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be so narrowly watched as those species that build more openly; but, from what I could ever observe, they begin nesting about the middle of May; and I have remarked, from eggs taken, that they have sat hard by the ninth of June.
This hirundo differs widely from its congeners in laying invariably but two eggs at a time, which are milk white, long, and peaked at the small end; whereas the other species lay at each brood from four to six. It is a most alert bird, rising very early, and retiring to roost very late; and is on the wing in the height of summer at least sixteen hours. In the longest days it does not withdraw to rest till a quarter before nine in the evening, before the latest of all day birds. Just before they retire, whole groups of them assemble high in the air, and squeak and shoot about with wonderful rapidity. But this bird is never so much alive as in sultry thundery weather, when it expresses great alacrity, and calls forth all its powers. In hot mornings several, getting together in little parties, dash round the steeples and churches, squeaking as they go in a very clamorous manner; these, by nice observers, are supposed to be males serenading their setting hens; and not without reason, since they seldom squeak till they come close to the walls or eaves, and since those within utter at the same time a little inward note of complacency.
When the hen has sat hard all day she rushes forth just as it is almost dark, and stretches and relieves her weary limbs, and snatches a scanty meal for a few minutes, and then returns to her duty of incubation. Swifts, when wantonly and cruelly shot while they have young, discover a little lump of insects in their mouths, which they pouch and hold under their tongue. In general they feed in a much higher district than the other species; a proof that gnats and other insects do also abound to a considerable height in the air; they also range to vast distances, since locomotion is no labour to them who are endowed with such wonderful powers of wing. Their powers seem to be in proportion to their levers; and their wings are longer in proportion than those of almost any other bird.
At some certain times in the summer I had remarked that swifts were hawking very low for hours together over pools and streams, and could not help inquiring into the object of their pursuit that induced them to descend so much below their usual range. After some trouble, I found that they were taking phryganea, ephemera, and libellulæ, (cadew-flies, may-flies, and dragon flies,) that were just emerged out of their aurelia state. I then no longer wondered that they should be so willing to stoop for a prey that afforded them such plentiful and succulent nourishment.
They bring out their young about the middle or latter end of July; but as these never become perchers, nor, that ever I could discern, are fed on their wing by their dams, the coming of the young is not so notorious as in the other species.
On the thirtieth of last June I untiled the eaves of a house where many pairs build, and found in each nest only two squab, naked pulli : on the eighth of July I repeated the same inquiry, and found they had made very
little progress towards a fledged state, but were still naked and helpless. From whence we may conclude that birds whose way of life keeps them perpetually on the wing, would not be able to quit their nest till the end of the month. Swallows and martins, that have numerous families; are continually feeding them every two or three minutes; while swifts, that have but two young to maintain, are much at their leisure, and do not attend on their nests for hours together.
There is a circumstance respecting the colour of s vifts, which seems not to be unworthy our attention. When they arrive in the spring, they are all over of a glossy, dark soot colour, except their chins, which are white; but, by being all day long in the sun and air, they become quite weather-beaten and bleached before they depart, and yet they return glossy again in the spring. Now, if they pursue the sun into lower latitudes, as some suppose, in order to enjoy a perpetual summer, why do they not return bleached? Do they not rather perhaps retire to rest for a season, and at that juncture moult and change their feathers, since all other birds are known to moult soon after the season of breeding ?
Swifts are very anomalous in many particulars, dissenting from all their congeners not only in the number of their young, but in breeding but once in a summer; whereas all the other British hirundines breed invariably twice. It is past all doubt that swifts can breed but once, since they withdraw in a short time after the flight of their young, and some time before their congeners bring out their second broods. We may here remark, that as swifts breed but once in a summer, and only two at a time, and the other hirundines twice, the latter, who lay from four to six eggs, increase at an average five times as fast as the former.
But in nothing are swifts more singular than in their early retreat. They retire, as to the main body of them, by the tenth of August, and sometimes a few days sooner; and every straggler invariably withdraws by the twentieth, while their congeners, all of them, stay till the beginning of October; many of them all through the month, and some occasionally to the beginning of November. This early retreat is mysterious and wonderful, since that time is often the sweetest
eason in the
year. But, what is most extraordinary, they begin to retire still earlier in the most southerly parts of Andalusia, where they can be nowise influenced by any defect of heat; or, as one might suppose, defect of food. Are they regulated in their motions with us by a failure of food, or by a propensity to moulting, or by a disposition to rest after so rapid a life, or by what? This is one of those incidents in natural history that not only baffles our researches, but almost eludes our guesses !
On the fifth of July, 1775, I again untiled part of a roof over the nest of a swift. The dam sat in the nest; but so strongly was she affected by natural love for her brood, which she supposed to be in danger, that, regardless of her own safety, she would not stir, but lay sullenly by them, permitting herself to be taken in hand. The squab young we brought down and placed on the grass-plot, where they tumbled about, and were as helpless as a new-born child. While we contemplated their naked bodies, their unwieldy disproportioned abdomina, and their heads, too heavy for their necks to support, we could not but wonder when we reflected that these shiftless beings, in a little more than a fortnight, would be able to dash through the air almost with the inconceivable swiftness of a meteor; and perhaps, in their emigration, must traverse vast continents and oceans as distant as the equator.
33.-HYMN OF HEAVENLY BEAUTY.
SPENSER. [The inscription on his monument designates Edmund Spenser as " the prince of poets." Few have had a better claim to so eminent a title. Mr. Craik, in his excellent little work, ‘Spenser and his Poetry,' has truly said, “Our only poets before Shakspere who have given to the language any thing that in its kind has not been surpassed, and in some sort superseded, are Chaucer and Spenser, -Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales, Spenser in his Fairy Queen." Very little is known accurately of Spenser's life, beyond the facts that he was admitted as a sizer of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1569; in 1580 became Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Grey of Wilton, and for his services was rewarded by a large grant of land in the county of Cork; in 1598 was driven from Ireland by a savage outbreak, in which his house was burned, with one of his children ; and that he died in January, 1599, “for lack of bread,” as Ben Jonson records. Three books of The Fairy Queen' were published in 1590; and three others in 1591. The • Two Cantos of Mutability' appeared after his death.]
Rapt with the rage of mine own ravished thought,
That with the glory of so goodly sight
* Pondly desire.
From thence to mount aloft by order due
every side with piles of flaming brands,