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see the same sight. Other things may have changed, but the Swallows are there. The light-hearted companions of your youth may have changed, flown, died, and loving parents, brothers and sisters, may not smile a welcome to your return, but the swallows twitter as gaily as ever upon the roof, shoot around the barn or dance joyously in the summer sky. You may have changed, your hair may be grey, your steps trembling, your heart heavy, and your countenance sedate or sad from the blight and blast of weary years, yet the swallows seem not to change, but are now, in their habits and ways, what they were in years agone. Though they are not the same swallows which we knew in our youth, yet in another sense they are the same. They are as those were; they do as they did ; and we love them as we did those, who, like many of the departed friends of our childhood, have fled away to a lovelier, sunnier, and more genial clime!
Swallows have some peculiar habits, in addition to those already alluded to, with which we do not become acquainted from common observation. Their sight is extremely keen and quick. This is of great advantage to them in darting after flies, which they catch for food, for themselves and their young. They live principally on flies. This acconnts for their habit of flying near the ground over meadows, clover fields, mill-dams, rivers or lakes.
They build their nests of clay, mixed with bits of straw or chaff. "It is said, that when they want clay or mud, they plunge themselves in water, then, rolling in the dust, make clay for themselves.” Every one must have observed that these birds are in the habit of lighting along the banks of streams, the edge of mill-dams or lakes, and the borders of mud-pools. It is to procure material for their nests. They love to build their nests under the eves of houses and barns, or against the rafters in the inside, when they can procure access. They seem to be particularly fond of making their nests in the crevices and recesses of ancient looking buildings, such as turrets, towers, and venerable churches. It is to this habit that the royal Psalmist so touchingly alludes in the 84th Pslam : “Yea the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God." He is attracted to the Sanctuary of God like the swallow; he would make that his abode as it does, knowing the blessedness of those who dwellin His house. In this respect the choice and habits of this bird put to shame the choice and habits of those who are of far more value than many swallows ! Many seem perfectly willing to surrender their place in the 'amiable tabernacles' of God to the swallow. Verily I say unto such; these birds shall rise up in judgment against you, and condemn you.
Swallows are migratory birds, or birds of passage. They come to us in spring and summer, and disappear in autumn to seek a warmer climate. It is said that when they pass away from us they "hide themselves in holes in the earth, or even in marshes, and under the water, wherein sometimes great lumps of swallows have been fished up, fixed one to another by the claws and back; and when they are laid in a warm place, they move and recover, though before they seemed to be dead."
This may be, and beyond doubt is, the case with some species of swallows—for there are as many as twenty different kinds of them—but the most of these, indeed all except five kinds, belong to the warmer climates, and do not visit us. The two kinds, namely, the house swallow and the tower or chimney swallow, which are most known to us, and the only ones alluded to in the Bible, go and come with the season, and are said to breed while absent as they do with us. They not only return to our country in the spring, but they enter and occupy the same nest. This has been proved by tying a silken thread around the foot of the departing swallow, by which it was recognized again on its return with the next season. Its flight, in departing or returning, is exceedingly swift. By a strange instinct it knows the exact time for moving. All at once, on a bright pleasant autumn day, and lo! the swallows are gone! Suddenly, on a lovely spring morning, behold they are here, twittering and twirling, with much joy and music around the house and barn.
By allusion to the migratory habits of these sacred birds, the prophet Jeremiah gives the Jews a sharp rebuke for their dullness : “The turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming, but my people know not the judgments of the Lord.”—Jer 8: 7. The swallow knows, the prophet would say, when its best interests require it to move, in order thus to escape evil, but sinners are not so wise. When the winter breaks in you find no frozen swallow-one that has paid the penalty of remaining behind with its life ; all, all have fled in time; but you do find that sinners die, die dreadfully and forever, because they did not fly to the Saviour before the summer of their opportunities was ended!
The passage in Proverbs 26 : 2, is also to be explained by keeping in mind the allusion it makes to the migratory habits of swallows: “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by
flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.” That is, as birds do not move from one clime to another without a cause, so the judgments of God do not come upon sinners without a cause. The bird moves impelled by a cause lying deeper than mere impulse or caprice, so the curse of God falls upon the guilty, not that God may vent his anger, but that the justice and truth of his throne may be preserved inviolate.
Hezekiah, speaking of his deep affliction says: "Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter.”Is. 38: 14. There seems to be nothing in the habits of the house swallow to correspond with this allusion, as none of the noises it makes seem to have any striking resemblance to the moanings of agony or the shrieks of pain. It seems rather to refer to the chimney swallow whose chatterings, twitterings, and whirrings in the chimney have some resemblance to the quick, deep, mournful moanings of one whose agony is often suddenly broken with sharp, quick darts of pain.
Only in these four passages referred to is the swallow mentioned in the Bible. Once it is praised for its love to the Sanctuary of God-once its chattering is made the emblem of deep grief--and twice its foresight in moving to a congenial climate when winter breaks in , is referred to as instructive to sinners who sit still till they die.
Let us look at these friendly birds as they hover around our dwelling on the pleasant evenings of summer, and ask ourselves whether we are as wise, as good, as harmless, as fond of home, and as innocent as they.
It just now comes to my mind, and I must mention it, how solemnly we were forbidden to kill a swallow. It seems as if I could this moment see my father's up-lifted finger, and hear my mother's tender words of warning. We would almost as soon have thought of killing an infant in the cradle, as of killing a swallow! Wo! was to the luckless wight that was caught stoning the nest of a swallow. He was sure to experience a practical commentary on the latter clause of Proverbs 26 : 3. It was a current tradition, in fear of whose fulfilment all mischievious boys trembled, that if a swallow were killed all the cows at the barn where the outrage was committed would henceforth yield red milk! Although I feel sure that such dire consequences—the awful mark of murder-would not have followed it, yet I endeavor to feel thankful that I do not now bear about with me that guilty conscience, which would have followed me through life, had I ever committed so graceless a deed as to kill a swallow! In this as in other things, I will reverence the injunction of my parents, and ever cultivate the tenderest and friendliest feelings toward all the Birds of the Bible.
A DREAM OF HOME.
BY W. H. EGLE.
It is the lone hour of midnight,
And the moon is beaming with lightAround are her starry courtiers,
For she is the Empress of Night; It is the dead hour of silence,
For the earth is hush'd to sleepThe hour the vigil grows weary,
And the love-lorn maiden doth weep.
It is the dim hour of midnight,
While lonely, earth-weary, I tread The streets of my native village,
And the haunts of the "sainted dead ;" I approach the roofs of the homestead,
And enter the unlocked door-
Where I never may enter more.
I look around for the faces
That gladdened the winter hearth I look around for the loved ones,
The pride and the cherish'd of earth; They are here, but the seeds of slumber,
Sown by an invisible hand,
of that broken household band.
I kiss the brows of the sleepers,
And cross their hands on their breasts, For they are care-worn and weary,
And I will not trouble their rests;
And pursue my lonely way
Met to praise their God, and to pray ;
Where oft on the hallowed Sabbath
The day of our gracious LORD
Explaining the Holy Word;
And pray for the loved and dear, I pray for God's servant, the pastor,
For the flock still worshipping bere
Now I've made my way to the churchyard
Where the precious dead are lain, Who passed from earth in my childhood,
Yet I hope to meet them again;
Here are tombs with names familiar,
The friends of my boyhood's pride,
And are safe on the other side.
Again in the homes of the living,
I wander from door to door,
Strolling along its shore;
As musical yet its flow,
In the days of the long ago.
But change is marked on each feature
Is written on every leaf,
My absence from home been brief:
And change in village and stream-
And I have a woke from my dream.
BY EDITH CLARE.
Last night, through an opening of the curtain's rold,
A ray from the evening star down slid
Breaking the shadow of the coffin-lid.
To-night, from the bosom of the empurpled west,
Poureth the evening star its golden beams,
No more to stir to throbbings nor to dreams.
Soft paints the star upon the untrodden snow,
The leafless tree-it troubleth not her sleep-
Nor tears that broken hearts so wildly weep.
For we, that saw the light of her blue eyes
Die out, and prest the pale lids o'er
But from the moulded seeds beneath the ground,
Will Powers at spring's clear voice burst bright,
She will arise, clothed in celestial light.