« PreviousContinue »
wills by night. It matters not in what stage of its existence the insect is destroyed; it is still demonstrable that these minute creatures cannot be kept in check unless they are attacked in all stages. Birds are their only effectual destroyers. Man cannot check their multiplication or their ravages by artificial means. He cannot even protect his garden. Their destructive and infinite multiplication can be prevented only by Nature's own agents, which she has created with this power. A million of ichneumons would not do the work of a dozen birds.
We have hardly become familiar with summer ere autumn arrives with its cool nights, its foggy mornings, and its clear brilliant days. Yet the close of summer is but the commencement of a variety of pleasant rural occupations, of reaping and fruit-gathering, and the still more exciting sports of the field. After this time we are comparatively exempt from the extremes of temperature, and we are free to ramble at any distance, without exposure to sudden showers, that so often spring up in summer without warning us of their approach. Though the spicy odors of June are no longer wafted upon the gales, there is a clearness and freshness in the atmosphere more agreeable than fragrance, giving buoyancy to the mind and elasticity to the frame.
The various employments of the farmer are changed into agreeable recreations; and the anxious toils of planting and haymaking have given place to the less wearisome and more exhilarating labors of the harvest. Beside the pleasures of the sportsman, there are successions of fruit-gatherings and rural excursions of various kinds, from the beginning of this month to the end of the next, that impart to the young many cheerful themes for remembrance during the rest of their days. The provident simpler may be seen upon the hills busily employed in gathering medicinal plants for her own humble dispensary. Close by her side are neatly bound sheaves of thoroughwort, hardhack, bear-berry, pennyroyal, and life-everlasting, which she benevolently pro
vides for the supply of her neighborhood. And while thus employed, she feels the reward of the just in the pleasing contemplation of the good she may perform, when winter comes with its fevers and colds.
There is no season when the landscape presents so beautiful an appearance just before sunset, as during this month. The grass has a singular velvety greenness, being without any mixture of downy tassels and panicles of seeds. For the present covering of the fields is chiefly the second growth of vegetation, after the first has been mowed by the farmer or cropped by the grazing herds. The herbage displays little but the leaves, which have been thickened in their growth and made green by the early rains of autumn. When the atmosphere has its usual autumnal clearness and the sun is just declining, while his rays gleam horizontally over the fields, the plain exhibits the most brilliant verdure, unlike that of the earlier months. When this wide landscape of uniform greenness is viewed in opposition to the blue firmament, it seems as if the earth and the sky were vying with each other in the untarnished loveliness of their appropriate colors.
There is usually a serenity of the weather for the greater part of September, unknown to the other autumn months. Yet this is no time for inaction; for the temperate climate, too pleasant for confinement, and too cool for indolent repose, invites even the weary to ramble. Of all the months, the climate of September is the most equable and salubrious, and nearly the same temperature is wafted from every quarter of the heavens. The sea-breezes spring up from the ocean almost with the mildness of the southwest, and the rude north-wind has been softened into a delightful blandness by his tender dalliance with
One of the charms of the present month is the profusion
of bright-colored fruits that meet the eye on every side in the deserted haunts of the flowers. The scarlet berries of the nightshade, varied with their blossoms, hang like clusters of rubies from the crevices in the stone-walls through which the vines have made their clambering tour. On each side of the fences the elder-trees in interrupted rows are bending down with the weight of their dark purple fruit, and the catbird may be seen busily gathering them for his noonday repast. Above all, the barberry-bushes scattered over the hills, some in irregular clumps, others following the lines of the stone-walls, down narrow lanes and over sandy hills, with their long slender branches fringed with delicate racemes of variegated fruit, changing from a greenish white to a bright scarlet, form hedge-rows as beautiful as art, without its formality.
September is the counterpart of June, and displays the transformation of the flowers of early summer into the ripe and ruddy harvest. The wild-cherry trees are heavily laden with their dark purple clusters, and flocks of robins and waxwings are busy all the day in their merry plunder among the branches. But in the fruits there is less to be loved than in the flowers, to which imagination is prone to assign some moral attributes. The various fruits of the harvest we prize as good and bounteous gifts. But flowers win our affections, like beings endowed with life and thought; and when we notice their absence or their departure we feel a painful sense of melancholy, as when we bid adieu to living friends. With flowers we associate the sweetness, the loveliness, and the dear and bright remembrances of spring. Like human beings, they have contributed to our moral enjoyments. But there are no such ideas associated with the fruits, and while the orchards are resplendent with their harvest, they can never affect the mind like the sight of flowers,
The birds are almost silent; now and then we hear one piping a few broken strains, but he does not seem to be pleased with his own song, and no one answers him from his feathered comrades. Their season of departure is near, and numerous cares distract the tuneful band. The swallows are no longer seen with twittering flight skimming along the surface of the waters, or sailing aloft in the air to warn the swain of coming showers. The little busy wren, one of our latest warblers, is also silent, and all are slowly leaving us one after another. It is a pleasant occupation to watch their various movements, their altered manners, and their unwonted shyness. They sing no more, but twitter, chirrup, and complain, always in motion, flying from tree to tree, and busy like those preparing for a long journey.
But as the birds have become silent, the insect myriads, having attained the maturity of their lives, are in glad chorus with all their little harps. The fields are covered with crickets and grasshoppers, and the whole air resounds with their hissing melodies. This is the honeymoon of their transient lifetime, and they are merrily singing their conjugal ditties, while the autumnal frosts are rapidly approaching to put an end to their pleasures and their lives. While chirping night and day among the green herbage, they are but chanting the deathnotes of their own brief existence. The little
multitude, to whose myriad voices we are now listening with delight, contains not one individual of those who were chirping in their places a year ago. All that generation has passed away, and ere another spring arrives, the present multitudinous choir will have perished likewise, to yield their places to new millions, which the next summer will usher into life.