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Enter The Spring
by [?]

One would imagine from the way in which some people are talking that this is an early spring. I do not think it is. The daffodils certainly came before the swallows dared, but they came reluctantly and in less generous profusion than usual–at least, in one county. As for the swallow, it may have arrived by Saturday, but it has not arrived on the day on which I am writing. “About the middle of March,” says Mr Coward, “the first swallows arrive,” but I have met no one who has seen one even in the first week in April. The sky seems empty without them. This is, no doubt, an illusion. There are plenty of rooks and pigeons, and there are always starlings desperately hustling from the chimney-pot across to the plum-tree and back again. But the starling is most interesting, not when he is in the air, but when he is at rest–making queer noises in his effulgent, tight-fitting clothes, sometimes like a baby in a cradle, sometimes like a girl trying to whistle, always experimenting with sound rather than singing. One looks forward to the swallows and martins and swifts because they really do live the life of the air. The sky is their domain, and no roof or tree or even telegraph wire. Till they arrive the air is an all but stagnant pool. They transform it into a scene of whirlpools. They do for the air what the hum of insects does for the garden. They banish the stillness of winter and lead the year in the movements of a remembered dance. Spring, however, awakens gradually, and does not plunge precipitately into an orgy. First, the home birds sing, or rather redouble their singing, for the wren and the robin hardly ever left off. This, I think, must be an exceptional year for the chorus of wrens. Last year the lane that leads to the station was at this time a lane of chaffinches: this year it is a lane of wrens. Last year the garden was a garden of thrushes: this year it is a garden of wrens. That is possibly an exaggeration, but this little Tetrazzini among the birds has never seemed to me to trill so dominantly and over so wide a rule. As for the thrushes, I do not know what has happened to them. I heard plenty of them on the outskirts of London in February, but here, fifty miles from London, it is as though they were an exterminated race. Whether gardeners or cats or some other epidemic is to blame, the trees are silent of them. Even the blackbird is not too common here this year, but then a country gardener regards a blackbird as a Turk regards an Armenian. I wish thrushes and blackbirds could read, so that one could put up a notice offering them sanctuary even at the expense of one’s gooseberries and strawberries. Strange that a strawberry should appear more delightful to anyone than the song of a blackbird! I know, I may say, the feeling of helpless rage that wells up in the human breast at the sight of a blackbird stealing one’s strawberries. Thank God, I am not impervious to moral indignation. If shouting “Stop thief!” could save the strawberries, my voice would be for saving them. But I do not believe in capital punishment for petty theft, and, anyhow, if I must lose either a song or a strawberry, I had rather lose the strawberry.

The larks luckily take to the fields and do not trust themselves near either cats or gardeners. They do not always escape even in the fields, and the dead bodies of some of them are served in a pudding in a Fleet Street restaurant. But, on the whole, considering what a dangerous neighbour man is, they escape fairly lightly. There is a sort of “live and let live” truce between them and the human race. The chaffinches, too–the greatest bird multitude there is, perhaps, after the house-sparrows–are free enough to sing. They have been, during the past week, sailing out on short voyages from the tops of trees, like flycatchers, dancing in the air after their victims and then returning to the spray. The green-finch–that beautiful-winged Mrs Gummidge among birds–is also abundant, and slips down nervously every now and then among the groundsel in the unweeded garden. I confess the greenfinch has all my sympathy, but it rather bores me. What the deuce is it worrying about? There is no poetry in its lamentation–only a sort of habitual formula of a poor, lorn woman. If birds could read, I think I should add to the notices I put up a little board containing the words: