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Page:Natural History of the Nightingale, John Legg, 1779.djvu/8

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ſure to let him have plenty of water, and to keep his eyes very clean.

The melody of the nightingale being univerſally admired, many lovers of birds have been induced to rob it of its liberty, in order to be poſſeſſed of its ſong in that dreary ſeaſon, when it is abſent from our climate. In a ſtate of captivity, however, its notes are leſs pleaſing, being neither ſo ſtrong, ſo bold, nor harmonious. The bleakneſs of our winters chills its powers, and abates the energy of its vocal faculties; beſides, it is of ſo delicate and tender a nature, that it cannot eaſily be kept alive in confinement, nor "brook the harſh confinement of the cage." Indeed the muſic of any bird in captivity produces no very pleaſing ſenſations: it is but the mirth of a little animal, inſenſible of its cruel and unfortunate ſituation. It is the gay meadow and the grove, the conteſt for a female, the fluttering from hedge to hedge, their unconfined liberty, and their roving at large in the extenſive landſcape of nature, which enables the little ſongſters to exalt their ſtrains, and raiſe their notes to a ſtate of perfection.

—————In the narrow cage,
From liberty confin'd, and boundleſs air,
Dull are the pretty ſlaves, their plumage dull,
Ragged, and all its brightening luſtre loſt;
Nor is that ſprightly wildneſs in their notes
Which clear and vig'rous warbles from the beech.
Oh! then, ye friends of love and love-tought ſong
Spare the ſoft tribes, this barb'rous art forbear,
If on your boſom innocence can win,
Muſic engage, or piety perſuade.


Geſner, indeed, allows the nightingale to be an unparalleled ſongſter in a cage, and he declares that with proper tuition it may be brought to talk in a very diſtinct and articulate manner.—He even relates a long dialogue which paſſed between two nightingales at an inn at Ratiſbon, in which not only the human voice was moſt exactly imitated, but great ſagacity and ſtrength of argument were diſplayed on both ſides. I will not preſume to juſtify this aſſertion of Gefner's, but leave the reader to judge of it as he thinks proper: it is, however, I think, too extraordinary a phænomenon to deſerve our credit.

This bird is not to be met with in many parts of Great Britain: it is found only in ſome of the ſouthern counties, being entirely unknown in the more northern parts, particularly in Scotland, Ireland, North-Wales, &c. The reaſon of their not viſiting thoſe places cannot eaſily be aſcertained, as their food abounds there as well as where they haunt. Probably the air may be too cold for ſummer birds of much tender conſtitutions, which is the opinion of ſome.——It is very remarkable that the nightingales in Italy, and ſome other countries, ſhould differ from ours in point of ſong, though the ſpecies are the ſame. We are aſſured by Pliny, and other hiſtorians, there are ſome of this tribe that will continue ſinging, without any intermiſſion, for ſeveral days together.

The nightingale is a pretty long-lived bird, and with proper attendance, and good management, will reach eight or nine years. Their lives are protracted or abridged according to the good or bad management of their owners. In the midſt of winter, if they are kept clean and warm, they will ſing moſt delightfully, though with leſs energy and vigour than at the proper ſeaſon, and when wild. It is aſſerted by ſome, that they uſually improve in their ſong for the firſt ſix years, but afterwards decline by degrees. Lord Bacon ſaith, when the nightingale arrives early, it portends a hot and dry ſummer to follow; and if there is any truth in the obſervation, I will ſay it preſages the ſame when it comes late. Sometimes it hath not arrived in theſe parts till almoſt the middle of May, notwithſtanding an extreme hot ſummer hath frequently been the conſequence. When it hath come early, the ſucceeding ſeaſon hath sometimes been remarkably cold and wet. We muſt not, thefore, always depend upon the prophetical obſervations of great men, though they aſpire to reach the temple of fame, and make a great noiſe in the world.

Market-Lavington.J. L—g.