sounds had not begun.
Sometimes a bee hummed by with a long, swift thrill like a chord of music; sometimes a breeze came resounding up the forest like an approaching locomotive, and then died utterly away.
Then, at length, a Veery's delicious note rose in a fountain of liquid melody from beneath me; and when it was ended, the clear, calm, interrupted chant of the Wood-Thrush
fell like solemn water-drops from some source above.
I am acquainted with no sound in Nature so sweet, so elevated, so serene.
Flutes and flageolets are Art
's poor efforts to recall that softer sound.
It is simple, and seems all prelude; but the music to which it is the overture belongs to other spheres.
It might be the Angelus
of some lost convent.
It might be the meditation of some maiden-hermit, saying over to herself in solitude, with recurrent tuneful pauses, the only song she knows.
Beside this soliloquy of seraphs, the carol of the Veery seems a familiar and almost domestic thing; yet it is so charming that Audubon
must have designed to include this among the Thrushes whose merits he proclaims.
But the range of musical perfection is a wide one; and if the standard of excellence be that wondrous brilliancy and variety of execution suggested by the Mocking-Bird
, then the palm belongs, among our New England
songsters, to the Red Thrush
, otherwise called the Mavis or Brown Thrasher
I know not how to describe the voluble and fantastic notes which fall like pearls and diamonds from the beak of our Mavis, while his stately attitudes and high-born bearing are in full harmony with the song.
I recall the steep, bare hillside, and the two great boulders which guard the lonely grove, where I first fully learned the wonder of this lay, as if I had met St. Cecilia there.
A thoroughly happy song, overflowing with life, it gives even its most familiar phrases an air of gracious condescension, as when some great violinist stoops to the ‘Carnival of Venice
The Red Thrush
does not, however, consent to any parrot-like mimicry, though every note of wood or field-Oriole, Bobolink, Crow
, Robin, Whippoorwill-appears to pass in veiled procession through the song.
Retain the execution of the Red Thrush
, but hopelessly impair his organ, and you have the Cat-Bird
This accustomed visitor would seem a gifted vocalist but for the inevitable comparison between his thinner note and the gushing melodies of the lordlier bird.
Is it some hopeless consciousness of this disadvantage which leads him to pursue that peculiar habit of singing softly to himself very often, in a fancied seclusion?
When other birds are cheerily out-of-doors, on some bright morning in May or June, one will often discover a solitary Cat-Bird
sitting concealed in the middle of a dense bush, and twittering busily, in subdued rehearsal, the whole copious variety of his lay, practising trills and preparing half-imitations, which, at some other time, sitting on the topmost twig, he shall hilariously seem to improvise before all the world.
Can it be that he is really in some slight disgrace with Nature, with that demi-mourning garb of his, and that his