ePub 版

beautiful stanza, written in 1807, is a well-known


I heard a stock-dove sing or say
His homely tale this very day;
His voice was buried among trees

Yet to be come at by the breeze ;

He did not cease; but cooed and cooed ;

And somewhat pensively he wooed :

He sang of love, with quiet blending,
Slow to begin and never ending;
Of serious faith and inward glee

That was the song-the song for me.

Now, the stock-dove does not nest in trees, but more usually in rabbit-burrows. The poet makes the same mistake again when he says:

True as the stock-dove to her shallow nest

And to the grove that holds it.

Another beautiful line on the same theme is

Over his own sweet voice the stock-dove broods.

It is quite clear that in these three references he has the wood-pigeon in his mind, and that he makes no distinction between the two varieties of pigeon.

The owl that harmless and highly useful bird -has fared badly with the poets. They regard him as an uncanny creature, and their favourite epithets for him are moping, boding, dismal. This

wrong impression is easily explicable by the fact that the bird's favourite period of activity is in the dusk. Moreover, his goggle eyes, his soft, almost inaudible flight, and his melancholy hoot all contribute to the weird picture usually drawn, though undeservedly, of this cat in feathers. The solitudes of the Lake District are favourable regions for hearing the owl, and the bird figures frequently in Wordsworth's poetry.

The tremulous sob of the complaining owl

occurs in The Evening Walk-an early poem. The same phrase is repeated in The Idiot Boy.

The owlets through the long, blue night

Are shouting to each other still;

Fond lovers, yet not quite hob-nob,
They lengthen out the tremulous sob
That echoes far from hill to hill.

The best passage, however, is that in The Excursion beginning, "There was a boy," and describing how this boy imitated the hooting of the owls, and during a pause of silence felt the mysterious power of Nature enter his soul—a very characteristically Wordsworthian sentiment.

Many a time,

At evening, when the earliest stars began

To move along the edges of the hills,

Rising or setting, would he stand alone
Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake;
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,

That they might answer him.—And they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call,-with quivering peals
And long halloos, and screams and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled: concourse wild
Of jocund din! And when there came a pause
Of silence such as baffled his best skill:
Then sometimes, in that silence, while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice

Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind,
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,

Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.

Another fine description of the owl occurs in a late poem (1834), "The leaves that rustled on this oak-crowned hill". The mountains enclosing Grasmere are very favourable to the reverberation of sound, and this is the point which the poet elaborates.

Sound is there none at which the faintest heart

Might leap, the weakest nerve of superstition start;
Save when the owlet's unexpected scream

Pierces the ethereal vault; and the imaginative bird

Seems 'mid inverted mountains, not unheard.

Grave creature!—whether, while the moon shines bright On thy wings opened wide for smoothest flight,

Thou art uncovered in a roofless tower,

Rising from what may once have been a lady's bower;

Or spied where thou sitt'st moping in thy mew

At the dim centre of a churchyard yew;

Or, from a rifted crag or ivy-tod

Deep in a forest, thy secure abode,

Thou giv'st, for pastime's sake, by shriek or shout,
A puzzling notice of thy whereabout.—

May the night never come, nor day be seen,

When I shall scorn thy voice or mock thy mien !

This is less poetical, but it gathers up very successfully the different amenities of owl life, and seems to be a versified account of the bird's natural history, such as might be found in a scientific book.



THOUGH a genuine lover of Nature, and educated during the period of the scientific awakening of the nineteenth century, M. Arnold did not infuse much of the scientific spirit into his verse. Yet there is ample material in his poetry for a short exposition from this standpoint, and we render him such a tribute all the more heartily that as a poet he has not received the meed of popularity and appreciation that were his due. He is a great poet, a greater master of his art than many give him credit for, and his poetry well rewards most careful study, only it does not appeal to a large class of readers, being somewhat too classical in form and in allusion for the man in the street; to the cultured reader, however, it is a source of perpetual and unfailing delight. Arnold had the misfortune to be eclipsed by both Tennyson and Browning, and the lack of support which he suffered,

« 上一頁繼續 »