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of a cricket crying in a house where there was wont to be none."
Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 135, says: "Flies in the spring or sommer season, if they grow busier or blinder than at other times, or that they are observed to shroud themselves in warm places, expect then quickly for to follow, either hail, cold storms of rain, or very much wet weather; and if those little creatures are noted early in autumn to repair into their winter quarters, it presages frosty mornings, cold storms, with the approach of hoary winter. Atomes or flies swarming together, and sporting themselves in the sun-beams is a good omen of fair weather."
THE Guardian, No. 61, speaking of the common notion that it is ominous or unlucky to destroy some sorts of birds, as swallows and martins, observes that this opinion might possibly arise from the confidence these birds seem to put in us by building under our roofs; so that it is a kind of violation of the laws of hospitality to murder them. As for robin redbreasts in particular, 'tis not improbable they owe their security to the old ballad of the Children in the Wood. The subsequent stanza of that well-known song places them in a point of view not unlikely to conciliate the favour of children: "No burial this pretty pair
Of any man receives,
Till robin redbreast painfully
Did cover them with leaves."
Of the robin redbreast, says Grey on Shakespeare, ii. 226, it is commonly said, that if he finds the dead body of any rational creature he will cover the face at least, if not the whole body, with moss; an allusion probably to the old ballad. The office of covering the dead is likewise ascribed to the ruddock or robin, by Drayton, in his poem called "The Owl."
46 Cov'ring with moss the dead's unclosed eye,
The little redbreast teacheth charitie."
See Halliwell's Popular Rhymes, p. 162.
Thus also in Cymbeline, act iv. sc. 2:
"The ruddock would
With charitable bill (O bill, sore shaming
Yea, and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none,
Again in Reed's Old Plays, vi. 358:
"Call for the robin redbreast and the wren,
Since o'er shady groves they hover,
The friendless bodies of unburied men."
An essayist in the Gent. Mag. for Sept. 1735, v. 534, observes: "It is well known the ancient Romans relied very much upon birds in foretelling events; and thus the robin redbreast hath been the cause of great superstition among the common people of England ever since the silly story of the Children in the Wood. One great instance of this is their readiness to admit him into their houses and feed him on all occasions; though he is certainly as impudent and as mischievous a little bird as ever flew."
In Stafford's Niobe dissolved into a Nilus, 12mo. Lond. 1611, p. 241, it is said: "On her (the nightingale) waites Robin in his redde livorie: who sits as a crowner on the murthred man; and seeing his body naked, plays the sorrie tailour to make him a mossy rayment." Thus, in Herrick's Hesperides, pp. 49, 126:
Not seeing her at all to stir,
Brought leaves and mosse to cover her."
"To the Nightingale and Robin Redbreast.
"When I departed am, ring thou my knell,
Pope thus speaks of this bird:
"The robin redbreast till of late had rest,
And children sacred held a martin's nest."
Thomson, in his Winter, thus mentions the familiarity of this bird:
The redbreast sacred to the household gods,
Mr. Park has inserted the following note in his copy of Bourne and Brand's Popular Antiquities, p. 92: "There is also a popular belief in many country places that it is unlucky either to kill or keep robins. This is alluded to in the following lines of a modern poet, which occur in an ode to the Robin:
'For ever from his threshold fly,
Who, void of honour, once shall try,
For he will give thee wasted bread,
And fear some new calamity,
Should any there spread snares for thee.'
J. H. Pott's Poems, 8vo. 1780, p. 27."
["Thus I would waste, thus end my careless days,
Cowley's Sylva, 1681, p. 51.]
SWALLOWS, MARTINS, WRENS, LADY-BUGS, SPARROWS, AND TITMOUSE.
Ir is held extremely unlucky, says Grose, to kill a cricket, a lady-bug, a swallow, martin, robin redbreast, or wren: perhaps from the idea of its being a breach of hospitality, all these birds and insects alike taking refuge in houses. There is a particular distich, he adds, in favour of the robin and
A note in Mr. Park's copy of Bourne and Brand, p. 92, "When a boy, I remember it was said, in consonance with the above superstition, that
"Tom Tit and Jenny Wren
Were God Almighty's cock and hen:
and therefore to be held sacred."
Persons killing any of the above-mentioned birds or insects, or destroying their nests will infallibly, within the course of the year, break a bone, or meet with some other dreadful misfortune. On the contrary, it is deemed lucky to have martins or swallows build their nests in the eaves of a house, or in the chimneys. In Six Pastorals, &c., by George Smith, Landscape Painter, at Chichester, in Sussex, 4to. Lond. 1770, p. 30, the following occurs:
"I found a robin's nest within our shed,
And in the barn a wren has young ones bred.
Its being accounted unlucky to destroy swallows is probably a pagan relic. We read in Ælian that these birds were sacred to the penates, or household gods of the ancients, and therefore were preserved. They were honoured anciently as the nuncios of the spring. The Rhodians are said to have had a solemn anniversary song to welcome in the swallow. Anacreon's ode to that bird is well known.
Willsford, in his Nature's Secrets, p. 134, says: "Swallows flying low, and touching the water often with their wings, presage rain."
"Sparrows," he adds, "in the morning early, chirping, and making more noise than ordinary they use to do, foretells rain or wind; the tit-mouse, cold, if crying pincher." "Birds in general that do frequent trees and bushes, if they do fly often out, and make quick returns, expect some bad weather to follow soon after."
Alexander Ross, in his appendix to the Arcana Microscomi, p. 219, informs us that "in this land, of late years, our present miseries and unnatural wars have been forewarned by armies of swallows, martins, and other birds, fighting against one another."
Gaule, in his Mag-astromancers Posed and Puzzel'd, p. 181, takes notice, among other vain observations and superstitious ominations thereupon, "the swallows falling down the chimney."
In Lloyd's Stratagems of Jerusalem, 1602, p. 285, it is repeated that the swallow is a classical bird of omen. "By swallows lighting upon Pirrhus' tents, and lighting upon the mast of Mar. Antonius' ship, sayling after Cleopatra to Egipt, the soothsayers did prognosticate that Pirrhus should be slaine at Argos in Greece, and Mar. Antonius in Egipt." "Swallowes," he adds, "followed King Cyrus going with his army from Persia to Scythia, as ravens followed Alexander the Great at returning from India and going to Babilon; but as the Magi tolde the Persians that Cyrus should die in Scythia, so the Chaldean astrologers told the Macedonians that Alexander the Great, their king, should die in Babilon, without any further warrant but by the above swallowes and ravens."
Colonel Vallancey, in the 13th number of his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, p. 97, speaking of the wren, the augur's favorite bird, says that "the Druids represented this as the king of all birds. The superstitious respect shown to this little bird gave offence to our first Christian missionaries, and, by their commands, he is still hunted and killed by the peasants on Christmas Day, and on the following (St. Stephen's Day) he is carried about hung by the leg in the centre of two hoops crossing each other at right angles, and a procession made in every village, of men, women, and children, singing an Irish catch, importing him to be the king of all birds. Hence the name of this bird in all the European languagesGreek, Tpóxidos, Baotlevs, Trochilus, Basileus; Rex Avium; Senator; Latin, Regulus; French, Roytelet, Bérichot, but why this nation call him Boeuf-de-Dieu I cannot conjecture; Welsh, Bren, King; Teutonic, Koning Vogel, King Bird; Dutch, Konije, little King."
Berchot is rendered in Cotgrave's Dictionary of old French, "the little wrenne, our ladies henne." In the livre vii. de la Nature des Oyseaux, par P. Belon, fol. Par. 1555, p. 342, we read: "Due roytelet. Les Grecs l'ont anciennement nommé Trochylos, Presuis, ou Basileus, et les Latins Trochylus, Senator, Regulus. Il est diversement nommé en François ; car