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The Naturalist's Diary
For DECEMBER 1528.
Laden with joys congenial to my mind,
And all those virtues which adorn mankind.
That rear their cloudy summits in the skies
That charmed our ears, and gratified our eyes,
What though the zephyrs of the summer-lide,
Are fled and gone, kind Heav'n has not denied
Table Book. DECEMBER, like its predecessor, is usually a wet, cold, and gloomy month: storms of wind and rain confine us to the house, and admonish us in the morning to seek amusement in the well-furnished library or museum, and to devote our evenings to music and the charms of intellectual society. With these powerful antidotes to melancholy thoughts, naturally inspired by the sombre character of the season, we may listen to the 'pitiless pelting of the storm' without, and be grateful for the security and accommodation we enjoy. Few persons, we suppose, have ever reflected upon the pleasures of a rainy day;' and fewer have penned an essay on the subject. But . there is good in every thing ;' and in turning over the leaves of a contemporary publication, we were pleased to find that an ingenious writer had treated this matter in a very agreeable and profitable way. As the paper will, possibly, be new to many of our readers, we shall make no apology for transferring it to our pages.
The Pleasures of a Rainy Day.
THOMSON. “There is no season nor description of weather that has not its attendant pleasures, and the most delightful is indebted for a portion of its charms to that to which it has succeeded. Much has been said, and deservedly, in praise of more southern climates, yet is the variableness of our atmosphere productive of sources of delight fully equivalent, if not superior, to those of the unruffled azure of Italy. The monotony of a blue and suplit sky may become as tedious and oppressive as a sandy desart, or ocean under a protracted calm. Spring would not be pleasant but for the winter which has preceded it. The glowing and shadowless sheen of to-day is indebted for half its beauty to the clouds and the showers of yesterday. I am not prepared, therefore, to yield the palm of superiority, even in this particular, to a foreign country. . In climes full of sunshine, though splendid their dyes,
Yet faint is the odour the flow'rs shed about;
That call the full spirit of fragrancy out. ..There is a pleasure, as you set yourself to repose in a gusty December evening in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, in listening to the lashing of the billows, and the wailing and roaring of the rising or subsiding wind, when the spirits of the storm seem mingling their bundred voices in angry dissonance. There is a pleasure in sailing over the crested waves when the thunder is rolling along the muffled sky, occasionally lit up by the vivid and quivering lightning. A rainy day, too, has many pleasures peculiarly its own, especially such an one as this on which I am writing, when the sky is robed in universal drab, and
the rain knows no cessation, and scarcely any variation of quantity. Let him be melancholy who has no resources within his own mind, nor in books-transcripts of the minds of others. I have had the summer ornaments removed from my brightened grate, and a good fire kindled in their stead. I have refreshed my memory by reading the favourite passages of my favourite authors. I have turned over my whole collection of prints. I have assorted into bouquets the flowers which were gathered before the dappled sky of the morning gave place to the heavy clouds, or rather cloud, which has succeeded it. And thus, having once more experienced the pleasures of a rainy day, I have drawn my elbow chair to the fire, and have put my ink-glass in requisition, in order to write a few lines on the subject; and although the wind, carrying the rain-drops with it, ever and anon rattles a menace against the window, I draw my chair nearer to the fender, raise the glowing fuel into a cheering blaze, and grasp my pen with all the resolution of a hero. - Reader, thou hast no doubt witnessed a wet day in the metropolis; thou hast beheld the deserted pavement and the streaming kennel; the coated, caped, and hay-banded hackney coachman, leaning forward on his seat, that his broad-brimmed hat may protect his neck from the falling deluge. Thou hast shed perhaps, if thou be'st tender-hearted, a tear for his haggard and smoking cattle. Thou hast beheld, too, the frothing and hissing gutter-spout, and the laden stage. coach, rattling and splashing on beneath its canopy of sopped umbrellas; but didst thou ever experience a wet day in the country? Didst thou ever, when tired with gazing on the baro walls and oaken floor of a farm-house, stalk (it may be with thy hands in thy pockets) to the window ? hast thou, with a heavy eye, beheld the dripping eaves and branches bubbles forming and breaking on the surface of a puddle, or a pig-trough-cows apparently ruminat
ing on the badness of the weather (and who knows what beside ?) beneath the shelter of an out-housefowls crowding and shivering together, and fixing on thee a gazé as melancholy as thine own-ducks waddling, and feasting, and uttering their characteristio monotone, apparently well pleased with that which has made their neighbours all so dismal? Hast thou experienced all this? and when thou askedst for books with which to cheat the leaden hours, did they présent thee, as their whole stock, with Johnson's Dictionary, Clater's Farriery, and Abercromby's Gardener? and wert thou therefore spiritless, idealess, dejected ? If thou wert I pity thee. . . .
It was in a situation such as I have described, that I once experienced the pleasures of a rainy day. There had been a long succession of fine ones, and the morning appeared to indicate a continuance of them; but suddenly the atmosphere became shadowed, the clouds formed themselves in dense and denser masses, till, at length, the heavy rain came dancing down to the thirsty earth, which sent up from its parched surface a light cloud of incense, as if in gratitude for the welcome boon. I derived more gratification that morning by reading, than I have ever done since; yet it could not have been that anything remarkable attached to the work itself, for I have never perused it a second time, and do not even recollect its title; but I remember I considered myself particularly fortunate in finding the set to be complete_with the exception of the first volume. I began, therefore, with the second, and soon became totally absorbed in the story, and identified with the characters pourtrayed. I scarcely laid aside the book until I had finished it. I think, indeed, this sort of weather is generally found to be favourable for undivided application to any description of study. In fine weather the mind is wandering abroad; it is occupied and attracted by the array of outward objects. Flowers basking in the sunshine, and flinging their odours in
at the open window; birds singing around it; the gaiety and gladness which pervades all nature, set the spirits in a dance, and draw off the mind from the object of its contemplation. But when all is clouded and dark without, the world shut out,' it is then that the mind becomes its own universe; and is dri. ven, in its full energy of restless activity, entirely on its own resources, or on the resources supplied it by other minds. Lacking the one, and incapable of appreciating the other, is it extraordinary that so many, in such a situation, should become sad and melancholy? But are there not, even in a rainy day, rich stores of thought for the contemplative man? Will he not expatiate on the wisdom and providence of the Deity? Will he not recognise in the descending moisture that, without which the genial sun would become but a blighting and withering destroyer; without which the flower would lose its fragrance-the meadow its greenness—and no harvest would wave its golden sheaves to gladden the heart of man.' Spirit and Manners of the Age, vol. i, p. 353.
- In this month the oak, beech, and hornbeam, in part retain their leaves ; while other trees are entirely denuded of their beautiful dress, their leafy honours' being strewed in the dust, and returned to their parent earth: yet some attractions are still left for us; the numerous tribes of mosses solicit our attention, and will afford sufficient amusement and occupation for the inquiring botanist. See an excellent paper on this subject, by Mr.ANDREW KERR YOUNG, in our last volume, p. 341. Consult also Drummond's First Steps to Botany, second edition,
Ends, dull month, with thee;
Soon will his funeral be: