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In music unconfined. Up springs the Lark,
The hot pursuing Spaniel far astray ! Coelum.-The weather is sometimes cold and blowing at this time, at others showery, but when fine and warm it is truly delightful; and the gay glowing of the vernal flowers and of the blossoms on the trees, the music of birds in every grove and in every bush, the brilliant verdure of the young leaves, and, above all, the delightful freshness of a May morning, render this a truly enchanting season.
The poets have ever been the great advocates and admirers of May. Spenser, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Milton, and all the greater poetic spirits of Europe, have stooped from their lofty places, without disdain, to do justice and honour to this delicate month. Spenser, in his account of the months, thus introduces May :
Then came faire May, the fairest mayd on ground,
And throwing flowers out of her lap around.
Young folke now flocken in, every where,
And home they hasten, the postes to dight,
To helpen the ladies their Maybush beare ! Shakespeare has scattered allusions to May, like flowers, over all his plays and poems. We hear of “ The merry month of May,” the “ Maymorn of youth,” and of “ Love whose month is May.”
May 7. St. Benedict II. St. John of Beverly.
NONAE.—Rom. Cal. Fauna.—The melody of birds is perhaps at no time of the year greater and more constant than it is at this present period. The Nightingale the minstrel of the eve; and the Lark the herald of the morn; together with the numerous birds whose music fills the groves all day, contribute, in no small degree, to the pleasure derived from the country in this month. Nor is the lowing of distant Cattle in the evening, the hooting of the Owl, and many other rustic sounds, deficient in power to please by association of ideas. Shakespeare has a beautiful comparison of the Lark and Nightingale in Romeo and Juliet :
SCENE. Juliet's Chamber.
Rom. It was the Lark, the herald of the morn,
Jul. Yon light is not daylight, I know it, I:
To be to thee this night a torchbearer,
Rom. Let me be ta’en, let me be put to death;
I have more care to stay than will to go. Flora.— Beds of Tulips begin now to flower, and about London, Haerlem, Amsterdam, and other cities of England and Holland, are seen in perfection in the gardens of florists, who have a variety of very whimsical names for the different varieties. The early or Van Thol Tulip is now out of blow, as is the variety called the Clarimond, beds of which appear very beautiful in April. The sort now flowering is the Tulipa Gesneriana, of which the names Bizarre, Golden Eagle, &c. are only expressive of varieties. For the amusement of the reader we quote the following account of an accident that once befell a gentleman in a Tulip garden, from the Tatler, No. 218:
“I chanced to rise very early one particular morning this Summer, and took a walk into the country to divert myself among the fields and meadows, while the green was new, and the flowers in their bloom. As at this season of the year every lane is a beautiful walk, and every hedge full of nosegays, I lost myself with a great deal of pleasure among several thickets and bushes that were filled with a great variety of birds, and an agreeable confusion of notes, which formed the pleasantest scene in the world to one who had passed a whole winter in noise and smoke. The freshness of the dews that lay upon every thing about me, with the cool breath of the morning, which inspired the birds with so many delightful instincts, created in me the same kind of animal pleasure, and made my heart overflow with such secret emotions of joy and satisfaction as are not to be described or accounted for. On this occasion, I could not but reflect upon
beautiful simile in Milton.
Or dairy, each rural sight, each rural sound.' “ Those who are conversant in the writings of polite authors, receive an additional entertainment from the country, as it revives in their memories those charming descriptions, with which such authors do frequently abound.
“ I was thinking of the foregoing beautiful simile in Milton, and applying it to myself, when I observed to the
windward of me a black cloud falling to the earth in long trails of rain, which made me betake myself for shelter to a house which I saw at a little distance from the place where I was walking. As I sat in the porch, I heard the voices of two or three persons, who seemed very earnest in discourse. My curiosity was raised when I heard the names of Alexander the Great and Artaxerxes; and as their talk seemed to run on ancient heroes, I concluded there could not be any secret in it; for which reason I thought I might very fairly listen to what they said.
“ After several parallels between great men, which appeared to me altogether groundless and chimerical, I was surprised to hear one say, that he valued the Black Prince more than the Duke of Vendosme. How the Duke of Vendosme should become a rival of the Black Prince, I could not conceive: and was more startled when I heard a second affirm with great vehemence, that if the Emperor of Germany was not going off, he should like him better than either of them. He added, that though the season was so changeable, the Duke of Marlborough was in blooming beauty. I was wondering to myself from whence they had received this odd intelligence; especially when I heard them mention the names of several other great generals, as the Prince of Hesse, and the King of Sweden, who, they said, were both running away. To which they added, what I entirely agreed with them in, that the crown of France was very weak, but that the Marshal Villars still kept his colours. At last one of them told the company, if they would go along with him, he would show them a chimneysweeper and a painted lady in the same bed, which he was sure would very much please them. The shower, which had driven them as well as myself into the house, was now over; and as they were passing by me into the garden, I asked them to let me be one of their company.
“ The gentleman of the house told me, if I delighted in flowers, it would be worth my while ; for that he believed he could show me such a blow of Tulips as was not to be matched in the whole country.
“ I accepted the offer, and immediately found that they had been talking in terms of gardening, and that the kings and generals they had mentioned were only so many Tulips, to which the gardeners, according to their usual custom, had given such high titles and appellations of honour.
"I was very much pleased and astonished at the glorious show of these gay vegetables, that arose in great profusion on all the banks about us. Sometimes I considered them with the eye of an ordinary spectator, as so many beautiful
objects varnished over with a natural gloss, and stained with such a variety of colours as are not to be equalled in any artificial dyes or tinctures. Sometimes I considered every leaf as an elaborate piece of tissue, in which the threads and fibres were woven together into different configurations, which gave a different colouring to the light as it glanced on the several parts of the surface. Sometimes I considered the whole bed of Tulips, according to the notion of the greatest mathematician and philosopher that ever lived,* as a multitude of optic instruments, designed for the separating light into all those various colours of which it is composed.
“I was awakened out of these my philosophical speculations, by observing the company often seemed to laugh at
I accidentally praised a Tulip as one of the finest I ever saw, upon which they told me it was a common Fool's Coat. Upon that I praised a second, which it seems was but another kind of Fool's Coat. I had the same fate with two or three more; for which reason I desired the owner of the garden to let me know which were the finest of the flowers, for that I was so unskilful in the art, that I thought the most beautiful were the most valuable, and that those which had the gayest colours were the most beautiful. The gentleman smiled at my ignorance: he seemed a very plain honest man, and a person of good sense, had not his head been touched with that distemper which Hippocrates calls the Turnouavia, Tulippomania, insomuch, that he would talk very rationally on any subject in the world but a Tulip.
“ He told me, that he valued the bed of flowers which lay before us, and was not above twenty yards in length and two in breadth, more than he would the best hundred acres of land in England; and added, that it would have been worth twice the money it is, if a foolish cookmaid of his had not almost ruined him the last winter, by mistaking a handful of Tulip roots for an heap of Onions, and by that means, says he, made me a dish of porridge, that cost me above a thousand pounds sterling. He then showed me what he thought the finest of his Tulips, which I found received all their value from the rarity and oddness, and put me in mind of your great fortunes, which are not always the greatest beauties.
“I have often looked upon it as a piece of happiness, that I have never fallen into any of these fantastical tastes, nor esteemed any thing the more for its being uncommon and hard to be met with. For this reason, I look upon the whole country in spring time as a spacious garden, and make
Sir Isaac Newton.