On the Dark, Still, Dry Warm Weather, Occasionally Happening in the Winter Months

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To Thomas Pennant, Esquire. ... equidem credo, quia sit divinitus illis Ingenium. Virg., Georg.

When day declining sheds a milder gleam,What time the may-fly haunts the pool or stream;When the still owl skims round the grassy mead,What time the timorous hare limps forth to feed;Then be the time to steal adown the vale,And listen to the vagrant cuckoo's tale;To hear the clamorous curlew call his mate,Or the soft quail his tender pain relate;To see the swallow sweep the dark'ning plainBelated, to support her infant train;To mark the swift in rapid giddy ringDash round the steeple, unsubdu'd of wing:Amusive birds! -- say where your hid retreatWhen the frost rages and the tempests beat;Whence your return, by such nice instinct led,When spring, soft season, lifts her bloomy head?Such baffled searches mock man's prying pride,The God of Nature is your secret guide!While deep'ning shades obscure the face of dayTo yonder bench leaf-shelter'd let us stray,'Till blended objects fail the swimming sight,And all the fading landscape sinks in night;To hear the drowsy dorr come brushing byWith buzzing wing, or the shrill cricket cry;To see the feeding bat glance through the wood;To catch the distant falling of the flood;While o'er the cliff th'awakened churn-owl hungThrough the still gloom protracts his chattering song;"While high in air, and pois'd upon his wings,Unseen, the soft, enamour'd woodlark sings:These, Nature's works, the curious mind employ,Inspire a soothing melancholy joy:As fancy warms, a pleasing kind of painSteals o'er the cheek, and thrills the creeping vein!Each rural sight, each sound, each smell, combine;The tinkling sheep-bell, or the breath of kine;The new-mown hay that scents the swelling breeze,Or cottage-chimney smoking through the trees.The chilling night-dews fall: away, retire;For see, the glow-worm lights her amorous fire!Thus, ere night's veil had half obscur'd the sky,Th'impatient damsel hung her lamp on high:True to the signal, by love's meteor led,Leander hasten'd to his Hero's bed.

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© Gilbert White