Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

the Greeks, (φιλελληνας αποφαινει τις ανθρωπος.) Posidonius speaks with admiration of their hospitality and constancy in friendship, as does Val. Maximus : “Fidem amicitiæ constanter præstandam arbitrabantur.” Stobæus relates the strict laws of hospitality observed by them towards strangers : it was considered more criminal to slay a stranger amongst them than one of their own countrymen; for death was the sure punishment for the former offence, and exile for the latter: “Huic exilium illi mors pæna statuitur.” It is, however, objected to them, that they shewed considerable vanity in boasting; that, in their manner of expressing themselves, they were abrupt, indistinct, and often unintelligible; vaunting their own deeds and detracting from others' merit: “Sermine utuntur brevi et obscuro, ad jactantiam suam dicunt et ad cæterorum contemptum.” Mela calls them “Gentes superbas;" but as the Romans had such bitter reason to know how well they defended their liberty, and had felt so deeply the vengeance they took for injuries sustained, they were perhaps inclined to judge harshly of them. With better foundation, however, do Greek and Roman writers ascribe to the Celts the habit of drunkenness; this passion had often proved eminently fatal to great enterprises in which they engaged; with truth, also, were they called superstitious. Mela says, “ Gentes superstitiosas;" and Cæsar, “Natio dedita religionibus;” they supposed that the herb vervain and misletoe possessed miraculous virtues, they were used in divination, and were believed to cure diseases and reconcile friends, "febres abigere amicitias conciliare;” nothing could subdue their love of freedom; the intolerance of oppression and the contempt of death early impressed on their minds, are characteristic features; but also, their irascibility and dreadful acts of vengeance in predatory incursions, in which neither age nor sex were spared, especially when their soothsayers predicted that a female was about to produce male offspring: “Non Solum mares necare sed etiam gravidas mulieres occidere

quas vates dicebant virilem fætum ferre.” The Celtic women were handsome and well-grown, (mulieres habent speciosas,-KATO kaldlotac exovrai yuvaikas.) Regular marriages subsisted; and Cæsar says, that on the husband's part, a sum equal to that brought as the wife's portion, was united to it, and bore interest; and that, as well as the principal became the property of the survivor; the husband had the power of life and death over his wife and children. When there was any suspicion that the death of a man of high station had been

violent, and that the wife had been instrumental thereto, the deceased's relations assembled, and instituted rigorous inquiry; if she were discovered to be guilty, a cruel death awaited her, and afterwards she was thrown on the funeral pile. The women had entirely the control over household affairs and education of the children; for Cæsar says, that they differed from all other nations in a custom of retaining their sons under their exclusive care, until they were of an age to go to war, and they would consider it a disgrace to suffer a boy to be seen by his father until he had arrived at those years; the energy of the female character may be judged by the heroic conduct of Camma and Chiomara, in Lesser Asia; they were celebrated for spotless virtue, the marriage bond was held most sacred, to maintain it unimpeached was their glory, (pudicæ et mariti amantes,) such importance was attached to connubial fidelity, that a proof was sometimes sought by placing the new-born infant on a shield in a river: « et fætum sic unda probat lectumque jugalem,” κελτοι δε κρινεσι γονον Ρηνοιο ρεεθροι.

The Celts passed much of their time in hunting; of this diversion they were excessively fond in all ages; their extensive forests offered them sufficient objects of sport; the chase presented opportunities of exerting their activity and prowess, and was a type of war to which they were so strongly disposed.

FRAGMENT.

(FROM UNPUBLISHED POETRY, BY S. R. Jackson.].

MOUBRAY's banner glances there,
Chester's garbs are gleaning far,
And the crest of fiery Clare
Glitters through the darken'd war.
Windsor in his saddle reels,
Pembroke feels the spearmen's shock,
And the blood of Dodingseles
Curdles on the barren rock.
De la Zouch to earth is borne,
And the men of Chester flee,
Lacy's ancient fag is torn
Cambrians, on to victory!

BRITISH NATURAL HISTORY.

TRINGA LOBATA-THE GREY PHALAROPE.

In the autumn of 1830 I visited the neighbourhood of Aberystwith. I had despatched my gun and pointers there, and having disposed of the business part of the trip, I accepted the invitation of a friend to partake of the diversion of shooting, at his casual residence on the banks of the river Dovey, about midway between Aberystwith and Machynlleth.

It may perhaps be necessary to describe the situation this gentleman has selected for carrying on operations as an amateur farmer. On the Cardiganshire side of the estuary of the Dovey, a tract of land, consisting of many thousand acres of soil, has, until within a few years, been subject to periodical inundations, which rendered it in a great measure valueless to the proprietors. My friend, in conjunction with several of the surrounding gentry and freeholders, at an expense of more than £10,000, has constructed an embankment, which effectually prevents the overflow of the river, and with meritorious exertions they are annually bringing into productive cultivation large quantities of the reclaimed land; still a considerable part of it is situated so low, and is of so swampy a nature, that it will probably ever remain the breeding place and resort of the wild goose, the hooper, or wild swan, and endless affinities of the duck, as well as other native and migratory fowl. In addition to the embankments, several wide and deep ditches intersect the reclaimed land. Having thus described the situation of my friend's sporting ground, I may now add, that I arrived at his hospitable residence at the close of a beautiful evening, prepared to do justice to a most excellent dinner, procured chiefly from the mountain heather and the pure flowing Dovey, the produce of his own domain, seasoned with the invigorating beverage of Cambria, immortal cwrw, and Oporto's choicest vintage, to my heart's best content, and more than all, an honest and hearty welcome. Having discussed these good things, and partaken of the products of Mocha and Canton, “ those cups that cheer but not inebriate," I retired to an early couch, anxious with those anticipations of the morrow's success felt only by the sportsman.

In the early morning, you may imagine me fully equipped, -my dogs eager for the field: my first essay was in pursuit of partridges. Here the reader will pardon a digression, it is to publish a very curious fact in the history of agriculture. The extraordinary, I may say exuberant, richness of the soil, is so great in some parts of this reclaimed land, as to completely destroy the farmer's hopes, by producing an unusual growth of stem, and thereby exhausting the plant so as to produce very light and unproductive ears of

grain; so rich, indeed, is this vegetable soil, that in order to destroy as much as possible its blanching and hot-bed properties, the experienced cultivator carries large quantities of common river gravel to its surface; yet it will require a long series of similar depreciating layers of stone, in order to adapt the soil to the usual purposes of arable cultivation.

I had three or four hours' excellent diversion, after scattering some fine strong covies, occasionally diversified with shots at snipes and hares; indeed, considering that the ground is unprotected by keepers and game-preservers as in England, it is surprising to observe the abundance and variety found here, and especially as regards the migratory visits of rare and curious specimens of ornithology. An instance of which occurred in following the game on this ocsion: it was my fortune to observe a specimen of a bird then unknown to me, swimming along the ditches before spoken of; it required a good deal of caution to approach near enough to shoot with any chance of success, however I succeeded in doing so, by creeping on under cover of a rising ground. I fired, and, with the assistance of old Ranger, I secured the prize. It proved, on further inspection, to be a very fine specimen of the Tringa Lobata of Linnæus, and le Phalarope à festons denticles of Mons. Buffon ; with some corrections I avail myself of the description of this particularly rare bird, given by Bewick, vol. i. p. 133. It is also called the Scallop-toed Sandpiper.

The bill of this bird is nearly an inch long, the upper mandible is of a dusky horn colour, grooved on each side, and flattened near the tip, the under one is orange

towards the base. The eyes are placed high in the head ; there is a

* The effect of great quantities of decomposed matter in soil is strikingly exemplified at Waterloo. Six years ago, De Costa, the guide, pointed out to a friend of ours certain parts of the cultivated fields, where numbers of the slain were buried, in those places, though more than ten years had elapsed since their interment, the wheat and oaten straw still vegetated to an enormous size.-Editors.

dark patch underneath each, and the same on the hinder part of the head and neck. The shoulder and scapular feathers are of a fine lead colour, edged with white: fore part of the head, throat, neck, and breast, white: the belly is also white, but slightly dashed with pale rust colour: the greater coverts are broadly tipped with white, which forms an oblique bar across the wings, when closed : some of the first and secondary quills are narrowly edged with white: on the middle of the back the feathers are brown, edged with bright rust colour; on the rump there are several feathers of the same colour, but mixed with others of white rufous and lemon. The wings are long, and when closed reach beyond the tail : the primary quills are dusky, the lower part of their inner sides white: tail dusky, edged with ash-colour; legs black. The scalloped membranes on its toes differ from those of the red Phalarope, in being finely serrated on their edges.

This curious and pretty bird is a native of the northern regions of Europe, Asia, and America, and migrates southward in the winter. It has seldom been met with in any part of the British isles. Ray, however, saw one at Brignal, in Yorkshire; and Mr. Pennant mentions one which was shot in the same county. Mr. Tunstall, another, shot at Stavely, in Derbyshire; another was shot near the city of Chester, by Lieutenant Colonel Dalton, of the 4th regiment of Dragoons, on the 14th of October, 1800; and the last by myself in Cardiganshire, the one I have endeavoured to describe.

Highly delighted with my day's sport, having bagged four-and-a-half brace of partridges, three couple of snipes, a leash of hares, and, though last, not least, my little phalarope, I returned to where I spent another happy evening, recounting to my friend the hard-earned glories of the day. As no earthly pleasure is without alloy, before concluding, I must in candour admit, the cause of a considerable drawback upon the enjoyment of the day's diversion, it was the knowledge of the existence of numerous reptiles: the adder and viper tribes swarm in the heath; to say nothing of my own precious self, I was in a state of anxiety for the safety of my dogs. If a man love not his faithful dogs he is not a true sportsman, and what is more, I should very much doubt the humane qualities of his heart.

I cannot close this imperfect account of the grey phalarope, without offering, with all brevity, the result of my

« ПредишнаНапред »