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The birds that bring summer and Aly when 'tis o'er.
Voluptuous elegance, the lovely child
The brightest sunshine of a glorious state. But it is not less remarkable that a poet, enumerating the impressions of autumn upon his mind, should omit the reference to the great fact of bird emigration, of which the copses and hedgerows are all so silently eloquent, than that, speaking of his own favourite birdstelling us not only all they do (and don't) and all they think abouthe should forget to deplore their approaching departure. Last of all in the bird-cycle is winter, when
Of various plume and chirp, the flccking birds
Alight on hedge or bush ;
Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang ; and where,
more dreary cold
This last line-"a forsaken bird's nest filled with snow"-epitomises in a line all the year's history--the happy industry of spring, the summer flight of birds, the autumn fall of the leaves, and then winter with a handful of snow. It is by far the most beautiful touch in any poem. Many poets write pathetically about the “starving," “shivering” birds, some writing from the life
The birds sit chittering in the thorn ;
A' day they fare but sparsely ; and some from fancy
A widow bird sat mourning for her love
Upon a wintry bough,
The frozen stream below;
but all alike writing with a gentle sense of condolence and compassion. This is sympathy of course, but it is not the "sympathy" that makes men poets; it only shows them to be men.
NOTES OF AN ISTRIAN JOURNEY.
1.-THE "BEFPI." N a clear day in March, the faint blue outline of the Istrian
coast, rather suggested than discerned from the campanile of Saint Mark, looked tempting enough to waken the spirit of spring wandering. The country is unguide-booked as yet, and comparatively unknown. But Venice has always been intimately connected with the Istrian peninsula ; it was one of her earliest conquests. And though the custom-house now excludes the famous Istrian wine, Venice yet owes no small debt to Istria for the beautiful stone her artists used so well. The question was, how to get there. The Austrian-Lloyd steamer, that lay off the point of the Dogana, did not look tempting ; and, besides, that would take one to Trieste, and not to the Istrian coast proper. A sailing-boat was clearly the right carriage. While revolving this point, the captain of the Beppi, an old friend of my friend Antonio, offered us a berth, or rather half a berth apiece, on board his boat that trades between Venice and the Istrian coast. We were to sail that night at two o'clock with the ebbing tide.
“Paron ” Piero was as tough and hearty an old salt as you could meet with on the coast of Argyle. A Pelestrinotto by birth—for hardly a single Venetian is engaged in this coasting trade, and the masters and crews all hail from Burano, Pelestrina, or ChioggiaPiero had served under Austria, and loved the name of Emperor ; he insisted on announcing the birthday of the King of Italy, which we kept at sea, as “la nascità del nostro Imperador.” He had fought, been wounded, smuggled, and finally settled down to this trade of carrying wood. A man with a quick temper, a warm heart, and a flow of things to say that left him often high and dry for words, so that most of his sentences ended in “diavoli”—a compendious symbol for whatever might be wanting. The Beppi had cost him 25,000 francs, and he had owned her fifteen years, though she confessed a greater age, with a tell-tale “ 1849,” half worn out, upon her bows.
The Beppi was a boat of that build which, in these waters, is called a “trabaccolo ;” very similar to a Dutch galliot, with round, blunt bows, round ribs, and a flat bottom. She was about forty tons of burden, and carried two square sails on her main and mizen, and a jib. Her bulging prow had the two inevitable eyes cut and painted on either side of her nose; for in Venice, as in China, they ask you, How can a vessel see where she is going if she has no eyes? Inside, the Beppi contained a large hold in the centre for her cargo of firewood, and there an occasional cask of wine might be hidden from custom-house inquisitiveness. In the bows was a cabin for the crew, and in the stern another for the “Paron” and his son, which we were to share. The cabin of the Beppi was at most six feet square and five feet high. All round it was panelled in walnut-wood, roughly carved into arches and pilasters. At one side, close to the ladder of the hatchway, hung hams and smoked quarters of mutton, called “castradina," and dried fish. Under these, were three tubs--the one containing yellow maize-flour for polenta, another “paste," and the third peas and dried beans for soup ; this, with a string of biscuits, formed the provision for the voyage. Next the hams came an array of hats and coats of all ages, to suit all weathers; then a little table and a stool ; over the table the “Madonna della Seggiola." The opposite wall was entirely occupied by a large recess, in the middle of which hung an engraving of a very Correggiesque Madonna, the patroness of the boat, surrounded with a wreath of olive branches, maize, and oranges. Before the picture a lamp in a glass globe was kept constantly burning. The rest of this recess served as a store for ship's lamps, oil cans, one bottle of rum, and a small keg of wine. The two remaining sides of the cabin held two bunks, broad enough for two people to lie heads and tails. It did not take long to make one fond of the little cabin, in spite of its strange variety of smells.
The weather was fine when we went on board, about ten o'clock, hoping to get some sleep before starting. But March is the very month for the stormy Lord of Hadria to play some trick, and we felt, as an old Italian poet had sung, that “di doman' non c'è certezza.”
11.-TWO IDLE DAYS.
Next morning the rain was dripping steadily on the deck. “That son of a dog, the scirocco," as the “Paron ” called it, had played us the trick we dreaded, and the weather had fairly broken. The regular patter of the reefs against the sails showed that the Beppi was anchored, off fort Alberoni, just at the mouth of the Malamocco
port, only nine miles from Venice : that was all the way we had made. And it seemed probable that we should have to remain where we were throughout the day, for the Adriatic was thundering on the sea walls that keep the lagoon and Venice itself from being swept away. From the deck nothing could be seen ; nothing but dense banks of sea fog, through which the roar of the sea sounded strange and unreal; for inside the shelter of the walls all the lagoon was grey and still. After such a wash as was possible in an old tin basin, and breakfast being despatched, there was nothing to be done but to set about cooking the dinner. Our kitchen was a portable stove lashed to the bulwarks, with two holes for the fire and places for two pots. The “Paron” was proud of his iron kitchen ; hitherto he had carried a wooden one only, and it was always taking fire. Fourteen times had it set his cargo of wood in a blaze ; “but,” he added contentedly, “I never lost it all.”
"Polenta, castradina,” said Antonio, announcing our bill of fare ; and he was to cook it, for among his other accomplishments he numbered a skilled hand at polenta. The castradina was brought up and chopped into huge hunks ; these were set to boil for two hours in the larger pot, to flavour the water. Then they were taken. out and set aside to keep warm, while the yellow maize-flour and the salt were poured, slowly by handfuls, into the boiling water, and stirred round and round, as we make porridge. When the polenta had reached the proper consistency the whole yellow mass was turned out on to a slab of wood, and the “Paron ” came with a piece of string and sliced it into the proper proportions. Then the crew were summoned to dinner from their cabin, to the cry of “Polenta ! Polenta ! figlio!i; polenta, cari tosi.” And up scrambled the “dear boys," through their hatchway, and settled around the polenta board. Four wrinkled, weather-stained old men; all of them natives of Pelestrina. They had spent the whole of their lives in making voyages up and down the Adriatic ; and knew every corner of the intricate Dalmatian coast. One of them, the oldest, Doro by name, was a character and a constant source of amusement to the others. His face was like nothing human, so full was it of wrinkles; and an irresistibly humorous twinkle lurked in the corners of his old eyes. He was seventy years of age, and had married three wives—a Chiozzotta, a Pelestrinotta, and a Venetian ; he was meditating a fourth, a Buranella, but had been advised that she was likely to make an end of him. And in this advice the others agreed at large ; for these islanders are bitterly jealous of one another. Doro possessed a wonderful repertory of adjurations ; but his favourite was certainly “corpo di Diana di Des.” The crew were a little curious as to the presence of a stranger; after some discussion, however, he was summed up and settled, to every body's satisfaction, as "uno di quei che vanno contemplando il mondo."
These Pelestrinotti are passionately fond of their home; and the mere sight of it, when they cannot reach it, is enough to send them into a frenzy. Yet here lay the Beppi, idle and in sight of Pelestrina. “Acà, acà !" they kept on grumbling and muttering between their mouthfuls of polenta. And “Paron” Piero saw that he would have to let them go. Yet when they do get home they have no occupation. They lie in Homeric idleness before the fire, drinking coffee and smoking, while each one rambles along upon the lines of his own endless yarn, to which none of the others pays the smallest heed. “Acà, acà !" they all shouted when dinner was done; and home they went and left us to look after the Beppi by ourselves. On board the afternoon stole lazily by. Antonio, squatted in front of the fire that was cooking our supper, blew at it through a long cane pipe, like an Indian charming snakes. Then towards evening the wind changed. The scirocco still thundered on the outside walls. The breeze freshened ; the mists lifted and drove away from the sunset, leaving the Euganean bills purple and distinct across the green expanses of the windy lagoon. To seaward the heavy clouds lay piled, and warmed to rose in the sunset; while, far away, Venice sprang up clear and coldly grey upon the water.
Our sailors came on board again at midnight, and by dawn we were under way. The great blunt prows of the Beppi began to surge through the swell. Though the wind was fair, there was still a considerable sea; and the sog had settled down over everything once more, so that two minutes after passing the end of the mole there was nothing to be seen from the moist decks of the trabaccolo but a hand's-breadth of cold grey rolling sea. A feeling of desolation began to lay its hand on one ; a sense of having bidden adieu to everything. And now, out of the grey cloud in front of us, came the first note of a fog horn ; melancholy and weird it sounded, and seemed to pervade the mist, nor was the ear sure of the quarter whence it came. Then another; and this time clearly on our weather bow. We answer. There is a pause. Then suddenly, and with awful rapidity, a huge black mass looms out of the mist and seems to tower towards us—the prows of a steamer lost in the fog and seeking the port. There is an instant of confusion and contradictory shouts, and, above all, the “Paron's" louder and authoritative voice: then the huge mass fades silently away, blotted