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June
by [?]

There is always a cuckoo that stays out later than the other cuckoos….

Two goldfinches came and sang in the catalpa-tree in the garden….

It is difficult to decide with which sentence to begin. There are so many pleasures. The goldfinches have not come back again, however. They and the faint blue flowers of the catalpa turned a sinister growth for an interval into a small Paradise of colour and song. Then the flowers fell. They had no more life than snow in May. Coming as they did at the end of years of barrenness, they astonished one like the blossoming of the Rose of Sharon. But now the bough is dark and sinister and melancholy again. Sparrows squabble over their love affairs in it. The, cuckoo that stays out later than the other cuckoos is the triumphant survivor.

Not that there is much to be said even for him as a model of continuance. His note will soon change. He will become hoarse and only half-articulate. He will cease to be the flying echo of the mystery of skies and wood at dawn and in the still evening. The disreputable bat, whose little wings flutter half visibly like waves of heat rising above a stove, will outlast him.

There is no getting beyond the old image of things in general as a stream that disappears. The flowers and the birds come in tides that sweep over the world and in a moment are lost like a broken wave. The lilacs filled with purple; laburnum followed, and in a few days all the gold ebbed, and nothing was left but a drift of withered blossoms on the ground; then came the acacia-flowers, white as the morning among the cool green plumage of the tree, and now they, too, have been turned into dirtiness and deserted foam. And in the hedges change has been as swift, as merciless–change so imperceptible in what it is doing, so manifest in what it has done. The white blossoms of the sloe gave place to the foam of the hawthorn and the flat clusters of the wayfaring-tree; now in its turn has come the flood of the elder-flowers, a flood of commonness, and June on the roads would hardly be beautiful were it not for the roses that settle, delicate and fleeting as butterflies, on the long and crooked briers. Perhaps one has not the right to say of any flower or any bird that it is not beautiful Even elder-flowers, seen at a distance, can give cheerfulness to a roadside. But, if we have to pick and choose among flowers, there are many who will give the lowest prize to the flowers that have been compared to umbrellas–elder-flowers, cow’s parsley, hemlock, and the rest. These are the plebeians of the hedges and ditches. They have the air of something useful. One would imagine they were intended to be cooked and eaten in cheap restaurants. We experience no lifting of the heart at sight of them. We should be surprised to hear the abrupt ecstasy of a wren issuing from among their leaves. And yet it is hardly a week since, walking in a Sussex lane, I saw a long procession of cow’s parsley on the top of a high bank silhouetted against the twilight sky. There seemed never to have been more exquisite flowers. They had captured the silver of evening as in a net.

There are many flowers that seem ugly to an indifferent eye. Even the red valerian, that sprouts so boldly in bushes of coral from the top of the wall, is regarded by some people as a weed and an impudent intruder. For myself, I love the spectacle of stone walls breaking out into flower with red valerian and ivy-leaved toad-flax. The country people have greeted these flowers with comic and friendly names. Valerian they call “drunken sailor,” and the ivy-leaved toad-flax that blossoms in a thousand tiny blue butterflies from the stones has (so prolific it is) been given the nickname of “mother of thousands.” I doubt, however, whether the country people have as many fanciful names for the flowers as they are represented as having in the books. When Mr W.H. Hudson first came on winter heliotrope in Cornwall, and was attracted by its meadow-sweet smell at a season when there were few other flowers, he was told by a countryman that it was called simply “weed.” Countrymen, if they are asked the name of a flower, will often say that they do not know, but that they call it so-and-so. A small boy who was gathering green-stuffs for his rabbits came up and walked beside me the other day, and, on being shown some goose-grass, and asked what name he knew it by, said: “I don’t know its name; we calls it ‘cleavers.'” In my childhood, I never heard it called by any other name than “robin-run-the-hedge,” and under that name alone am I attracted by it. “Cleavers” is too reminiscent of a butcher’s yard or of some dull tool. “Goose-grass” at least fills the imagination with the picture of a bird. But “robin-run-the-hedge” is better, for it is an image of wild adventure. It will be a pity if the tradition of picturesque names for flowers is allowed to die. The kidney-vetch, a long yellow claw of a flower that looks withered even at birth, may not deserve a prettier name, but at least it is possible to give it an ugly name with more interesting associations. “Staunch” is an older name that reminds us that the flower was, a few generations ago, used to staunch wounds. The other name, it is suggested, had its origin in the supposed excellence of the plant in curing diseases of the kidney.