[ocr errors]

drawn up for the purpose of manure; but, in general, with us the swallow breeds in chimneys, and loves tó haunt those stacks where there is a constant fire-no doubt for the sake of the warmth.

Five or six feet down the chimney does this little bird begin to form her nest about the middle of May, which consists, like that of the house martin, of a crust or shell composed of dirt or mud, mixed with short pieces of straw, to render it tough and permanent.

Wonderful is the address which this adroit bird shows all day lortg in ascending and descending with security through so narrow a pass. When hovering over the mouth of the chimney, the vibrations of her wings, acting on the confined air, occasion a rumbling like thunder. It is probable that the dam submits to this inconvenient situation so low in the shaft in order to secure her broods from rapacious birds, and particularly from owls, which frequently fall down chimneys, perhaps in attempting to get at these nestlings.

The swallow lays from four to six white eggs, dotted with red specks, and brings out her first brood about the last week in June, or the first week in July. The progressive method by which the young are introduced into life is very amusing. First, they emerge from the shaft with difficulty enough, and often fall down into the rooms below. For å day or so they are fed on the chimney top, and then are conducted to the dead, leafless bough of some tree, where, sitting in a row, they are attended with great assiduity, and may then bé called perchers. In a day or two more they become fliers, but are still unable to take their own food ; therefore they play about near the place where their mothers are seeking for fies. When a mouthful is collected, at a certain signal given the dam and the nestling advance, rising towards each other and meeting at an angle, the young one all the while uttering such a little, quick note of gratitude and complacency that a person must have paid very little regard to the wonders of nature who has not remarked this feat.

The old bird betakes herself immediately to the business of a second brood as soon as she is disengaged from the


first, which at once associates with the first brood of hous martins, and with them congregates, clustering on sunny roofs, towers, and trees. This kind of swallow brings out her second brood towards the middle and end of August.

All the summer long the swallow is a most instructive pattern of unwearied industry and affection. From morning to night, while there is a family to be supported, she spends the whole day in skimming close to the ground, and exerting the most sudden turns and quick evolutions. Avenues and long walks, under hedges and pasture fields, and mown meadows where cattle graze are her delight, especially if there are trees interspersed, because in such spots insects most abound. When a fly is taken a smart snap from her bill is heard, resembling the noise at the shutting of a watch-case, but the motion of the mandibles is too quick for the eye.

The swallow, probably the male bird, is the excubitor to house martins and other little birds, announcing the approach of birds of prey ; for as soon as a hawk appears, with a shrill, alarming note he calls all the swallows and martins about him, who pursue in a body, and buffet and strike their enemy till they have driven him from the village, darting down from above on his back, and rising in a perpendicular line in perfect security. This bird also will sound the alarm, and strike at cats when they climb on the roofs of houses, or otherwise approach the nests. Each species of hirundo drinks as it flies along, sipping the surface of the water; but the swallow alone, in general, washes on the wing by dropping into a pool for many times together. In very hot weather, house martins and bank martins dip and wash a little.

The swallow is a delicate songster, and in soft, sunny weather sings both perching and flying: It sings on trees in a kind of concert with others, and also sings when perched on the chimney-top. It is a bold flier, ranging to distant downs and commons even in windy weather, which the other species seem much to dislike; nay, it even frequents exposed seaport towns, and makes little excursions over the salt water. Horsemen on wide downs are often closely attended by a little party of swallows for miles



together, which play before and behind them, sweeping around, and collecting all the skulking insects that are roused by the trampling of the horses' feet. When the wind blows hard, without this expedient they are often forced to settle to pick up their lurking prey.

This species feeds much on little coleoptera, as well as on gnats and flies, and often settles on dug ground, or paths, for gravels to grind and digest its food. Before they depart, for some weeks they forsake houses and chimneys, and roost in trees. They usually withdraw about the beginning of October, though some few stragglers may remain occasionally till the first week in November.

Both male and female are distinguished from their congeners by the length and forkedness of their tails. They are undoubtedly the most nimble of all the species ; and when the male pursues the female in amorous chase, they then go beyond their usual speed, and exert a rapidity almost too quick for the eye to follow.

A certain swallow built, for two years together, on the handles of a pair of garden shears that were stuck up against the wall in an outhouse, and therefore must have had her nest spoiled whenever that implement was wanted. And, what is stranger still, another bird of the same species built its nest on the wings and body of an owl, that happened by accident to hang dead and dry from the rafter of a barn. Thus is instinct in animals, taken the least out of its way, an undistinguishing limited faculty, and blind to every circumstance that does not immediately respect self-preservation, or lead at once to the propagation or support of their own species.

THE DEATH OF THE PRINCE CONSORT. No person can be insensible to the fact that the House meets to-night under circumstances very much changed from those which have attended our assembly for many years. Of late, indeed for more than twenty years past, whatever may have been our personal rivalries and our party strifes, there was at least one sentiment in which we

all acquiesced and in which we all shared, and that was a sentiment of admiring gratitude to that throne whose wisdom and goodness so frequently softened the acerbities of our great public life, and so majestically represented the matured intelligence of an enlightened people.

All that has changed. He is gone who was the comfort and support of that throne. It has been said that there is nothing which England so much appreciates as the fulfilment of duty. The prince whom we have lost was not only eminent for the fulfilment of his duty, but it was the fulfilment of the highest duty; and it was the fulfil-ment of the highest duty under the most difficult circumstances.

Prince Albert was the consort of his sovereign. He was the father of one who might be his sovereign. He was the prime counsellor of a realm the political constitution of which did not even recognise his political existence. Yet, under these circumstances, so difficult and so delicate, he elevated even the throne by the dignity and purity of his domestic life. He framed, and partly accomplished, a scheme of education for the heir of England which proves how completely its august projector had contemplated the office of an English king. In the affairs of state, while his serene spirit and elevated position bore him above all the possible bias of our party life, he showed, upon every great occasion, all the resources, all the prudence, and all the sagacity of an experienced and responsible statesman. I have presumed, sir, to touch

upon three instances in which there was, on the part of Prince Albert, the fulfilment of a duty of the highest character under circumstances of the greatest difficulty. I will venture to touch upon another point of his character, equally distinguished by the fulfilment of duty ; but in this instance the duty was not only fulfilled, but it was created. Although when Prince Albert was adopted by this country he was but a youth of tender years, yet such was the character of his mind that he at once observed that, notwithstanding all those great achievements which long centuries of internal concord and of public liberty had permitted the energy and enterprise of Englishmento accomplish, there was still a great deficiency in our national character, which, if neglected, might lead to the impairing not only of our social happiness but even the sources of our public wealth, and that was a deficiency of culture.

But he was not satisfied in detecting the deficiency, he resolved to supply it. His plans were deeply laid, they were maturely considered, and, notwithstanding the obstacles which they encountered, I am prepared to say that they were eminently successful. What might have been his lot had his term completed that which is ordained as the average life of man, it may be presumptuous to predict. Perhaps he would have impressed upon his age not only his character but his name; but this, I think, posterity will acknowledge, that he heightened the intellectual and moral character of this country ; that he extended and expanded the sympathies of all classes ; and that he most beneficially adapted the productive powers of England to the inexhaustible resources of science and art.

It is sometimes deplored by those who loved and admired him that he was thwarted occasionally in his enterprises, and that he was not duly appreciated in his works. Îhese, however, are not circumstances for regret, but for congratulation. They prove the leading and original mind which so long and so advantageously laboured for this country. Had he not encountered these obstacles, had he not been subject to occasional distrust and misrepresentation, it would only have proved that he was a man of ordinary mould and temper. Those who move must change, and those who change must necessarily disturb and alarm prejudices; and what he encountered was only a demonstration that he was a man superior to his age, and admirably adapted to carry out the work he had undertaken.

Sir, there is one point, and one point only, on which I would presume for a moment to dwell, and it is not for the sake of you, sir, whom I am now addressing, or for the generation to which we belong, but it is that those who come after us may not misapprehend the nature of this illustrious man. Prince Albert was not a patron. He was not one of those who, by their smiles and by their gold reward excellence or stimulate exertion, His contributions

« 上一页继续 »