psychological feats ascribed to it in that most edifying
picture emblazoned on the arms of Banking Companies,
Insurance Offices, and Quack Doctors. He is
not sure that dying swans have not sung a mournful
hymn over their last moments, under an affecting and
human sense of their mortality. He has believed
in the English lark to the same point of pleasing
credulity. Why should he not give its existence
the same faith? The history of its life is as
old as the English alphabet, and older still.
It sang over the dark and hideous lairs of the bloody
Druids centuries before Julius Caesar was born, and
they doubtless had a pleasant name for it, unless true
music was hateful to their ears. It sang, without
loss or change of a single note of this morning’s
song, to the Roman legions as they marched, or made
roads in Britain. It rang the same voluntaries
to the Saxons, Danes, and Normans, through the long
ages, and, perhaps, tended to soften their antagonisms,
and hasten their blending into one great and mighty
people. How the name and song of this happiest
of earthly birds run through all the rhyme and romance
of English poetry, of English rural life, ever since
there was an England! Take away its history and
its song from her daisy-eyed meadows, and shaded lanes,
and hedges breathing and blooming with sweetbrier
leaves and hawthorn flowers—from her thatched
cottages, veiled with ivy—from the morning
tread of the reapers, and the mower’s lunch of
bread and cheese under the meadow elm, and you take
away a living and beautiful spirit more charming than
music. You take away from English poetry one
of its pleiades, and bereave it of a companionship
more intimate than that of the nearest neighborhood
of the stars above. How the lark’s life
and song blend, in the rhyme of the poet, with “the
sheen of silver fountains leaping to the sea,”
with morning sunbeams and noontide thoughts, with the
sweetest breathing flowers, and softest breezes, and
busiest bees, and greenest leaves, and happiest human
industries, loves, hopes, and aspirations!
The American has read and heard of all this from his
youth up to the day of setting his foot, for the first
time, on English ground. He has tried to believe
it, as in things seen, temporal and tangible.
But in doing this he has to contend with a sense or
suspicion of unreality—a feeling that there
has been great poetical exaggeration in the matter.
A patent fact lies at the bottom of this incredulity.
The forefathers of New England carried no wild bird
with them to sing about their cabin homes in the New
World. But they found beautiful and happy birds
on that wild continent, as well-dressed, as graceful
in form and motion, and of as fine taste for music
and other accomplishments, as if they and their ancestors
had sung before the courts of Europe for twenty generations.
These sang their sweet songs of welcome to the Pilgrims
as they landed from the “Mayflower.”
These sang to them cheerily, through the first years
and the later years of their stern trials and tribulations.
These built their nests where the blue eyes of the
first white children born in the land could peer in
upon the speckled eggs with wonder and delight.
What wonder that those strong-hearted puritan fathers
and mothers, who