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The birds, conceiving a design
To forestal sweet St. Valentine,
In many an orchard, copse, and grove,
Assembled on affairs of love,
And with much twitter and much chatter,
Began to agitate the matter.
At length a Bulfinch, who could boast
More years and wisdom than the most,
Entreated, op'ning wide his beak,
A moment's liberty to speak;:
And, silence publicly enjoin’d,
Deliver'd briefly thus his mind.
My friends! be cautious how ye treat
· The subject upon which we meet;
I fear we shall have winter yet.
A Finch, whose tongue knew no control, With golden wing and satin pole, A last year's bird, who ne'er had tried What marriage means, thus pert replied.
Methinks the gentleman, quoth she,
Opposite in the apple-tree,
By his good will, would keep us single
Till yonder heav'n and earth shall mingle,
Or (which is likelier to befall)
Till death exterminate us all.
I marry without more ado,
My dear Dick Redcap, what say you?
Dick heard, and tweedling, ogling, bridling,
Turning short round, strutting and sideling,
Attested, glad, his approbation
Of an immediate conjugation.
Their sentiments so well express’d,
Influenc'd mightily the rest,
· All pair’d, and each pair built a nest.
· But though the birds were thus in haste,
The leaves came on not quite so fast,
And destiny, that sometimes bears
An aspect stern on man's affairs,
Not altogether smild on theirs.
The wind, of late breath'd gently forth,
Now shifted east and east by north;
Bare trees and shrubs but ill, you know,
Could shelter them from rain or snow,
Stepping into their nests, they paddled,
Themselves were chill'd, their eggs were addled;
Soon ev'ry father bird and mother
Grew quarrelsome, and peck'd each other,
Parted without the least regret,
Except that they had ever met,
And learn’d, in future, to be wiser, · Than to neglect a good adviser.
Misses! the tale that I relate
This lesson seems to carry-
Choose not alone a proper mate,
But proper time to marry.
There is a field through which I often pass, Thick overspread with moss and silky grass, Adjoining close to Kilwick's echoing wood, Where oft the bitch-fox hides her hapless brood, Reserv’d to solace many a neighb’ring 'squire, That he may follow them through brake and briar, Contusion hazarding of neck or spine, Which rural gentlemen call sport divine. · A narrow brook, by rushy banks conceal’d, Runs in a bottom, and divides the field; Oaks intersperse it, that had once a head, But now wear crests of oven-wood instead; And where the land slopes to its wat’ry bourn, Wide yawns a gulph beside a ragged thorni;.
Bricks line the sides, but shiver'd long ago,
And horrid brambles intertwine below;
A hollow scoop’d, I judge in ancient time,
For baking earth, or burning rock to lime.
Not yet the hawthorn bore her berries red,
With which the fieldfare, wint'ry guest, is fed;
Nor autumn yet had brush'd from ev'ry spray,
With her chill hand, the mellow leaves away;
But corn was hous’d, and beans were in the stack,
Now, therefore, issued forth the spotted pack,
With tails high mounted, ears hung low,and throats
With a whole gamut fill’d of heav'nly notes,
For which, alas! my destiny severe, .
Though ears she gave me two, gave me no ear.
The sun, accomplishing his early march, His lamp now planted on heav’n's topmast arch, When, exercise and air my only aim, And heedless whither, to that field I came, Ere yet with ruthless joy the happy hound Told hill and dale that Reynard's track was found,