vol II date / index
St. Gregory Nazianzen, A.D. 389, or 391. St. Hermas, 1st Cent. St. Nicholas, Bp. A.D. 1391.
The sun is up, and 'tis a morn of May
Round old Ravenna's clear-shown towers and bay,
A morn, the loveliest which the year has seen
Last of the spring, yet fresh with all its green;
For a warm eve, and gentle rains at night,
Have left a sparkling welcome for the light,
And there's a crystal clearness all about;
The leaves are sharp, the distant hills look out
A balmy briskness comes upon the breeze;
The smoke goes dancing from the cottage trees;
And when you listen, you may hear a coil
Of bubbling springs about the grassy soil;
And all the scene, in short—sky, earth, and sea
Breathes like a bright-eyed face, that laughs out openly.
A benevolent lover of nature,‡ —and who that loves nature is not benevolent—observes, in a notice of this day, that "the Swift, which arrives in England about this time, in the morning and in the evening comes out in quest of food, and utters, while rapidly flying, its peculiar scream, whence it is called Squeaker. In a warm summer morning these birds may be seen flying round in small companies, and all squeaking together: in the evening they come forth again; but there are times in the middle of the day when few or none of these birds are seen. We have already observed," continues Dr. Forster, "that the scenery of a May morning is particularly beautiful; a serene sky, a refreshing fragrance arising from the face of the earth, and the melody of the birds, all combine to render it inexpressibly delightful, to exhilarate the spirits, and call forth a song of grateful adoration.
How fresh the breeze that wafts the rich perfume
And swells the melody of waking birds!
The hum of bees beneath the verdant grove,
And woodman's song, and low of distant herds!
And yet there are some to whom these scenes give no delight, and who hurry away from all the varieties of rural beauty, to lose their hours and divert their thoughts by a tavern dinner, or the prattle or the politics of the day. Such was, by his own confession, Mr. Boswell, the biographer of Johnson; and, according to this 'honest chronicler's' report, the doctor himself was alike insensible to the charms of nature. 'We walked in the evening,' says Boswell, 'in Greenwich-park. Johnson asked me, I suppose by way of trying my disposition, 'Is not this very fine?' Having no exquisite relish of the beauties of nature, and being more delighted with the 'busy hum of men,' I answered, 'Yes, sir; but not equal to Fleet-street.' Johnson said, 'You are right, sir.' I am aware that many of my readers may censure my want of taste. Let me, however, shelter myself under the authority of a very fashionable baronet in the brilliant world, who, on his attention being called to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, 'This may be very well; but, for my part, I prefer the smell of a flambeau at the playhouse!'"
Green fields, and shady groves, and crystal springs
And larks, and nightingales, are odious things.
But smoke and dust, and noise and crowds, delight;
And to be pressed to death, transports her quite:
Where silvery rivulets play through flowery meads,
And woodbines give their sweets, and limes their shades,
Black kennels' absent odours she regrets,
And stops her nose at beds of violets;
Nor likes to leave her bed at early dawn,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
Solomon's Seal. Convallaria multiflora
Dedicated to St. Gregory of Nazianzen.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Dr. Forster. [return]