminently a vulgar or boorish person, though of splendid honor and
genius; his vulgarity shows in nothing so much as in the poverty of the
details he has collected, with the best intentions, and the shrewdest
sense, for English ornithology. His imagination is not cultivated
enough to enable him to choose, or arrange.

      [5] Sir Arthur Helps. "Animals and their Masters," p. 67.

      [6] Ariadne Florentina, vi. 45.

4. Nor can much more be said for the observations of modern science. It
is vulgar in a far worse way, by its arrogance and materialism. In
general, the scientific natural history of a bird consists of four
articles,--first, the name and estate of the gentleman whose gamekeeper
shot the last that was seen in England; secondly, two or three stories
of doubtful origin, printed in every book on the subject of birds for
the last fifty years; thirdly, an account of the feathers, from the
comb to the rump, with enumeration of the colors which are never more
to be seen on the living bird by English eyes; and, lastly, a
discussion of the reasons why none of the twelve names which former
naturalists have given to the bird are of any further use, and why the
present author has given it a thirteenth, which is to be universally,
and to the end of time, accepted.

5. You may fancy this is caricature; but the abyss of confusion
produced by modern science in nomenclature, and the utter void of the
abyss when you plunge into it after any one useful fact, surpass all
caricature. I have in my hand thirteen plates of thirteen species of
eagles; eagles all, or hawks all, or falcons all--whichever name you
choose for the great race of the hook-headed birds of prey--some so
like that you can't tell the one from the other, at the distance at
which I show them to you, all absolutely alike in their eagle or falcon
character, having, every one, the falx for its beak, and every one,
flesh for its prey. Do you suppose the unhappy student is to be allowed
to call them all eagles, or all falcons, to begin with, as would be the
first condition of a wise nomenclature, establishing resemblance by
specific name, before marking variation by individual name? No such
luck. I hold you up the plates of the thirteen birds one by one, and
read you their names off the back:--

    The first, is        an Aquila.
    The second,          a Haliætus.
    The third,           a Milvus.
    The fourth,          a Pandion.
    The fifth,           an Astur.
    The sixth,           a Falco.
    The seventh,         a Pernis.
    The eighth,          a Circus.
    The ninth,           a Buteo.
    The tenth,           an Archibuteo.
    The eleventh,        an Accipiter.
    The twelfth,         an Erythropus.
    And the thirteenth,  a Tinnunculus.

There's a nice little lesson to entertain a parish school-boy with,
beginning his natural history of birds!

6. There are not so many varieties of robin as of hawk, but the
scientific classifiers are not to be beaten. If they cannot find a
number of similar birds to give different names to, they will give two
names to the same one. Here are two pictures of your own redbreast, out
of the two best modern works on ornithology. In one, it is called
"Motacilla rubecula;" in the other, "Rubecula familiaris."

7. It is indeed one of the most serious, as one of the most absurd,
weaknesses, of modern naturalists to imagine that _any_ presently
invented nomenclature can stand, even were it adopted by the consent of
nations, instead of the conceit of individuals. It will take fifty
years' digestion before the recently ascertained elements of natural
science can permit the arrangement of species in any permanently (even
over a limited period) namable order; nor then, unless a great man is
born to perceive and exhibit such order. In the meantime, the simplest
and most descriptive nomenclature is the best. Every one of these
birds, for instance, might be called falco in Latin, hawk in English,
some word being added to distinguish the genus, which should describe
its principal aspect or habit. Falco montium, Mountain Hawk; Falco
silvarum, Wood Hawk; Falco procellarum, Sea Hawk; and the like. Then,
one descriptive epithet would mark species. Falco montium, aureus,
Golden Eagle; Falco silvarum, apivorus, Honey Buzzard; and so on; and
the naturalists of Vienna, Paris, and London should confirm the names
of known creatures, in conclave, once every half-century, and let them
so stand for the next fifty years.

8. In the meantime, you yourselves, or, to speak more generally, the
young rising scholars of England,--all of you who care for life as well
as literature, and for spirit,--even the poor souls of birds,--as well
as lettering of their classes in books,--you, with all care, should
cherish the old Saxon-English and Norman-French names of birds, and
ascertain them with the most affectionate research--never despising
even the rudest or most provincial forms: all of them will, some day or
other, give you clue to historical points of interest. Take, for
example, the common English name of this low-flying falcon, the most
tamable and affectionate of his tribe, and therefore, I suppose,
fastest vanishing from field and wood, the buzzard. That name comes
from the Latin "buteo," still retained by the ornithologists; but, in
its original form, valueless, to you. But when you get it comfortably
corrupted into Provençal "Busac," (whence gradually the French busard,
and our buzzard,) you get from it the delightful compound "busacador,"
"adorer of buzzards"--meaning, generally, a sporting person; and then
you have Dante's Bertrand de Born, the first troubadour of war, bearing
witness to you how the love of mere hunting and falconry was already,
in his day, degrading the military classes, and, so far from being a
necessary adjunct of the noble disposition of lover or soldier, was,
even to contempt, showing itself separate from both.

    "Le ric home, cassador,
    M'enneion, e'l buzacador.
    Parlan de volada, d'austor,
    Ne jamais, d'armas, ni d'amor."

    The rich man, the chaser,
    Tires me to death; and the adorer of buzzards.
    They talk of covey and hawk,
    And never of arms, nor of love.

"Cassador," of course, afterwards becomes "chasseur," and "austor"
"vautour." But after you have read this, and familiarized your ear with
the old word, how differently Milton's phrase will ring to you,--"Those
who thought no better of the Living God than of a buzzard idol,"--and
how literal it becomes, when we think of the actual difference between
a member of Parliament in Milton's time, and the Busacador of to-day;--and
all this freshness and value in the reading, observe, come of your
keeping the word which great men have used for the bird, instead of
letting the anatomists blunder out a new one from their Latin

9. There are not so many namable varieties, I just now said, of robin
as of falcon; but this is somewhat inaccurately stated. Those thirteen
birds represented a very large proportion of the entire group of the
birds of prey, which in my sevenfold classification I recommended you
to call universally, "hawks." The robin is only one of the far greater
multitude of small birds which live almost indiscriminately on grain or
insects, and which I recommended you to call generally "sparrows"; but
of the robin itself, there are two important European varieties--one
red-breasted, and the other blue-breasted.

10. You probably, some of you, never heard of the blue-breast; very
few, certainly, have seen one alive, and, if alive, certainly not wild
in England.

Here is a picture of it, daintily done,[7] and you can see the pretty
blue shield on its breast, perhaps, at this distance. Vain shield, if
ever the fair little thing is wretched enough to set foot on English
ground! I find the last that was seen was shot at Margate so long ago
as 1842,--and there seems to be no official record of any visit before
that, since Mr. Thomas Embledon shot one on Newcastle town moor in
1816. But this rarity of visit to us is strange; other birds have no
such clear objection to being shot, and really seem to come to England
expressly for the purpose. And yet this blue-bird--(one can't say "blue
robin"--I think we shall have to call him "bluet," like the
cornflower)--stays in Sweden, where it sings so sweetly that it is
called "a hundred tongues."

      [7] Mr. Gould's, in his "Birds of Great Britain."

11. That, then, is the utmost which the lords of land, and masters of
science, do for us in their watch upon our feathered suppliants. One
kills them, the other writes classifying epitaphs.

We have next to ask what the poets, painters, and monks have done.

The poets--among whom I affectionately and reverently class the sweet
singers of the nursery, mothers and nurses--have done much; very nearly
all that I care for your thinking of. The painters and monks, the one
being so greatly under the influence of the other, we may for the
present class together; and may almost sum their contributions to
ornithology in saying that they have plucked the wings from birds, to
make angels of men, and the claws from birds, to make devils of men.

If you were to take away from religious art these two great helps of
its--I must say, on the whole, very feeble--imagination; if you were to
take from it, I say, the power of putting wings on shoulders, and claws
on fingers and toes, how wonderfully the sphere of its angelic and
diabolic characters would be contracted! Reduced only to the sources of
expression in face or movements, you might still find in good early
sculpture very sufficient devils; but the best angels would resolve
themselves, I think, into little more than, and not often into so much
as, the likenesses of pretty women, with that grave and (I do not say
it ironically) majestic expression which they put on, when, being very
fond of their husbands and children, they seriously think either the
one or the other have misbehaved themselves.

12. And it is not a little discouraging for me, and may well make you
doubtful of my right judgment in this endeavor to lead you into closer
attention to the bird, with its wings and claws still in its own
possession;--it is discouraging, I say, to observe that the beginning
of such more faithful and accurate observation in former art, is
exactly coeval with the commencement of its decline. The feverish and
ungraceful natural history of Paul, called, "of the birds," Paolo degli
Uccelli, produced, indeed, no harmful result on the minds of his
contemporaries, they watched in him, with only contemptuous admiration,
the fantasy of zoological instinct which filled his house with painted
dogs, cats, and birds, because he was too poor to fill it with real
ones. Their judgment of this morbidly naturalistic art was conclusively
expressed by the sentence of Donatello, when going one morning into the
Old Market, to buy fruit, and finding the animal painter uncovering a
picture, which had cost him months of care, (curiously symbolic in its
subject, the infidelity of St. Thomas, of the investigatory fingering
of the natural historian,) "Paul, my friend," said Donatello, "thou art
uncovering the picture just when thou shouldst be shutting it up."

13. No harm, therefore, I repeat, but, on the contrary, some wholesome
stimulus to the fancy of men like Luca and Donatello themselves, came
of the grotesque and impertinent zoology of Uccello.

But the fatalest institutor of proud modern anatomical and scientific
art, and of all that has polluted the dignity, and darkened the
charity, of the greater ages, was Antonio Pollajuolo of Florence.
Antonio (that is to say) the Poulterer--so named from the trade of his
grandfather, and with just so much of his grandfather's trade left in
his own disposition, that being set by Lorenzo Ghiberti to complete one
of the ornamental festoons of the gates of the Florentine Baptistery,
there, (says Vasari) "Antonio produced a quail, which may still be
seen, and is so beautiful, nay, so perfect, that it wants nothing but
the power of flight."

14. Here, the morbid tendency was as attractive as it was subtle.
Ghiberti himself fell under the influence of it; allowed the borders of
his gates, with their fluttering birds and bossy fruits, to dispute the
spectators' favor with the religious subjects they inclosed; and, from
that day forward, minuteness and muscularity were, with curious harmony
of evil, delighted in together; and the lancet and the microscope, in
the hands of fools, were supposed to be complete substitutes for
imagination in the souls of wise men: so that even the best artists are
gradually compelled, or beguiled, into compliance with the curiosity of
their day; and Francia, in the city of Bologna, is held to be a "kind
of god, more particularly" (again I quote Vasari) "after he had painted
a set of caparisons for the Duke of Urbino, on which he depicted a
great forest all on fire, and whence there rushes forth an immense
number of every kind of animal, with several human figures. This
terrific, yet truly beautiful representation, was all the more highly
esteemed for the time that had been expended on it in the plumage of
the birds, and other minutiæ in the delineation of the different
animals, and in the diversity of the branches and leaves of the various
trees seen therein;" and thenceforward the catastrophe is direct, to
the ornithological museums which Breughel painted for gardens of Eden,
and to the still life and dead game of Dutch celebrities.

15. And yet I am going to invite you to-day to examine, down to almost
microscopic detail, the aspect of a small bird, and to invite you to do
this, as a most expedient and sure step in your study of the greatest

But the difference in our motive of examination will entirely alter the
result. To paint birds that we may show how minutely we can paint, is
among the most contemptible occupations of art. To paint them, that we
may show how beautiful they are, is not indeed one of its highest, but
quite one of its pleasantest and most useful; it is a skill within the
reach of every student of average capacity, and which, so far as
acquired, will assuredly both make their hearts kinder, and their lives

Without further preamble, I will ask you to look to-day, more carefully
than usual, at your well-known favorite, and to think about him with
some precision.

16. And first, Where does he come from? I stated that my lectures were
to be on English and Greek birds; but we are apt to fancy the robin all
our own. How exclusively, do you suppose, he really belongs to us? You
would think this was the first point to be settled in any book about
him. I have hunted all my books through, and can't tell you how much he
is our own, or how far he is a traveler.

And, indeed, are not all our ideas obscure about migration itself? You
are broadly told that a bird travels, and how wonderful it is that it
finds its way; but you are scarcely ever told, or led to think, what it
really travels for--whether for food, for warmth, or for seclusion--and
how the traveling is connected with its fixed home. Birds have not
their town and country houses,--their villas in Italy, and shooting
boxes in Scotland. The country in which they build their nests is their
proper home,--the country, that is to say, in which they pass the
spring and summer. Then they go south in the winter, for food and
warmth; but in what lines, and by what stages? The general definition
of a migrant in this hemisphere is a bird that goes north to build its
nest, and south for the winter; but, then, the one essential point to
know about it is the breadth and latitude of the zone it properly
inhabits,--that is to say, in which it builds its nest; next, its
habits of life, and extent and line of southing in the winter; and
finally, its manner of traveling.

17. Now, here is this entirely familiar bird, the robin. Quite the
first thing that strikes me about it, looking at it as a painter, is
the small effect it seems to have had on the minds of the southern
nations. I trace nothing of it definitely, either in the art or
literature of Greece or Italy. I find, even, no definite name for it;
you don't know if Lesbia's "passer" had a red breast, or a blue, or a
brown. And yet Mr. Gould says it is abundant in all parts of Europe, in
all the islands of the Mediterranean, and in Madeira and the Azores.
And then he says--(now notice the puzzle of this),--"In many parts of
the Continent it is a migrant, and, contrary to what obtains with us,
is there treated as a vagrant, for there is scarcely a country across
the water in which it is not shot down and eaten."

"In many parts of the Continent it is a migrant." In what parts--how
far--in what manner?

18. In none of the old natural history books can I find any account of
the robin as a traveler, but there is, for once, some sufficient reason
for their reticence. He has a curious fancy in his manner of traveling.
Of all birds, you would think he was likely to do it in the cheerfulest
way, and he does it in the saddest. Do you chance to have read, in the
Life of Charles Dickens, how fond he was of taking long walks in the
night and alone? The robin, en voyage, is the Charles Dickens of birds.
He always travels in the night, and alone; rests, in the day, wherever
day chances to find him; sings a little, and pretends he hasn't been
anywhere. He goes as far, in the winter, as the north-west of Africa;
and in Lombardy, arrives from the south early in March; but does not
stay long, going on into the Alps, where he prefers wooded and wild
districts. So, at least, says my Lombard informant.

I do not find him named in the list of Cretan birds; but even if often
seen, his dim red breast was little likely to make much impression on
the Greeks, who knew the flamingo, and had made it, under the name of
Phoenix or Phoenicopterus, the center of their myths of scarlet birds.
They broadly embraced the general aspect of the smaller and more
obscure species, under the term [Greek: xonthos], which, as I
understand their use of it, exactly implies the indescribable silky
brown, the groundwork of all other color in so many small birds, which
is indistinct among green leaves, and absolutely identifies itself with
dead ones, or with mossy stems.

19. I think I show it you more accurately in the robin's back than I
could in any other bird; its mode of transition into more brilliant
color is, in him, elementarily simple; and although there is nothing,
or rather because there is nothing, in his plumage, of interest like
that of tropical birds, or even of our own game-birds, I think it will
be desirable for you to learn first from the breast of the robin what a
feather is. Once knowing that, thoroughly, we can further learn from
the swallow what a wing is; from the chough what a beak is; and from
the falcon what a claw is.

I must take care, however, in neither of these last two particulars, to
do injustice to our little English friend here; and before we come to
his feathers, must ask you to look at his bill and his feet.

20. I do not think it is distinctly enough felt by us that the beak of
a bird is not only its mouth, but its hand, or rather its two hands.
For, as its arms and hands are turned into wings, all it has to depend
upon, in economical and practical life, is its beak. The beak,
therefore, is at once its sword, its carpenter's tool-box, and its
dressing-case; partly also its musical instrument; all this besides its
function of seizing and preparing the food, in which functions alone it
has to be a trap, carving-knife, and teeth, all in one.

21. It is this need of the beak's being a mechanical tool which chiefly
regulates the form of a bird's face, as opposed to a four-footed
animal's. If the question of food were the only one, we might wonder
why there were not more four-footed creatures living on seeds than
there are; or why those that do--field-mice and the like--have not
beaks instead of teeth. But the fact is that a bird's beak is by no
means a perfect eating or food-seizing instrument. A squirrel is far
more dexterous with a nut than a cockatoo; and a dog manages a bone
incomparably better than an eagle. But the beak has to do so much more!
Pruning feathers, building nests, and the incessant discipline in
military arts, are all to be thought of, as much as feeding.

Soldiership, especially, is a much more imperious necessity among birds
than quadrupeds. Neither lions nor wolves habitually use claws or teeth
in contest with their own species; but birds, for their partners, their
nests, their hunting-grounds, and their personal dignity, are nearly
always in contention; their courage is unequaled by that of any other
race of animals capable of comprehending danger; and their pertinacity
and endurance have, in all ages, made them an example to the brave, and
an amusement to the base, among mankind.

22. Nevertheless, since as sword, as trowel, or as pocket-comb, the
beak of the bird has to be pointed, the collection of seeds may be
conveniently intrusted to this otherwise penetrative instrument, and
such food as can only be obtained by probing crevices, splitting open
fissures, or neatly and minutely picking things up, is allotted,
pre-eminently, to the bird species.

The food of the robin, as you know, is very miscellaneous. Linnæus says
of the Swedish one, that it is "delectatus euonymi baccis,"--"delighted
with dogwood berries,"--the dogwood growing abundantly in Sweden, as
once in Forfarshire, where it grew, though only a bush usually in the
south, with trunks a foot or eighteen inches in diameter, and the tree
thirty feet high. But the Swedish robin's taste for its berries is to
be noted by you, because, first, the dogwood berry is commonly said to
be so bitter that it is not eaten by birds (Loudon, "Arboretum," ii.,
497, 1.); and, secondly, because it is a pretty coincidence that this
most familiar of household birds should feed fondly from the tree which
gives the housewife her spindle,--the proper name of the dogwood in
English, French, and German being alike "Spindle-tree." It feeds,
however, with us, certainly, most on worms and insects. I am not sure
how far the following account of its mode of dressing its dinners may
be depended on: I take it from an old book on Natural History, but find
it, more or less, confirmed by others: "It takes a worm by one
extremity in its beak, and beats it on the ground till the inner part
comes away. Then seizing it in a similar manner by the other end, it
entirely cleanses the outer part, which alone it eats."

One's first impression is that this must be a singularly unpleasant
operation for the worm, however fastidiously delicate and exemplary in
the robin. But I suppose the real meaning is, that as a worm lives by
passing earth through its body, the robin merely compels it to quit
this--not ill-gotten, indeed, but now quite unnecessary--wealth. We
human creatures, who have lived the lives of worms, collecting dust,
are served by Death in exactly the same manner.

23. You will find that the robin's beak, then, is a very prettily
representative one of general bird power. As a weapon, it is very
formidable indeed; he can kill an adversary of his own kind with one
blow of it in the throat; and is so pugnacious, "valde pugnax," says
Linnæus, "ut non una arbor duos capiat erithacos,"--"no single tree can
hold two cock-robins;" and for precision of seizure, the little flat
hook at the end of the upper mandible is one of the most delicately
formed points of forceps which you can find among the grain eaters. But
I pass to one of his more special perfections.

24. He is very notable in the exquisite silence and precision of his
movements, as opposed to birds who either creak in flying, or waddle in
walking. "Always quiet," says Gould, "for the silkiness of his plumage
renders his movements noiseless, and the rustling of his wings is never
heard, any more than his tread on earth, over which he bounds with
amazing sprightliness." You know how much importance I have always
given, among the fine arts, to good dancing. If you think of it, you
will find one of the robin's very chief ingratiatory faculties is his
dainty and delicate movement,--his footing it featly here and there.
Whatever prettiness there may be in his red breast, at his brightest he
can always be outshone by a brickbat. But if he is rationally proud of
anything about him, I should think a robin must be proud of his legs.
Hundreds of birds have longer and more imposing ones--but for real
neatness, finish, and precision of action, commend me to his fine
little ankles, and fine little feet; this long stilted process, as you
know, corresponding to our ankle-bone. Commend me, I say, to the robin
for use of his ankles--he is, of all birds, the pre-eminent and
characteristic Hopper; none other so light, so pert, or so swift.

25. We must not, however, give too much credit to his legs in this
matter. A robin's hop is half a flight; he hops, very essentially, with
wings and tail, as well as with his feet, and the exquisitely rapid
opening and quivering of the tail-feathers certainly give half the
force to his leap. It is in this action that he is put among the
motacillae, or wagtails; but the ornithologists have no real business
to put him among them. The swing of the long tail feathers in the true
wagtail is entirely consequent on its motion, not impulsive of it--the
tremulous shake is _after_ alighting. But the robin leaps with wing,
tail, and foot, all in time, and all helping each other. Leaps, I say;
and you check at the word; and ought to check: you look at a bird
hopping, and the motion is so much a matter of course, you never think
how it is done. But do you think you would find it easy to hop like a
robin if you had two--all but wooden--legs, like this?

26. I have looked wholly in vain through all my books on birds, to find
some account of the muscles it uses in hopping, and of the part of the
toes with which the spring is given. I must leave you to find out that
for yourselves; it is a little bit of anatomy which I think it highly
desirable for you to know, but which it is not my business to teach
you. Only observe, this is the point to be made out. You leap
yourselves, with the toe and ball of the foot; but, in that power of
leaping, you lose the faculty of grasp; on the contrary, with your
hands, you grasp as a bird with its feet. But you cannot hop on your
hands. A cat, a leopard, and a monkey, leap or grasp with equal ease;
but the action of their paws in leaping is, I imagine, from the fleshy
ball of the foot; while in the bird, characteristically [Greek:
gampsônux], this fleshy ball is reduced to a boss or series of bosses,
and the nails are elongated into sickles or horns; nor does the
springing power seem to depend on the development of the bosses. They
are far more developed in an eagle than a robin; but you know how
unpardonably and preposterously awkward an eagle is when he hops. When
they are most of all developed, the bird walks, runs, and digs well,
but leaps badly.

27. I have no time to speak of the various forms of the ankle itself,
or of the scales of armor, more apparent than real, by which the foot
and ankle are protected. The use of this lecture is not either to
describe or to exhibit these varieties to you, but so to awaken your
attention to the real points of character, that, when you have a bird's
foot to draw, you may do so with intelligence and pleasure, knowing
whether you want to express force, grasp, or firm ground pressure, or
dexterity and tact in motion. And as the actions of the foot and the
hand in man are made by every great painter perfectly expressive of the
character of mind, so the expressions of rapacity, cruelty, or force of
seizure, in the harpy, the gryphon, and the hooked and clawed evil
spirits of early religious art, can only be felt by extreme attention
to the original form.

28. And now I return to our main question, for the robin's breast to
answer, "What is a feather?" You know something about it already; that
it is composed of a quill, with its lateral filaments terminating
generally, more or less, in a point; that these extremities of the
quills, lying over each other like the tiles of a house, allow the wind
and rain to pass over them with the least possible resistance, and form
a protection alike from the heat and the cold; which, in structure much
resembling the scale-armor assumed by man for very different objects,
is, in fact, intermediate, exactly, between the fur of beasts and the
scales of fishes; having the minute division of the one, and the
armor-like symmetry and succession of the other.

29. Not merely symmetry, observe, but extreme flatness. Feathers are
smoothed down, as a field of corn by wind with rain; only the swathes
laid in beautiful order. They are fur, so structurally placed as to
imply, and submit to, the perpetually swift forward motion. In fact, I
have no doubt the Darwinian theory on the subject is that the feathers
of birds once stuck up all erect, like the bristles of a brush, and
have only been blown flat by continual flying.

Nay, we might even sufficiently represent the general manner of
conclusion in the Darwinian system by the statement that if you fasten
a hair-brush to a mill-wheel, with the handle forward, so as to develop
itself into a neck by moving always in the same direction, and within
continual hearing of a steam-whistle, after a certain number of
revolutions the hair-brush will fall in love with the whistle; they
will marry, lay an egg, and the produce will be a nightingale.

30. Whether, however, a hog's bristle can turn into a feather or not,
it is vital that you should know the present difference between them.

The scientific people will tell you that a feather is composed of three
parts--the down, the laminæ, and the shaft.

But the common-sense method of stating the matter is that a feather is
composed of two parts, a shaft with lateral filaments. For the greater
part of the shaft's length, these filaments are strong and nearly
straight, forming, by their attachment, a finely warped sail, like that
of a wind-mill. But towards the root of the feather they suddenly
become weak, and confusedly flexible, and form the close down which
immediately protects the bird's body.

To show you the typical arrangement of these parts, I choose, as I have
said, the robin; because, both in his power of flying, and in his
color, he is a moderate and balanced bird;--not turned into nothing but
wings, like a swallow, or nothing but neck and tail, like a peacock.
And first for his flying power. There is one of the long feathers of
robin's wing, and here (Fig. 1) the analysis of its form.

31. First, in pure outline (A), seen from above, it is very nearly a
long oval, but with this peculiarity, that it has, as it were,
projecting shoulders at _a_ 1 and _a_ 2. I merely desire you to observe
this, in passing, because one usually thinks of the contour as sweeping
unbroken from the root to the point. I have not time to-day to enter on
any discussion of the reason for it, which will appear when we examine
the placing of the wing feathers for their stroke.

Now, I hope you are getting accustomed to the general method in which I
give you the analysis of all forms--leaf, or feather, or shell, or
limb. First, the plan; then the profile; then the cross-section.

I take next, the profile of my feather (B, Fig. 1), and find that it is
twisted as the sail of a windmill is, but more distinctly, so that you
can always see the upper surface of the feather at its root, and the
under at its end. Every primary wing-feather, in the fine flyers, is
thus twisted; and is best described as a sail striking with the power
of a cimeter, but with the flat instead of the edge.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.]

(Twice the size of reality.)


_a_ 1

_a_ 2


32. Further, you remember that on the edges of the broad side of
feathers you find always a series of undulations, irregularly sequent,
and lapping over each other like waves on sand. You might at first
imagine that this appearance was owing to a slight ruffling or disorder
of the filaments; but it is entirely normal, and, I doubt not, so
constructed, in order to insure a redundance of material in the plume,
so that no accident or pressure from wind may leave a gap anywhere. How
this redundance is obtained you will see in a moment by bending any
feather the wrong way. Bend, for instance, this plume, B, Fig. 2, into
the reversed curve, A, Fig. 2; then all the filaments of the plume
become perfectly even, and there are no waves at the edge. But let the
plume return into its proper form, B, and the tissue being now
contracted into a smaller space, the edge waves are formed in it

[Illustration: FIG. 2.



Hitherto, I have been speaking only of the filaments arranged for the
strength and continuity of the energetic plume; they are entirely
different when they are set together for decoration instead of force.
After the feather of the robin's wing, let us examine one from his

33. I said, just now, he might be at once outshone by a brickbat.
Indeed, the day before yesterday, sleeping at Lichfield, and seeing,
the first thing when I woke in the morning, (for I never put down the
blinds of my bedroom windows,) the not uncommon sight in an English
country town of an entire house-front of very neat, and very flat, and
very red bricks, with very exactly squared square windows in it; and
not feeling myself in anywise gratified or improved by the spectacle, I
was thinking how in this, as in all other good, the too much destroyed
all. The breadth of a robin's breast in brick-red is delicious, but a
whole house-front of brick-red as vivid, is alarming. And yet one
cannot generalize even that trite moral with any safety--for infinite
breadth of green is delightful, however green; and of sea or sky,
however blue.

You must note, however, that the robin's charm is greatly helped by the
pretty space of gray plumage which separates the red from the brown
back, and sets it off to its best advantage. There is no great
brilliancy in it, even so relieved; only the finish of it is exquisite.

34. If you separate a single feather, you will find it more like a
transparent hollow shell than a feather (so delicately rounded the
surface of it),--gray at the root, where the down is,--tinged, and only
tinged, with red at the part that overlaps and is visible; so that,
when three or four more feathers have overlapped it again, all
together, with their joined red, are just enough to give the color
determined upon, each of them contributing a tinge. There are about
thirty of these glowing filaments on each side, (the whole being no
larger across than a well-grown currant,) and each of these is itself
another exquisite feather, with central quill and lateral webs, whose
filaments are not to be counted.

The extremity of these breast plumes parts slightly into two, as you
see in the peacock's, and many other such decorative ones. The
transition from the entirely leaf-like shape of the active plume, with
its oblique point, to the more or less symmetrical dualism of the
decorative plume, corresponds with the change from the pointed green
leaf to the dual, or heart-shaped, petal of many flowers. I shall
return to this part of our subject, having given you, I believe, enough
of detail for the present.

35. I have said nothing to-day of the mythology of the bird, though I
told you that would always be, for us, the most important part of its
natural history. But I am obliged, sometimes, to take what we
immediately want, rather than what, ultimately, we shall need chiefly.
In the second place, you probably, most of you, know more of the
mythology of the robin than I do, for the stories about it are all
northern, and I know scarcely any myths but the Italian and Greek. You
will find under the name "Robin," in Miss Yonge's exhaustive and
admirable "History of Christian Names," the various titles of honor and
endearment connected with him, and with the general idea of
redness,--from the bishop called "Bright Red Fame," who founded the
first great Christian church on the Rhine, (I am afraid of your
thinking I mean a pun, in connection with robins, if I tell you the
locality of it,) down through the Hoods, and Roys, and Grays, to Robin
Goodfellow, and Spenser's "Hobbinol," and our modern "Hob,"--joining on
to the "goblin," which comes from the old Greek [Greek: Kobalos]. But I
cannot let you go without asking you to compare the English and French
feeling about small birds, in Chaucer's time, with our own on the same
subject. I say English and French, because the original French of the
Romance of the Rose shows more affection for birds than even Chaucer's
translation, passionate as he is, always, in love for any one of his
little winged brothers or sisters. Look, however, either in the French
or English at the description of the coming of the God of Love, leading
his carol-dance, in the garden of the Rose.

His dress is embroidered with figures of flowers and of beasts; but
about him fly the _living_ birds. The French is:

    Il etoit tout convert d'oisiaulx
    De rossignols et de papegaux
    De calendre, et de mesangel.
    Il semblait que ce fut une angle
    Qui fuz tout droit venuz du ciel.

36. There are several points of philology in this transitional French,
and in Chaucer's translation, which it is well worth your patience to
observe. The monkish Latin "angelus," you see, is passing through the
very unpoetical form "angle," into "ange;" but, in order to get a rhyme
with it in that angular form, the French troubadour expands the bird's
name, "mesange," quite arbitrarily, into "mesangel." Then Chaucer,
not liking the "mes" at the beginning of the word, changes that
unscrupulously into "arch;" and gathers in, though too shortly, a
lovely bit from another place about the nightingales flying so close
round Love's head that they strike some of the leaves off his crown of
roses; so that the English runs thus:

    But nightingales, a full great rout
    That flien over his head about,
    The leaves felden as they flien
    And he was all with birds wrien,
    With popinjay, with nightingale,
    With chelaundre, and with wodewale,
    With finch, with lark, and with archangel.
    He seemed as he were an angell,
    That down were comen from Heaven clear.

Now, when I first read this bit of Chaucer, without referring to the
original, I was greatly delighted to find that there was a bird in his
time called an archangel, and set to work, with brightly hopeful
industry, to find out what it was. I was a little discomfited by
finding that in old botany the word only meant "dead-nettle," but was
still sanguine about my bird, till I found the French form descend, as
you have seen, into a mesangel, and finally into mesange, which is a
provincialism from [Greek: meion], and means, the smallest of
birds--or, specially here,--a titmouse. I have seldom had a less
expected or more ignominious fall from the clouds.

37. The other birds, named here and in the previous description of the
garden, are introduced, as far as I can judge, nearly at random, and
with no precision of imagination like that of Aristophanes; but with a
sweet childish delight in crowding as many birds as possible into the
smallest space. The popinjay is always prominent; and I want some of
you to help me (for I have not time at present for the chase) in
hunting the parrot down on his first appearance in Europe. Just at this
particular time he contested favor even with the falcon; and I think it
a piece of good fortune that I chanced to draw for you, thinking only
of its brilliant color, the popinjay, which Carpaccio allows to be
present on the grave occasion of St. George's baptizing the princess
and her father.

38. And, indeed, as soon as the Christian poets begin to speak of the
singing of the birds, they show themselves in quite a different mood
from any that ever occurs to a Greek. Aristophanes, with infinitely
more skill, describes, and partly imitates, the singing of the
nightingale; but simply as beautiful sound. It "fills the thickets
with honey;" and if in the often-quoted--just because it is _not_
characteristic of Greek literature--passage of the Coloneus, a deeper
sentiment is shown, that feeling is dependent on association of the
bird-voices with deeply pathetic circumstances. But this troubadour
finds his heart in heaven by the power of the singing only:--

    Trop parfoisaient beau servise
    Ciz oiselles que je vous devise.
    Il chantaient un chant ytel
    Com fussent angle esperitel.

We want a moment more of word-chasing to enjoy this. "Oiseau," as you
know, comes from "avis;" but it had at this time got "oisel" for its
singular number, of which the terminating "sel" confused itself with
the "selle," from "ancilla" in domisella and demoiselle; and the
feminine form "oiselle" thus snatched for itself some of the
delightfulness belonging to the title of a young lady. Then note that
"esperitel" does not here mean merely spiritual, (because all angels
are spiritual) but an "angle esperitel" is an angel of the air. So
that, in English, we could only express the meaning in some such
fashion as this:--

    They perfected all their service of love,
    These maiden birds that I tell you of.
    They sang such a song, so finished-fair,
    As if they were angels, born of the air.

39. Such were the fancies, then, and the scenes, in which Englishmen
took delight in Chaucer's time. England was then a simple country; we
boasted, for the best kind of riches, our birds and trees, and our
wives and children. We had now grown to be a rich one; and our first
pleasure is in shooting our birds; but it has become too expensive for
us to keep our trees. Lord Derby, whose crest is the eagle and
child--you will find the northern name for it, the bird and bantling,
made classical by Scott--is the first to propose that wood-birds should
have no more nests. We must cut down all our trees, he says, that we
may effectively use the steam-plow; and the effect of the steam-plow, I
find by a recent article in the _Cornhill Magazine_, is that an English
laborer must not any more have a nest, nor bantlings, neither; but may
only expect to get on prosperously in life, if he be perfectly
skillful, sober, and honest, and dispenses, at least until he is
forty-five, with the "luxury of marriage."

40. Gentlemen, you may perhaps have heard me blamed for making no
effort here to teach in the artisans' schools. But I can only say that,
since the future life of the English laborer or artisan (summing the
benefits to him of recent philosophy and economy) is to be passed in a
country without angels and without birds, without prayers and without
songs, without trees and without flowers, in a state of exemplary
sobriety, and (extending the Catholic celibacy of the clergy into
celibacy of the laity) in a state of dispensation with the luxury of
marriage, I do not believe he will derive either profit or
entertainment from lectures on the Fine Arts.



41. We are to-day to take note of the form of a creature which gives us
a singular example of the unity of what artists call beauty, with the
fineness of mechanical structure, often mistaken for it. You cannot but
have noticed how little, during the years of my past professorship, I
have introduced any questions as to the nature of beauty. I avoided
them, partly because they are treated of at length in my books; and
partly because they are, in the last degree, unpractical. We are born
to like or dislike certain aspects of things; nor could I, by any
arguments, alter the defined tastes which you received at your birth,
and which the surrounding circumstances of life have enforced, without
any possibility of your voluntary resistance to them. And the result of
those surrounding circumstances, to-day, is that most English youths
would have more pleasure in looking at a locomotive than at a swallow;
and that many English philosophers would suppose the pleasure so
received to be through a new sense of beauty. But the meaning of the
word "beauty" in the fine arts, and in classical literature, is
properly restricted to those very qualities in which the locomotion of
a swallow differs from that of an engine.

      [8] Delivered at Oxford, May 2d, 1873.

42. Not only from that of an engine; but also from that of animals in
whose members the mechanism is so complex as to give them a resemblance
to engines. The dart of the common house-fly, for instance, in full
strength, is a more wonderful movement than that of a swallow. The
mechanism of it is not only more minute, but the swiftness of the
action so much greater, that the vibration of the wing is invisible.
But though a school-boy might prefer the locomotive to the swallow, he
would not carry his admiration of finely mechanical velocity into
unqualified sympathy with the workmanship of the God of Ekron; and
would generally suppose that flies were made only to be food for the
more graceful fly-catcher,--whose finer grace you will discover, upon
reflection, to be owing to the very moderation and simplicity of its
structure, and to the subduing of that infinitude of joints, claws,
tissues, veins, and fibers which inconceivably vibrate in the
microscopic[9] creature's motion, to a quite intelligible and simple
balance of rounded body upon edged plume, maintained not without
visible, and sometimes fatigued, exertion, and raising the lower
creature into fellowship with the volition and the virtue of humanity.

      [9] I call it so because the members and action of it cannot be
      seen with the unaided eye.

43. With the virtue, I say, in an exceedingly qualified sense; meaning
rather the strength and art displayed in overcoming difficulties, than
any distinct morality of disposition. The bird has kindly and homely
qualities; but its principal "virtue" for _us_, is its being an
incarnate voracity, and that it moves as a consuming and cleansing
power. You sometimes hear it said of a humane person that they would
not kill a fly: from 700 to 1,000 flies a day are a moderate allowance
for a baby swallow.

44. Perhaps, as I say this, it may occur to some of you to think, for
the first time, of the reason of the bird's name. For it is very
interesting, as a piece of language study, to consider the different
power on our minds,--nay, the different sweetness to the ear,--which,
from association, these same two syllables receive, when we read them
as a noun, or as a verb. Also, the word is a curious instance of the
traps which are continually open for rash etymologists. At first,
nothing would appear more natural than that the name should have been
given to the bird from its reckless function of devouring. But if you
look to your Johnson, you will find, to your better satisfaction, that
the name means "bird of porticos," or porches, from the Gothic "swale;"
"subdivale,"--so that he goes back in thought as far as Virgil's, "Et
nunc porticibus vacuis, nunc humida circum, stagna sonat." Notice, in
passing, how a simile of Virgil's, or any other great master's, will
probably tell in two or more ways at once. Juturna is compared to the
swallow, not merely as winding and turning swiftly in her chariot, but
as being a water-nymph by birth,--"Stagnis quae, fluminibusque sonoris,
praesidet." How many different creatures in one the swallow is by
birth, as a Virgilian simile is many thoughts in one, it would take
many more lectures than one to show you clearly; but I will indicate
them with such rough sketch as is possible.

45. It belongs, as most of you know, to a family of birds called
Fissirostres, or, literally, split-beaks. Split heads would be a better
term, for it is the enormous width of mouth and power of gaping which
the epithet is meant to express. A dull sermon, for instance, makes
half the congregation "fissirostres." The bird, however, is most
vigilant when its mouth is widest, for it opens as a net to catch
whatever comes in its way,--hence the French, giving the whole family
the more literal name, "Gobble-fly"--Gobe-mouche, extend the term to
the open-mouthed and too acceptant appearance of a simpleton.

46. Partly in order to provide for this width of mouth, but more for
the advantage in flight, the head of the swallow is rounded into a
bullet shape, and sunk down on the shoulders, with no neck whatever
between, so as to give nearly the aspect of a conical rifle bullet to
the entire front of the body; and, indeed, the bird moves more like a
bullet than an arrow--dependent on a certain impetus of weight rather
than on sharp penetration of the air. I say dependent on, but I have
not yet been able to trace distinct relation between the shapes of
birds and their powers of flight. I suppose the form of the body is
first determined by the general habits and food, and that nature can
make any form she chooses volatile; only one point I think is always
notable, that a complete master of the art of flight must be
short-necked, so that he turns altogether, if he turns at all. You
don't expect a swallow to look round a corner before he goes round it;
he must take his chance. The main point is that he may be able to stop
himself, and turn, in a moment.

47. The stopping, on any terms, is difficult enough to understand; nor
less so, the original gaining of the pace. We always think of flight as
if the main difficulty of it were only in keeping up in the air;--but
the buoyancy is conceivable enough, the far more wonderful matter is
the getting along. You find it hard work to row yourself at anything
like speed, though your impulse-stroke is given in a heavy element, and
your return-stroke in a light one. But both in birds and fishes, the
impelling stroke and its return are in the same element; and if, for
the bird, that medium yields easily to its impulses, it secedes as
easily from the blow that gives it. And if you think what an effort you
make to leap six feet, with the earth for a fulcrum, the dart either of
a trout or a swallow, with no fulcrum but the water and air they
penetrate, will seem to you, I think, greatly marvelous. Yet of the
mode in which it is accomplished you will as yet find no undisputed
account in any book on natural history, and scarcely, as far as I know,
definite notice even of the rate of flight. What do you suppose it is?
We are apt to think of the migration of a swallow, as we should
ourselves of a serious journey. How long, do you think, it would take
him, if he flew uninterruptedly, to get from here to Africa?

48. Michelet gives the rate of his flight (at full speed, of course,)
as eighty leagues an hour. I find no more sound authority; but do not
doubt his approximate accuracy;[10] still how curious and how
provoking it is that neither White of Selborne, Bewick, Yarrell, nor
Gould, says a word about this, one should have thought the most
interesting, power of the bird.[11]

      [10] I wrote this some time ago, and the endeavors I have since
      made to verify statements on points of natural history which I
      had taken on trust have given me reason to doubt everybody's
      accuracy. The ordinary flight of the swallow does not, assuredly,
      even in the dashes, reach anything like this speed.

      [11] Incidentally suggestive sentences occur in the history of
      Selborne, but its author never comes to the point, in this case.

Taking Michelet's estimate--eighty French leagues, roughly two hundred
and fifty miles, an hour--we have a thousand miles in four hours. That
is to say, leaving Devonshire after an early breakfast, he could be in
Africa to lunch.

49. He could, I say, if his flight were constant; but though there is
much inconsistency in the accounts, the sum of testimony seems definite
that the swallow is among the most fatiguable of birds. "When the
weather is hazy," (I quote Yarrell) "they will alight on fishing-boats
a league or two from land, so tired that when any one tries to catch
them, they can scarcely fly from one end of the boat to the other."

I have no time to read to you the interesting evidence on this point
given by Yarrell, but only that of the brother of White of Selborne, at
Gibraltar. "My brother has always found," he himself writes, "that some
of his birds, and particularly the swallow kind, are very sparing of
their pains in crossing the Mediterranean; for when arrived at
Gibraltar, they do not 'set forth their airy caravan, high over seas,'
but scout and hurry along in little detached parties of six or seven in
a company; and sweeping low, just over the surface of the land and
water, direct their course to the opposite continent at the narrowest
passage they can find."

50. You will observe, however, that it remains an open question whether
this fear of sea may not be, in the swallow, like ours of the desert.
The commissariat department is a serious one for birds that eat a
thousand flies a day when just out of the egg; and it is possible that
the weariness of swallows at sea may depend much more on fasting than
flying. Captain (or Admiral?) Sir Charles Wager says that "one
spring-time, as he came into soundings in the English Channel, a great
flock of swallows came and settled on all his rigging; every rope was
covered; they hung on one another like a swarm of bees; even the decks
were filled with them. They seemed almost famished and spent, and were
only feathers and bone; but, being recruited with a night's rest, took
their flight in the morning."

51. Now I detain you on this point somewhat, because it is intimately
connected with a more important one. I told you we should learn from
the swallow what a wing was. Few other birds approach him in the beauty
of it, or apparent power. And yet, after all this care taken about it,
he gets tired; and instead of flying, as we should do in his place, all
over the world, and tasting the flavor of the midges in every marsh
which the infinitude of human folly has left to breed gnats instead of
growing corn,--he is of all birds, characteristically, except when he
absolutely can't help it, the stayer at home; and contentedly lodges
himself and his family in an old chimney, when he might be flying all
over the world.

At least you would think, if he built in an English chimney this year,
he would build in a French one next. But no. Michelet prettily says of
him, "He is the bird of return." If you will only treat him kindly,
year after year, he comes back to the same niche, and to the same
hearth, for his nest.

To the same niche; and builds himself an opaque walled house within
that. Think of this a little, as if you heard of it for the first time.

52. Suppose you had never seen a swallow; but that its general habit
of life had been described to you, and you had been asked, how you
thought such a bird would build its nest. A creature, observe, whose
life is to be passed in the air; whose beak and throat are shaped
with the fineness of a net for the catching of gnats; and whose feet,
in the most perfect of the species, are so feeble that it is called
the Footless Swallow, and cannot stand a moment on the ground with
comfort. Of all land birds, the one that has least to do with the
earth; of all, the least disposed, and the least able, to stop to
pick anything up. What will it build with? Gossamer, we should
say,--thistledown,--anything it can catch floating, like flies.

But it builds with stiff clay.

53. And observe its chosen place for building also. You would think, by
its play in the air, that not only of all birds, but of all creatures,
it most delighted in space and freedom. You would fancy its notion of
the place for a nest would be the openest field it could find; that
anything like confinement would be an agony to it; that it would almost
expire of horror at the sight of a black hole.

And its favorite home is down a chimney.

54. Not for your hearth's sake, nor for your company's. Do not think
it. The bird will love you if you treat it kindly; is as frank and
friendly as bird can be; but it does not, more than others, seek your
society. It comes to your house because in no wild wood, nor rough
rock, can it find a cavity close enough to please it. It comes for the
blessedness of imprisonment, and the solemnity of an unbroken and
constant shadow, in the tower, or under the eaves.

Do you suppose that this is part of its necessary economy, and that a
swallow could not catch flies unless it lived in a hole?

Not so. This instinct is part of its brotherhood with another race of
creatures. It is given to complete a mesh in the reticulation of the
orders of life.

55. I have already given you several reasons for my wish that you
should retain, in classifying birds, the now rejected order of Picae. I
am going to read you a passage from Humboldt, which shows you what
difficulties one may get into for want of it.

You will find in the second volume of his personal narrative, an
account of the cave of Caripe in New Andalusia, which is inhabited by
entirely nocturnal birds, having the gaping mouths of the goat-sucker
and the swallow, and yet feeding on fruit.

Unless, which Mr. Humboldt does not tell us, they sit under the trees
outside, in the night time, and hold their mouths open, for the berries
to drop into, there is not the smallest occasion for their having wide
mouths, like swallows. Still less is there any need, since they are
fruit eaters, for their living in a cavern 1,500 feet out of daylight.
They have only, in consequence, the trouble of carrying in the seeds to
feed their young, and the floor of the cave is thus covered, by the
seeds they let fall, with a growth of unfortunate pale plants, which
have never seen day. Nay, they are not even content with the darkness
of their cave; but build their nests in the funnels with which the roof
of the grotto is pierced like a sieve; live actually in the chimney,
not of a house, but of an Egyptian sepulcher! The color of this bird,
of so remarkable taste in lodging, Humboldt tells us, is "of dark
bluish-gray, mixed with streaks and specks of black. Large white spots,
which have the form of a heart, and which are bordered with black, mark
the head, the wings, and the tail. The spread of the wings, which are
composed of seventeen or eighteen quill feathers, is three feet and a
half. Suppressing, with Mr. Cuvier, the order of Picae, we must refer
this extraordinary bird to the _Sparrows_."

56. We can only suppose that it must be, to our popular sparrows, what
the swallow of the cinnamon country is to our subordinate swallow. Do
you recollect the cinnamon swallows of Herodotus, who build their
mud-nests in the faces of the cliffs where Dionusos was brought up, and
where nobody can get near them; and how the cinnamon merchants fetch
them joints of meat, which the unadvised birds, flying up to their
nests with, instead of cinnamon,--nest and all come down together,--the
original of Sindbad's valley-of-diamond story?

57. Well, Humboldt is reduced, by necessities of recent classification,
to call a bird three feet and a half across the wings, a sparrow. I
have no right to laugh at him, for I am just going, myself, to call the
cheerfulest and brightest of birds of the air, an owl. All these
architectural and sepulchral habits, these Egyptian manners of the
sand-martin, digging caves in the sand, and border-trooper's habits of
the chimney swallow, living in round towers instead of open air,
belonging to them as connected with the tribe of the falcons through
the owls! and not only so, but with the mammalia through the bats! A
swallow is an emancipated owl, and a glorified bat; but it never
forgets its fellowship with night.

58. Its _ancient_ fellowship, I had nearly written; so natural is it to
think of these similarly-minded creatures, when the feelings that both
show are evidently useless to one of them, as if the inferior had
changed into the higher. The doctrine of development seems at first to
explain all so pleasantly, that the scream of consent with which it has
been accepted by men of science, and the shriller vociferation of the
public's gregarious applause, scarcely permit you the power of
antagonistic reflection. I must justify to-day, in graver tone than
usual, the terms in which I have hitherto spoken,--it may have been
thought with less than the due respect to my audience,--of the popular

59. Supposing that the octohedrons of galena, of gold, and of oxide of
iron, were endowed with powers of reproduction, and perished at
appointed dates of dissolution or solution, you would without any doubt
have heard it by this time asserted that the octohedric form, which was
common to all, indicated their descent from a common progenitor; and it
would have been ingeniously explained to you how the angular offspring
of this eight-sided ancestor had developed themselves, by force of
circumstances, into their distinct metallic perfections; how the galena
had become gray and brittle under prolonged subterranean heat, and the
gold yellow and ductile, as it was rolled among the pebbles of
amber-colored streams.

60. By the denial to these structures of any individually reproductive
energy, you are forced to accept the inexplicable (and why expect it to
be otherwise than inexplicable?) fact, of the formation of a series of
bodies having very similar aspects, qualities, and chemical relations
to other substances, which yet have no connection whatever with each
other, and are governed, in their relation with their native rocks, by
entirely arbitrary laws. It has been the pride of modern chemistry to
extricate herself from the vanity of the alchemist, and to admit, with
resignation, the independent, though apparently fraternal, natures, of
silver, of lead, of platinum,--aluminium,--potassium. Hence, a rational
philosophy would deduce the probability that when the arborescence of
dead crystallization rose into the radiation of the living tree, and
sentient plume, the splendor of nature in her more exalted power would
not be restricted to a less variety of design; and the beautiful
caprice in which she gave to the silver its frost and to the opal its
fire, would not be subdued under the slow influences of accident and
time, when she wreathed the swan with snow, and bathed the dove in
iridescence. That the infinitely more exalted powers of life must
exercise more intimate influence over matter than the reckless forces
of cohesion;--and that the loves and hatreds of the now conscious
creatures would modify their forms into parallel beauty and
degradation, we might have anticipated by reason, and we ought long
since to have known by observation. But this law of its spirit over the
substance of the creature involves, necessarily, the indistinctness of
its type, and the existence of inferior and of higher conditions, which
whole eras of heroism and affection--whole eras of misery and
misconduct,--confirm into glory, or confuse into shame. Collecting the
causes of changed form, in lower creatures, by distress, or by
adaptation,--by the disturbance or intensifying of the parental
strength, and the native fortune--the wonder is, not that species
should sometimes be confused, but that the greater number of them
remain so splendidly, so manifestly, so eternally distinct; and that
the vile industries and vicious curiosities of modern science, while
they have robbed the fields of England of a thousand living creatures,
have not created in them one.

61. But even in the paltry knowledge we have obtained, what unanimity
have we?--what security? Suppose any man of ordinary sense, knowing the
value of time, and the relative importance of subjects of thought, and
that the whole scientific world was agog concerning the origin of
species, desired to know first of all--what was meant by a species.

He would naturally look for the definition of species first among the
higher animals, and expect it to be best defined in those which were
best known. And being referred for satisfaction to the 226th page of
the first volume of Mr. Darwin's "Descent of Man," he would find this

"Man has been studied more carefully than any other organic being, and
yet there is the greatest possible diversity among capable judges,
whether he should be classed as a single species or race, or as two
(Virey), as three (Jacquinot), as four (Kant), five (Blumenbach), six
(Buffon), seven (Hunter), eight (Agassiz), eleven (Pickering), fifteen
(Bory St. Vincent), sixteen (Desmoulins), twenty-two (Morton), sixty
(Crawford), or as sixty-three according to Burke."

And in the meantime, while your men of science are thus vacillating, in
the definition of the species of the only animal they have the
opportunity of studying inside and out, between one and sixty-three;
and disputing about the origin, in past ages, of what they cannot
define in the present ones; and deciphering the filthy heraldries which
record the relation of humanity to the ascidian and the crocodile, you
have ceased utterly to distinguish between the two species of man,
evermore separate by infinite separation: of whom the one, capable of
loyalty and of love, can at least conceive spiritual natures which have
no taint from their own, and leave behind them, diffused among
thousands on earth, the happiness they never hoped, for themselves, in
the skies; and the other, capable only of avarice, hatred, and shame,
who in their lives are the companions of the swine, and leave in death
nothing but food for the worm and the vulture.

62. Now I have first traced for you the relations of the creature we
are examining to those beneath it and above, to the bat and to the
falcon. But you will find that it has still others to entirely another
world. As you watch it glance and skim over the surface of the waters,
has it never struck you what relation it bears to the creatures that
glance and glide _under_ their surface? Fly-catchers, some of
them, also,--fly-catchers in the same manner, with wide mouth; while in
motion the bird almost exactly combines the dart of the trout with the
dash of the dolphin, to the rounded forehead and projecting muzzle of
which its own bullet head and bill exactly correspond. In its plunge,
if you watch it bathing, you may see it dip its breast just as much
under the water as a porpoise shows its back above. You can only
rightly describe the bird by the resemblances, and images of what it
seems to have changed from,--then adding the fantastic and beautiful
contrast of the unimaginable change. It is an owl that has been trained
by the Graces. It is a bat that loves the morning light. It is the
aërial reflection of a dolphin. It is the tender domestication of a

63. And yet be assured, as it cannot have been all these creatures, so
it has never, in truth, been any of them. The transformations believed
in by the mythologists are at least spiritually true; you cannot too
carefully trace or too accurately consider them. But the
transformations believed in by the anatomist are as yet proved true in
no single instance, and in no substance, spiritual or material; and I
cannot too often, or too earnestly, urge you not to waste your time in
guessing what animals may once have been, while you remain in nearly
total ignorance of what they are.

64. Do you even know distinctly from each other,--(for that is the real
naturalist's business; instead of confounding them with each
other),--do you know distinctly the five great species of this familiar
bird?--the swallow, the house-martin, the sand-martin, the swift, and
the Alpine swift?--or can you so much as answer the first question
which would suggest itself to any careful observer of the form of its
most familiar species,--yet which I do not find proposed, far less
answered, in any scientific book,--namely, why a swallow has a

It is true that the tail feathers in many birds appear to be
entirely,--even cumbrously, decorative; as in the peacock, and birds of
paradise. But I am confident that it is not so in the swallow, and that
the forked tail, so defined in form and strong in plume, has indeed
important functions in guiding the flight; yet notice how surrounded
one is on all sides with pitfalls for the theorists. The forked tail
reminds you at once of a fish's; and yet, the action of the two
creatures is wholly contrary. A fish lashes himself forward with his
tail, and steers with his fins; a swallow lashes himself forward with
his fins, and steers with his tail; partly, not necessarily, because in
the most dashing of the swallows, the swift, the fork of the tail is
the least developed. And I never watch the bird for a moment without
finding myself in some fresh puzzle out of which there is no clue in
the scientific books. I want to know, for instance, how the bird turns.
What does it do with one wing, what with the other? Fancy the pace that
has to be stopped; the force of bridle-hand put out in an instant.
Fancy how the wings must bend with the strain; what need there must be
for the perfect aid and work of every feather in them. There is a
problem for you, students of mechanics,--How does a swallow turn?

You shall see, at all events, to begin with, to-day, how it gets along.

65. I say you shall see; but indeed you have often seen, and felt,--at
least with your hands, if not with your shoulders,--when you chanced to
be holding the sheet of a sail.

I have said that I never got into scrapes by blaming people wrongly;
but I often do by praising them wrongly. I never praised, without
qualification, but one scientific book in my life (that I
remember)--this of Dr. Pettigrew's on the Wing;[12] and now I must
qualify my praise considerably, discovering, when I examined the book
farther, that the good doctor had described the motion of a bird as
resembling that of a kite, without ever inquiring what, in a bird,
represented that somewhat important part of a kite, the string. You
will, however, find the book full of important observations, and
illustrated by valuable drawings. But the point in question you must
settle for yourselves, and you easily may. Some of you perhaps, knew,
in your time, better than the doctor, how a kite stopped; but I do not
doubt that a great many of you also know, now, what is much more to the
purpose, how a ship gets along. I will take the simplest, the most
natural, the most beautiful of sails,--the lateen sail of the

      [12] "On the Physiology of Wings." Transactions of the Royal
      Society of Edinburgh. Vol. xxvi., Part ii. I cannot sufficiently
      express either my wonder or regret at the petulance in which men
      of science are continually tempted into immature publicity, by
      their rivalship with each other. Page after page of this book,
      which, slowly digested and taken counsel upon, might have been a
      noble contribution to natural history, is occupied with dispute
      utterly useless to the reader, on the question of the priority of
      the author, by some months, to a French savant, in the statement
      of a principle which neither has yet proved; while page after
      page is rendered worse than useless to the reader by the author's
      passionate endeavor to contradict the ideas of unquestionably
      previous investigators. The problem of flight was, to all serious
      purpose, solved by Borelli in 1680, and the following passage is
      very notable as an example of the way in which the endeavor to
      obscure the light of former ages too fatally dims and distorts
      that by which modern men of science walk, themselves. "Borelli,
      and all who have written since his time, are unanimous in
      affirming that the horizontal transference of the body of the
      bird is due to the perpendicular vibration of the wings, and to
      the yielding of the posterior or flexible margins of the wings in
      an upward direction, as the wings descend. I" (Dr. Pettigrew)
      "am, however, disposed to attribute it to the fact (1st), that
      _the wings_, both when elevated and depressed, _leap forwards_ in
      curves, those curves uniting to form a continuous waved track;
      (2d), _to the tendency which the body of the bird has to swing
      forwards_, in a more or less horizontal direction, _when once set
      in motion_; (3d), to the construction of the wings; they are
      elastic helices or screws, which twist and untwist while they
      vibrate, _and tend to bear upwards and onwards any weight
      suspended from them_; (4th), _to the action of the air on the
      under surfaces_ of the wings; (5th), _to the ever-varying power
      with which the wings are urged_, this being greatest at the
      beginning of the down-stroke, and least at the end of the up one;
      (6th), _to the contraction of the voluntary muscles_ and elastic
      ligaments, and to the effect produced by the various inclined
      surfaces formed by the wings during their oscillations; (7th),
      _to the weight of the bird_--weight itself, when acting upon
      wings, becoming a propelling power, and so contributing to
      horizontal motion."

      I will collect these seven reasons for the forward motion, in the
      gist of them, which I have marked by italics, that the reader may
      better judge of their collective value. The bird is carried
      forward, according to Dr. Pettigrew--

      1. Because its wings leap forward.

      2. Because its body has a tendency to swing forward.

      3. Because its wings are screws so constructed as to screw
      upwards and onwards any body suspended from them.

      4. Because the air reacts on the under surfaces of the wings.

      5. Because the wings are urged with ever-varying power.

      6. Because the voluntary muscles contract.

      7. Because the bird is heavy.

      What must be the general conditions of modern science, when it is
      possible for a man of great experimental knowledge and practical
      ingenuity, to publish nonsense such as this, becoming, to all
      intents and purposes, insane, in the passion of his endeavor to
      overthrow the statements of his rival? Had he merely taken
      patience to consult any elementary scholar in dynamics, he would
      have been enabled to understand his own machines, and develop,
      with credit to himself, what had been rightly judged or noticed
      by others.

66. I draw it rudely in outline, as it would be set for a side-wind on
the boat you probably know best,--the boat of burden on the Lake of
Geneva (Fig. 3), not confusing the drawing by adding the mast, which,
you know, rakes a little, carrying the yard across it (_a_). Then, with
your permission, I will load my boat thus, with a few casks of Vevay
vintage--and, to keep them cool, we will put an awning over them, so
(_b_). Next, as we are classical scholars, instead of this rustic stern
of the boat, meant only to run easily on a flat shore, we will give it
an Attic [Greek: embolon] (_c_). (We have no business, indeed, yet, to
put an [Greek: embolon] on a boat of burden, but I hope some day to see
all our ships of war loaded with bread and wine, instead of artillery.)
Then I shade the entire form (_c_); and, lastly, reflect it in the
water (_d_)--and you have seen something like that before, besides a
boat, haven't you?

[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

There is the gist of the whole business for you, put in very small
space; with these only differences: in a boat, the air strikes the
sail; in a bird, the sail strikes the air: in a boat, the force is
lateral, and in a bird downwards; and it has its sail on both sides. I
shall leave you to follow out the mechanical problem for yourselves, as
far as the mere resolution of force is concerned. My business, as a
painter, is only with the exquisite organic weapon that deals with it.

67. Of which you are now to note farther, that a bird is required to
manage his wing so as to obtain two results with one blow:--he has to
keep himself up, as well as to get along.

But observe, he only requires to keep himself up _because_ he has to
get along. The buoyancy might have been given at once, if nature had
wanted _that_ only; she might have blown the feathers up with the hot
air of the breath, till the bird rose in air like a cork in water. But
it has to be, not a buoyant cork, but a buoyant _bullet_. And therefore
that it may have momentum for pace, it must have weight to carry; and
to carry that weight, the wings must deliver their blow with effective
vertical, as well as oblique, force.

Here, again, you may take the matter in brief sum. Whatever is the
ship's loss, is the bird's gain; whatever tendency the ship has to
leeway, is all given to the bird's support, so that every atom[13] of
force in the blow is of service.

      [13] I don't know what word to use for an infinitesimal degree or
      divided portion of force: one cannot properly speak of a force
      being cut into pieces; but I can think of no other word than

68. Therefore you have to construct your organic weapon, so that this
absolutely and perfectly economized force may be distributed as the
bird chooses at any moment. That, if it wants to rise, it may be able
to strike vertically more than obliquely;--if the order is, go-ahead,
that it may put the oblique screw on. If it wants to stop in an
instant, that it may be able to throw its wings up full to the wind; if
it wants to hover, that it may be able to lay itself quietly on the
wind with its wings and tail, or, in calm air, to regulate their
vibration and expansion into tranquillity of gliding, or of pausing
power. Given the various proportions of weight and wing; the conditions
of possible increase of muscular force and quill-strength in proportion
to size; and the different objects and circumstances of flight,--you
have a series of exquisitely complex problems, and exquisitely perfect
solutions, which the life of the youngest among you cannot be long
enough to read through so much as once, and of which the future
infinitudes of human life, however granted or extended, never will be
fatigued in admiration.

69. I take the rude outline of sail in Fig. 3, and now considering it
as a jib of one of our own sailing vessels, slightly exaggerate the
loops at the edge, and draw curved lines from them to the opposite
point, Fig. 4; and I have a reptilian or dragon's wing, which would,
with some ramification of the supporting ribs, become a bat's or
moth's; that is to say, an extension of membrane between the ribs (as
in an umbrella), which will catch the wind, and flutter upon it, like a
leaf; but cannot strike it to any purpose. The flying squirrel drifts
like a falling leaf; the bat flits like a black rag torn at the edge.
To give power, we must have plumes that can strike, as with the flat of
a sword-blade; and to give _perfect_ power, these must be laid over
each other, so that each may support the one below it. I use the word
below advisedly: we have to strike _down_. The lowest feather is the
one that first meets the adverse force. It is the one to be supported.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

Now for the manner of the support. You must all know well the look of
the machicolated parapets in mediæval castles. You know they are
carried on rows of small projecting buttresses constructed so that,
though the uppermost stone, far-projecting, would break easily under
any shock, it is supported by the next below, and so on, down to the
wall. Now in this figure I am obliged to separate the feathers by white
spaces, to show you them distinctly. In reality they are set as close
to each other as can be, but putting them as close as I can, you get
_a_ or _b_, Fig. 5, for the rough section of the wing, thick towards
the bird's head, and curved like a sickle, so that in striking down it
catches the air, like a reaping-hook, and in rising up, it throws off
the air like a pent-house.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.]

70. The stroke would therefore be vigorous, and the recovery almost
effortless, were even the direction of both actually vertical. But
they are vertical only with relation to the bird's body. In space they
follow the forward flight, in a softly curved line; the downward
stroke being as effective as the bird chooses, the recovery scarcely
encounters resistance in the softly gliding ascent. Thus, in Fig. 5,
(I can only explain this to readers a little versed in the elements of
mechanics,) if B is the locus of the center of gravity of the bird,
moving in slow flight in the direction of the arrow, w is the locus of
the leading feather of its wing, and _a_ and _b_, roughly, the
successive positions of the wing in the down-stroke and recovery.

71. I say the down-stroke is as effective as the bird chooses; that is
to say, it can be given with exactly the quantity of impulse, and
exactly the quantity of supporting power, required at the moment. Thus,
when the bird wants to fly slowly, the wings are fluttered fast, giving
vertical blows; if it wants to pause absolutely in still air, (this
large birds cannot do, not being able to move their wings fast enough,)
the velocity becomes vibration, as in the humming-bird: but if there is
wind, any of the larger birds can lay themselves on it like a kite,
their own weight answering the purpose of the string,[14] while they
keep the wings and tail in an inclined plane, giving them as much
gliding ascent as counteracts the fall. They nearly all, however, use
some slightly gliding force at the same time; a single stroke of the
wing, with forward intent, seeming enough to enable them to glide on
for half a minute or more without stirring a plume. A circling eagle
floats an inconceivable time without visible stroke: (fancy the pretty
action of the inner wing, _backing_ air instead of water, which gives
exactly the breadth of circle he chooses). But for exhibition of the
complete art of flight, a swallow on rough water is the master of
masters. A sea-gull, with all its splendid power, generally has its
work cut out for it, and is visibly fighting; but the swallow plays
with wind and wave as a girl plays with her fan, and there are no words
to say how many things it does with its wings in any ten seconds, and
does consummately. The mystery of its dart remains always inexplicable
to me; no eye can trace the bending of bow that sends that living

But the main structure of the noble weapon we may with little pains

      [14] See App. p. 112, § 145.

72. In the sections _a_ and _b_ of Fig. 5, I have only represented the
quills of the outer part of the wing. The relation of these, and of the
inner quills, to the bird's body may be very simply shown.

Fig. 6 is a rude sketch, typically representing the wing of any bird,
but actually founded chiefly on the sea-gull's.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.]

It is broadly composed of two fans, A and B. The out-most fan, A, is
carried by the bird's hand; of which I rudely sketch the contour of the
bones at _a_. The innermost fan, B, is carried by the bird's forearm,
from wrist to elbow, _b_.

The strong humerus, _c_, corresponding to our arm from shoulder to
elbow, has command of the whole instrument. No feathers are attached to
this bone; but covering and protecting ones are set in the skin of it,
completely filling, when the active wing is open, the space between it
and the body. But the plumes of the two great fans, A and B, are set
into the bones; in Fig. 8, farther on, are shown the projecting knobs
on the main arm bone, set for the reception of the quills, which make
it look like the club of Hercules. The connection of the still more
powerful quills of the outer fan with the bones of the hand is quite
beyond all my poor anatomical perceptions, and, happily for me, also
beyond needs of artistic investigation.

73. The feathers of the fan A are called the primaries. Those of the
fan B, secondaries. Effective actions of flight, whether for support or
forward motion, are, I believe, all executed with the primaries, every
one of which may be briefly described as the strongest cimeter that can
be made of quill substance; flexible within limits, and elastic at its
edges--carried by an elastic central shaft--twisted like a windmill
sail--striking with the flat, and recovering with the edge.

The secondary feathers are more rounded at the ends, and frequently
notched; their curvature is reversed to that of the primaries; they are
arranged, when expanded, somewhat in the shape of a shallow cup, with
the hollow of it downwards, holding the air therefore, and aiding in
all the pause and buoyancy of flight, but little in the activity of it.
Essentially they are the brooding and covering feathers of the wing;
exquisitely beautiful--as far as I have yet seen, _most_ beautiful--in
the bird whose brooding is of most use to us; and which has become the
image of all tenderness. "How often would I have gathered thy children
... and ye would not."

74. Over these two chief masses of the plume are set others which
partly complete their power, partly adorn and protect them; but of
these I can take no notice at present. All that I want you to
understand is the action of the two main masses, as the wing is opened
and closed.

Fig. 7 roughly represents the upper surface of the main feathers of the
wing closed. The secondaries are folded over the primaries; and the
primaries shut up close, with their outer edges parallel, or nearly so.
Fig. 8 roughly shows the outline of the bones, in this position, of one
of the larger pigeons.[15]

[Illustration: FIG. 7.]

[Illustration: FIG. 8.]

      [15] I find even this mere outline of anatomical structure so
      interferes with the temper in which I wish my readers to think,
      that I shall withdraw it in my complete edition.

75. Then Fig. 9 is (always sketched in the roughest way) the outer,
Fig. 10 the inner, surface of a sea-gull's wing in this position. Next,
Fig. 11 shows the tops of the four lowest feathers in Fig. 9, in mere
outline; A separate (pulled off, so that they can be set side by side),
B shut up close in the folded wing, C, opened in the spread wing.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.]

[Illustration: FIG. 10.]

[Illustration: FIG. 11.]

76. And now, if you will yourselves watch a few birds in flight, or
opening and closing their wings to prune them, you will soon know as
much as is needful for our art purposes; and, which is far more
desirable, feel how very little we know, to any purpose, of even the
familiar creatures that are our companions.

Even what we have seen to-day[16] is more than appears to have been
noticed by the most careful painters of the great schools; and you will
continually fancy that I am inconsistent with myself in pressing you to
learn, better than they, the anatomy of birds, while I violently and
constantly urge you to refuse the knowledge of the anatomy of men. But
you will find, as my system develops itself, that it is absolutely
consistent throughout. I don't mean, by telling you not to study human
anatomy, that you are not to know how many fingers and toes you have,
nor how you can grasp and walk with them; and, similarly, when you look
at a bird, I wish you to know how many claws and wing-feathers it has,
and how it grips and flies with them. Of the bones, in either, I shall
show you little; and of the muscles, nothing but what can be seen in
the living creature, nor, often, even so much.

      [16] Large and somewhat carefully painted diagrams were shown at
      the lecture, which I cannot engrave but for my complete edition.

77. And accordingly, when I now show you this sketch of my favorite
Holbein, and tell you that it is entirely disgraceful he should not
know what a wing was, better, I don't mean that it is disgraceful he
should not know the anatomy of it, but that he should never have looked
at it to see how the feathers lie.

Now Holbein paints men gloriously, but never looks at birds; Gibbons,
the wood-cutter, carves birds, but can't men;--of the two faults the
last is the worst; but the right is in looking at the whole of nature
in due comparison, and with universal candor and tenderness.

78. At the whole of nature, I say, not at _super_-nature--at what you
suppose to be above the visible nature about you. If you are not
inclined to look at the wings of birds, which God has given you to
handle and to see, much less are you to contemplate, or draw
imaginations of, the wings of angels, which you can't see. Know your
own world first--not denying any other, but being quite sure that the
place in which you are now put is the place with which you are now
concerned; and that it will be wiser in you to think the gods
themselves may appear in the form of a dove, or a swallow, than that,
by false theft from the form of dove or swallow, you can represent the
aspect of gods.

79. One sweet instance of such simple conception, in the end of the
Odyssey, must surely recur to your minds in connection with our subject
of to-day, but you may not have noticed the recurrent manner in which
Homer insists on the thought. When Ulysses first bends and strings his
bow, the vibration of the chord is shrill, "like the note of a
swallow." A poor and unwarlike simile, it seems! But in the next book,
when Ulysses stands with his bow lifted, and Telemachus has brought the
lances, and laid them at his feet, and Athena comes to his side to
encourage him,--do you recollect the gist of her speech? "You fought,"
she says, "nine years for the sake of Helen, and for another's
house:--now, returned, after all those wanderings, and under your own
roof, for it, and its treasures, will you not fight, then?" And she
herself flies up to the house-roof, and thence, _in the form of the
swallow_, guides the arrows of vengeance for the violation of the
sanctities of home.

80. To-day, then, I believe verily for the first time, I have been able
to put before you some means of guidance to understand the beauty of
the bird which lives with you in your own houses, and which purifies
for you, from its insect pestilence, the air that you breathe. Thus the
sweet domestic thing has done, for men, at least these four thousand
years. She has been their companion, not of the home merely, but of the
hearth, and the threshold; companion only endeared by departure, and
showing better her loving-kindness by her faithful return. Type
sometimes of the stranger, she has softened us to hospitality; type
always of the suppliant, she has enchanted us to mercy; and in her
feeble presence, the cowardice, or the wrath, of sacrilege has changed
into the fidelities of sanctuary. Herald of our summer, she glances
through our days of gladness; numberer of our years, she would teach us
to apply our hearts to wisdom;--and yet, so little have we regarded
her, that this very day, scarcely able to gather from all I can find
told of her enough to explain so much as the unfolding of her wings, I
can tell you nothing of her life--nothing of her journeying: I cannot
learn how she builds, nor how she chooses the place of her wandering,
nor how she traces the path of her return. Remaining thus blind and
careless to the true ministries of the humble creature whom God has
really sent to serve us, we in our pride, thinking ourselves surrounded
by the pursuivants of the sky, can yet only invest them with majesty by
giving them the calm of the bird's motion, and shade of the bird's
plume:--and after all, it is well for us, if, when even for God's best
mercies, and in His temples marble-built, we think that, "with angels
and archangels, and all the company of Heaven, we laud and magnify His
glorious name"--well for us, if our attempt be not only an insult, and
His ears open rather to the inarticulate and unintended praise, of "the
Swallow, twittering from her straw-built shed."



81. I believe that somewhere I have already observed, but permit
myself, for immediate use, to repeat what I cannot but think the
sagacious observation,--that the arrangement of any sort of animals
must be, to say the least, imperfect, if it be founded only on the
characters of their feet. And, of all creatures, one would think birds
were those which, continually dispensing with the use of their feet,
would require for their classification some attention also to be paid
to their bodies and wings,--not to say their heads and tails.
Nevertheless, the ornithological arrangement at present in vogue may
suffice for most scientific persons; but in grouping birds, so that the
groups may be understood and remembered by children, I must try to make
them a little more generally descriptive.

82. In talking of parrots, for instance, it is only a small part of the
creature's nature which is told by its scientific name of 'Scansor,' or
'Climber.' That it only clutches with its claws, and does not snatch or
strike with them;--that it helps itself about with its beak, on
branches, or bars of cage, in an absurd manner, as if partly imagining
itself hung up in a larder, are by no means the most vital matters
about the bird. Whereas, that its beak is always extremely short, and
is bent down so roundly that the angriest parrot cannot peck, but only
_bite_, if you give it a chance; that it _can_ bite, pinch, or
otherwise apply the mechanism of a pair of nut-crackers from the back
of its head, with effect; that it has a little black tongue capable of
much talk; above all, that it is mostly gay in plumage, often to
vulgarity, and always to pertness;--all these characters should surely
be represented to the apprehensive juvenile mind, in sum; and not
merely the bird's climbing qualities.

83. Again, that the race of birds called in Latin 'Rasores' _do_, in
the search for their food, usually scratch, and kick out their legs
behind, living for the most part in gravelly or littery places, of
which the hidden treasures are only to be discovered in that manner,
seems to me no supremely interesting custom of the animal's life, but
only a _manner_ of its household, or threshold, economy. But that the
tribe, on the whole, is unambitiously domestic, and never predatory;
that they fly little and low, eat much of what they can pick up without
trouble--and are _themselves_ always excellent eating;--yet so
exemplary in their own domestic cares and courtesies that one is
ashamed to eat them except in eggs;--that their plumage is for the most
part warm brown, delicately and even bewitchingly spotty;--and that, in
the goodliest species, the spots become variegated, and inlaid as in a
Byzantine pavement, deepening to imperial purple and azure, and
lightening into luster of innumerable eyes;--all this, I hold, very
clearly and positively, should be explained to children as a part of
science, quite as exact, and infinitely more gracious, than that which
reckons up the whole tribe of loving and luminous creatures under the
feebly descriptive term of 'Scratchers.'

I will venture therefore to recommend my younger readers, in classing
birds, to think of them literally from top to toe--from toe to top I
should say,--foot, body, and head, studying, with the body, the wings
that bear it; and with the head, what brains it can bring to bear on
practical matters, and what sense on sentimental. But indeed,
primarily, you have to consider whether the bird altogether may not be
little more than a fat, cheerful little stomach, in a spotted
waistcoat, and with legs to it. That is the main definition of a great
many birds--meant to eat all day, chiefly, grubs, or grain--not at all,
unless under wintry and calamitous conditions, meant to fast painfully,
or be in concern about their food. Faultless in digestion--dinner
lasting all day long, with the delight of social intercourse--various
chirp and chatter. Flying or fluttering in a practical, not stately,
manner: hopping and creeping intelligently. Sociable to man extremely,
building and nestling and rustling about him,--prying and speculating,
curiously watchful of him at his work, if likely to be profitable to
themselves, or even sometimes in mere pitying sympathy, and wonder how
such a wingless and beakless creature can do _any_thing.[17]

      [17] Compare 'Paradise of Birds,' (song to the young Roc, page
      67,) and see close of lecture for notes on that book.

84. The balance of this kind of bird on its legs is a very important
part of its--diagnosis; (we must have a fine word now and then!) Its
action on the wing, is mere flutter or flirt, in and out of the hedge,
or over it; but its manner of perch, or literally 'bien-séance,' is
admirable matter of interest. So also in the birds which are on the
water what these are on land; picking up anything anywhere; lazy and
fortunate, mostly, themselves; fat, floating, daintiest
darlings;--_their_ balance on the water, also, and under it, in
'ducking,' a most essential part of their business and being.

85. Then, directly opposed to these, in both kinds, you have the birds
which must fast long, and fly far, and watch or fight for their food.
Not stomachic in profile; far from cheerful in disposition; more or
less lonely in habit; or, if gregarious, out of the way of men. The
balance of these on the wing, is no less essential a part of their
picturing, than that of the buntings, robins, and ducks on the foot, or
breast: and therefore, especially the position of the head in flying.

86. Accordingly, for complete ornithology, _every_ bird must be drawn,
as every flower for good botany, both in profile, and looking down upon
it: but for the perchers, the standing profile is the most essential;
and for the falcons and gulls, the flying _plan_,--the outline of the
bird, as it would be seen looking down on it, when its wings were

Then, in connection with these general outlines, we want systematic
plan and profile of the foot and head; but since we can't have
everything at once, let us say the plan of the foot, and profile of the
head, quite accurately given; and for every bird consistently, and to

Profile and plan in outline; then, at least the _head_ in light and
shade, from life, so as to give the expression of the eye. Fallacious,
this latter, often, as an indication of character; but deeply
significant of habit and power: thus the projecting, full, bead, which
enables the smaller birds to see the smallest insect or grain with good
in it, gives them much of their bright and often arch expression; while
the flattened iris under the beetling brow of the falcons,--projecting,
not in frown, but as roof, to shade the eye from interfering
skylight,--gives them their apparently threatening and ominous gaze;
the iris itself often wide and pale, showing as a lurid saturnine ring
under the shadow of the brow plumes.

87. I speak of things that are to be: very assuredly they will be done,
some day--not far off, by painters educated as gentlemen, in the
strictest sense--working for love and truth, and not for lust and gold.
Much has already been done by good and earnest draughtsmen, who yet had
not received the higher painter's education, which would have enabled
them to see the bird in the greater lights and laws of its form. It is
only here and there, by Dürer, Holbein, Carpaccio, or other such men,
that we get a living bird rightly drawn;[18] but we may be greatly
thankful for the unspared labor, and attentive skill, with which many
illustrations of ornithology have been produced within the last seventy
or eighty years. Far beyond rivalship among them, stands Le Vaillant's
monograph, or dualgraph, on the Birds of Paradise, and Jays: its
plates, exquisitely engraved, and colored with unwearying care by hand,
are insuperable in plume-texture, hue, and action,--spoiled in effect,
unhappily, by the vulgar boughs for sustentation. Next, ranks the
recently issued history of the birds of Lombardy; the lithographs by
Herr Oscar Dressler, superb, but the coloring (chromo-lithotint) poor:
and then, the self-taught, but in some qualities greatly to be
respected, art of Mr. Gould. Of which, I would fain have spoken with
gratitude and admiration in his lifetime; had not I known, that the
qualified expressions necessary for true estimate of his published
plates, would have caused him more pain, than any general praise could
have counteracted or soothed. Without special criticism, and rejoicing
in all the pleasure which any of my young pupils may take in his
drawing,--only guarding them, once for all, against the error of
supposing it exemplary as art,--I use his plates henceforward for
general reference; finding also that, following Mr. Gould's practical
and natural arrangement, I can at once throw together in groups, easily
comprehensible by British children, all they are ever likely to see of
British or Britain-visitant birds: which I find fall, with frank
casting, into these following divisions, not in any important matters
varying from the usual ones, and therefore less offensive, I hope, to
the normal zoologist than my heresies in botany; while yet they enable
me to make what I have to say about our native birds more simply
presentable to young minds.[19]

      [18] The Macaw in Sir Joshua's portrait of the Countess of Derby
      is a grand example.

      [19] See the notes on classification, in the Appendix to the
      volume; published, together with the Preface, simultaneously with
      this number.

88.  1. The HAWKS come first, of course, massed under the single Latin
term 'Falco,' and next them,

     2. The OWLS second, also of course,--unmistakable, these two tribes,
in all types of form, and ways of living.

     3. The SWALLOWS I put next these, being connected with the owls by
the Goatsucker, and with the falcons by their flight.

     4. The PIES next, whose name has a curious double meaning, derived
partly from the notion of their being painted or speckled birds; and
partly from their being, beyond all others, pecking, or pickax-beaked,
birds. They include, therefore, the Crows, Jays, and Woodpeckers;
historically and practically a most important order of creatures to
man. Next which, I take the great company of the smaller birds of the
dry land, under these following more arbitrary heads.

     5. The SONGSTERS. The Thrush, Lark, Blackbird, and Nightingale, and
one or two choristers more. These are connected with the pheasants in
their speckledness, and with the pies in pecking; while the nightingale
leads down to the smaller groups of familiar birds.

     6. The ROBINS, going on into the minor warblers, and the Wrens;
the essential character of a Robin being that it should have some front
red in its dress somewhere; and the Cross-bills being included in the
class, partly because they have red in their dress, and partly because
I don't know where else to put them.

     7. The CREEPERS and TITS--separated chiefly on the ground of their
minuteness, and subtle little tricks and graces of movement.

     8. The SPARROWS, going on into Buntings and Finches.

     9. The PHEASANTS (substituting this specific name for that of

    10. The HERONS; for the most part wading and fishing creatures,
but leading up to the Stork, and including any long-legged birds that
run well, such as the Plovers.

    11. The DABCHICKS--the subject of our present chapter.

    12. The SWANS and GEESE.

    13. The DUCKS.

    14. The GULLS.

Of these, I take the Dabchicks first, for three sufficient reasons;--that
they give us least trouble,--that they best show what I mean by broad
principles of grouping,--and that they are the effective clasp, if not
center, of all the series; since they are the true link between land
and water birds. We will look at one or two of their leading examples,
before saying more of their position in bird-society. I shall give for
the heading of each article, the name which I propose for the bird in
English children's schools--_Dame_-schools if possible; a perfectly
simple Latin one, and a familiar English one. The varieties of existing
nomenclature will be given in the Appendix, so far as I think them
necessary to be known or remembered.



89. There are very few good popular words which do not unite two or
more ideas, being founded on one, and catching up others as they go
along. Thus I find 'dabchick' to be a corruption of 'dip-chick,'
meaning birds that only dip, and do not dive, or even duck, for any
length of time: but in its broader and customary use it takes up the
idea of dabbling; and, as a class-name, stands for 'dabbling-chick,'
meaning a bird of small size, that neither wades, nor dives, nor runs,
nor swims, nor flies, in a consistent manner; but humorously dabbles,
or dips, or flutters, or trips, or plashes, or paddles, and is always
doing all manner of odd and delightful things: being also very
good-humored, and in consequence, though graceful, inclined to
plumpness;[20] and though it never waddles, sometimes, for a minute or
two, 'toddles,' and now and then looks more like a ball than a bird.
For the most part, being clever, they are also brave, and would be as
tame as any other chickens, if we would let them. They are mostly shore
birds, living at the edge of irregularly broken water, either streams
or sea; and the representative of the whole group with which we will
begin is the mysterious little water-ouzel, or 'oiselle,' properly the
water-blackbird,--Buffon's 'merle d'eau'--for ouzel is the classic and
poetic word for the blackbird, or ouzel-_cock_, "so black of hue," in
'Midsummer Night's Dream.' Johnson gives it from the Saxon 'osle'; but
in Chaucer it must be understood simply as the feminine of oiseau. The
bird in question might, however, be more properly called, as Bewick
calls it, 'water pyot,' or water magpie, for only its back and wings
are black,--its head brown, and breast snow white.

      [20] Or in French, 'embonpoint.'

90. And now I must, once for all, get over a difficulty in the
description of birds' costume. I can always describe the neck-feathers,
as such, when birds have any neck to speak of; but when, as the
majority of dabchicks, they have not any,--instead of talking of
'throat-feathers' and 'stomach-feathers,' which both seem to me rather
ugly words, I shall call the breast feathers the 'chemisette,' and all
below them the 'bodice.'

I am now able, without incivility, to distinguish the two families of
Water-ouzel. Both have white chemisettes, but the common water-ouzel
(Cinclus aquaticus of Gould) has a white bodice, and the other a black
one, the bird being called therefore, in ugly Greek, 'Melanogaster,'
'black-stomached.' The black bodice is Norwegian fashion--the white,
English; and I find that in Switzerland there is an intermediate
Robin-ouzel, with a red bodice: but the ornithologists are at variance
as to his 'specific' existence. The chemisette is always white.

91. However dressed, and wherever born, the Ouzel is essentially a
mountain-torrent bird, and, Bewick says, may be seen perched on a stone
in the midst of a stream, in a continual _dipping_ motion, or short
curtsey often repeated, while it is watching for its food, which
consists of small fishes and insects,--water insects, that is to say,
caught mostly at the bottom; many-legged and shrimpy things, according
to Gould's plate. The popular tradition that it can walk under the
water has been denied by scientific people; but there is no doubt
whatever of the fact,--see the authentic evidence of it in the
delightful little monograph of the bird published by the Carlisle
Naturalist's Society; but how the thing is done nobody but the ouzel
knows. Its strong little feet, indeed, have plenty of grip in them, but
cannot lay hold of smooth stones, and Mr. Gould himself does not solve
the problem. "Some assert that it is done by clinging to the pebbles
with its strong claws; others, by considerable exertion and a rapid
movement of the wings. Its silky plumage is impervious to wet; and
hence when the bird returns to the surface, the pearly drops which roll
off into the stream are the only evidence of its recent submersion. It
is, indeed, very interesting to observe _this pretty bird walk down a
stone, quietly descend into the water_, rise again perhaps at a
distance of several yards down the stream, and 'fly'[21] back to the
place it had just left, to perform the same maneuver the next minute,
the silence of the interval broken by its cheerful warbling song."

      [21] "Wing its way" in the ornithological language. I shall take
      leave usually to substitute the vulgar word 'fly,' for this
      poetical phrase.

92. In which, you see, we have the reason for its being called
'water-blackbird,' being, I think, the only one of the dabchicks that
really sings. Some of the others, (sand-pipers) pipe; and others, the
stints, say 'stint' in a charming manner; but none of them _sing_
except the oiselle. Very singularly, the black-bodiced one seems to
like living near manufactories. "The specimen in the Norwich Museum,"
says Mr. Gould, "is the one mentioned by Mr. Lubbock, in 1845, as
'lately' shot at Hellesdon Mills; and two others are stated by the same
author to have been seen at different times by trustworthy observers at
Marlingford and Saxthorpe. Of more recent occurrence I may mention a
male in my own collection, which was brought to me in the flesh, having
been shot in November, 1855, whilst hovering over the river between the
foundry bridge and the ferry. It is not a little singular that a bird
so accustomed to the clear running streams of the north, and the quiet
haunts of the 'silent angler,' should be found, as in this case, almost
within the walls of the city, sporting over a river turbid and
discolored from the neighboring factories, and with the busy noise of
traffic on every side. About the same time that this bird appeared near
the city, three others were observed on more than one occasion on the
Earlham river, by Mr. Fountaine, of Easton, who is well acquainted with
our British birds; but these suddenly disappeared, and were not seen

And all will disappear, and never be seen again, but in skeleton,
ill-covered with camphorated rags of skin, under the present scientific
dispensation; unless some kind-hearted northern squire will let them
have the run and the dip of his brooks; and teach the village children
to let them alone if they like to wade down to the village.

I am sixty-two, and have passed as much time out of those years by
torrent sides as most people. But I have never seen a water-ouzel



93. We have got so far, by help of our first example, in the etymology
of our entire class, as to rest in the easily memorable root 'dab,'
short for dabble, as the foundation of comprehensive nomenclature. But
the earlier (if not Aryan!) root 'dip,' must be taken good heed to,
also, because, as we further study the customs of aquatic chickens, we
shall find that they really mass themselves under the three great heads
of 'Duckers,' birds that duck their heads only, and stick up their
tails in the air;--'Dippers,' birds that take real dips under, but not
far down, in shallow water mostly, for things at the bottom, or else to
get out of harm's way, staying down about as long as we could
ourselves, if we were used to it;--and 'Divers,' who plunge like stones
when they choose,--can go nobody knows how deep in the deep sea,--and
swim under the water just as comfortably as upon it, and as fast, if
not faster.

But although this is clearly the practical and poetical division, we
can't make it a scientific one; for the dippers and dabblers are so
like each other that we must take them together; and so also the
duckers and divers are inseparable in some of their forms: so that, for
convenience of classing, we must keep to the still more general rank I
have given--dabchick, duck, and gull,--the last being essentially the
aerial sea-bird, which _lives_ on the wing.

94. But there is yet one more 'mode of motion' to be thought of, in the
class we are now examining. Several of them ought really to be
described, not as dipchicks, but as _trip_-chicks; being, as far as I
can make out, little in the habit of going under water; but much in the
habit of walking or tripping daintily over it, on such raft or float as
they may find constructed for them by water-lily or other buoyant
leaves. Of these "come and trip it as you come" chicks,--(my emendation
of Milton is surely more reasonable than the emendations of commentators
as a body, for we do not, any of us, like to see our mistresses "trip
it as they _go_")--there are, I find, pictured by Mr. Gould, three
'species,' called by him, Porzana Minuta, Olivaceous Crake; Porzana
Pygmæa, Baillon's Crake; and Porzana Maruetta, Spotted Crake.

Now, in the first place, I find 'Porzana' to be indeed Italian for
'water-hen,' but I can't find its derivation; and in the second place,
these little birds are neither water-hens nor moor-hens, nor
water-cocks nor moor-cocks; neither can I find, either in Gould,
Yarrell, or Bewick, the slightest notice of their voices!--though it is
only in implied depreciation of their quality, that we have any
business to call them 'Crakes,' 'Croaks,' or 'Creaks.' In the third
place, 'Olivaceous' is not a translation of 'Minuta,' nor 'Baillon's'
of 'Pygmæa,' nor 'spotted' of 'Maruetta'; which last is another of the
words that mean nothing in any language that I know of, though the
French have adopted it as 'Marouette.' And in the fourth place, I can't
make out any difference, either in text or picture, between Mr.
Baillon's Crake, and the 'minute' one, except that the minute one is
the bigger, and has fewer white marks in the center of the back.

95. For our purposes, therefore, I mean to call all the three
varieties neither Crake nor Porzan, but 'Allegretta,' which will at
once remind us of their motion; the larger one, nine inches long, I
find called always Spotted Crake, so that shall be 'Allegretta
Maculata,' Spotty Allegret; and the two little ones shall be, one, the
Tiny Allegret, and the other the Starry Allegret (Allegretta Minuta,
and Allegretta Stellaris); all the three varieties being generally
thought of by the plain English name I have given at the head of this
section, 'Lily-Ouzel' (see, in § 7, page 5, the explanation of my
system of dual epithet, and its limitations. I note, briefly, what may
be properly considered distinctive in the three kinds.)



96. Water-Crake or 'Skitty' of Bewick,--French, 'Poule d'eau
Marouette,' (we may perhaps take Marouette as euphonious for Maculata,
but I wish I knew what it meant);--though so light of foot, flies
heavily; and, when compelled to take wing, merely passes over the tops
of the reeds to some place of security a short distance off. (Gould.)
The body is "in all these Rails _compressed_" (Yarrell,--he means
laterally thin), which enables them to make their way through dense
herbage with facility. I can't find anything clear about its country,
except that it 'occasionally visits' Sweden in summer, and Smyrna in
winter, and that it has been found in Corfu, Sicily, Crete,--Whittlesea
Mere,--and Yarley Fen;--in marshes always, wherever it is; (nothing
said of its behavior on ice,) and not generally found farther north
than Cumberland. Its food is rather nasty--water-slugs and the
like,--but it is itself as fat as an ortolan, "almost melts in the
_hand_." (Gould.) Its own color, brown spotted with white; "the spots
on the wing coverts surrounded with black, which gives them a studded
or pearly appearance." (Bewick,--he means by 'pearly,' rounded or
projecting.) Hence my specific epithet. Its young are of the liveliest
black, "little balls of black glistening down," beautifully put by Mr.
Gould among the white water Crowfoot (Ranunculus Aquatilis), looking
like little ducklings in mourning. "Its nest is made of rushes and
other buoyant materials matted together, so as to float on, and rise or
fall with, the ebbing or flowing of the water like a boat; and to
prevent its being carried away, it is moored or fastened to a reed."



97. Called 'Stellaris' by Temminck.--I do not find why, but it is by
much the brightest in color of the three, and may be thought of as the
star of them. Gould says it is the least, also, and calls it the
'Pigmy'; but we can't keep that name without confusing it with the
'Minuta.' 'Baillon's Crake' seems the most commonly accepted title,--as
the worst possible. Both this, and the more quietly toned Tiny, in Mr.
Gould's delightful plates of them, have softly brown backs, exquisitely
ermined by black markings at the root of each feather, following into
series of small waves, like little breakers on sand. They have lovely
gray chemisettes, striped gray bodices, and green bills and feet; a
little orange stain at the root of the green bill, and the bright red
iris of the eye have wonderful effect in warming the color of the whole
bird: and with beautiful fancy Mr. Gould has put the Stellaris among
yellow water-lilies to set off its gray; and a yellow butterfly with
blue and red spots, and black-speckled wings (Papilio Machaon), to
harmonize both. It is just as if the flower were gradually turning into
the bird. Examples of the Starry Allegret _have_ been 'obtained'--in
the British Islands. It is said to be numerous, unobtained, in India,
China, Japan, Persia, Greece, North Africa, Italy, and France. I have
never heard of anybody's seeing it, however.



98. 'Tiny Allegret,'--Yarrell's 'Little Crake,' (but see names in
Appendix). It is a little more rosy than 'Stellaris' in the gray of its
neck, passing into brown; and Mr. Gould has put it with a pink water
plant, which harmonizes with it to the bird's advantage; while the tiny
creature stands on the bent leaf of a reed, and scarcely bends it more!
"It runs with rapidity over broken reeds, and moves gracefully, raising
and displaying its tail at every step." It has so very small a tail to
display, however, that I should hardly think the display was worth
while. "It is very cunning, and especially noticeable for the subtlety
with which it wearies the dog of the sportsman by executing a thousand
evolutions with surprising celerity; whence comes the trivial name of
'kill-dog' bestowed upon it in some localities. Pursued to extremity,
it casts itself into the water, swims with ease, and dives at the
moment its enemy is about to seize it; or it conceals itself in a tuft
of reeds or a bush, and by this means often escapes with impunity. It
loves to breed among the reeds, and in long and thick grass, frequently
in small companies of its own species, or of the Stellaris. The female
lays her eggs on an inartificially constructed platform of decayed
leaves or stalks of marsh plants, slightly elevated above the water."
How elevated, I cannot find proper account,--that is to say, whether it
is hung to the stems of growing reeds, or built on hillocks of soil,
but the bird is always liable to have its nest overflowed by floods.
The full-grown bird is dressed in an exquisite perfection of barred
bodice, spotted chemisette, and waved feathers edged with gray on the

99. The reader will please recollect these three Allegrets as the
second group of the dab- or dabble-chicks; and, while the water-ouzel
is a mountain and torrent bird, these inhabit exclusively flat lands
and calm water, belonging properly to temperate, inclining to warm,
climates, and able to gladden for us--as their name now given
implies--many scenes and places otherwise little enlivened; and to make
the very gnats of them profitable to us, were we wise enough. Dainty
and delightful creatures in all their ways,--voice only dubitable, but
I hope not a shriek or a squeak;--and there seems to be no reason
whatever why half our fen lands should not be turned into beds of white
water lilies and golden ducks, with jetty ducklings, to the great
comfort of English souls.[22]

      [22] Compare Bishop Stanley's account of the larger tropical
      'Jacana,' p. 311. "One species is often tamed, and from its being
      a resolute enemy to birds of prey, the inhabitants of the
      countries where it is found" (which be they?) "rear it as a
      protector for their fowls, as it not only feeds with them, but
      accompanies them into the fields, and brings them back in the



100. The two birds--Torrent-ouzel, and Lily-ouzel,--which we have been
just describing, agree, you will observe, in delicate and singular use
of their feet in the water; the torrent-ouzel holding itself
mysteriously at the bottom; and the lily-ouzel, less mysteriously, but
as skillfully, on the top (for I forgot to note, respecting this
raft-walking, that the bird, however light, must be always careful not
to tread on the edges of leaves, but in the middle, or, rather, as
nearly as may be where they are set on the stalk; it would go in at
once if it trod on the edges). But both the birds have the foot which
is really characteristic of land, not water-birds; and especially of
those land species that run well. Of the real action of the toes,
either in running, or hopping, nothing is told us by the
anatomists--(compare lecture on Robin, § 26); but I hope before long to
get at some of the facts respecting the greater flexibility of the
gripping and climbing feet, and elasticity of running ones; and to draw
up something like a properly graduated scale of the length of the toes
in proportion to that of the body.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.]

And, for one question, relative to this--the balance of a bird
_standing_, not gripping--is to be thought of. Taking a typical profile
of bird-form in its abstract, with beak, belly, and foot, horizontal
(Fig. 12), the security of the standing, (supposing atomic weight equal
through the bird's body, and the _will_, in the ankle, of iron,) is the
same as of an inverted cone, between the dotted lines from the
extremities of the foot to those of the body; and, of course, with a
little grip of the foot or hind claw, the bird can be safe in almost
any position it likes. Nevertheless, when the feet are as small in
proportion as the Torrent-ouzel's, I greatly doubt the possibility of
such a balance as Bewick has given it (Fig. 13 _a_). Gould's of the
black-bodiced Ouzel (Fig. 13 _b_) is, I imagine, right. Bewick was
infallible in plume texture, and expression either of the features of
animals, or of any action that had meaning in it; but he was singularly
careless of indifferent points in geometry or perspective; and even
loses character in his water-birds, by making them always swim on the
top of the water.

[Illustration: FIG. 13_a_.]

101. But, whatever their balance of body, or use of foot, the two birds
just examined are, as I said, essentially connected with the running
land birds, or broadly, the Plovers; and with the Sand-runners, or
(from their cry) Sandpipers, which Mr. Gould evidently associates
mentally with the Plovers, in his description of the plumage of the
Dunlin; while he gives to them in his plates of that bird--the little
Stint, and common Sandpiper--most subtle action with their fine
feet,--thread-fine, almost, in the toes; requiring us, it seems to me,
to consider them as entirely land-birds, however fond of the wave
margins. But the next real water-ouzel we come to, belongs to a group
with feet like little horse-chestnut leaves; each toe having its
separate lobes of web. Why separated, I cannot yet make out, but the
bird swims, or even dives, on occasion, with dexterity and force. These
lobe-footed birds consist first of the Grebes, which are connected with
fresh-water ducks; and, secondly, of the Phalaropes, which are a sort
of sea-gulls. No bird which is not properly web-footed has any business
to think itself either true duck or true gull; but as, both in size and
habit of life, the larger grebes and phalaropes are entirely aquatic
and marine, I shall take out of them into my class of dabchicks, only
those which are literally dabblers in habit, and chickens in size. And
of the Grebes, therefore, only the one commonly known as the Dabchick,
the 'Little Grebe,' 'Colymbus Minutus' (Minute Diver), of Linnæus. A
summary word or two, first, respecting the Grebe family, will be

[Illustration: FIG. 13_b_.]

102. Grebe, properly, I suppose, Grèbe, from the French, is not in
Johnson, nor do any of my books tell me what it means. I retain it,
however, as being short, not ugly, and well established in two
languages. We may think of it as formed from gré, and meaning 'a nice
bird.' The specialities of the whole class, easily remembered, are,
first, that they have chestnut-leaf feet; secondly, that their legs are
serrated behind with a double row of notches--(why?); thirdly, that
they have no tails; fourthly, that they have, most of them, very fine
and very comic crests, tufts, tippets, and other variously applied
appendages to their heads and chins, so that some are called 'crested,'
some 'eared,' some 'tippeted,' and so on; but the least of them, our
proper Dabchick, displays no absurdity of this sort, and I have the
less scruple in distinguishing it from others. I find, further, in
Stanley's classes, the Grebes placed among the short-winged birds, and
made to include all the divers; but he does not say how short their
wings are; and his grouping them with guillemots and puffins is
entirely absurd, all their ways and looks, and abodes, being those of
ducks. We can say no more of them as a family, accordingly, until we
know what a duck is;--and I go on to the little pet of them, whose ways
are more entirely its own.

103. Strangely, the most interesting fact (if _fact_ it be) that it
builds a floating nest, gains scarcely more than chance notice from its
historians. Here is Mr. Gould's account of it: "The materials composing
this raft or nest are weeds and aquatic plants carefully heaped
together in a rounded form; it is very large at the base, and is so
constantly added to, that a considerable portion of it becomes
submerged; at the same time it is sufficiently buoyant to admit of its
saucer-like hollow top being always above the surface. In this wet
depression five or six eggs are laid. The bird, always most alert, is
still more so now, and scarcely ever admits of a near examination of
the nest-making, or of a view of the eggs. In favorable situations,
however, and with the aid of a telescope, the process may be watched;
and it is not a little interesting to notice with what remarkable
quickness the dabchick scratches the weeds over her eggs with her feet,
when she perceives herself observed, so as not to lead even to the
suspicion that any were deposited on the ill-shapen floating mass. This
work of an instant displays as much skill in deception as can well be

104. It is still left to question, first, what is meant by a wet
depression?--does the bird actually sit in the water, and are the eggs
under it? and, if not, how is the water kept out? Secondly, is the
floating nest anchored, and how? Looking to other ornithologists for
solution of these particulars, I find nobody else say anything about a
floating nest at all. Bewick describes it as being of a large size, and
composed of a very great quantity of grass and water plants, at least a
foot in thickness, and so placed in the water that the female hatches
her eggs amidst the continual wet in which they were first laid.
Yarrell says only that it is a large flat nest made of aquatic plants;
while Morris finally complicates the whole business by telling us that
the nest is placed often as much as twenty or thirty yards from the
water, that it is composed of short pieces of roots, reeds, rushes, and
flags, and that when dry the whole naturally becomes very brittle.[23]

      [23] I hear, from a friend in whose statements I have absolute
      confidence, that he has found the eggs of the water-hen laid on a
      dead sycamore leaf by the side of a shallow stream, one of the
      many brooks near Uxbridge.

105. While, out of my fifteen volumes of ornithology, I can obtain only
this very vague account of the prettiest bird, next to the kingfisher,
that haunts our English rivers, I have no doubt the most precise and
accurate accounts are obtainable of the shapes of her bones and the
sinuosities of her larynx; but about these I am low-minded enough not
to feel the slightest curiosity. I return to Mr. Gould, therefore, to
gather some pleasanter particulars; first, namely, that she has a
winter and summer dress,--in winter olive gray and white, but in
summer, (changing at marriage time) deep olive black, with dark
chestnut chemisette. Infant dabchicks have "delicate rose-colored
bills, harlequin-like markings, and rosy-white aprons." The
harlequin-like markings I should call, rather, agate-like, especially
on the head, where they are black and white, like an onyx. The bodies
look more like a little walnut-shell, or nutmeg with wings to it, or
things that are to be wings, some day.

106. Even when full-grown, the birds never fly much,--never more, says
Morris, "than six or ten feet above the water, and for the most part
trailing their legs in it; but either on the water or under it, every
movement is characterized by the most consummate dexterity, and facile
agility. The most expert waterman that sculls his skiff on the Thames
or Isis, is but an humble and unskillful imitator of the dabchick. In
moving straightforward (under water?), the wings are used to aid its
progress, as if in the air, and in turning it has an easy gliding
motion, feet and wings being used, as occasion requires, sometimes on
one side and sometimes on the other. It walks but indifferently, as may
readily be imagined from the position of the legs, so very far back. It
is pleasant to watch the parent bird feeding her young: down she dives
with a quick turn, and presently rises again with, five times out of
six, a minnow, or other little fish, glittering like silver in her
bill. The young rush towards the spot where the mother has come up, but
she does not drop the fish into the water for them to receive until she
has well shaken it about and killed it, so that it may not escape, when
for the last time in its own element. I have seen a young one which had
just seized, out of its turn I have no doubt, the captured prey, chased
away by her, and pursued in apparent anger, as if for punishment, the
following one being willingly given the next fish without any demur."

107. Mr. Gould seems to think that the dabchick likes insects and fish
spawn better than fish, or at least more prudently dines upon them.
"That fish are taken we have positive evidence from examples having
been repeatedly picked up dead by the fishermen of the Thames, with a
bull-head or miller's thumb in their throats, and by which they had
evidently been choked in the act of swallowing them. That it is
especially fond of insects is shown by the great activity it displays,
when in captivity, in capturing house-flies and other diptera. Those
who have visited Paris will probably have seen the grebes in the window
of the restaurateur in the Rue de Rivoli. For years have a pair of
these birds been living, apparently in the greatest enjoyment, within
the glass window, attracting the admiration of all the passers-by. The
extreme agility with which they sailed round their little prison, or
scrambled over the half-submerged piece of rock for a fly, was very
remarkable. That no bird can be more easily kept in a state of
confinement is certain."

108. This question about its food is closely connected with that of
its diving. So far as I understand Mr. Morris, it dives only when
disturbed, and to escape,--remaining under water, however, if need
be, an almost incredible time, and swimming underneath it to great
distances. Here we have, if we would only think of it, the same
question as that about the water-ouzel, how it _keeps down_; and
we must now note a few general points about diving birds altogether.

It is easy to understand how the properly so-called divers can plunge
with impetus to great depths, or keep themselves at the bottom by
continued strokes of the webbed feet; but neither how the ouzel walks
at the bottom, if it be specifically lighter than the water, nor how a
bird can swim horizontally under the surface; at least it is not enough
explained that the action must be always that of oblique diving, the
bird regulating the stroke according to the upward pressure of the
water at different depths.

109. But there are many other points needing elucidation. It is said
(and beautifully insisted on, by Michelet,) that great spaces in the
bones of birds that pass most of their lives in flight are filled with
air: presumably the bones of the divers are made comparatively solid,
or it is even conceivable--if conceptions or suppositions were of any
use,--that the deep divers may take in water, to help themselves to
sink. The enormous depths at which they have been caught, according to
report, cannot be reached by any mere effort of strength, if the body
remained as buoyant as it evidently is on the surface. The strength of
the wing must, however, be enormous, for the great northern diver is
described as swimming under water "as it were with the velocity of an
arrow in the air" (Yarrell, vol. iii., page 431); or to keep to more
measured fact, Sir William Jardine says, "I have pursued this bird in a
Newhaven fishing-boat with four sturdy rowers, and notwithstanding it
was kept almost constantly under water by firing as soon as it
appeared, the boat could not succeed in making one yard upon it"
(_ibid._, p. 432).

110. But this is followed by the amazing statement of Mr. Robert Dunn,
p. 433, that in the act of diving it does not appear to make the least
exertion, but sinks gradually under the surface, without throwing
itself forward, the head being the last part that disappears. I am not
fond of the word 'impossible,' but I think I am safe in saying that
according to the laws of nature no buoyant body can sink merely by an
act of volition; and that it must pull itself down by some hitherto
unconceived action of the feet, which in this bird are immensely broad
and strong, and so flat that it cannot walk with them, any more than we
could with two flat boards a yard square tied to our feet; but, when it
is caught on land, shoves its body along upon the ground, like a seal,
by jerks. All these diving motions are executed in a more delicate but
quite as wonderful way by the dabchick,--more wonderful indeed it may
be said, because it has only the divided or chestnut-leaf-like foot, to
strike with. We shall understand it perhaps a little better after
tracing, in a future talk, the history of its relations among the
smaller sea-gulls; meantime, in quitting the little dainty creature, I
must plead for a daintier Latin name than it has now--'Podiceps.' No
one seems to have the least idea what that means; and 'Colymbus,'
diver, must be kept for the great Northern Diver and his deep-sea
relatives, far removed from our little living ripple-line of the pools.
I can't think of any one pretty enough; but for the present 'Trepida'
may serve; and perhaps be applied, not improperly, to all the Grebes,
with reference to their subtle and instant escape from any sudden
danger. (See Stanley, p. 419.) "It requires all the address of a keen
sportsman to get within shot," and when he does, the bird may still be
too shrewd for him. "I fired at the distance of thirty yards; my gun
went quick as lightning, but the grebe went quicker, and scrambling
over, out of sight, came up again in a few seconds perfectly unhurt."

I think, therefore, that unless I receive some better suggestion,
'Trepida Stagnarum' may be the sufficiently intelligible Latin renaming
of our easily startled favorite.



111. I must first get quit of the confusion of names for this bird.
Linnæus, in the Fauna Suecica, p. 64, calls it 'Tringa Lobata,' but
afterwards 'Northern Tringa'; and his editor, Gmelin, 'Dark Tringa.'
Other people agree to call it a 'phalarope,' but some of them
'northern' phalarope, some, the 'dark' phalarope; some, the 'ashy'
phalarope, some, the 'disposed to be ashy' phalarope; some, the
'red-necked' phalarope; and some, 'Mr. Williams's' phalarope; finally,
Cuvier calls it a 'Lobipes,' and Mr. Gould, in English, 'red-necked
phalarope.' Few people are likely to know what 'Phalarope' means,[24]
and I believe nobody knows what 'Tringa' means; and as, also, nobody
ever sees it, the little bird being obliged to live in Orkney,
Greenland, Norway, and Lapland, out of human creatures' way, I shall
myself call it the Arctic Fairy. It would come south if we would let
it, but of course Mr. Bond says, "The first specimen I ever had was
shot by a friend of mine in September, 1842, near Southend, Essex,
where he saw the phalarope swimming on the water, like a little duck,
about a mile from land; not knowing what it was, he shot it, and kindly
brought it to me." Another was shot while running between the metals of
the Great Eastern Railway, near the Stratford station, early in June,
1852; and on the Norfolk coast, four others have been killed during the
last fifteen years; and the birds' visits, thus, satisfactorily, put a
stop to. I can therefore study it only in Mr. Gould's drawing, on
consulting which, I find the bird to be simply a sea dabchick,--brown
stripes on the back, and all; but the webs of the feet a little finer,
and in its habits it is more like the Lily-ouzel, according to the
following report of Mr. St. John: "The red-necked phalarope is
certainly the most beautiful little wader of my acquaintance. There
were a pair of them, male and female, feeding near the loch, in a
little pool which was covered with weeds of different kinds. Nothing
could be more graceful than the movements of these two little birds, as
they swam about in search of insects, etc. Sometimes _they ran lightly
on the broad leaves of the water-lily which served them for a raft_,
and entirely kept them out of the water. Though not exactly web-footed,
the phalarope swims with the greatest ease. The attachment of these two
birds to each other seemed very great: whenever in their search for
food they wandered so far apart as to be hidden by the intervening
weeds, the male bird stopped feeding suddenly, and, looking round,
uttered a low and musical call of inquiry, which was immediately
answered by the female in a different note, but perfectly expressive of
her answer, which one might suppose to be to the purport that she was
at hand and quite safe; on hearing her, the male immediately
recommenced feeding, but at the same time making his way towards her;
she also flew to meet him; they then joined company for a moment or
two, and, after a few little notes of endearment, turned off again in
different directions. This scene was repeated a dozen times while I was
watching them. They seemed to have not the slightest fear of me, for
frequently they came to within a yard of where I was sitting, and after
looking up they continued catching the small water-insects, etc., on
the weeds, without minding my presence in the least." What reward the
birds got for this gentle behavior, we learn from the sentence
following after the next two lines, containing the extremely valuable
contribution to their natural history, that "on dissecting the female
we found two eggs in her."

      [24] The terminal 'pe' is short for pus, (pous!) and 'phalero,'
      from phalera, fringes--"Fringe-foot" (Morris).

112. All other accounts concur in expressing (with as much admiration
as is possible to naturalists) the kindly and frank disposition of this
bird; which for the rest is almost a central type of all bird power
with elf gifts added: it flies like a lark, trips on water-lily leaves
like a fairy, swims like a duck, and roves like a sea-gull, having been
seen sixty miles from land: and, finally, though living chiefly in
Lapland and Iceland, and other such northern countries, it has been
seen serenely swimming and catching flies in the hot water of the
geysers, in which a man could not bear his hand.

And no less harmoniously than in report of the extreme tameness, grace,
and affectionateness of this bird do sportsmen agree also in the
treatment and appreciation of these qualities. Thus says Mr. Salmon:
"Although we shot two pairs, those that were swimming about did not
take the least notice of the report of the gun, and they seemed to be
much attached to each other; for when one of them flew to a short
distance, the other directly followed; and while I held a wounded
female in my hand, its mate came and fluttered before my face."
(Compare the scene between Irene and Hector, at page 393 of the May
number of _Aunt Judy's Magazine_.) And, again, says Mr. Wolley: "The
bird is extremely tame, swimming about my india-rubber boat so near
that I could almost catch it in my hand; I have seen it even, when far
from its nest, struck at many times with an oar before it flew away."
In its domestic habits also the creature seems as exemplary as, in its
social habits, it is frank; for on the approach of danger to her
nestlings, the hen uses all the careful subtleties of the most cunning
land birds, "spreading her wings, and counterfeiting lameness, for the
purpose of deluding the intruder; and after leading the enemy from her
young, she takes wing and flies to a great height, at the same time
displaying a peculiar action of the wings; then descending with great
velocity, and making simultaneously a noise with her wings. On her
return to her young, she uses a particular cry for the purpose of
gathering them together. As soon as she has collected them, she covers
them with her wings, like the domestic hen."

113. I cannot quite make out the limits of the fairy's migrations; but
it is said by Morris to 'occur' in France, Holland, Germany, Italy, and
Switzerland. I find that one was what sportsmen call 'procured' near
York, in full summer dress; and another killed at Rottingdean, swimming
in a pond in the middle of the village, in the company of some ducks.
At Scarborough, Louth, and Shoreham, it has also been captured or shot,
and has been 'found' building nests in Sutherland: and, on the whole,
it seems that here is a sort of petrel-partridge, and duckling-dove,
and diving-lark, with every possible grace and faculty that bird can
have, in body and soul; ready, at least in summer, to swim on our
village ponds, or, wait at our railway stations, and make the wild
north-eastern coasts of Scotland gay with its dancing flocks upon the
foam; were it not that the idle cockneys, and pot-headed squires fresh
out of Parliament, stand as it were on guard all round the island,
spluttering small-shot at it, striking at it with oars, cutting it open
to find how many eggs there are inside, and, in fine, sending it for
refuge into the hot water of Hecla, and any manner of stormy solitude
that it can still find for itself and its amber nestlings. I have never
seen one, nor I suppose ever shall see, but hear of some of my friends
sunning themselves at midnight about the North Cape, of whom, if any
one will bring me a couple of Arctic fairies in a basket, I think I can
pledge our own Squire's and Squire's lady's faith, for the pair's
getting some peace, if they choose to take it, and as many water-lily
leaves as they can trip upon, on the tarns of Monk-Coniston.



_Phalaropus Fulicarius._ (_Coot-like Phalarope--Gould._)

114. I think the epithet 'changeful' prettier, and, until we know what
a coot _is_ like, more descriptive, than 'coot-like'; the bird having
red plumage in summer, and gray in winter, while the coot is always
black. It is a little less pretty and less amiable than its sister
fairy; otherwise scarcely to be thought of but as a variety, both of
them being distinguished from the coot, not only by color, but by their
smaller size;--(they eight inches long, it sixteen)--and by the slender
beaks, the coot having a thick one, half-way to a puffin's.

And here, once for all,--for I see I have taken no note yet of the
beaks or bills of my dabchicks,--I will at once arrange a formula of
the order of questions which it will be proper to ask, and get
answered, concerning any bird, in the same order always, so that we
shall never miss anything that we ought to think of. And I find these
questions will naturally and easily fall into the following twelve:

 1. Country, and scope of migration.
 2. Food.
 3. Form and flight.
 4. Foot.
 5. Beak and eye.
 6. Voice and ear.
 7. Temper.
 8. Nest.
 9. Eggs.
10. Brood.
11. Feathers.
12. Uses in the world.

It may be thought that I have forced--and not fallen into--my number
12, by packing the faculties of sight and hearing into by-corners. But
the expression of a bird's head depends on the relation of eye to beak,
as the getting of its food depends on their practical alliance of
power; and the question, for instance, whether peacocks and parrots
have musical ears, seems to me not properly debatable unless with due
respect to the quality of their voices. It is curious, considering how
much, one way or another, we are amused or pleased by the chatter and
song of birds, that you will scarcely find in any ornithic manual more
than a sentence, if so much, about their hearing; and I have not
myself, at this moment, the least idea where a nightingale's ears are!
But see Appendix, p. 122.

I retain, therefore, my dodecahedric form of catechism as sufficiently
clear; and without binding myself to follow the order of it in
strictness, if there be motive for discursory remark, it will certainly
prevent my leaving any bird insufficiently distinguished, and enable me
to arrange the collected statements about it in the most easily
compared order.

115. We will try it at once on this second variety of the Titania, of
which I find nothing of much interest in my books, and have nothing
discursive myself to say.

 1. Country. Arctic mostly; seen off Greenland, in lat. 68°, swimming
among icebergs three or four miles from shore. Abundant in Siberia, and
as far south as the Caspian. Migratory in Europe as far as Italy, yet
always rare. (Do a few only, more intelligently curious than the rest,
or for the sake of their health, travel?)

 2. Food. Small thin-skinned crustacea, and aquatic surface-insects.

 3. Form and flight. Stout, for a sea-bird; and they don't care to fly,
 preferring to _swim_ out of danger. Body 7 to 8 inches long; wings,
 from carpal joint to end, 4-3/4,--say 5. These quarters of inches, are
 absurd pretenses to generalize what varies in every bird. 8 inches
 long, by 10 across the wings open, is near enough. In future, the
 brief notification 8 × 10, 5 × 7, or the like, will enough express a
 bird's inches, unless it possess decorative appendage of tail, which
 must be noted separately.

 4. Foot. Chestnut-leaved in front toes, the lobes slightly serrated
on the edges. Hind toe without membrane. Color of foot, always black.

 5. Beak. Long, slender, straight. (How long? Drawn as about a fifth
of the bird's length--say an inch, or a little over.) Upper mandible
slightly curved down at the point. In Titania arctica, the beak is
longer and more slender.

 6. Voice. A sharp, short cry, not conceived by me enough to spell any
likeness of it.

 7. Temper. Gentle, passing into stupid, (it seems to me); one, in
meditative travel, lets itself be knocked down by a gardener with his

 8. Nest. Little said of it, the bird breeding chiefly in the North.
Among marshes, it is of weeds and grass; but among icebergs, of what?

 9. Eggs. Pear-shape; narrow ends together in nest; never more than

10. Brood. No account of.

11. Feathers. Mostly gray, passing into brown in summer, varied with
white on margin. Reddish chestnut or bay bodice--well oiled or

12. Uses. Fortunately, at present, unknown.



116. Thus far, we have got for representatives of our dabchick group,
eight species of little birds--namely, two Torrent-ouzels, three
Lily-ouzels, one Grebe, and two Titanias. And these we associate,
observe, not for any specialty of feature in them, but for common
character, habit, and size; so that, if perchance a child playing by
any stream, or on the sea-sands, perceives a companionable bird
dabbling in an equally childish and pleasant manner, he may not have to
look through half a dozen volumes of ornithology to find it; but may be
pretty sure it has been one of these eight. And having once fastened
the characters of these well in his mind, he may with ease remember
that the little grebe is the least of a family of chestnut-leaf-footed,
and sharp-billed creatures, which yet in size, color, and diving power,
go necessarily among Ducks, and cannot be classed with Dabblers; though
it must be always as distinctly kept in mind that a duck _proper_ has a
flat beak, and a fully webbed foot.

Again, he may recollect that with these leaf-footed ducks of the calm
and fresh waters, must be associated the leaf-footed or fringe-footed
ducks of the sea;--'phalaropes,' which by their short wings connect
themselves with many clumsy marine creatures, on their way to become
seals instead of birds; and that I have kept the two little Titanias
out of this class, not merely for their niceness, but because they are
not short-winged in any vulgar degree, but seem to have wings about as
long as a sandpiper's;--and indeed I had put the purple sandpiper,
Arquatella maritima, with them, in my own folio; only as the
Arquatella's feet are not chestnutty, she had better go with her own
kind in our notes on them.

117. But there are yet two birds, which I think well to put with our
eight dabchicks, though they are much larger than any of them,--partly
because of their disposition, and partly because of their plumage,--the
water-rail, and water-hen. Modern science, with instinctive horror of
all that is pretty to see, or easy to remember, entirely rejects the
plumage, as any element or noticeable condition of bird-kinds; nor have
I ever yet tried to make it one myself; yet there are certain qualities
of downiness in ducks, fluffiness in owls, spottiness in thrushes,
patchiness in pies, bronzed or rusty luster in cocks, and pearly
iridescence in doves, which I believe may be aptly brought into
connection with other defining characters; and when we find an entirely
similar disposition of plumage, and nearly the same form, in two birds,
I do not think that _mere_ difference in size should far separate them.

Bewick, accordingly, calls the water-rail the 'Brook-ouzel,' and puts
it between the little crake and the water-ouzel; but he does not say a
word of its living by brooks,--only 'in low wet places.' Buffon,
however, takes it with the land-rail; Gould and Yarrell put it between
the little crake and water-hen. Gould's description of it is by no
means clear to me:--he first says it is, in action, as much "like a rat
as a bird;" then that it "bounds like a ball," (before the nose of the
spaniel); and lastly, in the next sentence, speaks of it as "this
_lath_-like bird"! It is as large as a bantam, but can run, like the
Allegretta, on floating leaves; itself, weighing about four ounces and
a half (Bewick), and rarely uses the wing, flying very slowly. I
imagine the 'lath-like' must mean, like the more frequent epithet
'compressed,' that the bird's body is vertically thin, so as to go
easily between close reeds.

118. We will try our twelve questions again.

 1. Country. Equally numerous in every part of Europe, in Africa,
India, China, and Japan; yet hardly anybody seems to have seen it.
Living, however, "near the perennial fountains" (wherever those may
be;--it sounds like the garden of Eden!) "during the greater part of
the winter, the birds pass Malta in spring and autumn, and have been
seen fifty leagues at sea off the coast of Portugal" (Buffon); but
where coming from, or going to, is not told. Tunis is the most
southerly place named by Yarrell.

 2. Food. Anything small enough to be swallowed, that lives in mud or

 3. Form and flight. I am puzzled, as aforesaid, between its likeness
to a ball, and a lath. Flies heavily and unwillingly, hanging its legs

 4. Foot. Long-toed and flexible.

 5. Beak. Sharp and strong, some inch and a half long, showing
distinctly the cimeter-curve of a gull's, near the point.

 6. Voice. No account of.

 7. Temper. Quite easily tamable, though naturally shy. Feeds out of
the hand in a day or two, if fed regularly in confinement.

 8. Nest. "Slight, of leaves and strips of flags" (Gould); "of sedge
and grass, rarely found," (Yarrell). Size not told.

 9. Eggs. Eight or nine! cream-white, with rosy yolk!! rather larger
than a blackbird's!!!

10. Brood. Velvet black, with white bills; hunting with the utmost
activity from the minute they are hatched.

11. Feathers. Brown on the back, a beautiful warm ash gray on the
breast, and under the wings transverse stripes of very dark gray and
white. The disposition of pattern is almost exactly the same as in the

12. Uses. By many thought delicious eating. (Bewick.) The fact is, or
seems to me, that this entire group of marsh birds is meant to become
to us the domestic poultry of marshy land; and I imagine that by
proper irrigation and care, many districts of otherwise useless bog
and sand, might be made more profitable to us than many fishing-grounds.



(_Gallinula Chloropus.--Pennant, Bewick, Gould, and Yarrell._)

119. 'Green-footed little cock, or hen,' that is to say, in English;
only observe, if you call the Fringe-foot a Phalarope, you ought in
consistency to call the Green-foot a Chlorope. Their feet are not only
notable for greenness, but for size: they are very ugly, having the
awkward and ill-used look of the feet of Scratchers, while a trace of
beginning membrane connects them with the fringe-foots.

Their proper name would be Marsh-cock, which would enough distinguish
them from the true Moor-cock or Black-cock. 'Moat-cock' would be
prettier, and characteristic; for in the old English days they used to
live much in the moats of manor-houses; mine is the name nearest to the
familiar one; only note there is no proper feminine of 'pullus,' and I
use the adjective 'pulla' to express the dark color.

It is a dark-_brown_ bird, according to the colored pictures--iron
_gray_, Buffon says, with white stripes of little order on the bodice,
clumsy feet and bill, but makes up for all ungainliness by its gentle
and intelligent mind; and seems meant for a useful possession to
mankind all over the world, for it lives in Siberia and New Zealand; in
Senegal and Jamaica; in Scotland, Switzerland, and Prussia; in Corfu,
Crete, and Trebizond; in Canada, and at the Cape. I find no account of
its migrations, and one would think that a bird which usually flies
"dip, dip, dipping with its toes, and leaving a track along the water
like that of a stone at 'ducks and drakes'" (Yarrell), would not
willingly adventure itself on the Atlantic. It must have a kind of
human facility in adapting itself to climate, as it has human
domesticity of temper, with curious fineness of sagacity and sympathies
in taste. A family of them, petted by a clergyman's wife, were
constantly adding materials to their nest, and "made real havoc in the
flower-garden,--for though straw and leaves are their chief ingredients,
they seem to have an eye for beauty, and the old hen has been seen
surrounded with a brilliant wreath of scarlet anemones." Thus Bishop
Stanley, whose account of the bird is full of interesting particulars.
This aesthetic water-hen, with her husband, lived at Cheadle, in
Staffordshire, in the rectory moat, for several seasons, "always
however leaving it in the spring," (for Scotland, supposably?): being
constantly fed, the pair became quite tame, built their nest in a
thorn-bush covered with ivy which had fallen into the water; and "when
the young are a few days old, the old ones bring them up close to the
drawing-room window, where they are regularly fed with wheat; and, as
the lady of the house pays them the greatest attention, they have
learned to look up to her as their natural protectress and friend; so
much so, that one bird in particular, which was much persecuted by the
rest, would, when attacked, fly to her for refuge; and whenever she
calls, the whole flock, as tame as barn-door fowls, quit the water, and
assemble round her, to the number of seventeen. (November, 1833.)

120. "They have also made other friends in the dogs belonging to the
family, approaching them without fear, though hurrying off with great
alarm on the appearance of a strange dog.

"The position of the water, together with the familiarity of these
birds, has afforded many interesting particulars respecting their

"They have three broods in a season--the first early in April; and they
begin to lay again when the first hatch is about a fortnight old. They
lay eight or nine eggs, and sit about three weeks,--the cock
alternately with the hen. The nest in the thorn-bush is placed usually
so high above the surface of the water, they cannot climb into it
again; but, as a substitute, within an hour after they leave the nest,
the cock bird builds a larger and more roomy nest for them, with
sedges, at the water's edge, which they can enter or retire from at
pleasure. For about a month they are fed by the old birds, but soon
become very active in taking flies and water-insects. Immediately on
the second hatch coming out, the young ones of the first hatch assist
the old ones in feeding and hovering over them, leading them out in
detached parties, and making additional nests for them, similar to
their own, on the brink of the moat.

"But it is not only in their instinctive attachments and habits that
they merit notice; the following anecdote proves that they are gifted
with a sense of observation approaching to something very like
reasoning faculties.

"At a gentleman's house in Staffordshire, the pheasants are fed out of
one of those boxes described in page 287, the lid of which rises with
the pressure of the pheasant standing on the rail in front of the box.
A water-hen observing this, went and stood upon the rail as soon as the
pheasant had quitted it; but the weight of the bird being insufficient
to raise the lid of the box, so as to enable it to get at the corn, the
water-hen kept jumping on the rail to give additional impetus to its
weight: this partially succeeded, but not to the satisfaction of the
sagacious bird. Accordingly it went off, and soon returning with a bird
of its own species, the united weight of the two had the desired
effect, and the successful pair enjoyed the benefit of their ingenuity.

"We can vouch for the truth of this singular instance of penetration,
on the authority of the owner of the place where it occurred, and who
witnessed the fact."

121. But although in these sagacities, and teachablenesses, the bird
has much in common with land poultry, it seems not a link between these
and water-fowl; but to be properly placed by the ornithologists between
the rail and the coot: this latter being the largest of the fringefoots,
singularly dark in color, and called 'fulica' (sooty), or, with
insistence, 'fulica atra' (black sooty), or even 'fulica aterrima'
(blackest sooty). 'Coot' is said by Johnson to be Dutch; and that it
became 'cotée' in French; but I cannot find cotée in my French
dictionary. In the meantime, putting the coot and water-hen aside for
future better knowledge, we may be content with the pentagonal group of
our dabchicks--passing at each angle into another tribe, thus,--(if
people must classify, they at least should also _map_). Take the Ouzel,
Allegret, Grebe, Fairy, and Rail, and, only giving the Fairy her Latin
name, write their fourpenny-worth of initial letters (groat) round a
pentagon set on its base, putting the Ouzel at the top angle,--so.
Then, the Ouzels pass up into Blackbirds, the Rails to the left into
Woodcocks, the Allegrets to the right into Plovers, the Grebes, down
left, into Ducks, and the Titanias, down right, into Gulls. And
_there's_ a bit of pentagonal Darwinism for you, if you like it, and
learn it, which will be really good for something in the end, or the
five ends.

122. And for the bliss of classification pure, with no ends of any sort
or any number, referring my reader to the works of ornithologists in
general, and for what small portion of them he may afterwards care to
consult, to my Appendix, I will end this lecture, and this volume, with
the refreshment for us of a piece of perfect English and exquisite wit,
falling into verse,--the Chorus of the Birds, in Mr. Courthope's
Paradise of them,--a book lovely, and often faultless, in most of its
execution, but little skilled or attractive in plan, and too thoughtful
to be understood without such notes as a good author will not write on
his own work; partly because he has not time, and partly because he
always feels that if people won't look for his meaning, they should not
be told it. My own special function, on the contrary, is, and always
has been, that of the Interpreter only, in the 'Pilgrim's Progress;'
and I trust that Mr. Courthope will therefore forgive my arranging his
long cadence of continuous line so as to come symmetrically into my own
page, (thus also enforcing, for the inattentive, the rhymes which he is
too easily proud to insist on,) and my division of the whole chorus
into equal strophe and antistrophe of six lines each, in which,
counting from the last line of the stanza, the reader can easily catch
the word to which my note refers.

123.     We wish to declare,
                How the birds of the air
         All high institutions designed,
         And, holding in awe
                Art, Science, and Law,
         Delivered the same to mankind.                   6

         To begin with; of old
                Man went naked, and cold,
         Whenever it pelted or froze,
         Till _we_ showed him how feathers
                Were proof against weathers,
         With that, _he_ bethought him of hose.          12

         And next, it was plain,
                That he, in the rain,
         Was forced to sit dripping and blind,
         While the Reed-warbler swung
                In a nest, with her young
         Deep sheltered, and warm, from the wind.        18

         So our homes in the boughs
                Made _him_ think of the House;
         And the Swallow, to help him invent,
         Revealed the best way
                To economize clay,
         And bricks to combine with cement.              24

         The knowledge withal
                Of the Carpenter's awl,
         Is drawn from the Nuthatch's bill;
         And the Sand-Martin's pains
                In the hazel-clad lanes
         Instructed the Mason to drill.                  30

         Is there _one_ of the Arts,
                More dear to men's hearts?
         To the bird's inspiration they owe it;
         For the Nightingale first
                Sweet music rehearsed,
         Prima-Donna, Composer, and Poet.                36

         The Owl's dark retreats
                Showed sages the sweets
         Of brooding, to spin, or unravel
         Fine webs in one's brain,
         The Swallows,--the pleasures of travel.         42

         Who chirped in such strain
                Of Greece, Italy, Spain
         And Egypt, that men, when they heard,
         Were mad to fly forth,
                From their nests in the North,
         And follow--the tail of the Bird.               48

         Besides, it is true,
                To _our_ wisdom is due
         The knowledge of Sciences all;
         And chiefly, those rare
                Metaphysics of Air
         Men 'Meteorology' call,                         54

         And men, in their words,
                Acknowledge the Birds'
         Erudition in weather and star;
         For they say, "'Twill be dry,--
                The swallow is high,"
         Or, "Rain, for the Chough is afar."             60

         'Twas the Rooks who taught men
                Vast pamphlets to pen
         Upon social compact and law,
         And Parliaments hold,
                As themselves did of old,
         Exclaiming 'Hear, Hear,' for 'Caw, Caw.'        66

         And whence arose Love?
                Go, ask of the Dove,
         Or behold how the Titmouse, unresting,
                Still early and late
                Ever sings by his mate,
         To lighten her labors of nesting.               72

         _Their_ bonds never gall,
                Though the leaves shoot, and fall,
         And the seasons roll round in their course,
         For their marriage, each year,
                Grows more lovely and dear;
         And they know not decrees of Divorce.           78

         That these things are truth
                We have learned from our youth,
         For our hearts to our customs incline,
         As the rivers that roll
                From the fount of our soul,
         Immortal, unchanging, divine.                   84

         Man, simple and old,
                In his ages of gold,
         Derived from our teaching true light,
         And deemed it his praise
                In his ancestors' ways
         To govern his footsteps aright.                 90

         But the fountain of woes,
                Philosophy, rose;
         And, what between reason and whim,
         He has splintered our rules
                Into sections and schools,
         So the world is made bitter, for _him_.         96

         But the birds, since on earth
                They discovered the worth
         Of their souls, and resolved with a vow
                No custom to change,
                For a new, or a strange,
         Have attained unto Paradise, _now_.            102

      Line 9. PELTED, said of _hail_, not rain. Felt by nakedness, in
      a more severe manner than mere rain.

      11. 'WEATHERS,' _i.e., both_ weathers--hail and cold: the _armor_
      of the feathers against hail; the down of them against cold. See
      account of Feather-mail in 'Laws of Fésole,' chap, vi., p. 53,
      with the first and fifth plates, and figure 15.

      15. BLIND. By the beating of the rain in his face. In _hail_,
      there is real danger and bruising, if the hail be worth calling
      so, for the whole body; while in rain, if _it_ be rain also worth
      calling rain, the great plague is the beating and drenching in
      the face.

      16. SWUNG. Opposed to 'sit' in previous line. The human creature,
      though it sate steady on this unshakable earth, had no house over
      its head. The bird, that lived on the tremblingest and weakest of
      bending things, had her _nest_ on it, in which even her
      infinitely tender brood were _deep_ sheltered and warm, from the
      _wind_. It is impossible to find a lovelier instance of pure
      poetical antithesis.

      20. HOUSE. Again antithetic to the perfect word 'Home' in the
      line before. A house is exactly, and only, half-way to a 'home.'
      Man had not yet got so far as even that! and had lost, the chorus
      satirically imply, even the power of getting the other half,
      ever, since his "_She_ gave me of the tree."

      24. BRICKS. The first bad inversion permitted, for "to combine
      bricks with cement." In my Swallow lecture I had no time to go
      into the question of her building materials; the point is,
      however, touched upon in the Appendix (pp. 110, 112, and note).

      30. 'DRILL,' for 'quarry out,' 'tunnel,' etc., the best general
      term available.

      36. COMPOSER of the music; POET of the meaning.

      Compare, and think over, the Bullfinch's nest, etc., § 48 to 61
      of 'Eagle's Nest.'

      In modern music the _meaning_ is, I believe, by the reputed
      masters omitted.

      39. To SPIN, or _un_ravel. Synthesis and analysis, in the vulgar
      Greek slang.

      46. MAD. Compare Byron of the English in _his_ day. "A parcel of
      staring boobies who go about gaping and wishing to be at once
      cheap and magnificent. A man is a fool now, who travels in France
      or Italy, till that tribe of wretches be swept home again. In two
      or three years, the first rush will be over, and the Continent
      will be roomy and agreeable." (Life, vol. ii., p. 319.) For
      sketches of the English of seventeen years later, at the same
      _spots_ (Wengern Alp and Interlachen), see, if you _can_ see, in
      any library, public or private, at Geneva, Topffer's 'Excursions
      dans les Alpes, 1832.' Douzième, Treizième, and Quatorzième

      48. THE TAIL. Mr. Courthope does not condescend to italicize his
      pun; but a swallow-tailed and adder-tongued pun like this must be
      paused upon. Compare Mr. Murray's Tale of the Town of Lucca, to
      be seen between the arrival of one train and the departure of the
      next,--nothing there but twelve churches and a cathedral,--mostly
      of the tenth to thirteenth century.

      60. AFAR. I did not know of this weather sign; nor, I suppose,
      did the Duke of Hamilton's keeper, who shot the last pair of
      Choughs on Arran in 1863. ('Birds of the West of Scotland,' p.
      165.) I trust the climate has wept for them; certainly our
      Coniston clouds grow heavier, in these last years.

      63. SOCIAL. Rightly sung by the Birds in three syllables; but the
      lagging of the previous line (probably intentional, but not
      pleasant,) makes the lightness of this one a little dangerous for
      a clumsy reader. The 'i-al' of 'social' does not fill the line as
      two full short syllables, else the preceding word should have
      been written '_on_,' not 'upon.' The five syllables, rightly
      given, just take the time of two iambs; but there _are_ readers
      rude enough to accent the 'on' of upon, and take 'social' for two
      short syllables.

      64. HOLD. Short for 'to hold'--but it is a licentious
      construction, so also, in next line, 'themselves' for 'they
      themselves.' The stanza is on the whole the worst in the poem,
      its irony and essential force being much dimmed by obscure
      expression, and even slightly staggering continuity of thought.
      The Rooks may be properly supposed to have taught men to dispute,
      but not to write. The Swallow teaches building, literally, and
      the Owl moping, literally; but the Rook does not teach
      pamphleteering literally. And the 'of old' is redundant, for
      rhyme's sake, since Rooks hold parliaments now as much as ever
      they did.

      76. EACH YEAR. I doubt the fact; and too sadly suspect that birds
      take different mates. What a question to have to ask at this time
      of day and year!

      82. RIVERS. Read slowly. The 'customs' are rivers that 'go on
      forever' flowing from the fount of the soul. The Heart drinks of
      them, as of waterbrooks.

      92. PHILOSOPHY. The author should at least have given a note or
      two to explain the sense in which he uses words so wide as this.
      The philosophy which begins in pride, and concludes in malice, is
      indeed _a_ fountain--though not _the_ fountain--of woes, to
      mankind. But true philosophy such as Fénelon's or Sir Thomas
      More's, is a well of peace.

      98. WORTH. Again, it is not clearly told us what the author means
      by the worth of a bird's soul, nor how the birds learned it. The
      reader is left to discern, and collect for himself--with patience
      such as not one in a thousand now-a-days possesses, the
      opposition between the "fount of our soul" (line 83) and fountain
      of philosophy.

124. I could willingly enlarge on these last two stanzas, but think my
duty will be better done to the poet if I quote, for conclusion, two
lighter pieces of his verse, which will require no comment, and are
closer to our present purpose. The first,--the lament of the French
Cook in purgatory,--has, for once, a note by the author, giving M.
Soyer's authority for the items of the great dish,--"symbol of
philanthropy, served at York during the great commemorative banquet
after the first exhibition." The commemorative soul of the tormented
Chef--always making a dish like it, of which nobody ever eats--sings

                                 "Do you veesh
    To hear before you taste, of de hundred-guinea deesh?
    Has it not been sung by every knife and fork,
    'L'extravagance culinaire à l'Alderman,' at York?
    Vy, ven I came here, eighteen Octobers seence,
    I dis deesh was making for your Royal Preence,
    Ven half de leeving world, cooking all de others,
    Swore an oath hereafter, to be men and brothers.
    All de leetle Songsters in de voods dat build,
    Hopped into the kitchen asking to be kill'd;
    All who in de open furrows find de seeds,
    Or de mountain berries, all de farmyard breeds,--
    Ha--I see de knife, vile de deesh it shapens,
    Vith les petits noix, of four-and-twenty capons,
    Dere vere dindons, fatted poulets, fowls in plenty,
    Five times nine of partridges, and of pheasants twenty;
    Ten grouse, that should have had as many covers,
    All in dis one deesh, with six preety plovers,
    Forty woodcocks, plump, and heavy in the scales,
    Pigeons dree good dozens, six-and-dirty quails,
    Ortulans, ma foi, and a century of snipes,
    But de preetiest of dem all was twice tree dozen pipes
    Of de melodious larks, vich each did clap the ving,
    And veeshed de pie vas open, dat dey all might sing!"

125. There are stiff bits of prosody in these verses,--one or two,
indeed, quite unmanageable,--but we must remember that French meter
will not read into ours. The last piece I will give flows very
differently. It is in express imitation of Scott--but no nobler model
could be chosen; and how much better for minor poets sometimes to write
in another's manner, than always to imitate their own.

This chant is sung by the soul of the Francesca of the Bird-ordained
purgatory; whose torment is to be dressed only in falling snow, each
flake striking cold to her heart as it falls,--but such lace
investiture costing, not a cruel price per yard in souls of women, nor
a mortal price in souls of birds.

Her 'snow-mantled shadow' sings:

    "Alas, my heart! No grief so great
    As thinking on a happy state
    In misery. Ah, dear is power
    To female hearts! Oh, blissful hour
    When Blanche and Flavia, joined with me,
    Tri-feminine Directory,
    Dispensed in latitudes below
    The laws of flounce and furbelow;
    And held on bird and beast debate,
    What lives should die to serve our state!
    We changed our statutes with the moon,
    And oft in January or June,
    At deep midnight, we would prescribe
    Some furry kind, or feathered tribe.
    At morn, we sent the mandate forth;
    Then rose the hunters of the North:
    And all the trappers of the West
    Bowed at our feminine behest.
    Died every seal that dared to rise
    To his round air-hole in the ice;
    Died each Siberian fox and hare
    And ermine trapt in snow-built snare.
    For us the English fowler set
    The ambush of his whirling net;
    And by green Rother's reedy side
    The blue kingfisher flashed and died.
    His life for us the seamew gave
    High upon Orkney's lonely wave;
    Nor was our queenly power unknown
    In Iceland or by Amazon;
    For where the brown duck stripped her breast
    For her dear eggs and windy nest,
    Three times her bitter spoil was won
    For woman; and when all was done,
    She called her snow-white piteous drake,
    Who plucked his bosom for our sake."

126. "See 'Hartwig's Polar World' for the manner of taking
Eiderdown."--Once more, we have thus much of author's note, but edition
and page not specified, which, however, I am fortunately able to
supply. Mr. Hartwig's miscellany being a favorite--what can I call it,
sand-hill?--of my own, out of which every now and then, in a rasorial
manner, I can scratch some savory or useful contents;--one or two, it
may be remembered, I collected for the behoof of the Bishop of
Manchester, on this very subject, (_Contemporary Review_, Feb. 1880);
and some of Mr. Hartwig's half-sandy, half-soppy, political opinions,
are offered to the consideration of the British workman in the last
extant number of 'Fors.' Touching eider ducks, I find in his fifth
chapter--on Iceland--he quotes the following account, by Mr. Shepherd,
of the shore of the island of 'Isafjardarjup'--a word which seems to
contain in itself an introduction to Icelandic literature:--

127. "The ducks and their nests were everywhere, in a manner that was
quite alarming. Great brown ducks sat upon their nests in masses, and
at every step started up from under our feet. It was with difficulty
that we avoided treading on some of the nests. The island being but
three-quarters of a mile in width, the opposite shore was soon reached.
On the coast was a wall built of large stones, just above the
high-water level, about three feet in height, and of considerable
thickness. At the bottom, on both sides of it, alternate stones had
been left out, so as to form a series of square compartments for the
ducks to make their nests in. Almost every compartment was occupied;
and, as we walked along the shore, a long line of ducks flew out one
after another. The surface of the water also was perfectly white with
drakes, who welcomed their brown wives with loud and clamorous cooing.
When we arrived at the farmhouse, we were cordially welcomed by its
mistress. The house itself was a great marvel. The earthen wall that
surrounded it and the window embrasures were occupied by ducks. On the
ground, the house was fringed with ducks. On the turf-slopes of the
roof we could see ducks; and a duck sat in the scraper.

"A grassy bank close by had been cut into square patches like a
chess-board, (a square of turf of about eighteen inches being removed,
and a hollow made,) and all were filled with ducks. A windmill was
infested, and so were all the out-houses, mounds, rocks, and crevices.
The ducks were everywhere. Many of them were so tame that we could
stroke them on their nests; and the good lady told us that there was
scarcely a duck on the island which would not allow her to take its
eggs without flight or fear."

128. But upon the back of the canvas, as it were, of this pleasant
picture--on the back of the leaf, in his book, p. 65,--this description
being given in p. 66,--Doctor Hartwig tells us, in his own peculiar
soppy and sandy way--half tearful, half Dryasdusty, (or may not we
say--it sounds more Icelandic--'Dry-as-sawdusty,') these less cheerful
facts. "The eiderdown is easily collected, as the birds are quite tame.
The female having laid five or six pale greenish-olive eggs, in a nest
thickly lined with her beautiful down, the collectors, after carefully
removing the bird, rob the nest of its contents; after which they
replace her. She then begins to lay afresh--though this time only three
or four eggs,--and again has recourse to the down on her body. But her
greedy persecutors once more rifle her nest, and oblige her to line it
for the third time. Now, however, her own stock of down is exhausted,
and with a plaintive voice she calls her mate to her assistance, who
willingly plucks the soft feathers from his breast to supply the
deficiency. If the cruel robbery be again repeated, which in former
times was frequently the case, the poor eider-duck abandons the spot,
never to return, and seeks for a new home where she may indulge her
maternal instinct undisturbed by the avarice of man."

129. Now, as I have above told you, these two statements are given on
the two sides of the same leaf; and the reader must make what he may of
them. Setting the best of my own poor wits at them, it seems to me that
the merciless abstraction of down is indeed the usual custom of the
inhabitants and visitors; but that the 'good lady,' referred to by Mr.
Shepherd, manages things differently; and in consequence we are
presently farther told of her, (bottom of p. 65,) that "when she first
became possessor of the island, the produce of down from the ducks was
not more than fifteen pounds weight in the year; but under her careful
nurture of twenty years it had risen to nearly one hundred pounds
annually. It requires about one pound and a half to make a coverlet for
a single bed, and the down is worth from twelve to fifteen shillings
per pound. Most of the eggs are taken and pickled for winter
consumption, one or two only being left to hatch."

But here, again, pulverulent Dr. Hartwig leaves us untold who
'consumes' all these pickled eggs of the cooing and downy-breasted
creatures; (you observe, in passing, that an eider-duck coos instead of
quacking, and must be a sort of Sea-Dove,) or what addition their price
makes to the good old lady's feather-nesting income of, as I calculate
it, sixty to seventy-five pounds a year,--all her twenty years of skill
and humanity and moderate plucking having got no farther than that. And
not feeling myself able, on these imperfect data, to offer any
recommendations to the Icelandic government touching the duck trade, I
must end my present chapter with a rough generalization of results. For
a beginning of which, the time having too clearly and sadly come for
me, as I have said in my preface, to knit up, as far as I may, the
loose threads and straws of my raveled life's work, I reprint in this
place the second paragraph of the chapter on Vital Beauty in the second
volume of 'Modern Painters,' premising, however, some few necessary

130. I intended never to have reprinted the second volume of 'Modern
Painters'; first, because it is written in affected imitation of
Hooker, and not in my own proper style; and, secondly, yet chiefly,
because I did not think the analytic study of which it mainly consists,
in the least likely to be intelligible to the general student, or,
therefore, profitable to him. But I find now that the 'general student'
has plunged himself into such abysses, not of analytic, but of
dissolytic,--dialytic--or even diarrhoeic--lies, belonging to the
sooty and sensual elements of his London and Paris life, that, however
imperfectly or dimly done, the higher analysis of that early work of
mine ought at least to be put within his reach; and the fact, somehow,
enforced upon him, that there were people before _he_ lived, who knew
what 'æsthesis' meant, though they did not think that pigs' flavoring
of pigs'-wash was ennobled by giving it that Greek name: and that there
were also people before his time who knew what vital beauty meant,
though they did not seek it either in the model-room, or the Parc aux

Therefore, I will republish (D.V.) the analytic parts of the second
volume of 'Modern Painters' as they were written, but with perhaps an
additional note or two, and the omission of the passages concerning
Evangelical or other religious matters, in which I have found out my

131. To be able to hunt for these mistakes, and crow over them, in the
original volume, will always give that volume its orthodox value in
sale catalogues, so that I shall swindle nobody who has already bought
the book by bringing down its price upon them. Nor will the new edition
be a cheap one--even if I ever get it out, which is by no means
certain. Here, however, at once, is the paragraph above referred to,
quite one of the most important in the book. The reader should know,
preparatorily, that for what is now called 'æsthesis,' _I_ always used,
and still use, the English word 'sensation'--as, for instance, the
sensation of cold or heat, and of their differences;--of the flavor of
mutton and beef, and their differences;--of a peacock's and a lark's
cry, and their differences;--of the redness in a blush, and in rouge,
and their differences;--of the whiteness in snow, and in almond-paste,
and their differences;--of the blackness and brightness of night and
day, or of smoke and gaslight, and their differences, etc., etc. But
for the Perception of Beauty, I always used Plato's word, which is the
proper word in Greek, and the only possible _single_ word that can be
used in any other language by any man who understands the
subject,--'Theoria,'--the Germans only having a term parallel to it,
'Anschauung,' assumed to be its equivalent in p. 22 of the old edition
of 'Modern Painters,' but which is not its real equivalent, for
Anschauung does not (I believe) _include_ bodily sensation, whereas
Plato's Theoria does, so far as is necessary; and mine, somewhat more
than Plato's. "The first perfection," (then I say, in this so long in
coming paragraph) of the theoretic faculty, "is the kindness and
unselfish fullness of heart, which receives the utmost amount of
pleasure from the happiness of all things. Of which in high degree the
heart of man is incapable; neither what intense enjoyment the angels
may have in all that they see of things that move and live, and in the
part they take in the shedding of God's kindness upon them, can we know
or conceive: only in proportion as we draw near to God, and are made in
measure like unto Him, can we increase this our possession of charity,
of which the entire essence is in God only. But even the ordinary
exercise of this faculty implies a condition of the whole moral being
in some measure right and healthy, and to the entire exercise of it
there is necessary the entire perfection of the Christian character;
for he who loves not God, nor his brother, cannot love the grass
beneath his feet, and the creatures which live not for his uses,
filling those spaces in the universe which he needs not; while, on the
other hand, none can love God, nor his human brother, without loving
all things which his Father loves; nor without looking upon them, every
one, as in that respect his brethren also, and perhaps worthier than
he, if, in the under concords they have to fill, their part be touched
more truly. It is good to read of that kindness and humbleness of S.
Francis of Assisi, who never spoke to bird or cicala, nor even to wolf
and beast of prey, but as his brother; and so we find are moved the
minds of all good and mighty men, as in the lesson that we have from
the mariner of Coleridge, and yet more truly and rightly taught in the
Hartleap Well:--

    'Never to blend our pleasure, or our pride,
    With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels.'

And again in the White Doe of Rylstone, with the added teaching, that
anguish of our own

    'Is tempered and allayed by sympathies,
    Aloft ascending, and descending deep,
    Even to the inferior kinds;'

so that I know not of anything more destructive of the whole theoretic
faculty, not to say of the Christian character and human intellect,
than those accursed sports, in which man makes of himself, cat, tiger,
serpent, chætodon, and alligator in one; and gathers into one
continuance of cruelty, for his amusement, all the devices that brutes
sparingly, and at intervals, use against each other for their

132. So much I had perceived, and said, you observe, good reader,
concerning S. Francis of Assisi, and his sermons, when I was only
five-and-twenty,--little thinking at that day how, Evangelical-bred as
I was, I should ever come to write a lecture for the first School of
Art in Oxford in the Sacristan's cell at Assisi,[25] or ever--among such
poor treasures as I have of friends' reliquaries--I should fondly keep
a little 'pinch' of his cloak.

      [25] See 'Ariadne Florentina,' chap. v., § 164; compare 'Fors,'
      Letter V.

Rough cloak of hair, it is, still at Assisi; concerning which, and the
general use of camels' hair, or sackcloth, or briars and thorns, in the
Middle Ages, together with seal-skins (not badgers'), and rams' skins
dyed gules, by the Jews, and the Crusaders, as compared with the use of
the two furs, Ermine and Vair, and their final result in the operations
of the Hudson's Bay Company, much casual notice will be found in my
former work. And now, this is the sum of it all, so far as I can
shortly write it.

There is no possibility of explaining the system of life in this world,
on any principle of _conqueringly_ Divine benevolence. That piece of
bold impiety, if it be so, I have always asserted in my well-considered
books,--I considering it, on the contrary, the only really pious thing
to say, namely, that the world is under a curse, which we may, if we
will, gradually remove, by doing as we are bid, and believing what we
are told; and when we are told, for instance, in the best book we have
about our own old history, that "unto Adam also, and to his wife, did
the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them," we are to accept
it as the best thing to be done under the circumstances, and to wear,
if we can get them, wolf skin, or cow skin, or beaver's, or ermine's;
but not therefore to confuse God with the Hudson's Bay Company, nor to
hunt foxes for their brushes instead of their skins, or think the poor
little black tails of a Siberian weasel on a judge's shoulders may
constitute him therefore a Minos in matters of retributive justice, or
an Æacus in distributive, who can at once determine how many millions a
Railroad Company are to make the public pay for not granting them their
exclusive business by telegraph.

133. And every hour of my life, since that paragraph of 'Modern
Painters' was written, has increased, I disdain to say my _feeling_,
but say, with fearless decision, my _knowledge_, of the bitterness of
the curse, which the habits of hunting and 'la chasse' have brought
upon the so-called upper classes of England and France; until, from
knights and gentlemen, they have sunk into jockeys, speculators,
usurers, butchers by battue; and, the English especially, now, as a
political body, into what I have called them in the opening chapter of
'The Bible of Amiens,'--"the scurviest louts that ever fouled God's
earth with their carcasses."

The language appears to be violent. It is simply brief, and accurate.
But I never meant it to remain without justification, and I will give
the justification here at once.

Take your Johnson, and look out the adjective Scurvy, in its higher or
figurative sense.

You find the first quotation he gives is from 'Measure for Measure,'
spoken of the Duke, in monk's disguise:

    "I know him for a man divine and holy;
    Not scurvy, nor a temporary meddler."

In which passage, Shakspeare, who never uses words in vain, nor with a
grain less than their full weight, opposes the divineness of men, or
their walking with God, to the scurviness of men, or their wallowing
with swine; and again, he opposes the holiness of men,--in the sense of
"Holy--harmless, undefiled," and more than that, helpful or healthful
in action--to the harmful and filthy action of temporary meddlers, such
as the hanging of seventeen priests before breakfast, and our
profitable military successes, in such a prolonged piece of 'temporary
meddling' as the Crimean war.

134. But, secondly, if you look down Johnson's column, you will find
his last quotation is not in the higher or figurative, but the lower
and literal sense, from Swift, to the effect that "it would be
convenient to prevent the excess of drink, with that scurvy custom of
taking tobacco." And you will also find, if you ever have the sense or
courage to look the facts of modern history in the face, that those two
itches, for the pot and the pipe, have been the roots of every other
demoralization of the filthiest and literally 'scurviest' sort among
_all_ classes;--the dirty pack of cards; the church pavement _running_
with human saliva,--(I have seen the spittings in ponds half an inch
deep, in the choir of Rouen cathedral); and the entirely infernal
atmosphere of the common cafés and gambling-houses of European
festivity, infecting every condition of what they call 'æsthesis,' left
in the bodies of men, until they cannot be happy with the pines and
pansies of the Alps, until they have mixed tobacco smoke with the scent
of them; and the whole concluding in the endurance--or even
enjoyment--of the most squalid conditions of filth in our capital
cities, that have ever been yet recorded, among the disgraces of

135. But, thirdly, Johnson's central quotation is again from 'Measure
for Measure':--

    "He spoke _scurvy_ and _provoking_ terms against your honor."

The debates in the English House of Commons, for the last half-century,
having consisted virtually of nothing else!

I next take the word 'lout,' of which Johnson gives two derivations for
our choice: it is either the past participle of 'to lower, or make
low;' a lowed person, (as our House of Lords under the direction of
railway companies and public-house keepers); or else--and more strictly
I believe in etymology--a form of the German 'leute,' 'common people.'
In either case, its proper classical English sense is given by Johnson
as "a mean, awkward fellow; a bumpkin, a clown."

Now I surely cannot refer to any general representation of British
society more acceptable to, and acknowledged by, that society, than the
finished and admirably composed drawings of Du Maurier in _Punch_ which
have become every week more and more consistent, keen, and comprehensive,
during the issues of the last two years.

I take three of them, as quite trustworthy pictures, and the best our
present arts of delineation could produce, of the three Etats, or
representative orders, of the British nation of our day.

Of the Working class, take the type given in Lady Clara Robinson's
garden tea party, p. 174, vol. 79.

Of the Mercantile class, Mr. Smith, in his drawing-room after dinner,
p. 222, vol. 80.

And of the Noblesse, the first five gentlemen on the right (spectator's
right) of the line, in the ball at Stilton House, (July 3d, 1880).

136. Of the manner or state of lout, to which our manufacturing
prosperity has reduced its artisan, as represented in the first of
these frescoes, I do not think it needful to speak here; neither of the
level of sublime temperament and unselfish heroism to which the dangers
of commercial enterprise have exalted Mr. Smith. But the five
consecutive heads in the third fresco are a very notable piece of
English history, representing the polished and more or less lustrous
type of lout; which is indeed a kind of rolled shingle of former
English noblesse capable of nothing now in the way of resistance to
Atlantic liberalism, except of getting itself swept up into ugly harbor
bars, and troublesome shoals in the tideway.

And observe also, that of the three types of lout, whose combined
chorus and tripudiation leads the present British Constitution its
devil's dance, this last and smoothest type is also the dullest. Your
operative lout cannot indeed hold his cup of coffee with a grace, or
possess himself of a biscuit from Lady Clara's salver without
embarrassment; but, in his own mill, he can at least make a needle
without an eye, or a nail without a head, or a knife that won't cut, or
something of that sort, with dexterity. Also, the middle class, or
Smithian lout, at least manages his stockbroking or marketing with
decision and cunning; knows something by eye or touch of his wares, and
something of the characters of the men he has to deal with. But the
Ducal or Marquisian lout has no knowledge of anything under the sun,
except what sort of horse's quarters will carry his own, farther
weighted with that smooth block or pebble of a pow; and no faculty
under the sun of doing anything, except cutting down the trees his
fathers planted for him, and selling the lands his fathers won.

137. That is indeed the final result of hunting and horse-racing on the
British landlord. Of its result on the British soldier, perhaps the
figures of Lord George Sackville at the battle of Minden, and of Lord
Raglan at the battle of Alma, (who in the first part of the battle did
not know where he was, and in the second plumed himself on being where
he had no business to be,) are as illustrative as any I could name; but
the darkest of all, to my own thinking, are the various personages,
civil and military, who have conducted the Caffre war to its last
successes, of blowing women and children to death with dynamite, and
harrying the lands of entirely innocent peasantry, because they would
not betray their defeated king.

138. Of the due and noble relations between man and his companion
creatures, the horse, dog, and falcon, enough has been said in my
former writings--unintelligible enough to a chivalry which passes six
months of its annual life in Rotten Row, and spends the rents of its
Cumberland Hills in building furnaces round Furness Abbey; but which
careful students either of past knighthood, or of future Christianity,
will find securely and always true. For the relations between man and
his beast of burden, whether the burden be himself or his goods, become
beautiful and honorable, just in the degree that both creatures are
useful to the rest of mankind, whether in war or peace. The Greeks gave
the highest symbol of them in the bridling of Pegasus for Bellerophon
by Athena; and from that myth you may go down to modern
times--understanding, according to your own sense and dignity, what all
prophecy, poetry, history, have told you--of the horse whose neck is
clothed with thunder, or the ox who treadeth out the corn--of Joseph's
chariot, or of Elijah's--of Achilles and Xanthus--Herminius and Black
Auster--down to Scott and Brown Adam--or Dandie Dinmont and Dumple.
That pastoral one is, of all, the most enduring. I hear the proudest
tribe of Arabia Felix is now reduced by poverty and civilization to
sell its last well-bred horse; and that we send out our cavalry
regiments to repetitions of the charge at Balaclava, without horses at
all; those that they can pick up wherever they land being good enough
for such military operations. But the cart-horse will remain, when the
charger and hunter are no more; and with a wiser master.

    "I'll buy him, for the dogs shall never
    Set tooth upon a friend so true;
    He'll not live long; but I forever
    Shall know I gave the beast his due.

    Ready as bird to meet the morn
    Were all his efforts at the plow;
    Then the mill-brook--with hay or corn,
    Good creature! how he'd spatter through.

    I left him in the shafts behind,
    His fellows all unhook'd and gone;
    He neigh'd, and deemed the thing unkind;
    Then, starting, drew the load alone.

                *    *    *    *

    Half choked with joy, with love, and pride,
    He now with dainty clover fed him;
    Now took a short, triumphant ride,
    And then again got down, and led him."

139. Where Paris has had to lead _her_ horses, we know; and where
London had better lead hers, than let her people die of starvation. But
I have not lost my hope that there are yet in England Bewicks and
Bloomfields, who may teach their children--and earn for their
cattle--better ways of fronting, and of waiting for, Death.

Nor are the uses of the inferior creatures to us less consistent with
their happiness. To all that live, Death must come. The manner of it,
and the time, are for the human Master of them, and of the earth, to
determine--not to his pleasure, but to his duty and his need.

In sacrifice, or for his food, or for his clothing, it is lawful for
him to slay animals; but not to delight in slaying any that are
helpless. If he choose, for discipline and trial of courage, to leave
the boar in Calydon, the wolf in Taurus, the tiger in Bengal, or the
wild bull in Aragon, there is forest and mountain wide enough for them:
but the inhabited world in sea and land should be one vast unwalled
park and treasure lake, in which its flocks of sheep, or deer, or fowl,
or fish, should be tended and dealt with, as best may multiply the life
of all Love's Meinie, in strength, and use, and peace.


140. This part of the book will, I hope, be continuous with the text of
it, containing henceforward, in each number, the nomenclature hitherto
used for the birds described in it, and the Author's reason for his
choice or change of names. In the present number, it supplies also the
nomenclature required for the two preceding ones, and thus finishes the
first volume.

The names given first, in capitals, for each bird, are those which the
Author will in future give it, and proposes for use in elementary
teaching. They will consist only of a plain Latin specific name, with
one, or at the most two, Latin epithets; and the simplest popular
English name, if there be one; if not, the English name will usually be
the direct translation of the Latin one.

Then in order will follow--

I. Linnæus's name, marked L.

II. Buffon's name, marked F, the F standing also for 'French' when any
popular French name is given with Buffon's.

III. The German popular name, marked T (Teutonic), for I want the G for
Mr. Gould; and this T will include authoritative German scientific
names also.

IV. The Italian popular name, if one exists, to give the connection
with old Latin, marked I.

V. Mr. Gould's name, G; Yarrell's, Y; Dressler's, D; and Gesner's, Ges,
being added, if different.

VI. Bewick's, B.

VII. Shakspeare's and Chaucer's, if I know them; and general
references, such as may be needful.

The Appendix will thus contain the names of all the birds I am able to
think or learn anything about, as I can set down what I think or learn;
and with no other attempt at order than the slight grouping of
convenience: but the numbers of the species examined will be
consecutive, so that L. M. 25,--Love's Meinie, Number twenty-five,--or
whatever the number may be, will at once identify any bird in the
system of the St. George's schools.

The following note by the Author has in previous editions faced the
first page of Lecture III., with the exception of the Nos. i.-vii.,
which are now added by the Editor for the sake of completeness.

                  *          *          *          *

    Names of the birds noticed, according to the Author's system, with
    reference to the sections of the text and the Appendix in which the
    reader will find their more melodious scientific nomenclature:--

                                                  Sect.       Sect.

    I.   _Rutila Familiaris._     _Robin Redbreast_
                                              Text 1 seqq.  App. 141
   II.   _Hirundo Domestica._     _House Swallow_
                                               "  41 seqq.   "   142
  III.   _Hirundo Monastica._     _Martlet_
                                               "  --         "   143
   IV.   _Hirundo Riparia._       _Bank Martlet_
                                               "  --         "   144
    V.   _Hirundo Sagitta._       _Swift_
                                               "  64         "   145
   VI.   _Hirundo Alpina._        _Alpine Swift_
                                               "  --         "   146
  VII.   _Noctua Europæa._        _Night-jar of Europe_
                                               "  --         "   147
 VIII.   _Merula Fontium._        _Torrent Ouzel_
                                               "  89         "   148
   IX.   _Allegretta Nymphæa._    _Lily Ouzel_
                                               "  93         "   149
   IX.A. _Allegretta Maculata._   _Spotted Allegret_
                                               "  96         "   149
   IX.B. _Allegretta Stellaris._  _Starry Allegret_
                                               "  97         "   149
   IX.C. _Allegretta Minuta._     _Tiny Allegret_
                                               "  98         "   149
    X.   _Trepida Stagnarum._     _Little Grebe_
                                               " 100         "   150
   XI.A. _Titania Arctica._       _Arctic Fairy_
                                               " 111         "   151
   XI.   _Titania Inconstans._    _Changeful Fairy_
                                               " 114         "   151
  XII.   _Rallus Aquaticus._      _Water Rail_
                                               " 116         "   152
  XII.A. _Pulla Aquatica._        _Water Hen_
                                               " 133         "   153



Motacilla Rubecula. L.
Rouge-Gorge. F.
Roth-breustlein.--Wald-roetele.--Winter-roetele.--Roth-kehlschen. T.
Petti-rosso. I.

Erythacus Rubecula. G. Rubecula Erythacus. Ges.
                           Erythaca Rubecula. Y.
                           Rebecula Familiaris. D.

Ruddock. B.
Ruddock, in Cymbeline; _tame_ Ruddocke, in Assembly of Fowlês; full
  robin-redebreast, in the Court of Love:

    "The second lesson, Robin Redebreast sang."

It is rightly classed by F. and Y. with the Warblers. Gould strangely
puts it with his rock-birds, 'saxicolinæ,'--in which, however, he also
includes the sedge warbler.

The true Robin is properly a wood-bird; the Swedish blue-throated one
lives in marshes and arable fields. I have never seen a robin in really
wild mountain ground.

There is only one European species of the red-breasted Robin. Gould
names two Japanese ones.



Hirundo Rustica. L.
Hirondelle Domestique. F.
Schwalbe. T. Swala, Swedish, and Saxon, whence our Swallow: but compare
  Lecture II., § 44.
Rondine Comune. I. (note Rond_i_ne, the Swallow; Rondone, the Swift).
Hirundo Rustica. G. and Y.
Chimney-Swallow. B.



Hirundo Urbica. L.
Hirondelle de Fenetre. F.
Kirch-schwalbe. (Church-Swallow.) T.
Balestruccio. I.
Chelidon Urbica. D. and G.
Hirundo Urbica. Martin. Y.
Martlet, Martinet, or Window-Swallow. Y.

I cannot get at the root of this word, 'Martlet,' which is the really
classical and authoritative English one. I have called it Monastica, in
translation of Shakspeare's "temple-haunting." The main idea about this
bird, among people who have any ideas, seems to be that it haunts and
builds among grander masses or clefts of wall than the common Swallow.
Thus the Germans, besides Church-Swallow, call it wall,--rock,--roof,--or
window, swallow, and Mur-Spyren, or Munster Spyren. (Wall-walker?
Minster-walker?) But by the people who have no ideas, the names 'town'
and 'country,' 'urbica' and 'rustica,' have been accepted as indicating
the practical result, that a bird which likes walls will live in towns,
and one which is content with eaves may remain in farms and villages,
and under their straw-built sheds.

My name, Monastica, is farther justified by the Dominican severity of
the bird's dress, dark gray-blue and white only; while the Domestica
has a red cap and light brown bodice, and much longer tail. As far as I
remember, the bird I know best is the Monastica. I have seen it in
happiest flocks in all-monastic Abbeville, playing over the Somme in
morning sunlight, dashing deep through the water at every stoop, like a
hardcast stone.



Hirundo Riparia. L.
Hirondelle de Rivage. F.
Rhein-schwalbe, (Rhine-Swallow,)--ufer-schwalbe,
  (Shore-Swallow,)--erd-schwalbe, (Earth-Swallow). T.
Topino, (The mouse-color.)--Rondine de riva. I.
Cotyle Riparia. G. Hirundo Riparia. Y.
Bank-Martin. B.

The Italian name, 'Topino,' is a good familiar one, the bird being
scarcely larger than a mouse, and "the head, neck, breast, and back of
a mouse-color." (B.) It is the smallest of the Swallow tribe, and
shortest of wing; accordingly, I find Spallanzani's experiment on the
rate of swallow-flight was, for greater certainty and severity, made
with this apparently feeblest of its kind:--a marked Topino, brought
from its nest at Pavia to Milan, (fifteen miles,) flew back to Pavia in
thirteen minutes. I imagine a Swift would at least have doubled this
rate of flight, and that we may safely take a hundred miles an hour as
an average of swallow-speed. This, however, is less by three-fifths
than Michelet's estimate. See above, Lecture II., § 48.

I have substituted 'bank' for 'sand' in the English name, since all the
six quoted authorities give it this epithet in Latin or French, and
Bewick in English. Also, it may be well thus to distinguish it from
birds of the sea-shore.



Hirundo Apus. L.
Martinet Noir. F.
Geyr-schwalbe. (Vulture-Swallow.) T.
Rondone. (Plural, Rondini.) I.
Cypselus Apus. G. and Y.
Swift, Black Martin, or Deviling. B.

I think it will be often well to admit the license of using a
substantive for epithet, (as one says rock-bird or sea-bird, and not
'rocky,' or 'marine,') in Latin as well as in English. We thus greatly
increase our power, and assist the brevity of nomenclature; and we gain
the convenience of using the second term by itself, when we wish to do
so, more naturally. Thus, one may shortly speak of 'The Sagitta' (when
one is on a scientific point where 'Swift' would be indecorous!) more
easily than one could speak of 'The Stridula,' or 'The Velox,' if we
gave the bird either of those epithets. I think this of Sagitta is the
most descriptive one could well find; only the reader is always to
recollect that arrow-birds must be more heavy in the head or shaft than
arrow-weapons, and fly more in the manner of rifle-shot than bow-shot.
See Lecture II., §§ 46, 67, 71, in which last paragraph, however, I
have to correct the careless statement, that in the sailing flight,
without stroke, of the larger falcons, their weight ever acts like the
_string_ of a kite. Their weight acts simply as the _weight_ of a kite
acts, and no otherwise. (Compare § 65.) The impulsive force in sailing
can be given only by the tail feathers, like that of a darting trout by
the tail fin. I do not think any excuse necessary for my rejection of
the name which seems most to have established itself lately, 'Cypselus
Apus,' 'Footless Capsule.' It is not footless, and there is no sense in
calling a bird a capsule because it lives in a hole, (which the Swift
does not.) The Greeks had a double idea in the word, which it is not
the least necessary to keep; and Aristotle's cypselus is not the swift,
but the bank-martlet--"they bring up their young in cells made out of
clay, _long_ in the entrance." The swift being precisely the one of the
Hirundines which does _not_ make its nest of clay, but of miscellaneous
straws, threads, and shreds of any adaptable rubbish, which it can
snatch from the ground as it stoops on the wing,[26] or pilfer from any
half-ruined nests of other birds.

      [26] "I have in different times and places opened ten or twelve
      swifts' nests; in all of them I found the same materials, and
      these consisting of a great variety of substances--stalks of
      corn, dry grass, moss, hemp, bits of cord, threads of silk and
      linen, the tip of an ermine's tail, small shreds of gauze, of
      muslin and other light stuffs, the feathers of domestic birds,
      _charcoal_,--in short, whatever they can find in the sweepings of

      Belon asserts (Buffon does not venture to guarantee the
      assertion), that "they will descry a fly at the distance of a
      quarter of a league"!

'Cotyle' is only a synonym for Cypselus, enabling ornithologists to
become farther unintelligible. We will be troubled no more either with
cotyles or capsules, but recollect simply that Hirundo, [Greek: chelidôn],
swallow, schwalbe, and hirondelle, are in each language the sufficing
single words for the entire Hirundine race.



Hirundo Melba. L.
Le grand Martinet a Ventre Blanc. F.
Cypselus Melba. G.
Cypselus Alpinus. Y.
Alpine Swift,--White-bellied Swift. Y.
Not in Bewick.

I cannot find its German name. The Italians compare it with the
sea-swallow, which is a gull. What 'Melba' means, or ever meant, I have
no conception.

The bird is the noblest of all the swallow tribe--nearly as large as a
hawk, and lives high in air, nothing but rocks or cathedrals serving it
for nest. In France, seen only near the Alps; in Spain, among the
mountains of Aragon. "Almost every person who has had an opportunity of
observing this bird speaks in terms of admiration of its vast powers of
flight; it is not surprising, therefore, that an individual should now
and then wing its way across the Channel to the British Islands, and
roam over our meads and fields until it is shot." (G.) It is, I
believe, the swallow of the Bible,--abundant, though only a summer
migrant, in the Holy Land. I have never seen it, that I know of, nor
thought of it in the lecture on the Swallow; but give here the complete
series of Hirundines, of which some notice may incidentally afterwards
occur in the text.



Caprimulgus Europæus. L.
L'Engoulevent. F. (Crapaud-volant, popular.)
Geissmelcher.--Nacht-schade. T.
Covaterra. I.
Caprimulgus Europæus. G. and Y.
Night-jar. B.

Dorrhawk and Fern-owl, also given by Bewick, are the most beautiful
English names for this bird; but as it is really neither a hawk nor an
owl, though much mingled in its manners of both, I keep the usual one,
Night-jar, euphonious for Night-Churr, from its continuous note like
the sound of a spinning wheel. The idea of its sucking goats, or any
other milky creature, has long been set at rest; and science,
intolerant of legends in which there is any use or beauty, cannot be
allowed to ratify in its dog or pig-Latin those which are eternally
vulgar and profitless. I had first thought of calling it Hirundo
Nocturna; but this would be too broad massing; for although the
creature is more swallow than owl, living wholly on insects, it must be
properly held as a distinct species from both. Owls cannot gape like
constrictors; nor have swallows whiskers or beards, or combs to keep
both in order with, on their middle toes. This bird's cat-like bristles
at the base of the beak connect it with the bearded Toucans, and so
also the toothed mandibles of the American cave-dwelling variety. I
shall not want the word Noctua for the owls themselves, and it is a
pretty and simple one for this tribe, enabling the local epithet
'European,' and other necessary ones, of varieties, to be retained for
the second or specific term. Nacht-schade, Night-_loss_, the popular
German name, perhaps really still refers to this supposed nocturnal
thieving; or may have fallen euphonious from Nacht-schwalbe, which in
some places abides. 'Crapaud-volant' is ugly, but descriptive, the
brown speckling of the bird being indeed toadlike, though wonderful and
beautiful. Bewick has put his utmost skill into it; and the cut, with
the Bittern and White Owl, may perhaps stand otherwise unrivaled by any
of his hand.

Gould's drawing of the bird on its ground nest, or ground contentedly
taken for nest, among heath and scarlet-topped lichen, is among the
most beautiful in his book; and there are four quite exquisite drawings
by Mr. Ford, of African varieties, in Dr. Smith's zoology of South
Africa. The one called by the doctor Europæus seems a grayer and more
graceful bird than ours. Natalensis wears a most wonderful dark
oak-leaf pattern of cloak. Rufigena, I suppose, blushes herself
separate from Ruficollis of Gould? but these foreign varieties seem
countless. I shall never have time to examine them, but thought it not
well to end the titular list of the swallows without notice of the
position of this great tribe.



Sturnus Cinclus. L.
Merle d'Eau. F.
Bach-Amsel. T.
Merla Aquaiola. I.
Cinclus Aquaticus. G. and Y.
Water Ouzel. B.

Turdus Cinclus, Pennant; Common Dipper, Y.; Didapper, Doucker, Water
Crow, Water Piot, B.; Cincle Plongeur, Temminck; Wasser Trostel, Swiss.

The scientific full arrangement, according to Yarrell, is thus:--

2. Tribe--Dentirostres.
3. Genus--Merulidæ.
4. Species--Cinclus.
5. Individual--Aquaticus.

You will please observe that some of the scientific people call it a
blackbird--some a thrush--some a starling--and the rest a Cincle,
whatever that may be. It remains for them now only to show how the
Cincle has been developed out of the Winkle, and the Winkle out of the
Quangle-Wangle. You will note also that the Yorkshire and Durham mind
is balanced between the two views of its being a crow or a magpie. I am
content myself to be in harmony with France and Italy, in my 'Merula,'
and with Germany in my _Torrent_-Ouzel. Their 'bach' (as in Staubbach,
Giesbach, Reichenbach) being essentially a mountain waterfall; and
their 'amsel,' as our Damsel, merely the Teutonic form of the
Demoiselle or Domicilla--'House-Ouzel,' as it were, (said of a nice
girl)--Domicilla again being, I think, merely the transposition of
Ancilla Domini,--Behold, the handmaid of the Lord: (see frontispiece to
third volume of 'Modern Painters') which, if young ladies in general
were to embroider on their girdles--though their dresses, fitting at
present 'as close as a glove' (see description of modern American ideal
in 'A Fair Barbarian') do not usually require girdles either for their
keys or their manners,--it would probably be thought irreverent by
modern clergymen; but if the demoiselle were none the better for it,
she _could_ certainly be none the worse.


Var. 1 (IX.A.)


Rallus Porzana. L.
Poule d'Eau Maronette. F.
Winkernell. T.
Porzana. I.
Zapornia Porzana. G.
Crex Porzana. Y.
Ortygometra Porzana. Steph.
Gallinula Maculata et Punctata. Brehmen.
Spotted Crake. B.

The 'Winkernell' is I believe provincial (Alsace); so, Girardina,
Milanese, and Girardine, Picard.--I can make nothing whatever of any of
these names;--Porzana, Bolognese and Venetian, might perhaps mean
Piggy-bird; and Ortygometra Porzana would then mean, in serious
English, the 'Quail-sized Pig-bird.' I am sorry not to be able to do
better as Interpreter for my scientific friends.



Not separated by Linnæus, or Buffon, or Bewick, nor by popular German
  or French names, from the Marouette.
Crex Baillonii, Baillon's Crake. Y.
Porzana Pygmæa. G.
Gallinula Stellaris. Temminck.



Porzana Minuta, Olivaceous Crake. G.
Crex Pusilla, Little Crake. Y.
Poule d'Eau Poussin. Temminck.
Little Gallinule. B.

It never occurred to me, when I was writing of classical landscape,
that 'Poussin' to a French ear conveyed the idea of 'chicken,' or of
the young of birds in general. (Is it from 'pousser,' as if they were a
kind of budding of bird?) Everybody seems to agree in feeling that this
is a kind of wren among the dabchicks. Bewick's name, 'Little
Gallinule,' meaning of course, if he knew it, the twice-over little
Gallina;--and here again the question occurs to me about its voice. Is
it a twice-over little crow, called a 'creak,' or anything like the
Rail's more provokingly continuous objurgation?--compare notes below on
Rallus Aquaticus. I find, with some alarm, in Buffon, that one with a
longer tail, the Cau-rale or Tail-rail of Cayenne, is there called
'Little Peacock of the Roses;' but its cry is represented by the liquid
syllables 'Piolo,' while the black-spotted one of the Society
Islands--Magellan's 'Water-quail'--says 'Poo-a-nee,' and the Bidi-bidi
of Jamaica says 'Bidi-bidi.'



Colymbus Minor. L.
Le Castagneux. F.
Deutchel. T.
Tropazarola? I.
Podiceps Minor. C.
Little Grebe. B.

The Yorkshire accents and changes of its name are given by Bewick:
Dobchick--small doucker; Dipper, or Didapper.

In Barbadoes--Two-penny chick.

It seems to me curious that without knowing Buffon's name, which I have
only looked up now, 'the Chestnutty,' given from the brown on its back,
I should have, myself, always called its foot 'chestnutty,' from the
shape of its lobes.

My 'Trepida' will do well enough, I think, for a Latin rendering of
Grebe, and will include the whole group of them,--'stagnarum' remaining
for this species only, and the others being called Tippeted Trepids, or
Muffed Trepids, Eared Trepids or Majestic Trepids, as I find out what
they wear, and how they behave. Grèbe is used by Buffon only for the
larger ones, and Castagneux for the smaller, which is absurd enough,
unless the smaller are also the browner.

But I find in Buffon some interesting particulars not given in my
text--namely, that the whole group differs from common chicks, not only
in the lobed feet, but in these being set so far back, (becoming almost
a fish's tail indeed, rather than a bird's legs,) that they are quite
useless for walking, and could support the bird only on land if it
stood upright: but that it "dashes through the waves" (i.e., the larger
varieties through sea waves), and "runs on the surface"? (i.e., the
smaller varieties on pools,) with surprising rapidity; its motions are
said to be never quicker and brisker than when under water. It pursues
the fish to a very great depth, and is often caught in fishermen's
nets. It dives deeper than the scoter duck, which is taken only on beds
of shellfish left bare by the ebb-tide; while the Grebes are taken in
the open sea, often at more than twenty feet depth.



Tringa Fulicaria. L.
(No French name given in my edition of Buffon!)
No German, anywhere.
No Italian, anywhere.

But of suggestions by scientific authors, here are enough to choose

Lobipes Hyperboreus, G. Lobipes Hyperborea, Selby. Phalaropus
Hyperboreus, Penn. Phalarope Hyperbore, Temm. Phalaropus Fulicaria,
Mont. Phalaropus Fuscus, Bewick. Phalaropus Rufescens, Briss. Red
Coot-footed Tringa, Edw. Red-necked Phalarope, Gould. Lobe-foot, Selby.
Coot-foot, Fleming.

I am a little shocked at my own choice of name in this case, not quite
pleasing my imagination with the idea of a Coot-footed Fairy. But since
Athena herself thinks it no disgrace to take for disguise the likeness
either of a sea-gull or a swallow, a sea-fairy may certainly be thought
of as condescending to appear with a diving bird's foot; and the rather
that, if one may judge by painters' efforts to give us sight of
Fairyland, the general character of its inhabitants is more that of
earthly or marine goblins than aerial ones.

Now this is strange! At the last moment, I find this sentence in
Gould's introduction: "The generic terms Phalaropus and Lobipes have
been instituted for the _fairy-like_ phalaropes."



Tringa Lobata. L.
Phalaropus Fulicarius (Gray Phalarope). G.
Phalaropus Lobatus. Latham.

"Phalarope with indented festoons," English trans. of Buffon.--It is of
no use to ring the changes farther.



Rallus Aquaticus. L., G., Y.
Râle d'Eau. F.
Samet-Hennle--Velvet (silken?) hen. Ges.
Schwartz-Wasser-Hennle. T.?
Vagtel-Konge. Danish.
Porzana, or Forzana, at Venice.
Brook-Ouzel--Velvet Runner. B.

I take this group of foreign names from Buffon, but question the German
one, which must belong to the Water Hen; for the Rail is not black, but
prettily gray and spotted, and I think Buffon confuses the two birds,
as several popular names do. Thus, the Velvet Hen also, I fancy, is the
Water Hen; but Bewick's Velvet-Runner partly confirms it to the Rail. I
find nothing about velvet said in describing the plumage.

I leave Linnæus's for our Latin name, under some protest. Rallus is a
late Latin adjective, meaning 'thin,' and if understood as 'Thin-bird,'
or 'Lath-like' bird, would be reasonable; but if it stand, as it does
practically, for Railing or Rattling bird, it is both bad Latin, and,
as far as I can make out, calumnious of the usually quiet creature.

Note also, for a connected piece of scholarship, that our English verb
to 'rail' does not properly mean to scold, or to abuse noisily; it is
from 'railler,' and means to 'rally,' or jest at, which is often a much
wickeder thing to do, if the matter be indeed no jest.

Note also of Samet or Samite, its derivation from late Greek [Greek:
examitos], silken stuff woven of six threads, of which I believe two
were of gold. The French oriflamme was of crimson samite, and I don't
see why the French shouldn't call this bird Poule de Soie, instead of
by their present ugly name--more objectionable on all grounds, of
sense, scholarship, and feeling, than the English one. But see the next

153. XII.A.


There seems so much confusion in the minds, or at least the language,
of ornithologists, between the Water Rail and Water Hen, that I give
this latter bird under the number XII.A. rather than XIII., (which
would, besides, be an unlucky number to end my Appendix with); and it
would be very nice, if at all possible or proper, to keep these two
larger dabchicks connected pleasantly in school-girl minds by their
costumes, and call one 'Silken Runner,' and this,--which, as said
above, Gesner seems to mean, Velvet Runner, or Velvet Hen.--Poule de
Soie or Poule de Velours? I am getting a little confused myself,
however, I find at last, between Poules, Poussins, Pullets, and Pullas;
and must for the present leave the matter to the reader's choice and
fancy, till I get some more birds looked at, and named:--only, for a
pretty end of my Appendix, here are two bits of very precious letters,
sent me by friends who know birds better than most scientific people,
but have been too busy--one in a 'Dorcas Society,' and the other in a
children's hospital--to write books, and only now write these bits of
letters on my special petition. The member of the Dorcas Society sends
me this brief but final and satisfactory answer to my above question
about birds' ears:--

"We talk and think of birds as essentially musical and mimetic, or at
least vocal and noisy creatures; and yet we seem to think that although
they have an ear, they have no ears. Little or nothing is told us of
the structure of a bird's ear. We are now too enlightened to believe in
what we can't see; and ears that are never pricked, or cocked, or laid
back,--that merely receive and learn, but don't express,--that are
organs, not features, don't interest our philosophers now.

"If you blow gently on the feathers of the side of a bird's head, a
little above and behind the corner of the beak, a little below and
behind the eye, the parted feathers will show the listening place; a
little hole with convolutions of delicate skin turning inwards, very
much like what your own ear would be if you had none,--I mean, if all
of it that lies above the level of the head had been removed, leaving
no trace. No one who looks at the little hole could fail to see that it
is an ear, highly organized--an ear for music; at least, I found it so
among the finches I have examined; I know not if a simpler structure is
evident in the ear of a rook or a peacock.

"The feathers are so planted round a bird's ears, that however ruffled
or wet, they can't get in--and possibly they conduct sound. Birds have
no need of ears with a movable cowl over them, to turn and twist for
the catching of stray sounds, as foxes have, and hares, and other
four-footed things; for a bird can turn his whole head so as to put his
ear wherever he pleases in the twinkling of an eye; and he has too many
resources, whatever bird he may be, of voice and gesture, to need any
power of ear-cocking to welcome his friends, or ear-flattening to
menace his foes.

"The long and the short of it is, that we may as well take the trouble
first to look for, and then to look at, a bird's ear--having first made
the bird like us and trust us so much, that he won't mind a human
breath upon his cheek, but will let us see behind the veil, into the
doorless corridor that lets music into the bird-soul."

154. Next; the physician (over whom, to get the letter out of him, I
had to use the authority of a more than ordinarily imperious patient)

"Now for the grebes lowering themselves in water, (which Lucy said I
was to tell you about). The way in which they manage it, I believe to
be this. Most birds have under their skins great air-passages which
open into the lungs, and which, when the bird is moving quickly, and
consequently devouring a great deal of air, do, to a certain extent,
the work of supplementary lungs. They also lessen the bird's specific
gravity, which must be of some help in flying. And in the gannet, which
drops into the sea from a great height after fish, these air-bags
lessen the shock on striking the water. Now the grebes (and all
diving-birds) which can swim high up out of water when the air-cushions
are full, and so feel very little the cold of the water beneath them,
breathe out all spare air, and sink almost out of sight when they wish
to be less conspicuous;--just as a balloon sinks when part of the gas
is let out. And I have often watched the common divers and cormorants
too, when frightened, swimming about with only head and neck out of
water, and so looking more like snakes than birds.

"Then about the Dippers: they 'fly' to the bottom of a stream, using
their wings, just as they would fly up into the air; and there is the
same difficulty in flying to the bottom of the stream, and keeping
there, as there would be in flying up into the air, and keeping
there,--perhaps greater difficulty.

"They can never walk comfortably along the bottom of a river, as they
could on the bank, though I know they are often talked of as doing it.
They too, no doubt, empty their air-bags, to make going under water a
little less difficult."

155. This most valuable letter, for once, leaves me a minute or two,
disposed to ask a question which would need the skinning of a bird in a
diagram to answer--about the "air-passages, which are a kind of
supplementary lungs." Thinking better of it, and leaving the bird to
breathe in its own way, I _do_ wish we could get this Dipper question
settled,--for here we are all at sea--or at least at brook, again,
about it: and although in a book I ought to have examined before--Mr.
Robert Gray's 'Birds of the West of Scotland,' which contains a
quantity of useful and amusing things, and some plates remarkable for
the delicate and spirited action of birds in groups,--although, I say,
this unusually well-gathered and well-written book has a nice little
lithograph of two dippers, and says they are quite universally
distributed in Scotland, and called 'Water Crows,' and in Gaelic 'Gobha
dubh nan allt,' (which I'm sure must mean something nice, if one knew
what,) and though it has a lively account of the bird's ways out of the
water--says not a word of its ways _in_ it! except that "dippers
everywhere delight in _deep_ linns and brawling rapids, where their
interesting motions never fail to attract the angler and bird-student;"
and this of their voices: "In early spring, the male birds may be seen
perched on some moss-covered stone, trilling their fine clear notes;"
and again: "I have stood within a few yards of one at the close of a
blustering winter's day, and enjoyed its charming music unobserved. The
performer was sitting on a stake jutting from a mill-pond in the midst
of a cold and cheerless Forfarshire moor, yet he joyously warbled his
evening hymn with a fullness which made me forget the surrounding

Forget it not, thou, good reader; but rather remember it in your own
hymns, and your own prayers, that still--in Bonnie Scotland, and Old
England--the voices, almost lost, of Brook, and Breeze, and Bird, may,
by Love's help, be yet to their lovers audible. Ainsi soit il.

BRANTWOOD, 8_th July_, 1881.

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