( Originally Published Ealry 1900's )
THE happiest bird of our spring, and one that rivals the European lark, in my estimation, is the bobolincon, or bobolink, as he is commonly called. He arrives at that choice period of the year, which, in this latitude, answers to the description of the month of May so often given by the poets. With us it begins about the middle of May and lasts until nearly the middle of June. Earlier than this winter is apt to return on its traces, and to blight the opening beauties of the year; and later than this begin the parching and panting, and dissolving heats of summer. But in this congenial interval, nature is in all her freshness and fragrance; " the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." The trees are now in their fullest foliage and brightest verdure; the woods are gay with the clustered flowers of the laurel; the air is perfumed by the sweetbrier and the wild rose; the meadows are enamelled with clover blossoms; while the young apple, the peach, and the plum, begin to swell, and the cherry to glow, among the green leaves.
This is the chosen season of revelry of the bobolink. He comes amidst the pomp and fragrance of the season; his life seems all sensibility and enjoyment, all song and sunshine. He is to be found in the soft bosoms of the freshest and sweetest meadows, and is most in song when the clover is in blossom. He perches on the topmost twig of a tree, or on some long, flaunting weed, and, as he rises and sinks with the breeze, pours forth a succession of rich tinkling notes,— crowding one upon another, like the outpouring melody of the skylark, and possessing the same rapturous character. Sometimes he pitches from the summit of a tree, begins his song as soon as he gets upon the wing, and flutters tremulously down to the earth, as if overcome with ecstasy at his own music, Sometimes he is in pursuit of his paramour; always in full song, as if he would win her by his melody; and always with the same appearance of intoxication and de-light.
Of all the birds of our groves and meadows, the bobo-link was the envy of my boyhood. He crossed my path in the sweetest weather, and the sweetest season of the year, when all nature called to the fields, and the rural feeling throbbed in every bosom; but when I, luckless urchin ! was doomed to be mewed up, during the livelong day, in that purgatory of boyhood, a school-room. It seemed as if the little varlet mocked me as he flew by in full song, and sought to taunt me with his happier lot. Oh, how I envied him ! No lessons, no task, no hateful school; nothing but holiday frolic, green fields, and fine weather. Had I been then more-versed in poetry I might have addressed him in the words of Logan to the cuckoo:
Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,
Oh! could I fly, I'd fly with thee;
Further observation and experience have given me a different idea of this little feathered voluptuary, which I will venture to impart, for the benefit of my schoolboy readers, who may regard him with the same, unqualified envy and admiration which I once indulged. I have shown him, only as I saw him at first, in what I may call the poetical part of his career, when he in a manner de-voted himself to elegant pursuits and enjoyments, and was a bird of music, and song, and taste, and sensibility, and refinement. While this lasted he was sacred from in-jury; the very schoolboy would not fling a stone at him, and the merest rustic would pause to listen to his strain. But mark the difference. As the year advances, as the clover blossoms disappear, and the spring fades into summer, he gradually gives up his elegant tastes and habits, doffs his poetical suit of black, assumes a russet dusty garb, and sinks to the gross enjoyments of common vulgar birds. His notes no longer vibrate on the ear; he is stuffing himself with the seeds of the tall weeds on which he lately swung and chanted so melodiously. He has become a " bon vivant," a gourmand;" with him now there is nothing like the " joys of the table." In a little while he grows tired of plain, homely fare, and is off on a gastronomical tour in the quest of foreign luxuries. We next hear of him with myriads of his kind, banqueting among the reeds of the Delaware ; and grown corpulent with good feeding. He has changed his name in traveling. Bobolincon no more,—he is the reed-bird now, the much-sought-for tidbit of Pennsylvania epicures ; the rival in unlucky fame of the ortolan ! Where-ever he goes, pop ! pop ! pop! every rusty firelock in the country is blazing away. He sees his companions falling by thousands around him.
Does he take warning and reform? Alas, not he! Incorrigible epicure ! Again he wings his flight. The rice swamps of the South invite him. He gorges himself among them almost to bursting; he can scarcely fly for corpulency. He has once more changed his name, and is now the famous rice-bird of the Carolinas.
Last stage of his career; behold him spitted, with dozens of his corpulent companions, and served up, a vaunted dish, on the table of some Southern gastronome.
Such is the story of the bobolink; once spiritual, musical, admired; the joy of the meadows, and the favorite bird of spring; finally, a gross little sensualist, who expiates his sensuality in the larder. His story contains a moral worthy of the attention of all little birds and little boys; warning them to keep to those refined and intellectual pursuits which raised him to so high a pitch of popularity during the early part of his career; but to eschew all tendency to that gross and dissipated indulgence which brought this mistaken little bird to an untimely end.
Which is all, at present, from the well-wisher of little boys and little birds.