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THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
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TA E OI
THE BIRD AND I-O.
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THE BIRD AND INSECTS) P.OST-OFFICE.
THE BIRD AND INSECTS'
Author of The Farmer's Boy," Rural Tales," &Sc. S(c.
WITH THIRTY-FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS
E. P. DUTTON AND CO.
GRIFFITH AND FARRAN: ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD, LONDON.
[The Ri ,his of Translation and Reproduction are Reserv'ed.]
"THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE was projected
and written by ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, author of the
"Farmer's Boy," &c., excepting Letters VIII., X., XI., and
XVI. by his eldest son, Charles. It was the author's in-
tention to publish it uniformly with his other juvenile
work, the HISTORY OF LITTLE DAVY'S NEW HAT," but
he did not live to do so, and it was therefore included in
his literary Remains, published in 1824-a year after the
poet's death-in two volumes, price twelve shillings. Its
circulation, in consequence, has been extremely limited, its
form of publication preventing its introduction to children;
for this reason, and because I think it would be a pity
for it to be shut up for ever in a dusty old volume from
viii PREFA CE.
the little ones, for whom it was written, I have sent it
forth in the form originally intended for it to assume.
The original manuscript, in the author's autograph, I
recently presented to the Trustees of the British Museum.
March Ist, 1879.
1.-FROM THE MAGPIE TO THE SPARROW. . . . . . . 19
II.-THE SPARROW'S REPLY . . . .. . . 22
III.--FROM A YOUNG GARDEN-SPIDER TO HER MOTHER . . . 29
IV.-FROM A YOUNGG NIGHTINGALE TO A WREN . 33
V.-FROM AN EARWIG, DEPLORING THE LOSS OF ALL HER CHILDREN . . 39
VI.-FROM THE WILD DUCK TO THE TAME DUCK .. . ... 42
VII.-THE TAME DUCK'S REPLY . .. . . . . . 47
VIII.-FROM THE GANDER TO THE TURKEY-COCK. By Char/les B/ Cep/cid. . 53
IX.-FROM TIE DUNGHILL-COCK TO THE CHAFFINCH . . . ... 58
X.-FROM THE BLUE-BO'ITLE FLY TO THE GRASSHOPPER. By Ciadr/cS BIor/ofidd 63
XI.-FROM THE GLOW-WORM TO THE HUMBLE-BEE. JBy C/harles Bloonficid 66
XII.-FROM THE PIGEON TO THE PARTRIDGE.... . . . 71
XIII.-FROM THE WOOD-PIGEON TO THE OWL . . . . . . 78
XIV.-THE OWL IN RFPLY TO THE WOOD-PIGEON . .. . . 85
XV.-FROM A SWALLOW IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE TO AN ENGLISH ROBIN . 88
XVT.-ON HEARING THE CUCKOO AT MIDNIGHT, MAY Ist, 1822. By Chlarles B/oo/mfid. 95
LIST OF FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE . . . . . Frontispiece.
MAGPIE . . .. . .. . . . . 18
SPARROWS . . . . . . . . ... . 23
SPIDERS . . . . ... . . . . . . . 28
NIGHTINGALE . . ....... .. ....... . 32
WRENS . . . .... . . . . . . . 35
WILD DUCKS .. . . . . . . . . .... 43
SPARROWS . . . .. . . . . . . 49
GOOSE. . . ...... .. ........... ....... 55
COCK . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
PARTRIDGES . .. . . . . . . . 70, 74
PIGEONS . . . . .. .. . . . .. . 72, 76
OWLS .. . ... . . . . .... . . .79, 83
SWALLOWS . . . . . .. . . . . 89, 92
AND SEVERAL SMALLER ONES IN THE TEXT.
WE all know that /Esop has made his birds and
beasts talk, and reason too; and that so well as still
to make the volume bearing his name a favourite with
thousands. Perhaps, too, we all know that some French
author has objected to this method of teaching, alleging
that children should not be imposed upon (or something
to that effect), and led to believe in the reality of talking
birds and beasts. To me it appears plainly that they do
not, nor are they inclined to, believe in any such reality.
Observe two or three children at play with a favourite
kitten. When one of them, in mere wantonness, shall give
the little animal a rap on the nose, or a squeeze by the
tail, the owner of the cat will instantly exclaim, "Poor
little pussy! she does not like that, she says." Now, the
child knows very well that the cat did not say a word
about the matter, but she looked and acted as if she had,
and that was enough.
xiv AUTHOR'S PREFA CE.
In the following pages I have endeavoured to make
my winged and creeping correspondents talk in their own
characters, according to their well-known habits and
I have added a few notes, sometimes of illustration,
and sometimes of inquiry; for, as natural history is
almost a boundless field, I may stand in need of
correction myself. It will be obvious that I have taken
only some of the plainest and simplest subjects, for the
purpose of trying whether any interest can be awakened
in young minds by such means. And as I like to
write for children, and think a great deal of information
might be blended with amusement in this way, I hold
myself acquitted of the charge of trifling and puerility,
and am the young reader's friend and well-wisher,
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
S..fI . .. .1
'I t ,tl t I ,.t ; 1!1111 ,;!: IIit'" :l I' i ':~il l '
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FROM THE MAGPIE TO THE SPARROW.
I have many times thought of addressing to
you a few words of advice, as you seem to stand in
need of such a friend.
20 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
You know that I do not stand much upon ceremony;
I am always ready for talking and for giving advice,
and really wonder how other birds can keep themselves
so quiet. Then you will pardon my frankness, since you
know my character, when I inform you that I think
you remarkably tame and spiritless : you have no
enterprise in you. In an old farmyard, shuffling amongst
the straw, there you may be found morning, noon, and
night; and you are never seen in the woods and groves
with me and my companions, where we have the blessing
of free liberty, and fly where we please. You must often
have heard me sing; that cannot be doubted, because I
am heard a great way. As to me, I never come down
to your farm, unless I think I can find a hen's egg or
two amongst the nettles, or a chicken or duck just
I earnestly advise you to change your manner of
life, and take a little free air, as I do. Stop no longer
in your dull yard, feeding upon pigs' leavings, but come
abroad with me. But I must have done till a better
opportunity; for the gamekeeper with his gun has just
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 21
turned the corner. Take my advice, and you may
be as well off, and learn to sing as well as I do.
Yours, in great haste,
'!'I ,., ^ I .-, ,
"".,\ \ 7* ; /, , i '; // , ''/ t' "./.' ^1 ,
-I was hopping along the top ridge of the
house when I reeived your insolent and conceited epistle,
I was hopping along the top ridge of the
house when I received your insolent and conceited epistle,
__,_- II --- ---Z - __ I I
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 25
which does you no credit, but is very much in your
usual style. "Little Jabberer" indeed! and pray, what
is your letter of advice? Nothing but jabber from be-
ginning to end. You sing, you say. I have heard you
often enough; but if yours is singing, then I must be
allowed to be no judge of the matter. You say you are
afraid of the gamekeeper; this, perhaps, shows some sense
in you, for he is paid for killing all kinds of vermin.
And so you come down to our farm when you think
you can steal something! Thus, if I did not hide my
eggs, and my young ones, in a hole too small for you to
enter, I can see pretty plainly how I should come off
with your thieving and your advice.
Be advised in your turn; keep away from our yard,
for my master has a gun too; and your chattering, which
I suppose you call singing, he abominably hates. You
will be in danger of catching what the gamekeeper
threatens, and then where is the great difference between
your station and mine?
26 THE BIRD AND) INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
From my lodging under the thatch of the stable, I
am, as you may happen to behave yourself,
Yours, at a convenient distance,
I ND E S
FROM A YOUNG GARDEN-SPIDER TO HER
I cannot exactly tell what happened before I
came out of the shell; but, from circumstances, I can give
you some information. When I came to life, amongst
some scores of other little merry yellow creatures, I found
myself, and all of us, enclosed in a thing, through which
we, with our eight eyes, could see very well, but could not
instantly get out. I soon perceived that we, in the egg
state, wrapped in a white bag, as you left us, had been
put into a thing called a bottle, by one of those great
creatures whom we always call striders; but this was a
particular one of that tribe, who wanted to play tricks
with us-one whom they would perhaps call a philosopher.1
1 This part of the letter is very difficult of translation, as the plain word,
in spiders' language, means merely "a deep one."-R. B.
30 TIE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
Well, his own sense (if he had any) told him that we could
not live without air; so he left the cork out, and went
about his business: no doubt of much less consequence
than the lives of all us prisoners-but that they do not
mind. But how long were we prisoners? Why, as soon
as ever we were out of the shell we began to spin, and
linked our webs so thick together that the philosopher's
bottle would hold us no longer. We climbed out in a
crowd, and spread our webs over the room, up to the very
ceiling. I shall never forget how the great booby stared
when he saw us all climbing up our own rope-ladders! I
wonder if those great creatures are not sometimes caught
in webs spun by their fellow-creatures, and whether they
are not sometimes put by hundreds into a bottle without
possessing any means of escape? But I am but a child,
and must live and learn before I talk more freely. Long
life to you, dear mother, and plenty of flies.
Yours ever, &c
I OH 'INALE
FROM A YOUNG NIGHTINGALE TO A WREN.
Dated "Home Wood."
When we last met you seemed very lively and
agreeable, but you asked an abundance of questions, and
particularly wanted to know whether we nightingales really
do, as is said of us, cross the great water every year, and
return in the spring to sing in your English groves.
Now, as I am but young, I must be modest, and not
prate about what I cannot as yet understand. I must
say, nevertheless, that I never heard my parents talk of
any particular long journey which they had performed to
reach this country, or that they should return, and take
me and the rest of the family with them, at this particular
time or season. I know this, that I never saw my
parents fly further at one flight than from one side of a
field to another or from one grove to the next. Who are
34 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OF1ICE.
they who call us "birds of passage" ?1 They certainly
may know more of the extent of the GREAT WATERS than
we can, neighbour Wren; but have they considered our
powers, and the probability of what they assert? I am
sure, if my parents should call on me to go with them, I
shall be flurried out of my life. But it is my business to
obey. I have so lately got my feathers, that I cannot be
1 Cowper, that excellent man and poet, and close observer of nature,
writes as follows to his friend, on the IIth of March, 1792:-
TO O0HN JOHNSON, ESQ.
"You talk of primroses that you pulled on Candlemas Day, but what
think you of me, who heard a nightingale on New Year's Day? Perhaps 1
am the only man in England who can boast of such good fortune. Good
indeed! for if was at all an omen, it could not be an unfavourable one.
The winter, however, is now making himself amends, and seems the more
peevish for having been encroached on at so undue a season. Nothing less
than a large slice out of the spring will satisfy him."
He adds the following lines on the occasion:-
TO THE NIGHTINGALE, WHICH THE AUTHOR HEARD SING OA
NEW YEAR'S DAY, 1792.
"Whence is it that amazed I hear
From yonder wither'd spray,
This foremost morn of all the year,
The melody of May?
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"-- -=,1-i "; '/ '
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W .EN S
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICI. 37
a proper judge of the matter. As to the swallows and
many other birds going to a vast distance, there is no
wonder in that, if you look at their wings; but how would
you, for instance, perform such a journey-you who, even
when you sing, put yourself into a violent passion, as if
you had not a minute to live? We nightingales are the
"And why, since thousands would be proud
Of such a favour shown,
Am I selected from the crowd,
To witness it alone?
Sing'st thou, sweet Philomel, to me,
For that I also long
Have practised in the groves like thee,
Though not like thee in song?
"Or, sing'st thou rather under force
Of some divine command,
Commission'd to presage a course
Of happier days at hand?
Thrice welcome then for many a long
And joyless year have I,
As thou to-day, put forth my song
Beneath a wintry sky.
But thee no wintry skies can harm,
Who only need'st to sing
To make e'en January charm,
And every season spring.
38 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
birds for song. This you will acknowledge, I dare say,
though I have not begun yet. I will give you a specimen
when I come back (if I am really to go), and you will
hear me in "Home Wood" when it is dark, and you have
crept into your little nest in the hovel.
Believe me, I have a great respect for you, and am
your young friend,
FROM AN EARWIG, DEPLORING THE LOSS OF
ALL HER CHILDREN.
You cannot think how distressed I have been,
and still am; for, under the bark of a large elm, which, I
dare say, has stood there a great while, I had placed my
whole family, where they were dry, comfortable, and, as I
foolishly thought, secure. But only mark what calamities
may fall upon earwigs before they are aware of them! I
had just got my family about me, all white, clean, and
promising children, when pounce came down that bird
they call a woodpecker; when, thrusting his huge beak
under the bark where we lay, down went our whole
sheltering roof! and my children, poor things, running,
40 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
as they thought, from danger, were devoured as fast
as the destroyer could open his beak and shut it.
For my own part, I crept into a crack in the solid tree,
where I have thus far escaped; but as this bird can
make large holes into solid timber, I am by no means
This calamity is the more heavy, as it carries with
it a great disappointment; for very near our habitation
was a high wall, the sunny side of which was covered
with the most delicious fruits-peaches, apricots, nectarines,
&c.-all just then ripening; and I thought of having
such a feast with my children as I had never enjoyed in
I am surrounded by woodpeckers, jackdaws, magpies,
and other devouring creatures, and think myself very
unfortunate. Yet, perhaps, if I could know the situation
of some larger creatures-I mean particularly such as
would tread me to death if I crossed their path-they
may have complaints to make as well as I.
Take care of yourself, my good old aunt, and I shall
keep in my hiding-place as long as starvation will
TIHE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 41
permit. And, after all, perhaps the fruit was not so
delicious as it looked-I am resolved to think so, just
to comfort myself.
Yours, with compliments, as usual.
a 1 ,
FROM THE WILD DUCK TO THE TAME DUCK
Dated Lincoln and Ely Fens.
I suppose I must call you so, though I
declare I know not how we are related. But, though I
am thought so very wild and shy, I have still a kind
of fellow-feeling for you; and, if you have not gone to
the spit before this comes to you, I should be glad of
your reply in a friendly way. You know very well that
you are intended to be eaten, and so are we-when they
can catch us. I understand that you never fly, and that
you seldom waddle above a meadow's length from
your pond, where you keep puddling and groping from day-
light till dark. This, I assure you, is not the life that I
lead. We fly together in vast numbers in the night, for
many miles over this flat, wet country; so, as to water,
we have an inexhaustible store: we may swim ourselves
tired. But, I dare say, every station of our duck-lives is
subject to some disadvantages and some calamities. Thus,
with all our wildness, we are not secure; for we are taken
~ :.i- .. : -
.W D S .
THE BIRD AND vISECTS' POST-OFFICE. 45
sometimes by hundreds in a kind of trap which is called
Some of our tribe have been made tame like you (but
I hope you are not so false-hearted), and then their masters
feed them plentifully, in a place contrived on purpose, with
a narrow entrance, with which these traitor ducks are well
acquainted, so that they can pass in and out at a place
we strangers should never have thought of. They are
sent out in the dusk of the evening, when they soon
join with large companies of us strangers; and knowing,
as they do, their way home, and that they shall find food,
they set off, close at each other's tails, along a ditch or
watercourse, and we fools follow them.
The entrance, as far as I could see of it, is very narrow ;
for I have been twice within a hair's breadth of being
caught, and do not pretend to know all about it; but I
wish heartily that every duck and drake in the country-
ay, and every one of our allies, the geese, too, could say
as much-could say that they had twice been on the verge
of destruction by keeping bad company, but had escaped."
What becomes of my companions, when taken, I think
46 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
I have heard pretty accurately; for there is somewhere
a very large assemblage of fellow-creatures to those who
catch us, and whose demand seems never to be satisfied.
"Well, never mind, cousin; I am determined to fly, and
swim too, as long as I can, and I advise you to do the
same, and make the most of your day.
Hoping to hear from you, I am, affectionately, your
j^T-,-^ ^~~~~~~~-: ;- -:.-^ /" -N
-a^_, '' ~~~~- --; i.."^ ~-
-.. "'.* :. ,;r ':
~ 7 ' '/:', A :'- ' "" -- -- "
I confI ,I
Sf I a s b vd y t b o o tse t -
THLE TAME DUCK'S REPLY.
I confess I did not at all expect to hear from
you; for I always believed you to be one of those thought-
43 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
less young creatures which are to be found in other stations
of life as well as in yours and mine, who, as soon as
they get fledged and able to get abroad, care no more
for their parents and those who brought them up than
I care for a shower of rain. However, you have escaped
danger twice, and you have reason to congratulate your-
self. I have been sitting here upon ten eggs for three
weeks past, and of course have another week to be
confined; but then the thoughts of the pleasure I shall
have in hatching and guiding my young ones to the
water, is ample payment for all my pains. They will
look so clean and so delighted, and will do as they are
bid by the smallest quack that I can utter, that I must
be a bad mother indeed if I am not proud of them.
Perhaps you will wonder when I tell you that we have
"a creature herc-fledged indeed-which is called a hen;
"a strange, cackling, flying, useless, noisy, silly creature,
which is as much afraid of water as you are of your
decoy. I have often known one of these birds to hatch
nine or ten of my eggs; and then, if you wanted to
ridicule the lifted foot of conceit, and the dignity of
-- --- -
. ..... ._
SP,-R S- -
,' --- -,* -,t'- ,
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 51
assumed importance, you should see her lead her young,
or more properly, see the young lead her to the nearest
water they can find. In they go, and she begins to call
and scold, and run round the edge to save them from
drowning! Now, what fools these hens must be compared
to us ducks! at least, I, for one, am determined to think
so. I have seen this same hen with the brood about her
scratching in our farmyard with all her might; when, not
considering who was behind her, or who under her feathers,
she has tricked away one little yellow duck with one of
her claws, and another with the other, till I wished I had
her in a pond; I would have given her a good sousing,
depend upon it. But really, cousin, don't you think that
this way of contradicting our natures and propensities is
very wrong? Suppose, for instance, I should sit upon a
dozen of that silly creature's eggs which I mentioned
above-for I will never consent to have them matched
with us-I should then, to be sure, have a week's
holiday, as they sit but three weeks; but what should
I bring to light? a parcel of little, useless, tip-toed,
cowardly things, that would not follow me into the pond-
52 THE PIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
I cannot bear to think of it. I have written you a
long letter, and can think of no more but Quack! quack!
quack! and farewell.
., '. N "
FROM THE GANDER TO THE TURKEY-COCK.
OLD friend, you certainly have merit;
You really are a bird of spirit.
I'm quite surprised, I must confess;
I did not think you did possess
Such valour as you've lately shown-
In fact, 'tis nearly like my own.
In fact, 'tis nearly like my own.
54 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-O FICE.
You know I've always been renown'd
For bravery, since first I found
,: '" ',\ ,
I- \, ,
i / '
That I could hiss and feel I'm bolder
Each year that I am growing older.
. ",. ..
j1 ", I' t
-i'll i} l' ------ .
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 57
You must, I'm sure, have often seen,
"When in the pond, or on the green,
With all my family about me
(I can't think how they'd do without me),
Some human thing come striding by,
And how, without a scruple, I
March after him, and bite his heel;
And then, you know, the pride I feel
To hear, as back I march again,
The feat extoll'd by all my train.
But if I were to tell you all
The valiant actions, great and small,
That ever were achieved by me,
I never should have done, I see;
For cows, and pigs, and horses know
The consequence of such a foe.
However, I am glad to find
That you have such a noble mind,
And think, my friend, that by and by
You'll rise to be as great as I.
Your old friend
"FROM TIHE DUNGHILL-COCK TO THIE CHAFFINCH.
I HAVE often, during the spring and summer,
heard you of a morning piping away in the hedges, some-
times as soon as I was up myself, and thought your
singing pretty fair, and that you conducted yourself as you
ought to do. But this I cannot say lately; for it is quite
overstepping the bounds of decency and good manners
when you and your brother pilferers, now the winter is
come, make it your daily practice to come by scores, as
you do, into our yard, and, without any ceremony, eat ur
27IH BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 61
all the barley you can lay your beaks to. I suppose
when the spring comes again, and you find more to satisfy
i -7 '. .- &
you outside a farmyard than within, you will be off to
the hedges again. I shall let you alone unless the barley
6. TIE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
runs short, which is to support my wives and children;
when if you still venture to continue your pilferings, you
must not be surprised should some of you feel the weight
of my displeasure,
I must go after my family, who are all out of my
sight, since I have been writing this.
Yours in haste, and a friend if possible,
FROM THE BLUE-BOTTLE FLY TO THE GRASS-
-- S I roamed t'other day,
Neighbour Hop, in my way
I discovered a nice rotten plum,
W which you know is a treat;
And, to taste of the sweet,
A swarm of relations had come.
So we all settled round,
As it lay on the ground,
.64 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
And were feasting ourselves with delight;
But, for want of more thought
To have watched, as we ought,
We were suddenly seized-and held tight.
In a human clenched hand,
Where, unable to stand,
We were twisted and tumbled about;
But, perceiving a chink,
You will readily think
I exerted myself-I got out.
IHow the rest got away
I really can't say;
But I flew with such ardour and glee,
That again, unawares,
I got into the snares
Of my foe Mr. Spider, you see;
Who so fiercely came out
Of his hole, that no doubt
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 65
He expected that I was secure:
But he found wouldd not do,
For I forced my way through,
Overjoyed on escaping, you're sure.
For the clouds I perceive
Are darkening over the sky;
"The sun has gone in,
And I really begin
To feel it grow colder.-Good bye!
I'm, as ever, yours,
FROM THE GLOW-WORM TO THE HUMBLE-BEE.
EXCUSE, Mr. Bee, this epistle, to one
Whose time, from the earliest gleam of the sun
Till he sinks in the west, is so busily spent,
That I fear I intrude ;-but I write with intent
To save your whole city from pillage and ruin,
And to warn you in time of a plot that is brewing.
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 6i
Last night, when, as usual, enjoying the hour
When the gloaming had spread, and a trickling shower
Was beading the grass as it silently fell,
And day with reluctance was bidding farewell;
When down by yon hedge, nearly opposite you,
And your City of Honey, as proudly I threw
The rays from my lamp in a magical round;
I listened, alarmed upon hearing the sound
Of human intruders approaching more near;
But I presently found I had nothing to fear,
For the hedge was between us, and I and my gleam
Lay hid from their view: when the following scheme
I heard, as they sheltered beneath the old tree,
And send you each creature's own words, Mr. Bee:-
"See, Jack, there it is; now suppose you and I,
With a spade and some brimstone, should each of us try
Some night, when we're sure all the bees are at rest,
To smother them all, and then dig out the nest."
"I know we can do it," said Jack with delight;
"I can't come to-morrow; but s'pose the next night
We both set about it, if you are inclined;
68 THEl BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
And then we will halve all the honey we find?"
"Agreed," said the other, "but let us be gone."
And they left me in thought until early this morn;
When I certainly meant, if your worship had stay'd
But a minute or two, till my speech I had made,
To have saved you the reading, as well as the cost
Of a letter by post-but my words were all lost;
For though they were lavished each time you came near,
Or was close overhead, and I thought you should hear,
Yet the buzz of importance, as onward you flew,
Bobbing into each flower the whole meadow through,
So baffled your brains that I let you alone,
For I found that I might as well speak to a drone:
Yet, rather than quietly leave you to fate
(Such a villainous thought never entered my pate),
I send you this letter, composed by the light
Of my silvery lamp in the dead of the night,
And about the same time, and the very same place,
That a few nights ago, when the moon hid her face,
I beheld, nearly hid in the grass as I lay,
And my lamp in full splendour reflecting its ray
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 69
In the eye of each dewdrop, the fairies unseen
To all human vision, trip here with their Queen,
To pay me a visit, to dance and to feast;
And their revels continued, till full in the east
The sun tinged the clouds for another bright day,
When each took the warning and bounded away:
'Tis the same at this moment. Farewell, Mr. Hum,
I've extinguished my lamp, for the morning is come.
I _- -T-"V -
PA RTR'i DG S'i.
I, -=_ ( -. --=y ] y \$ I :]
PA RTRI \ I 1D
FROM THE PIGEON TO THE PARTRIDGE.
WHAT a long time it is since I received your
kind letter about the ripening corn, and the dangers
you were presently to be subject to with all your
You will think me very idle, or very unfeeling, if
I delay answering you any longer; I will therefore tell
you some of my own troubles, to convince you that
I have had causes of delay, which you can have no
notion of until I explain them. You must know, then,
that we are subject to more than the random gun-shot
in the field, for we are sometimes taken out of our
house a hundred at a time, and put into a large basket
P E O_ S.
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 73
to be placed in a meadow or spare plat of ground
suiting the purpose, there to be murdered at leisure.
This they call "shooting from the trap,"1 and is done
in this way:
We being imprisoned, as I have said, as thick
as we can stand in the basket, a man is placed by
us to take us out singly, and carry us to a small box,
at the distance of fifty or sixty yards; this box has a
lid, to which is attached a string, by means of which,
he, the man (if he is a man) can draw up the lid and
let us fly at a signal given. Every sensible pigeon of
course flies for his life, for, ranged on each side, stand
from two to four or six men with guns, who fire
as the bird gets upon the wing; and the cleverest
fellows are those who can kill most;-and this they
SI once witnessed this silly and barbarous sport, and saw at least a score
of maimed and wounded birds upon the barns, and stables, and outhouses
of the village. I was utterly disgusted, and it required a strong effort of
the mind to avoid wishing that one of the gunners at least had hobbled off
the ground with a dangling leg, which might for one half-year have reminded
him of the cowardly practice of shooting from the trap."-R. B.
-4 el W
--? -b .- : : -- . 't ,.,;} : --
, I ,' '' 'h ' ' ,
S ", ,I. ."
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,I ' ,,' 'I'
i ,, ,r .... -i
i 1,:, , '1. . -- .~: . .U~i
-; ,.. _
: I'% *- '
YTHE BILRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 75
I have sad cause to know how this sport is conducted,
for I have been in the trap myself. Only one man, or
perhaps a boy, fired at me as I rose; but I received two
wounds, for one shot passed through my crop, but I was
astonished to find how soon it got well; the other broke my
leg just below the feathers. Oh, what anguish I suffered
for two months! at the end of which time it withered and
dropped off. So now, instead of running about amongst my
red-legged brethren, as a pigeon ought, I am obliged to hop
like a sparrow. But only consider what glory this stripling
must have acquired, to have actually fired a gun and broke
a pigeon's leg! Well, we both know, neighbour Partridge,
what the Hawk is; he stands for no law, nor no season,
but eats us when he is hungry. He is a perfect gentleman
compared to these Lords of the Creation," as I am told
they call themselves; and I declare to you upon the honour
of a pigeon, that I had much rather be torn to pieces by
the Hawk than be shut up in a box at a convenient
distance to be shot at by a dastard. You partridges
are protected during great part of the year by severe laws,
but whether such laws are wise, merciful, or just, I cannot
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 77
determine, but I know that they are strictly kept and
enforced by those who make them. Take care of yourself,
for the harvest is almost ripe.
I am, your faithful
ONE-LEGGED FRIEND AT THE GRANGE.
FROM THE WOOD-PIGEON TO THE OWL.
MY GOOD, OLD, WISE, SECLUDED, AND QUIET FRIEND,
I write to you in the fulness of my heart, for
I have been grossly insulted by the Magpie, in a letter
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 81
received this morning; in which I am abused for what
my forefathers did long before I was born. I know of
nothing more base, or more unjust, than thus raking up
old quarrels' and reproaching those who had nothing to
do with them. The letter must have come through your
office, but I know you have not the authority to break
open and examine letters passing between those who
I The poor pigeon, I think, must here allude to the old well-known quarrel
between the two families about building their nests. The magpie once
undertook to teach the pigeon how to build a more substantial and com-
modious dwelling, and certainly it would have become the learner to have
observed her progress, and not interrupt the teacher; but the pigeon kept
on her usual cry, "Take two, Taffy, take two" (for thus it is translated
in Suffolk), but Mag insisted this was wrong, and that one stick at a
time was quite enough; still the pigeon kept on her cry, "Take two, take
two," until the teacher in a violent passion gave up the undertaking,
exclaiming, "I say that one at a time is plenty, and if you think otherwise,
you may set about the work yourself, for I will have no more to do with it."
Since that time the wood-pigeon has built a wretched nest, sure enough,
so thin that you may frequently see her two eggs through it, and if
not placed near the body of a tree, or on strong branches, it is often
thrown down by the wind, or the eggs rolled out; yet the young of this
bird, before they are half grown, will defend themselves against any intruder,
at which time the parent bird will dash herself down amongst the standing
corn or high grass, and behave as though her wings were broken, and she
was utterly disabled; and this she does to draw off the enemy from her
young; so that this bird is not so foolish as Mag would make us believe.
82 TILE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
should be friends; I therefore do not accuse you; but
sometimes the heart is relieved by stating its troubles
even when no redress can be expected. I know that you
cannot bring to punishment that slanderer, that babbler of
the woods, any more than I can; but I wish you would
give me a word of comfort, if it is ever so short.
From the plantation of firs,
Near the forest-side,
-- ., ,,.- _
.I -_ -i
rl : '\,
--~lt ..1 :
THE OWL IN REPLY TO THE TVOOD-PIGEON.
I am sorry for your trouble, but cheer up
your spirits, and though you are insulted, remember who
it is that gives the affront, it is only the magpie; and
depend upon it that in general the best way to deal
with impudent fools is to be silent and take no notice
of them. I should have enough to do if I were to
resent all her impertinences. She will come sometimes
round the ivy where I lodge in the old elm, or into
the tower on the top of the hill; and there she will
pimp and pry into my private concerns, and mob me,
and call me "Old Wigsby" and "Doctor Winkum," and
such kind of names, and all for nothing. I assure you
it is well for her that she is not a mouse, or she
86 THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
should not long escape my talons; but who ever heard
of such a thing as eating a magpie? I live chiefly on
mice (when I am at liberty to catch them), but I have
my complaints to make as well as you, for you know
I hold a high situation in the Post-office, and I suppose
you know, likewise, that the letters are brought in so
very late that it often takes me half the night to sort
them, and night is the very time when I ought to get
my own food! At this rate of going on, and if the
cats are industrious as usual, there will not be a
mouse left for me, if I do not give up my place.
I have heard that my family are famed for wisdom;
but for my part I will not boast of any such thing:
yet I am wise enough to know that other people in
high offices expect either a good salary or perquisites, as
a reward for their labour, or what is easier still, somebody
to do all the work for them. If I hold in my present
mind until next quarter, I will certainly send in my
resignation. Thus you see what an important thing it is
to suit the person to the office, or the office to the person
on whom it is conferred; for had the magpie, for instance,
THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 87
been secretary, every one of the letters would have been
peeped into, for a certainty, for nothing can escape her
curiosity. I will try to bear with my situation a little
longer, and believe me to be
Your true friend,
SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF MANAGERS.
FROM A SWALLOW IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE;
TO AN ENGLISH ROBIN.
DEAR LITTLE BOB,
I remember your peaceful singing on the top
of your shed, near my late dwelling, and I remember
S.. .. .9 .; .,--i,, :. r ,.,,,.,-
'". ., mt' Y -- - --= .. -- ==--== --: -
A ... T I- 1_
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)- _- -.--' -- -:.-- -:_---= =~----~
S 1 - .,- _-
..... _: __ _.-- -; -
7TIE BIRD AND INSECTS' POSTOFFICE. 91
also that I promised to write you some account of my
journey. You may recollect that, at the close of your
summer, when flies became scarce, we all assembled on a
sunny morning, on the roof of the highest building in
the village, and talked loudly of the flight we intended to
take. At last came the day appointed, and we mounted
up in a vast body and steered southward.
Being hatched in England, I had thought your valleys
and streams matchless in beauty; and for anything I know
to the contrary they certainly are; but I am now a tra-
veller, and have a traveller's privilege to say what I like.
When we reached the great water I was astonished at its
width, but more still to see many travelling houses going
at a prodigious rate, and sending forth from iron chimneys
columns of black smoke over the face of the water, reach-
ing further than you ever flew in your life; they have a
contrivance on each side which puts the waves all in
commotion, but they are not wings. My mother says that
in old times, when swallows came to England, there were
no such things to be seen. We crossed this water, and a
fine sunny country beyond it, until I was tired, and we
4-_- -_ -- I
Il -- -
-- -_. '.-. S _- _ _--_-
_I- _- ': --_ -
--____ it ___--. __ _
__ ... ; S'
I- -- --._ _
'- :' ,,(/''
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'- -- :. _._ _,.: :..-. .
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7THE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE. 93
now found flies more abundant, though the oldest amongst
us assure me that we must travel further still, over
another wide water, into a country-where men's faces ar
of the same colour as my feathers, black and tawny; but
of the same colour as my feathers, black and tawny; but
94 THE BIRD ALND INSECTS' POST-OFFICE.
travellers see strange things. When I come to England
again I will endeavour to find out your village.1 I hope,
for your sake, you may have a mild winter and good
lodgings. This is all the news worth sending, and I must
catch flies for myself now, you know.
For I am in haste.
1 It is much to be wished that the above letter had contained some inform-
ation on a very curious subject, for I would rather believe the swallow
himself than many tales told of them. It has been said that, instead of
flying to southern countries, where they can find food and a congenial
climate, they dive into the waters of a bog, and lie in a torpid state, through
the winter, round the roots of flags and weeds.-R. B.
". . . . .
ON HEARING THE CUCKOO AT MIlDNIGHT,
MAY 1st, 1822.
'TWAS the blush of the spring, vegetation was young,
And the birds with a maddening ecstasy sung
To welcome a season so lovely and gay-
But a scene the most sweet was the close of May-day.
96 7YIE BIRD AND INSECTS' POST OFFICE.
For the air was serene, and the moon was out bright,
And Philomel boldly exerted her might
In her swellings and trillings, to rival the sound
Of the distant defiance of nightingales round.
While the cuckoo as proudly was heard to prolong,
Though daylight was over, her own mellow song,
And appeared to exult; and at intervals, too,
The owl in the distance joined in with Too-whoo!"
Unceasing, unwearied, each, proud of his power,
Continued the contest from hour to hour;
The nightingale vaunting-the owl in reply-
With the cuckoo's response-till the moon from the sky
Was hastening down to the west, and the dawn
Was spreading the east; and the owl in the morn
Sat silently winking his eyes at the sight;
And the nightingale also had bidden "good-night."
The cuckoo, left solus, continued with glee,
His notes of defeat from his favourite tree;
At length he departed; but still as he flew,
Was heard his last notes of defiance, Cuckoo!"
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