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A Charm Of Birds
by [?]

This, and much more, says poor Stubbs, in his ‘Anatomie of Abuses,’ and had, no doubt, good reason enough for his virtuous indignation at May-day scandals. But people may be made dull without being made good; and the direct and only effect of putting down May games and such like was to cut off the dwellers in towns from all healthy communion with Nature, and leave them to mere sottishness and brutality.

Yet perhaps the May games died out, partly because the feelings which had given rise to them died out before improved personal comforts. Of old, men and women fared hardly, and slept cold; and were thankful to Almighty God for every beam of sunshine which roused them out of their long hybernation; thankful for every flower and every bird which reminded them that joy was stronger than sorrow, and life than death. With the spring came not only labour, but enjoyment:

‘In the spring, the young man’s fancy lightly turned to thoughts of love,’

as lads and lasses, who had been pining for each other by their winter firesides, met again, like Daphnis and Chloe, by shaugh and lea; and learnt to sing from the songs of birds, and to be faithful from their faithfulness.

Then went out troops of fair damsels to seek spring garlands in the forest, as Scheffel has lately sung once more in his ‘Frau Aventiure;’ and, while the dead leaves rattled beneath their feet, hymned ‘La Regine Avrillouse’ to the music of some Minnesinger, whose song was as the song of birds; to whom the birds were friends, fellow-lovers, teachers, mirrors of all which he felt within himself of joyful and tender, true and pure; friends to be fed hereafter (as Walther von der Vogelweide had them fed) with crumbs upon his grave.

True melody, it must be remembered, is unknown, at least at present, in the tropics, and peculiar to the races of those temperate climes, into which the song-birds come in spring. It is hard to say why. Exquisite songsters, and those, strangely, of an European type, may be heard anywhere in tropical American forests: but native races whose hearts their song can touch, are either extinct or yet to come. Some of the old German Minnelieder, on the other hand, seem actually copied from the songs of birds. ‘Tanderadei’ does not merely ask the nightingale to tell no tales; it repeats, in its cadences, the nightingale’s song, as the old Minnesinger heard it when he nestled beneath the lime-tree with his love. They are often almost as inarticulate, these old singers, as the birds from whom they copied their notes; the thinnest chain of thought links together some bird- like refrain: but they make up for their want of logic and reflection by the depth of their passion, the perfectness of their harmony with nature. The inspired Swabian, wandering in the pine- forest, listens to the blackbird’s voice till it becomes his own voice; and he breaks out, with the very carol of the blackbird

‘Vogele im Tannenwald pfeifet so hell.
Pfeifet de Wald aus und ein, wo wird mein Schatze sein?
Vogele im Tannenwald pfeitet so hell.’

And he has nothing more to say. That is his whole soul for the time being; and, like a bird, he sings it over and over again, and never tires.

Another, a Nieder-Rheinischer, watches the moon rise over the Lowenburg, and thinks upon his love within the castle hall, till he breaks out in a strange, sad, tender melody–not without stateliness and manly confidence in himself and in his beloved–in the true strain of the nightingale:

‘Verstohlen geht der Mond auf,
Blau, blau, Blumelein,
Durch Silberwolkchen fuhrt sein Lauf.
Rosen im Thal, Madel im Saal, O schonste Rosa!
* * *
Und siehst du mich,
Und siehst du sie,
Blau, blau, Blumelein,
Zwei treu’re Herzen sah’st du nie;
Rosen im Thal u. s. w.’