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Birds: The Nightingale

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( Originally Published 1894 )

The Nightingale and the Sky-Lark, may perhaps be said to divide honours in the sphere of feathered song. Both have entranced innumerable auditors and both have won noble tributes from poets' pens. Both, moreover, are plain birds. The nightingale is of a tawny colour on the head and back, and of a greyish white on the throat and under parts. It has a full large eye of great brightness. It is one of the largest of the song birds, measuring seven inches in length. The nightingale is found in Yorkshire but not in Lancashire, also in Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire and East Devonshire, but not in Cornwall. It belongs to France, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Palestine.

"The Nightingale's song," says the author of "Tales of Animals," unites strength and sweetness, song. in a most wonderful degree, as its notes may be heard on a calm evening at the distance of half a mile.

The most consummate musician might listen with delight to its song, whatever might be his peculiar taste, as it can at one moment thrill the heart with joy and at another melt it to sober sadness, by the laughing and sighing modulations which follow each other in rapid succession through the melody, which is seldom interrupted by a pause. As if conscious of its unrivalled powers, it does not join the sometimes discordant concert of the other songsters, but waits on some solitary twig till the blackbird and thrush have uttered their evening call, till the stock and ring doves have lulled each other to rest, and then it displays at full its melodious fancies." The following is an attempt made by a well-known naturalist to reduce the song to writing:

"Tiuu tiuu tiuu tiuu-Spe tiuu zqua-Tib tio tio tio tio tio tic, tix-Qutio qutio qutio qutio-Zquo zquo zquo zquoTzii tzii tzii tzii tza tzu tzii tzii tzii tzi-Quorror tiu zqua pipiquisi-Zozozozozozozozozozozozo zirrhading!"

Quaint old Izaac Walton says: "But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet, loud music out of her instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think that miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descents, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, `Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in Heaven, when thou affordest bad men such music on earth!'"

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