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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

April,   pp. 452-564 PDF (74.3 MB)

Page 453

with her fingers. Their graceful attitudes can
only be seen for a few moments; for if they catch
a strange eye directed towards them, they at once
cease their play, and start off like alarmed birds.
Wd have often wished for a photograph of such a
scene as we have here described and witnessed
while sheltered behind some hedge or tree.
Dear to us all are those old footpaths that, time
out of mind, have gone winding through the plea-
sant fields, beside hedges and along watercourses,
leading to peaceful villages and far-away farms,
which the hum and jar of noisy cities never reach;
where we seem at every stride to be drawing
nearer the Creator, as we turn our backs upon
the perishable labours of man.
Only watch some old man, bent with the weight
of years, walking out into the fields when April
greens the ground-
' Making it all one emerald.'
With what entire enjoyment he moves along,
pausing every here and there to look at the
opening flowers! Yes, they are the very same
he gazed upon in boyhood, springing from the
same roots, and growing in the very spots where
he gathered them fifty long years ago. What a
many changes he has seen since those days, while
they appear unaltered! He thinks how happy
life then passed away, with no more care than
that felt by the flowers that wave in the breeze
and sunshine, which shake the rain from their
heads, as he did when a boy, darting in and out
bareheaded, when he ran to play amid the April
showers. Tears were then dried and forgotten
almost as soon as shed. ie recalls the com-
p anions of his early manhood, who stood full-
leaved beside him, in the pride of their summer
strength and beauty, shewing no sign of decay,
but exulting as if their whole life would be one
unchanged summerhood. Where are they now ?
Some fell with all their leafy honours thick upon
them. A few reached the season of the ' sere and
yellow leaf' before they fell, and were drifted far
away from the spot where they flourished, and
which now 'knoweth them no more for ever.' A
few stood up amid the silence of the winter of
their age, though they saw but little of one
another in those days of darkness. And now he
recalls the withered and ghastly faces, which
were long since laid beneath the snow. le alone
is spared to look through the green gates of
April down those old familiar footpaths, which
they many a time traversed together. ' Cuckoo!
cuckoo! ' Ah, well he knows that note! It
brings again the backward years-the sound he
tried to imitate when a boy-home, with its little
garden-the very face of the old clock, whose
ticking told him it was near schooltime. And he
looks for the messenger of spring now as he did
then, as it flies from tree to tree; but all he can
discover is the green foliage, for his eyes are dim
and dazed, and he cannot see it now. He hears
the song of some bird, which was once as familiar
to him as his mother's voice, and tries to remem-
ber it& name, but cannot; and as he tries, he
thinks of those who were with him when he
heard it; and so he goes on unconsciously un-
winding link by link the golden chain which
reaches from the grave to heaven. And when he
returns home, he carries with him a quiet heart
for his thoughts scarcely seem allied to earth, ano
lie ' too deep for tears.' He seems to have looked
behind that gray misty summit, where the for-
gotten years have rolled down, and lie buried, and
to have seen that dim mustering-ground beyond
the grave, where those who have gone before are
waiting to receive him.
Many of the trees now begin to make 'some
little show of green.' Among these is the elm,
which has a beautiful look with the blue April
sky seen through its half-developed foliage. The
ash also begins to shew its young leaves, though
the last year's 'keys,' with the blackened seed,
still hang among the branches, and rattle again
in every wind that blows. The oak puts out its
red buds and bright metallic-looking leaves
slowly, as if to shew that its hardy limbs require
as little clothing as the ancient Britons did, when
hoary oaks covered long leagues of our forest-
studded island. The chesnut begins to shoot forth
its long, finger-shaped foliage, which breaks
through the rounded and gummy buds that have
so firmly enclosed it. On the limes we see a
tender and delicate green, which the sun shines
through as if they were formed of the clearest
glass. The beech throws from its graceful sprays
leaves which glitter like emeralds when they are
steeped in sunshine; and no other tree has such
a smooth and beautiful bark, as rustic lovers well
know when they carve the names of their beloved
ones on it. The silver birch throws down its
flowers in waves of gold, while the leaves drop
over them in the most graceful forms, and the
stem is dashed with a variety of colours like a
bird. The laburnums stand up like ancient
foresters, clothed in green and gold. But, beau-
tiful above all, are the fruit-trees, now in blossom.
The peaches seem to make the very walls to which
they are trailed burn again with their bloom,
while the cherry-tree looks as if a shower of
daisies had rained it, and adhered to the
branches. The plum is one mass of unbroken blos-
som, without shewing a single green leaf, while,
in the distance, the almond-tree looks like some
gigantic flower, whose head is one tuft of bloom,
so thickly are the branches embowered with
buds. Then come the apple-blossoms, the love-
liest of all, looking like a bevy of virgins
peeping out of their white drapery, 'covered
with blushes ; while all the air around is per-
fumed with the fragrance of the bloom, as if
the winds had been out gathering flowers, and
scattered the perfume everywhere as they passed.
All day long the bees are busy among the
bloom, making an unceasing murmur, for April
is beautiful to look upon; and if she hides
her sweet face for a few hours behind the
rain-clouds, it is only that she may appear again
peeping out through the next burst of sunshine
in a veil of fresher green, through which we see
the red and white of her bloom.
Numbers of birds, whose names and songs are
familiar to us, have, by the end of this month,
returned to build and sing once more in the bowery
hollows of our old woods, among the bushes that
dot our heaths, moors, and commons, and in the
hawthorn-hedges which stretch for weary miles
over green Old England, and will soon be covered

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