Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/79

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NATURE NAMES IN AMERICA 75

a meaning to the reader that it never before possessed, and its history will have a meaning when he finds it in the writings of the old world authors. Those of us who are in the middle years of life can remember when our juvenile nature literature was almost entirely English and we became more intimately acquainted with the robin-redbreast and the nightingale, the skylark and the thrush, than we did with our own native birds, whose names were often quite unknown to us. The writings of the English poets and authors from Chaucer down are full of allusions to birds and flowers with which most of us have grown familiar by name only. Shelley's ' Skylark ' and Keats' ' Ode to a Nightingale ' have made the names living realities to many who have never seen or heard these birds. There are sweet singers in our own country that must take a place in literature, and their names will be doubly dear to the heart through an intimate acquaintance with the birds themselves. One of the most sympathetic of our modern writers has voiced this thought in an exquisite bit of verse — ' The Wood-notes of the Veery.'

If two different birds, or two different flowers, in England and America bear the same name, there is no need to cavil, only to recognize the fact that there is a difference. This extension of the name is in itself a source of great interest; it helps to link us to the life and literature of past generations, and in so doing to develop an intelligent and sympathetic understanding. One might have in mind our crow blackbird when reading Tennyson's poem — ' The Blackbird,' and fail to see its truth and beauty, simply by not knowing that there are several birds of this name.

A golden bill! the silver tongue,

Cold February loved, is dry:

Plenty corrupts the melody That made thee famous once, when young:

No one who knew our blackbird could ever apply this description to him. It more aptly applies to the robin than to any other bird in this country. The golden bill; the silver tongue of our early spring; the corruption of melody when gorged with autumnal fruit; all these are thrush attributes and apply with equal pertinence to both species.

An appreciation of the rightful meaning of a name will go far toward making a true mind picture of the thing itself. A poet like Tennyson was a keen observer of nature, to the slightest detail, and a reader gains the greater pleasure when he divines this quality in the 1 poet's verse. This is not a scientific attitude of mind, not the attitude of a carping critic, but the realization of a certain beauty because of a certain truth — and truth is after all the one thing needful, the only thing that satisfies the soul.

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