« السابقةمتابعة »
and hardy, that it will vegetate well in almost any soil or climate, and prosper even in the shade of fruit or other trees. The male blossoms of the yewtree expand, and discharge their farina in this month.
Sparrows are now busily employed in forming their nests. Lambs are yeaned. Young Otters are produced. This animal is as destructive in a pond, as a polecat in a hen-house. It seems to form a link between terrestrial and aquatic animals, resembling the former in shape, and the latter in being able to continue a considerable time under water, and in being web-footed, whereby it swims so fast as to overtake fish in their own element: but he is not, strictly speaking, amphibious; for if he gets entangled in a net, and cannot free himself by cutting the meshes with his teeth, he is drowned. The usual length of the otter, from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, is twenty-three inches, and the tail itself is rather more than half the length of the body; the weight of the male from eighteen to twenty-six, of the female, from thirteen to twentytwo pounds. One in October, 1794, was snared in the river Lea, weighing above forty pounds. " The otter has no heel, but a round ball under the sole of the foot, by which its track in the mud is easily distinguished, and is termed the seal. Its colour is a deep brown, except two small spots of white on each side of the nose, and one under the chin, and is more valuable if the animal be killed in winter than summer. The otter shows great sagacity in forming its abode, burrowing under ground on the banks of some river or lake, and always making the entrance hole under water, working upwards to the surface of the earth, and forming several lodges, that in cases of flood it may have a retreat (for no animal is more careful to repose in a dry place), and there making a minute orifice for the admission of air; and even this aperture is often
formed in the middle of some thick bush for concealment. The otter destroys large quantities of fish, for he will eat none but what he takes himself, and of those only particular parts, so that he wastes more than he eats. In rivers he swims against the stream to meet his prey, and it is said that two otters will hunt in concert that active fish the salmon: one stations himself above and the other below where the fish lies, and being thus chased incessantly, the wearied salmon becomes their prey. They take to the sea, and are seen about the Orkneys, where their food is cod and conger. In very hard weather, when the natural sort of food fails, the otter will kill lambs, sucking pigs and poultry; and one was caught in a warren, whither it had come to prey upon rabbits. He will often venture far upon land, where the dogs will spontaneously attack him; but he will, in his defence, bite the dogs most cruelly, sometimes with such force as to break their leg-bones, and never quits his hold but with life. In the water, he will draw the dog under and suffocate him. The otter is capable of being tamed: he will follow his master like a dog; and even fish for him, and return with his prey, more than sufficient for the use of a family. The hunting of the otter was formerly considered excellent sport, and hounds were kept solely for that purpose'. The otter (it has already been observed) is sometimes extremely formidable to the dog: a fine animal of the Newfoundland breed was lately killed by one, whose bite had become venomous, from being infuriated; the dog dying in four or five hours after he was attacked, although the injury received did not, at first, appear of any importance.
· See a description of otter-hunting in the 'Angler,'a Poem, p. 128. 135, from the notes to which the above account. of the otter is taken. See also 'Somerville's Chase.',
In March the farmer dresses and rolls his meadows; spreads ant-hills; plants quicksets, osiers, &c.; sows flax seed, artificial grasses, beans and peas, broom and whin seeds, and grass seeds among wheat. About the 23d, he ploughs for and sows oats, and hemp and flax. A dry season is very important to the farmer, that he may get the seed early into the ground.
Against the DRILL PŁough.
The fragrant ridge along
Though sought with anxious pain,
When cultured fields deny
* * *
By long successive toil,
Nor e'er thy sanction lend
i See the whole of this interesting little poem, in the 'Hermit in London,' vol. ir, pp. 72-74.
APRIL is derived from Aprilis, of aperio, I open; because the earth, in this month, begins to open her bosom for the production of vegetables.
In APRIL 1821.
1.-MIDLENT SUNDAY. The middle or fourth Sunday in Lent was formerly called the Sunday of the Five Loaves, the Sunday of Bread, and the Sunday of Refreshment, in allusion to the gospel appointed for this day. It was also named Rose Sunday, from the Pope's car. rying a golden rose in his hand, which he exhibited to the people in the streets as he went to celebrate the eucharist, and at his return. Mothering Sunday is another name attached to this day, from the practice, in Roman Catholic times, of people visiting their mother church on Midlent Sunday. Hence, perhaps, the custom now existing in some parts of England, of children visiting their parents, and presenting them with money, trinkets, or some other trifle. Furmety is commonly a rural repast on this day: it is made of whole grains of wheat first parboiled, and then put into and boiled in milk, sweetened and seasoned with spices.
1.--ALL OF AULD FOOLS' DAY. On this day every body strives to make as many fools as he can: the wit chiefly consists in sending persons on what are called sleeveless errands, for the history of Eve's mother, for pigeon's milk, stirrup oil, and similar ridiculous absurdities. "How it has happened (observes an ingenious writer in the Looker-on',) that a particular day has long been ap
1 British Essayists, vol. xli, p. 98, et seq.
propriated, though by no means exclusively, to the exercise of this amusement, and why the 1st of April · was destined to that purpose, I leave to the investigation of antiquaries; hazarding only one conjecture, that, at some very remote period, the worshippers of the goddess Folly, the idlers and witlings of the world, in imitation of other heathens, established this anniversary celebration of their deity; and perhaps some analogy may be traced between the sacrifices of the antients and the offerings which Folly's votaries continue to heap before her altar on this her high festival: nay, though the heathen system of theology is long since exploded, this deity finds her power over the world by no means on the decline: and while Venus is no longer invoked by our belles, while pickpockets forget their obligations to Mercury, and Neptune is neglected even on his own element, FOLLY has splendid temples in every city, priests in every family; and whole hecatombs of human victims swell the honours of her red-letter day.
"The custom of making “ April Fools,” absurd as it is, will afford the moralist a topic of useful instruction: the danger of credulity on the one hand, and of over-caution on the other, may be inferred from the exploits of an April-day fool-maker. The young and inexperienced will find this one day, within the circle of their own acquaintance, no bad sketch of the world as it is every day, and in every age : much deception, much falsehood; every body suspicious of his neighbour, and every body more ready to join in the shout of triumph at an instance of successful imposition, than to unite in detecting and punishing the deceiver. The practical professor of this honourable art too, if he have any sense remaining, may take a useful hint, that, however successful he may be, he is open to the same imposition from his more skilful brethren; and that ridicule, when it falls on him, will fall with augmented force: at all events, that this contemptible and vulgar ta