صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

grined by failure, and roused into resentment, the Patriarch resolved to try other and more stringent measures for bringing back the recusant within the pale of orthodoxy. The room where he had been treated as a guest was exchanged for a dark and dismal vault, where he was treated as a prisoner. The viands with which he had hitherto been served at his host's own table were replaced by a crust of bread and a jug of water. Weeks thus rolled on, and no one cared to ask after the condition of the unfortunate inmate of Kanobin. He had been silenced; that was enough. But one night, one dark and tempestuous night, he contrived to make his escape. After scrambling over rocks and precipices, and tearing his flesh to pieces, he found himself in a wild forest, not knowing which way to proceed. At length he met a goatherd, who, surprised at his garb and demeanour, asked him from whence he came. He replied, in the simplicity of his heart, that he had been so fortunate as to make his escape from the Patriarch's prison at Kanobin. The goatherd immediately arrested him, and took him back. Precautions were redoubled. Privations were aggravated. Persecution assumed its hideous garb. Deprived of light, scarcely allowed sustenance, chained as a lunatic, the grave delayed not long to demand its victim, while heaven received into its bosom the spirit of the saint and martyr.—Colonel Churchill.


“HAWTHORNE had lost his motley liverie,

The naked twigges were shivering all for cold,
And dropping down the tears abundantlie;

Each thing, methought, with weeping eyne metolde

The cruel season, bidding me witholde
Myself within; for I was gotten out

Into the fields, whereas I walked about.”
THE melancholy days are indeed come, the saddest of the
Fear, when winter presents himself clothed in his least
inviting garb. No more do we meet the exhilarating

though rough greeting of the arrowy breeze, or watch the noiseless, ceaseless fall of the snowflake. All is damp and dreary. The trees, as old Sackville describes them, sorrowing for their summer glories, “drop down their tears abundantly.” The patches of snow, which here and there remain, no longer glitter in their pristine purity of tint, and offer a crisp, pleasant footing to the passer-by, but, stained and half-thawed, only add to the chill comfortlessness which pervades everything. But even at this dreary season, the naturalist, though he cannot expect the profusion of animated and vegetable life which courts attention in summer, finds many objects of interest where an ordinary observer would see only barrenness and desolation. The tiny, fairy-like tribes of mosses are now in their fullest beauty, and, everywhere present, lightly cover, as with a veil, objects otherwise unlovely. Bright tufts of Dicranum, intermingled with the scarlet stems of the Polytricha, cast a golden, sunset hue upon the grassy knolls which break the uniformity of view in many a time-honoured woodland; while the blackened circle of charred turf which marks the resting-place of some tribe of gipsy wanderers is speedily covered with the bristling masses of the Funaria. The dark edges of the peat-bog are adorned with the evervarying forms of Sphagnum, now blushing with a delicate shade of carmine, and anon fading through tints of the palest green to perfect whiteness. Creeping among the withered grass in damp hedgerows, and festooning every mouldering trunk, appear the delicate feather-mosses, a numerous and beautiful genus. Every old wall and cottageroof shows abundance of the short, velvety tufts of the Tortula, intermingled with silvery patches of Bryum. In short, it would be difficult to point out any soil or situation which, during some portion of the year, affords not shelter to many of these widely-distributed plants. Let us then briefly examine their position and uses in the vast chain of organized being.

Some years ago, many philosophers seriously entertained an idea that animalcula were produced by the fermentation of vegetable substances, and that the lower tribes of plants could be similarly produced, without seeds or germs. This unscientific and baseless theory is now pretty generally exploded, despite the efforts of certain French and German savans who, being disciples of the Lamarckian school, find it necessary in order to support their semi-infidel notions of the origin of the human race. There can now be very little doubt that the sporules of mosses, lichens, and fungi are dispersed in countless millions through the atmosphere, and that wherever they can find a suitable resting-place, with proper conditions of moisture and temperature, there they spring up and flourish. Even the most incurious must have observed the dark-green stain so commonly occurring upon damp freestone walls, but perhaps have passed it by without vouchsafing a close inspection. Remove a little of it gently from the wall with a thin-bladed knife, and examine it with a magnifying lens. A very ordinary instrument will show it to be composed of a multitude of minute silky threads; the first results of the germination of moss sporules. For a long time these filaments were thought to be distinct plants, never assuming a different form, and somewhat resembling the curious green conferva so often observed in stagnant ponds; but the patient investigations of Hedwig and Drummond have proved experimentally that in favourable circumstances they throw out leaves and roots, and present all the characteristics of ordinary mosses. Seldom, however, do the first sporules which vegetate upon bare rocks or walls advance beyond this rudimentary and filamentous condition. Summer, with its scorching droughts, destroys their vitality; and they perish, leaving only a thin and almost imperceptible coating of decayed vegetable matter. The return of autumnal moisture and wintry cold enables new sporules to germinate on the remains of their predecessors, until at last a sufficient amount of decayed matter has been produced, to serve as soil for the production of the more highly-organized form. Such is the process by which the most barren and desolate mountain-peaks become covered with vegetation; and when the humble moss and lichen have performed their office, seeds of grasses, and other phanerogamous plants, find a lodgment, spring up, and in their turn decay, contributing their quota to the constantly accumulating soil.

Mosses have no flowers; but in their place appears an urn-shaped theca, or capsule, containing sporules. The mouth of this receptacle is generally guarded by a delicate fringe, or row of teeth, which in fine weather bends back, and allows the warmth of the sun to exert its influence upon the embryos within. Should a shower of rain fall, the teeth immediately close, interlacing so securely as to prevent any moisture from entering the capsule. These alternations are dependent upon the amount of moisture present in the atmosphere, and are precisely analogous to those wellknown changes, the lengthening of a barley-awn, and the untwisting of a piece of catgut, when exposed to the action of vapour. Other defences combine to protect the ripening sporules: a lid, or operculum, surmounts the capsule, while over all is drawn the warm, downy calyptra, or hood.

From their minute size, it might be supposed that great difficulty would be experienced in determining the species of English mosses; but in general their characters are so plain, that, with the assistance of a tolerably powerful lens, and a little perseverance, almost every specimen may be satisfactorily made out. There is, unfortunately, no good recent work upon muscology in our own language, embodying the numerous discoveries made during the last twenty years. The student to whom the elaborate German “Bryologia” is a sealed book, from its expensiveness, must therefore content himself with the first part of the second volume of Hooker's “British Flora," as a descriptive synopsis, and refer to the plates of the “Muscologia Britannica” for assistance in identifying doubtful specimens. This latter work, which is now out of print, and very scarce, contains beautifully executed figures of all, except the recently discovered species, and will be found invaluable to the mossstudent; but from the great changes which have taken place in cryptogamic nomenclature since its publication, the letter-press descriptions must be used with caution.

It would be impossible within our narrow limits to do more than point out the means of acquiring a knowledge of

this fascinating branch of botanical science. Even simply to sketch out the principles of the classification of mosses, and give descriptions of the more common varieties, would require much space and much uninteresting detail. Those who enter upon the study of these beautiful little plants, will find ample amusement and instruction attendant on every stage of their progress. Nor let it be imagined that fine weather is to them as necessary for a successful ramble as it is to the botanist, whose researches are confined to flowering plants. Amid cold and damp, and in the dreariest days of this dreary month, the mosses are to be found in full verdure, defying the utmost rigour of wintry skies. For this very cause there can be no sham about a mossstudent: no fashionable exquisite or satin-slippered élégante may hope to be a muscologist. They may perhaps gather a few plants in spring-time or summer, and fancy they are botanists; but mosses, as Burns says, “gude faith, they maunna fa’ that!” Or, to quote the words of a talented and eloquent botanical friend, “Had these delicate fairy urns, with their emerald foliage, a voice to mingle with the ceaseless weeping patter of the drear forests they inhabit, truly might they sportively cry,

•Where we are, it is no place
For a lazy foot to trace;
Over heath and over field
He must ramble who would find us,

In the copse-wood close conceal'd,
With a running stream behind us.”'

In such congenial retreats we will for the present leave them, trusting that some of our readers may be induced to search them out, and become acquainted with these the fairest examples of miniature beauty which our native isle produces.

St. Mary's, Colchester.

« السابقةمتابعة »