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Carle ton Shay 

"All music is what awakens from you when you 
are reminded by the instruments." Whitman. 


"The river 

Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o'er its bed 
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks, 
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice 
In its own being." Bryant. 

Music of the Wild 


With Reproductio?is of the Performers, 
\eir Instruments and Fes- 
tival Halls 

e St rat ton -Porter 


"It touched the wood bird's folded wing. 
And said, 'O bird, awake and sing !'" 

Copyright, 1910, by 
Jennings and Graham 

"Thou art only a gray and sober dove, 
But thine eye is faith and thy wing is love." 


Books by 
Gene Stratt on -Porter 










The Chorus of the Forest, 


Songs of the Fields, 


The Music of the Marsh, 




List of Illustrations 




















List of Illustrations 




A CROW SOLO, --------48 


MOTHS OF THE MOON, ------ 56 

DUSKY FALCON, --__-__ 







CRICKET Music, --------88 

EBONYMUS AMERICAN us, ------ 92 

A GROUND MUSICIAN, ------ - 96 




BLACK HAWS, - - 112 


YOUNG BATS, - - - - - 120 



SYCAMORE, - 132 


SMOKE HOUSE, - ,. 140 

THE DESERTED CABIN, ........ 144 


HOP TREE Music, - 152 


OLD Loo, - --... 16Q 


List of Illustrations 


KATYDID, - - 162 

SWALLOWS, --______ 154 

DANDELION, ----__._ 166 

ONE OF MY FARMS, ---_.__ 170 


A CLOUD MUSICIAN, ------- 178 

ELECAMPANE, - ______ 182 

THE HOME OF THE HOP TOAD, - - - - 186 

HOP TOAD, - 190 

MOONSEED VINE, - ______ 194 





MOLLY COTTON, _______ 214 

BURNING BUSH, - - - - - - - -218 


WILD SAFFRON, -_-----_ 226 



BLAZING STAR, - _____ 238 

WILLOWS, ------- _ 242 

BUCKEYE BRANCH, ------- 246 

AN OLD ORCHARD, - - 250 

MOTHER ROBIN, ------- 254 



SCARLET HAW BLOOM, -___-_ 266 


THE SONG OF THE ROAD, ----- 274 


MILKWEED, - _______ 282 


List of Illustrations 





RED BUD, 302 

KINGFISHER, - - 306 



COUNTRY ROAD, - - 319 









DRAGON FLY, - - - - - 351 


MARSH BERGAMOT, - - - - 354 


WILD RICE, - - 362 







THE LEAVES, - - 390 

THE HELL-DIVER, - - 394 

FLYING GOLD, ____... 4Q2 


List of Illustrations 










- 430 


The Chorus of the Forest 

"I thought the sparrow's note from heaven, 

Singing at dawn on the alder bough ; 
I brought him home, in his nest, at even; 

He sings the song, but it pleases not now, 
For I did not bring home the river and sky ; 
He sang to my ear, they sang to my eye." 




I 2 

Q)< P 


- N*W 


The Chorus of the Forest 

SIXCE the beginning the forest has been 
singing its song, but few there are who 
have cared to learn either the words or the Forest 
melody. Its chorus differs from that of any other Notes 
part of the music of nature, and the price that 
must be paid to learn it is higher. The forest is 
of such gloomy and forbidding aspect that inti- 
mate acquaintance is required in order to learn 
to love it truly. So only a few peculiar souls, 
caring for solitude and far places, and oblivious 
to bodily discomfort, have answered this wildest 
of calls, and gone to the great song carnival 
among the trees. 

The forest always has been compared rightly 
with a place of worship. Its mighty trees, some- 
times appearing as if set in aisles, resemble large 
pillars, and the canopy formed by their over- 
arching branches provides the subdued light con- 
ducive to worship. The dank, pungent air arises 

Music of the Wild 

as incense around you. Sunlight, streaming in 
white shafts through small interstices, suggests 
candles. Altars are everywhere, carpeted with 
velvet mosses, embroidered with lichens, and dec- 
orated with pale-faced flowers, the eternal symbol 
of purity and holiness. Its winds forced among 
overlapping branches sing softly as harps, roar 
and wail as great organs, and scream and sob as 
psalters and hautboys. Its insect, bird, and ani- 
mal life has been cradled to this strange music 
until voices partake of its tones, so that they har- 
monize with their tree accompaniment, and all 
unite in one mighty volume, to create the chorus 
of the forest. 

I doubt if any one can enter a temple of wor- 
ship and not be touched with its import. Neither 
can one go to primal forests and not feel closer 
the spirit and essence of the Almighty than any- 
where else in nature. In fact, God is in every 
form of creation; but in the fields and marshes 
the work of man so has effaced original conditions 
that he seems to dominate. The forest alone 
raises a chorus of praise under natural conditions. 
Here you can meet the Creator face to face, if 
anywhere on earth. Yet very few come to make 
His acquaintance. 

The reason lies in the discomfort; the gloomy, 
forbidding surroundings. It may be that there 
yet lingers in the hearts of us a touch of that fear 


" And the wide forest weaves, 
To welcome back its playful mates again, 

A canopy of leaves ; 
And from its darkening shadow floats 
A gush of trembling notes." 


The Chorus of the Forest 

inherited from days when most of the beasts and 
many of the birds were larger and of greater 
strength than man, so that existence was a daily 
battle. Then the forest is ever receding. As we 
approach, it retreats, until of late years it has be- 
come difficult to find, and soon it is threatened 
with extinction. As yet, it is somewhere, but pa- 
tience and travel are required to reach it. I found 
the forest here pictured after a journey by rail, 
water, and a long road so narrow that it seemed 
as if every one traveling it went in the morning 
and returned at night, but none ever passed on 
the way. 

Such a narrow little road, and so sandy that 
it appeared like a white ribbon stretched up gen- 
tle hill and down valley! On each side I saw evi- The 
dence that latelv it had been forest itself; else the Roa l d 

' t to the 

way would not have been so very narrow, the sides Forest 
impassable, and bordered with trees so mighty and 
closely set as to dwarf it to the vanishing point 
long within the range of vision. The very flowers 
were unusual, the faint musky perfume creeping 
out to us, a touch of the forest greeting our ap- 
proach. The road ran long and straight, and 
M T here it ended the work of man ceased and the 
work of nature began. 

The forest was surrounded by a garden, where 
sunlight and warmth encouraged a growth not to 
be found inside. Here in early spring daintiest 

Music of the Wild 

flowers had flourished: anemones and violets. 
Bloodroot had lifted bloom waxen-pure and white, 
and its exquisitely cut and veined slivery, blue- 
green leaves, set on pink coral stems, were yet 
thrifty. Now there were flowers, fruits, berries, 
and nuts in a profusion the fields never know, and 
with few except the insects, birds, butterflies, and 
squirrels to feast upon them. You could produce 
a rain of luscious big blackberries by shaking a 

There were traces of a straggling snake-fence 

The in one place, on top of which the squirrels romped 

Forest anc j p^yed. This could not have extended far, 

because the impenetrable swamp that soon met the 

forest stretched from sight. 

Then the Almighty made the work of man un- 
necessary by inclosing the forest in a fence of His 
design, vastly to my liking. First was found a 
tangle of shrubs that wanted their feet in the damp 
earth and their heads in the light. Beneath them 
I stopped to picture tall, blue bellflower, late blue- 
bells, and spiderwort, w r ith its peculiar leafage and 
bloom. There was the flame of foxfire, the laven- 
der and purple of Joe-Pye weed, ironwort, and 
asters just beginning to show color, for it was mid- 
dle August, and late summer bloom met early fall. 
There were masses of yellow made up of golden- 
rod beginning to open, marigold, yellow daisies, 
and cone-flowers. 



It has blood in its root and a waxen white face, 
Coral stems and silver leaves of wonderful grace. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

But the real fence inclosing the forest was a 
hedge of dogwood, spicebrush, haw, hazel, scrub 
oak, maple, and elm bushes. At bloom time it 
must have been outlined in snowy flowers; now 
nuts and berries were growing, and all were inter- 
laced and made impenetrable by woodbine, wild- 
grape, clematis, and other stoutly growing vines. 

At first we could not see the gateway, but after 
a little searching it was discovered. Once found, 
it lay clear and open to all. The posts were slen- The 
der, mastlike trunks shooting skyward; outside Gateway 
deep golden sunshine you almost thought you could 
handle as fabric, inside merely a few steps to forest 
darkness. Near the gateway a tiny tree was wag- 
ing its battle to reach the sky, and a little far- 
ther a dead one w r as compelled to decay leaning 
against its fellows, for they were so numerous it 
could not find space to lie down and rest in peace. 
This explained at once that there would be no logs. 
All the trees would lodge in falling, and decay in 
that position, and their bark and fiber would help 
to make uncertain walking. 

At the gate is the place to pause and consider. 
The forest issues an universal invitation, but few 
there be who are happy in accepting its hospitality. 
If you carry a timid heart take it to the fields, 
where you can see your path before you and fa- 
miliar sounds fall on your ears. If you carry a 
sad heart the forest is not for you. Xature places 

Music of the Wild 

gloom in its depths, sobs among its branches, cries 
from its inhabitants. If your heart is blackened 
with ugly secrets, better bleach them in the heal- 
ing sunshine of the fields. The soul with a secret 
is always afraid, and fear was born and has estab- 
lished its hiding place in the forest. You must ig- 
nore much personal discomfort and be sure you 
are free from sadness and fear before you can be 
at home in the forest. 

But to all brave, happy hearts I should say, 
"Go and learn the mighty chorus." Somewhere in 
The ^ ie depths of the forest you will meet the Creator. 
Creator's The place is the culmination of His plan for men 
Gift to Men a( i own the ages, a material thing proving how His 
work evolves, His real gift to us remaining in nat- 
ural form. The fields epitomize man. They lay 
as he made them. They are artificial. They came 
into existence through the destruction of the forest 
and the change of natural conditions. They prove 
how man utilized the gift God gave to him. But 
in the forest the Almighty is yet housed in His 
handiwork and lives in His creation. 

Therefore step out boldly. You are with the 
Infinite. Earth that bears trees from ten to four- 
teen feet in circumference, from forty to sixty to 
the branching, and set almost touching each other, 
will not allow you to sink far. You are in little 
danger of meeting anything that is not more 
frightened at your intrusion than you are at it. 


"To that cathedral, boundless as our wonder, 

Whose quenchless lamps the sun and moon supply; 
Its choir the winds and waves, its organ thunder, 
Its dome the sky." Smith. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

Cutting your path before you means clearing it 
of living things as well as removing the thicket 
of undergrowth. A hundred little creatures are 
fleeing at your every step, and wherever you set 
foot you kill without your knowledge; for earth, 
leaves, and mosses are teeming with life. You 
need only press your ear to the ground and lie still 
to learn that a volume of sound is rising to heaven 
from the creeping, crawling, voiceless creatures of 
earth, the minor tone of all its music. 

The only way to love the forest is to live in it 
until you have learned its pathless travel, growth, 
and inhabitants as you know the fields. You must The 
begin at the gate and find your road slowly, else Se< ? e ? 
you will not hear the Great Secret and see the Com- vision 
pelling Vision. There are trees you never before 
have seen; flowers and vines the botanists fail to 
mention ; such music as your ears can not hear else- 
where, and never-ending pictures no artist can re- 
produce with pencil or brush. 

This forest in the summer of 1907 was a com- 
plete jungle. The extremely late spring had de- 
layed all vegetation, and then the prolonged and 
frequent rains fell during summer heat, forcing 
everything to unnatural size. Jewel-weed that 
we were accustomed to see attain a height of two 
feet along the open road, raised there that season 
to four, and in the shade of the forest overgrew a 
tall man; its pale yellow-green stems were like 

Music of the Wild 

bushes, and its creamy cornucopias dangled the 
size of foxglove, freckled with much paler brown 
than in strong light. The white violets were as 
large as their cultivated blue relatives, and nodded 
from stems over a foot in length. Possibly it was 
because they formed such a small spot of color in 
that dark place, possibly they were of purer white 
than flowers of larger growth in stronger light; 
no matter what the reason, these deep forest vio- 
lets were the coldest, snowiest white of any flower 
I ever have seen. They made arrow-head lilies ap- 
pear pearl white and daisies cream white compared 
with them. 

Thinking of this caused me to notice the range 
of green colors also. The leaves and mosses near 
earth were the darkest, growing lighter through 
ferns, vines, bushes, and different tree leaves in 
never-ending shades. No one could have enumer- 
ated all of them. They were more variable and 
much more numerous than the grays. But in dim 
forest half-light all color appeared a shade paler 
than in mere woods. 

From the all-encompassing volume of sound I 

endeavored to distinguish the instruments from the 

The performers. The water, the winds, and the trees 

Tree combined in a rising and falling accompaniment 

Iarps that never ceased. The insects, birds, and animals 

were the soloists, most of them singing, while some 

were performing on instruments. Always there 


The Chorus of the Forest 

was the music of my own heart over some won- 
drous flower or landscape picture, or stirred to join 
in the chorus around me. The trees were large 
wind-harps, the trunks the framework, the branches 
the strings. These trunks always were wrapped in 
gray, but with each tree a differing shade. There 
were brown-gray, green-gray, blue-gray, dark- 
gray, light-gray, every imaginable gray, and many 
of them so vine-entwined and lichen-decorated it 
was difficult to tell exactly what color they were. 
The hickory was the tatterdemalion; no other 
tree was so rough and ragged in its covering. 
Oak, elm, walnut, and ash, while deeply indented 
with the breaks of growth, had more even surface. 
The poplar, birch, and sycamore had the smooth- 
est bark and showed the most color. The tall, 
straight birch did gleam "like silver," but to me 
the sj r camore was more beautiful. The largest 
were of amazing size, whole branches a cream-white 
with big patches of green, and the rough bark of 
the trunks was a dirty yellow-gray. These trees 
always show most color in winter, but I do not 
know whether they really are brighter then, or 
whether the absence of the green leaves makes 
them appear so. Anywhere near the river the 
trees grew larger, and their uplifted branches 
caught the air and made louder music, w r hile the 
unceasing song of the water played a minor accom- 
paniment. These big wind-harps were standing 

Music of the Wild 

so close I could focus six of them, the least large 
enough to be considered unusual in broken wood, 
on one small photographic plate. Where several 
sprang from a common base some of them were 
forced to lean, but the great average grew skyward 
straight as pines, and in the stillest hour the wind 
whispered among the interlaced branches, and in a 
gale roared to drown the voice of the thunder. 

Little trees beginning their upward struggle to 
reach the light caused me to feel that they were 
TheAbid- destroying pictures of great beauty. At last we 
e found an elevation of some height and climbing 
mighty it, secured the view that awaited us. As soon as 
we were level with the top of the undergrowth, 
that was a tangle in the most open spaces, not 
so dense where the trees grew closer together, it 
appeared to stretch away endlessly, making a vari- 
egated, mossy, green floor that at a little distance 
seemed sufficiently material to bear our weight. 
Knowing this to be an illusion, I sent my soul jour- 
neying, instead. Crowding everywhere arose the 
big, vine-entwined tree trunks, stretching from 
forty to seventy feet to their branching. The cool 
air of this enclosed space between the bush tops 
and the tree branches had a spicy fragrance. The 
carpet of green velvet below and the roof of green 
branches above formed a dominant emerald note; 
but it was mellowed with the soft grays of the tree 
trunks and tinted with the penetrant blue of the 

The Chorus of the Forest 

sky, so that the whole was a soft, blue-gray green, 
the most exquisite sight imaginable. All thought 
of the world outside vanished. The heart flooded 
with awe, adoration, and a great and holy peace. 
Here is the world's most beautiful Cathedral, 
Avhere the unsurpassed tree-harps accompany the 
singers in nature's grandest anthem. This is the 
abiding-place of the Almighty in the forest. 

When we dared linger no longer and attempted 
to reach certain trees superb above their fellows, 
we found that a path must be cut before us for 
long distances, and then at times, for no appar- 
,ent reason, we came into open spaces underfoot 
and thinner branching overhead. These were 
brown and gray-carpeted with the heaped dead 
leaves of many seasons, and glorified with flower 
color, but there were no grasses. It was in places 
such as these that the joy song of the human heart 
drowned all other music. On the rich brown floor, 
against the misty gray-green background, flashed 
the pale yellow of false foxglove, the loveliest and 
the typical flower of the forest. 

The tall, smooth stems were high as my head, 
the leaves sparse and tender, the bloom large and The 
profuse, and of warm shades of light-yellow im- 

J the Foxes 

possible to describe, because they vary with age. wear 
The buds are a pure warm yellow, the flower cow- 
slip color on the first day, creamy white on the 
second, the fallen blooms showering the dark floor 

Music of the Wild 

almost white. These are the gloves the foxes wear 
when they travel the forest softly. Cultivated rel- 
atives of the family are not nearly so beautiful as 
the wild species. 

I think this is true of the wild flowers, vines, 
and plants everywhere. Their hothouse relatives 
do not compare with them. Field and forest flow- 
ers are of more delicate color, they are simple and 
natural, and there is a touch of pure wildness in 
them akin to a streak in every heart. Of late peo- 
ple have been realizing this, and they have made 
efforts, not always agreeable to the plants, to re- 
move and set them around houses and in gardens. 
Such flowers usually die a lingering death because 
they can not survive out of their element. The 
foxglove enters a more vigorous protest than any. 
It is as if the old mother of the family feared 
that when we saw her glorious shade-children we 
W 7 ould steal them from their damp, dark home ; and 
so, with the cunning of her namesakes, the foxes, 
she taught all her family to reach down and find 
the roots of surrounding trees, twine around them, 
and grow fast, until they became veritable para- 
sites and not only clung for protection, but to suck 
life, so that they quickly withered and died if torn 
away. The effort to transplant foxglove always 
reminds me of an attempt to remove old people 
who have lived long on one spot and sent the roots 
of their affections clinging around things they 

The Chorus of the Forest 

love. Then some change comes, and an effort is 
made to remove them to a different location and 
atmosphere. They end the same as deep forest 
flowers brought into the strong light of yard and 
garden; only as a rule people pine and die more 

A few bees humming around the foxglove set 
me to watching for insect musicians. The pale 
flowers of deep forest were not attractive as was The 
the growth outside. There was only an occasional Locust's 
butterfly. But there were millions of other insects * e 
singing everywhere around us, and the leaders were 
the locusts. Sometimes they flew so close, making 
music on wing, that we dodged and our ears rang. 
We caught several and examined them, and in- 
duced one to pose for us on a locust tree. They 
are an inch and a half in length, a rare green color 
with brown markings, and have large eyes, a stout, 
sharp tongue, silvery white legs, and long wing- 
shields, appearing as if cut from thinnest isinglass, 
the shorter true wing beneath. 

These wingshields are divided into small sec- 
tions by veins that hold the transparent parts se- 
curely, and the outer edge has a stout rim. Using 
these rims for their strings, the crisp space for 
sounding-boards, and the femur of the hind legs 
for bows, the locust amazed us by not singing at 
all, for he fiddled away gayly as he led the insect 
orchestra. As far as w r e could hear through the 

Music of the Wild 

forest his musicians followed his lead unceasingly, 
their notes rising and falling in volume, and they 
even played in flight. I could not see how they 
flew, and fiddled on the wingshields at the same 
time, but repeatedly I saw them do it. 

Watching above me to try to learn how this 
music of flight was made, I forgot the locusts and 
began considering the roof of the forest. The 
branches lapped and interlaced so closely that I 
felt, if I had power to walk inverted like a fly, I 
could cross them as a floor. There was constant 
music up there, and the dominant note was the 
crow's, while the sweetest was the w f ood pe\vee's. 
There were many places where in the stout branch- 
ing of tall trees the crows had built a sitting-room 
of a bushel of coarse twigs and lined it with finer 
material. Now all the families had moved out and 
gone picnicking among the trees. 

None of them evinced retiring dispositions. 

They appeared alike at that height, and all I could 

A Crow tell of them was that they were crows. Their mu- 

ol sic was constant and, where undisturbed by our 

presence, of most interesting character. I could 

distinguish three distinct calls. They frequently 

uttered a gutteral croak that seemed to translate 

"All right!" Then there was a sharp, vehement 

"Caw! Caw! Caw!" warning those of the family 

farther away of the fact that there was something 

unusual in the forest. It was used at a time and 



'The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark 
When neither is attended; and I think 
The nightingale, if she should sing by day, 
When every goose is cackling, would be thought 
No better a musician than the wren." 


The Chorus of the Forest 

in the manner of a human being crying, "Look out! 
Some one is coming!" Then there was a syllabi- 
cated cry, consisting of five notes, that was their 
longest utterance and was delivered with tucked 
tail, half-lifted wings, and bobbing head, as if to 
make the speech impressive by gesture as well as 
sentiment. It scarcely would do to write of this 
production as a song, perhaps it might be called a 
recitative, to give it a little musical color. In very 
truth it resembled plain conversation and was used 
at such times and in such manner as to lead me to 
believe that passing crows were remarking to their 
friends: "Everything is all right with me. How 
goes life with you?" 

I am rather fond of crows. They are so lov- 
ing to each other that they arouse sentiment in my 
breast. I believe they pair for life, and both of 
them defend their nests and young with reckless 
bravery. Good qualities, surely! They are know- 
ing birds and early learn to distinguish a hoe from 
a gun. When they find you without firearms they 
become impudent and inquisitive, and allow you to 
approach very close. There is proof that they are 
individual birds because they are used constantly 
as the basis of comparison by men who call each 
other "wise as a crow," "black as a crow," "as sly," 
and "as cunning." 

Whether crows are all these things in freedom 
would be difficult to prove, since they scarcely ever 

Music of the Wild 

nest at a height of less than thirty-five feet, and 
from that up to fifty. At that distance it is not 
possible that male and female or different pairs 
can be told apart without strong glasses; where 
there is one family there are sure to be others close, 
and no matter how impudent a single crow may 
be when you are without a gun and meet him for- 
aging in 'your fields, he is a wary bird when you 
approach his nest. 

In captivity crows have been known to do many 
peculiar things of their own initiative, such as hid- 
"Blackas ing food given them when they are not hungry, for 
a Crow" U se at another time, or rubbing against a stone a 
caterpillar to free it from spines. They can be 
taught to talk by splitting the tips of their tongues, 
and can repeat from two to six words distinctly and 
at appropriate times. In life they never are quite 
so black as they are painted, for the neck and back 
feathers have beautiful purplish bronze tints in 
strong light. These crows appeared to have a 
sense of humor, for when we left the forest with- 
out having interfered with them they seemed to 
imagine they had vanquished us and followed for 
a distance, crying something that sounded much 
more like, "Haw! Haw! Haw!" than "Caw!" 

I never have made an exhaustive study of 

crows, but I have penetrated their life history 

somewhat, enough to get all that can be learned by 

seeing and hearing; and that, come to think of it, 



Through the forest's darkening emerald, 
In the murky, pungent gloom, 

Shines a cloud of wondrous whiteness, 
Where He sets the dog-wood bloom. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

is all I want. In my wanderings afield I often 
find ornithologists killing and dissecting birds, bot- 
anists uprooting and classifying flowers, and lepi- The 
dopterists running pins through moths yet strug- Beaut y 
gling; each worker blind and deaf to everything song of 
save his own specialty, and delving in that as if Existence 
life depended, as perhaps it does, on the amount 
of havoc and extermination wrought. Whenever 
I come across a scientist plying his trade I am al- 
ways so happy and content to be merely a nature- 
lover, satisfied with what I can see, hear, and re- 
cord with my cameras. Such wonders are lost by 
specializing on one subject to the exclusion of all 
else. Xo doubt it is necessary for some one to do 
this work, but I am so glad it is not my calling. 
Life has such varying sights and songs for the one 
who goes afield with senses alive to everything. I 
am positive I hear and see as much as any scientist 
can on the outside of objects, for I have recorded 
with my cameras a complete life history of many 
birds no one else ever photographed, and to prove 
it I can reproduce the pictures for the delight of 
humanity. Who ever was exhilarated by seeing a 
scientist measure the intestines and count the bones 
of any bird? I have sent the botanical masters 
flowers and vines not yet incorporated in their 
books, but I was very careful to confine myself to 
the least specimen that would serve their purpose. 
I have hatched the eggs, raised the caterpillars, 

Music of the Wild 

wintered the cocoons, and had the rarest moth of 
our country emerge beside my pillow, and sent by 
the hundred the eggs of mated pairs to scientific 
men who lacked personal experience with the spe- 
cies. I am not missing anything, and what I get 
is the palpitant beauty and pulsing song of exist- 
ence. The happy, care-free method is to go to the 
forest in early spring, and with senses alive to 
everything and deliberately follow the changes of 
the season. 

One of the first sights to attract the attention 
will proclaim itself from afar : the flowering of the 
The Ex- dogwood. Sometimes there is a real tree in undis- 
cuse of tiirbed forest, lifting to the light a white head that 
lu y makes a point of splendor. The bloom is a pecul- 
iar thing, resembling poinsettia in that the showy 
spathes, commonly called flowers, are merely a dec- 
oration surrounding the true bloom, which is small 
and insignificant. In reality what appears to be 
white flower petals are just wrapping that all win- 
ter has screened the little flower bud from frost 
and storm, and the small dent in the top of each 
leaf is where the very tip blighted in severe weather. 
After a wonderful spring exhibition the dogwood 
ceases to attract attention and resembles its sur- 
roundings until fall. Then its leaves begin to 
color early and outdo almost all others in vivid 
tints, added to which are the ripened berries of 
bright Chinese-red. Dogwood is not rare, and 


'T is Nature's greatest secret, told as a priceless boon, 
In the forest I heard the night moth whispering to the moon: 
"Lend thy light for my courting, if thrice in thy glory I fly, 
Then, from estatic loving, of joy will I gladly die." 

The Chorus of the Forest 

beauty is the excuse for its being, in this book at 
least. Really it seems as if that might be its best 
reason for appearing in the forest as well. 

The big delicate moth of deep wood must enter 
on the same ground, for no other among wood folk 
is so quiet. The only music it could be said to make The 
is the chorus of delighted exclamation that greets 1 ^ ot | 1 . of 

*^ the Moon 

its every appearance before humanity; music by 
proxy, as it were, for the moth is the stillest crea- 
ture. The exercising imago, walled in its cocoon, 
among the leaves of earth, makes more sound 
than the emerged moth. There is a faint noise of 
tearing as the inner case is broken and the tough 
cocoon cut for emergence. Once in the air and 
light, if those exquisite wings make a sound it is 
too faint for mortal ears to hear. 

June is the time for appreciative people to sing 
in praise of the moths, but sometimes they are 
double-brooded and specimens exact their share of 
worship in August, as did the beautiful pair I 
found clinging to a walnut tree in the forest. Xo 
other moth is so exquisitely shaped or of such deli- 
cate shades. The female is a little larger, her an- 
tennas are narrower, and her colors paler than the 
male's. The white violet is not of purer white than 
his body; his crisp, long-trailed wings of a bluish 
pale-green, faintly edged with light yellow and set 
with small transparent markings, and his legs and 
feet and the heavy fore-rib of the front wings are 

Music of the Wild 

lavender. He was delicate and fragile as the bloom 
of a tropical orchid, and reminded me of one as 
he lightly hung to the rough walnut bark. They 
were only that day emerged, and their wings were 
not yet hardened sufficiently to bear their weight, 
so they clung wherever I placed them and posed 
in the most obliging manner. But the guide and 
I made all the music. 

While I worked, over my head, all above the 
forest, and around the outskirts sailed the beauti- 
Faicon ful and graceful little dusky falcons. No charge 
Music O f quietude can be made against them; they are 
really noisy, which can not be said of great hawks. 
Falcons are very handsome, and parade their 
beauty as if they realized it. They are by far the 
best-dressed members of the hawk family. The 
very light color of their breasts is delicately shaded, 
as is the bronze of their backs. Their cheek feath- 
ers are white to a narrow line above the eyes, and 
crossed by two parallel lines of black. They can 
erect a small crest, which is tinted with dull blue, 
and their long, graceful wing and tail feathers are 
tipped with white. Their beaks have the hawklike 
curved point for tearing. Their unusually large 
eyes wear a soft expression, giving to them a wise 
appearance. They attack small birds occasionally, 
but live mostly on field mice, moles, grasshoppers, 
and moths ; so they are in evidence in the fields, and 
people are familiar with them. They like to watch 


"/ know a falcon swift and peerless 
As e'er was cradled in the pine ; 
No bird had ever eye so fearless, 
Or wing so strong as this of mine." 

The Chorus of the Forest 

grain fields from the vantage of a telephone wire, 
and their graceful downward sweep when they 
sight prey is a beautiful thing to see. 

They nest in hollow trees and bring off broods 
of five and six young, from their first feathering 
closely resembling the elders. These young are 
very social and make charming pets, becoming 
wholly domesticated in a few days. If not exactly 
the same, they are very similar to the falcons used 
by royal British women in the sport of hawking, 
and the small birds that we see in old prints and 
paintings perching on gauntlet or saddle-pommel 
must have been great pets with their owners. They 
are the musicians of the hawk and falcon families 
and have all their relatives talked into almost com- 
plete silence. "Ka-tic, a-tic, a-tic!" they cry as 
they dash after moth or grasshopper, millions of 
which one pair will take from a field in a season, 
making them a great blessing to a farmer. Full- 
fed and happy they swing on the ever-present tele- 
phone wire and repeatedly sing in a liquid, run- 
ning measure entitled to be classed as very good 
music, "Tilly, tilly, tilly!" 

By no stretch of imagination could the big 
hawks be coupled with melody. They are the 
kings of the treetops, but they use a sign language 
that all other birds readily translate. Their home 
in large trees is often founded on a crow's last 
year's nest. They use signals in courting, caress 

Music of the Wild 

their young tenderly, and fearlessly attack any- 
thing threatening danger to them. So long as they 
A Bat- are unmolested and happy they are silent : a strange 
tie Cry reversa j o f the law of music in birdland. Almost 
without exception other birds sing in bubbling ec- 
stasy when they are happy, and mope in silence, 
broken only by a few pathetic notes of wailing, 
when in trouble. 

The hawk gives warning when angry by a stri- 
dent hiss, much like a vulture or eagle. When he 
really makes an attack, for the purpose of van- 
quishing an enemy, comes his one musical effort. 
His battle-hymn is a hair-raising scream: shrill, 
loud, and the wildest note of the forest. Small 
birds flee from it in utter consternation, and no 
doubt great ones quail, even if they remain to 
fight. Never a hawk-scream shivers through the 
treetops but a bedlam of crow-calls answer, for 
they are sworn enemies. Of course the hawk by 
reason of greater strength and size must win in 
every battle it wages, but there is nothing to pre- 
vent crows from seeing how closely they can skim 
danger and raising all the excitement possible. 

No bird of field or forest has the force of ex- 
pression to be found on the face of a big hawk. 
There is character, dignity, defiance, and savagery 
combined. The eagle has a wicked, fierce appear- 
ance, and I never have seen its face express any- 
thing else. I can find no better terms than "dig- 


"/ shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau 
If birds confabulate or no. 
'Tis clear that they were always able 
To hold discourse at least in fable." 

The Chorus of the Forest 

nity" and "defiance" to portray my conception of 
a hawk's facial expression, and that is not very 
clear. Perhaps what I am striving to convey is 
the idea that some things might be too cruel for 
the hawk; the eagle appears inexorable. If he has 
any mercy it is never indicated in his face. The 
hawk suggests to the mind that he might at least 
consider mercy. Then in poise of flight that car- 
ries him across the heavens by the hour without per- 
ceptible wing motion he is the equal of the eagle 
and vulture, and in keenness of vision he slightly 
outclasses them. Perhaps if we had been com- 
pelled to strain our eyes for generations, from his 
heights, in order to find our food, we would de- 
velop sight as far-reaching as his. 

Serenely sailing the skies, the hawk suddenly 
comes darting earthward like a down-aimed arrow, 
in a marvelous exhibition of flight, and arises with Hawk 
a snake, rabbit, or bird in its claws, proving a range Protection 
of vision far beyond ours. In his wonderful pow- 
ers of flight and sight, in his grace and royal bear- 
ing, in the dignity of his silence, and the strength 
of his cry, he is one of the finest birds that live, 
and the most beneficial to us. For while he occa- 
sionally takes a young chicken that we intended to 
eat, his steady diet is snakes, moles, field mice, and 
grasshoppers, all of which constantly menace the 
land owner. 

But in the evolution of nature, that seems to 

Music of the Wild 

provide for even minutest details, the hawk has his 
place and his purpose. In order that he may not 
become a burden when he levies upon us, he is 
given only two nestlings, while we raise chickens 
by the hundred; and the game birds upon which 
he preys as a rule number from fifteen to twenty 
in a brood, like quail, rail, and ducks. There is 
further to be considered that a warning of the 
hawk's descent is almost universal in field and for- 
est. If the scratching hen does not see him, a 
nearby cock does; and if wild mothers are busy 
searching for food there is the blue jay to tell on 
him, and so the strongest of his prey take to cover 
and he gets only the weakling, that is best re- 
moved from the brood for the sake of the health 
of those remaining or of young it might raise. 

There is not much to be said for hawk music, 

yet the voice of the forest would lose the charm 

The of its wildest note were this great bird extinct, and 

Wildest - t - s |j ecause ft is wild and different from sounds 

Note of 

the Forest oi every day that we love it. Then, as a picture 
seen from afar, the forest never would be complete 
without these birds of tireless wing hanging over 
it and reigning upon their thrones of air. So I 
hope earnest consideration will be given these 
points in favor of the royal bird before another 
of its kind is dropped from its high estate. 

Up where the hawk chants his battle-hymn, the 
crow chuckles, and the pewee wails, outlined clearly 


"you scarce would start, 
If from a beech's heart 

A blue-eyed Dryad, stepping forth, should say, 
'Behold me! I am May!' " Timrod. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

against the sky could be seen the finely-toothed 
cutting and waxy gold-green leaf that only could 
mean beech, and I marveled. Could beech branches 
be waving there ? That tree of low habit and A 
spreading limb ! I called my guide's attention Tree Harp 
to it, and he made a road, and then cleared space 
for me to focus. Where trees were so numerous 
it was impossible to get away far enough to in- 
clude the entire subject. This mighty wind instru- 
ment of the forest was fourteen feet in circum- 
ference and fifty feet to the branching. We could 
secure no leaves, but they were large and appeared 
especially waxy. The trunk was the most beauti- 
ful I ever have seen save the purple beeches of 
Southern Indiana. Those are low, of widely- 
spreading branch, and their trunks are like pur- 
plish-gray moleskin. This forest beech had patches 
of moleskin, then gray and green spaces, the fore- 
runners of lichens, and then the lichens themselves 
in big circles with exquisite gradations of gray, 
white, and green colors. 

At its base grew a fern with fronds two feet 
long, and the mottled brown carpet spread beneath 
it was deep layers of dead leaves. Then we began 
to watch for its kindred through the forest, and 
found many, giants all of them. One thing we 
noted in particular. Xot a beech ever leaned or 
curved, but in a noble column all of them aspired 
straight toward heaven, and among their stiff, 

Music of the Wild 

widely-spreading branches the wind sang in louder 
cadence than where limbs were more closely placed 
and of heavier leafage. 

There were maples of even greater circumfer- 
ence and height, but many of them leaned and 
twisted. Their bark was not so beautiful, and 
their leaves not of such fine texture, but they were 
more artistically cut; and as these trees flourished 
and grew old in this damp place, the lichens had 
covered them almost entirely, and so they were gay 
with gray and green. It is peculiar how in the 
forest one thing seems to lead to or bear some re- 
lation to another. In examining the maples to see 
how far out the large branches the lichens ex- 
tended, I noticed what I easily might have mis- 
taken for a knot-hole if previous experience had 
not taught me to recognize the nest of the dis- 
tinctive bird of the forest; a nest that is a miracle, 
from which come birds to match it, and they sing 
a song that all ornithologists agree almost breaks 
the heart with its sadness. 

The professional "wailer" of the forest is the 

wood pewee; and I should like to engage him to 

A Pro- "wail" at my funeral, I would ask rfo finer music. 

1 Waiter*' He is J ust a sma11 olive-gray bird, touched with 

brown, his habitat high among the big crows, owls, 

and hawks, that comparatively must appear larger 

to him than an elephant does to us. Because he 

is evolved in God's great scheme of things to work 


The Chorus of the Forest 

among the treetops he is provided with wisdom and 
preculiarly protected by nature. His coat is the 
color of bark, his location is a lichen-covered limb, 
his nest a small flat bowl of finest twigs, grass- 
lined, and shaped to reproduce exactly the knots 
on the trees around it, and then covered with 
lichens to match those closest. This covering is 
deftly bound with spider webs passing under the 
limb and around the nest securely. When the 
young emerge and feather, like separate seeds of 
the globe of a dandelion is the down that covers 
them, and in their nest or on the limb beside it, 
behold! they appear as lichens too. We noticed 
how inconspicuously colored the elders were, how 
they matched the treetops and the nest some time 
deserted, and how deft they were at twisting and 
turning on wing real acrobats, so that no other 
birds of field or forest are better protected or so 
sure to bring off a brood in safety. 

Then why this very mournful music recorded by 
every ornithologist who ever wrote of them? The 
answer is, there is no sadness in their song. In 
all of a long and varied acquaintance with them I 
have found them particularly jolly small birds, 
safe above the average, much closer heaven than 
any other of their size. They are not of doleful 
disposition, and no inconsolable grief is theirs. 
They are true children of the forest, and in its 
solemn silences, in the slow wail of its winds, in 

Music of the Wild 

the sucking sobs of its rocking branches they have 
composed a song in harmony with their surround- 
ings; but to our ears this music contains the notes 
with which we express solitude, silence, and heart- 

But the pewee knows nothing of this. All day 

True he sings, and all of the season, which proves him 

Forest a particularly happy bird, not dependent upon the 

Notes . ! . ^- n A A . n 

intoxication of the mating lever or encouraging 
a brooding mate with his notes. He sings as the 
poet, because there is an all-the-time song in his 
heart. In the great forest his notes fell to us 
slowly and serenely ; why should he bubble and gur- 
gle like a bobolink? He of the majesty and soli- 
tude of the forest! He of the high choir in the 
house of the Almighty! Long-drawn, clear, ach- 
ing with melody, through the solemn silence of the 
forest, high above you comes his "Pee-a-wee," and 
just when you are wondering if that is all, he adds, 
"Peer!" It is rather a stretch of the imagination 
to call these notes a song; cry would seem closer, 
but they are the sustained utterance of the bird. 
His variations consist in repetition, with different 
modulation and in unequal measure. 

I could detect that in the morning he hastened 
a little, as if the business of life were too pressing 
for the usual wait between notes. At noon, when 
all other birds were droM T sy with heat and scarcely 
a song was heard, he broke the silence; and in the 

The Chorus of the Forest 

evening, when others were singing vespers, he 
stood on tiptoes, and reaching his limit for his 
highest note with which to surpass them, in a posi- 
tively lazy manner slid sobbingly down the scale 
to his last clear utterance. At the instant we mis- 
guided mortals were shuddering over the heart- 
break in these wailing, long-drawn notes the little 
rascal was turning somersaults in the air, darting 
here and there after a fly, his sharp mandibles 
clipping together when he missed until the sound 
came to us on the ground far below. He was 
the happiest little creature of song and dance that 
wore a feathered coat. 

Beside his tree grew another that made me 
wonder why, since from the inception of art dec- 
orators, designers, and painters have gone to the Art in 
forest for copy, they did not use this. From the the Forest 
frequency with which our artists work over de- 
signs of fern, violet, goldenrod, and sweet brier, 
one might t>e forgiven the supposition that with 
these, material was exhausted. I think the truth 
is that these good folk kept to the fence or turned 
back at the gateway, and never penetrated to the 
heart of the forest. Things infinitely more beau- 
tiful than those that have been used are waiting 
to be discovered and familiarized. Finding almost 
a tree for size ladened with velvety big green fruit 
made me think of studiies of papaw bloom that 
I had made early in the season. 

Music of the Wild 

Botanists and farmers may know the flower; 
do others? And does some one ask what it has to 
do with music? I am coming to that. Early in 
the season, when the smooth gray-green stems are 
pulsing with sap, when the tender yellow-green 
leaves are just unsheathing and not over an inch 
in length, the papaw lilies blow. I never heard 
any one else call them lilies, but I will persist in 
it; they are lilies, and most exquisite ones. The 
flowers hang lily fashion, their petals are thick, of 
velvety lily texture, and look at their formation! 
Those outside are beautifully veined and curled, of 
the loveliest wine-red; the inside smaller, slightly 
lighter in color, and set across the meeting of the 
outer ones, and a yellow-green pistil, pollen dusted 
in the heart. 

I can say almost positively that Japan does not 
produce this tree. If she did, long ago her artists 
would have seized upon its magnificent possibili- 
ties for decoration. The height of simplicity so 
loved by them can be found in the smooth stems, 
the long, tender golden leaves, and the tinkling 
wine-colored lilies nodding in clusters over bushes 
so large that, where undisturbed in the forest, they 
attain the size of trees. Sometimes the flowers 
hang singly, sometimes in pairs, and most often 
from four to six grow in a head, so that by crowd- 
ing their faces are upturned, and their full beauty 
displayed in wondrous fashion. They are of sweet 


Leaf hidden are the frosty green papaws, 
In their jackets snugly rolled, 

But the sun sifts down 'til he finds them, 
And mellows their hearts to gold. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

odor, and the bees come swarming around them, 
with their low, bumbling, humming music, from 
early morning until dark. If only I were a poet, 
how glad I would be to transcribe for them the 
song that they awake in my heart! 

Its name should be, "Where the Papaw Lilies 
Blow." I would tinge the sky with the purple of 
red bud, fill the air with the golden haze of tree The 
bloom, and perfume it with the subtle odor of tree Song .. f 
pollen. In deep shadow the earth should lie cov- 
ered with a crust of late snow, and in the sun with 
the whiter snow of bloodroot bloom. The velvety 
maroon-colored lilies should distil their perfume 
as the wind rocked them, and among the branches 
the slender, graceful, bronze-backed cuckoo should 
prophesy April showers as he searched for food. 
From a nearby pool with crazy laughter a flock of 
loons that had paused in migration for a drink 
should arise from the water and plow the north- 
ward air with their sharp beaks; and an opossum 
should nose among the leaves for frozen persim- 
mons. And he who breathed this enchanted air and 
saw these things should learn that in all nature he 
would find no greater treat than to linger where 
the papaw lilies blow. I offer this gratis to any 
one who has the genius to use it rightly. 

With the falling of the flowers the artistic pos- 
sibility of the plant only begins, for there follow 
large leaves of varied shadings, prominently veined 

Music of the Wild 

and finely shaped for conventionalizing, and in 
clusters beneath them the papaws, that must be 
seen to know how beautiful they are. Five and 
six to a cluster they hang, when young the skin a 
cold blue-green; with ripeness they take on a pale 
yellow shading, and the "bloom" of the fruit be- 
comes like frosted velvet. The pulp is bright yel- 
low and good to eat if you are fond of rich sweets. 
The seeds are large, black, and resemble those of 
the melon. If not gathered, the fruit hangs until 
winter, turns to the purple wine color of ripe Con- 
cord grapes, falls to the ground, and in the spring 
the seeds sprout and produce new plants. 

Sometimes when taking pictures I get more 
than I intend. In making this study of papaw 
A Ray of leaves and fruit a ray of sunshine crept through 
Sunshine an interstice of the forest and fell across my sub- 
ject. So long as the picture lasts the sunbeam 
lives. A lens loves bright colors and sets them on 
a photographic plate with peculiar brilliancy. It 
would be a fine thing if we could get a focus on 
life's sunshine and reproduce it indelibly on our 
hearts as stored warmth for gray days, just as the 
lens caught this ray of light streaming across the 
face of the papaw study. The truth is we do 
not appreciate the sunshine we have in our lives. 
Even more, many of us never know that we are 
having bright days until we are plunged into the 
depths of trouble and darkness ; and when we grope 

The Chorus of the Forest 

to find our way, and struggle to realize our con- 
dition, we suddenly learn that our sunshine is gone 
and life is gray monotony. 

The largest open space we found underfoot 
was on the side of a hill or incline facing east. The 
trees appeared quite as large and closely set, but Baneberry 
for some reason the earth was not covered with . and 
shrubs and bushes, as was the rule. We had found 
two places where trees had been cut so long ago 
that the decayed stumps crumbled at a touch, and 
there was a third not as old. Close beside it I 
found beauty to gladden the heart of musician, 
poet, or painter. It began with a white baneberry 
of marvelous grace. The plant was all of three 
and a half feet in height, a smooth stem, upright 
as the trees around it, and, like them, branching. 
Its finely cut, lacy leaves, beautifully veined and 
notched, grew in clusters of three. On a single 
stem, borne high above the leaves, shone a big 
bunch of china-white berries, three dozen by count ; 
the stems red, each berry having a purple-black 
eye-spot. Close by grew a near relative, very sim- 
ilar except that its berries were red. The flowers 
of both are a pyramidal cluster made up of a mass 
of small white blooms. 

Xow just in front of the baneberry grew the 
most graceful of all ferns, the plumy maidenhair, 
and because of this wet season it had attained un- 
usual size for our climate. On wiry two-foot stems 

Music of the Wild 

waved leaves a foot and a half across. I was ac- 
customed to stems of from six to nine inches in 
length and leaves of eight-inch diameter. As a 
finishing touch, beneath the fern, with fuzzy leaf 
of peculiar shape that could not be called round 
because it was wider than long, and deeply cut 
where the stem joined, and with bell-shaped, ma- 
roon-colored cup blooming so close the root that 
I had to remove the dry leaves to earth to find the 
flower, grew wild ginger. I examined this partic- 
ularly because I know a writer who has the hardi- 
hood to compare this grimy little burrower of the 
soil with papaw bloom, that has six artistically 
cut petals, each of which is of much richer color 
and texture, and large enough to make a perfect 
ginger flower. 

In removing dry leaves around the ferns and 

digging out the ginger I unearthed a music-box, 

The and learned a lesson. I always had thought the 

Song of cricket a sort of domesticated insect, beginning 

with "The Cricket on the Hearth" and ending 

with one that sang for the greater part of last 

winter in our basement. A few weeks earlier I 

had learned in an oat field many miles away that 

there were more big black crickets under an oat 

sheaf where it lay in a low, damp place than I 

ever had seen elsewhere in all my field work. Now 

the forest taught me that the cricket in my cabin 

was a prisoner, lost from home and friends, and 


The Chorus of the Foivst 

those beneath the oats scouts searching for food; 
the army was around decaying WIHH! and Mow 
deep layers of leaves on the tloor of the forest. 

In a glittering black mass they poured out by 
the thousand when disturbed; some in their haste 
leaped upon the backs of those in front and ran 
over them. Of course, 1 know there are differing 
species of the cricket family that choose suitable 
locations. I am merely stating that the largest, 
most prosperous branch in the whole world lives in 
the forest. 

When I made this study grasshoppers sang 
around the fence, and many strayed to the interior, 
so that their notes came almost constantly; but by 
close listening you could distinguish fractions of 
a second when their voices were silent. Many 
katy-dids homed there and boasted much of the 
prowess of their ancestors. Locusts answered each 
other in rapid succession, but you could separate 
the call from the answer. To the "Chirr-r-r-r-r!" 
of the crickets there was no beginning and never 
the bint of an ending. Millions of these shining, 
black-coated little musicians sang in concert and 
unceasingly. There was no question but their 
voices formed the dominant insect note of the 

Crickets are not compatible with good house- 
keeping because they cut fabrics, lint of all in- 
sects people tolerate them most. One little piece 

Music of the Wild 

of exquisite writing has made life easier for the 
family. A cricket walks unharmed where a heavy 
The foot crushes a grasshopper or locust. The cricket 
Cricket on one l iea rth has made a welcome for all crickets, 
Hearth an d the home boasting one that will sing late in 
the season feels that it has materialized evidence 
of good cheer. I know how vainglorious we were 
over a cabin cricket that once homed with us, how 
all other sound ceased when he began to sing, and 
how we never failed to call the attention of vis- 
itors to him, and how disappointed w r e were if he 
did not perform when we were expecting he would. 
A cricket makes fine, cheery music, the natural ac- 
companiment to the snapping crackle of an open 
wood-fire, which is the only rational source of heat 
in a real home. I could write a larger book than 
this on fire forms, flame colors, and the different 
tints of smoke ascending from logs of various 
trees as they burn in my fireplace. If my dreams 
as I watch the flames materialized on my library 
shelves instead of ascending the chimney with the 
smoke, no one would produce so many fine volumes 
as I. The cricket is so a part of the dreams that 
a tone of his happy song should run through all 
of them. 

The wings are the musical instruments, and 

with these crickets obtain so closely to the sound 

of a voice that people always speak and write of 

them as "singing," though they really are instru- 



"This is not solitude; 't is but to hold 

Converse with nature's charms, and view her stores unrolled." 


The Chorus of the Forest 

mental performers, the same as the grasshopper, 
locust, and katy-did. 

These wings are attached back of the shoulders 
and are so short they cover not more than the mid- 
dle third of the body. They are so very small, 
music must be their greatest use. I do not believe 
they would bear the weight of the insects in flight, 
but by spreading and beating them they might as- 
sist in long leaps. The remainder of their anat- 
omy is complicated. Our cabin cricket was smaller 
and lighter brown than its big, forest relatives, but 
they appeared quite similar. Their outer covering 
encases them as armor. Their eyes are prominent 
and glittering, and help to give them a cheerful, 
alert appearance. I noticed that when traveling 
undisturbed they lightly touched objects before 
them with their long hair-fine antennae as if feel- 
ing their way. On each side of the front section 
of the bodies are a series of three short legs used 
for walking, and just back of these the large, long 
leg for leaping. 

On the floor, pottering over cricket history, 
close to the fence, where the light was strong, I 
made a new acquaintance. Botanists may know 
it well, but I am unable to place it in any of many 
valuable works I own. This may be because I 
found it in the fall, at berry-bearing time, and 
they would describe it in bloom. But I have small 
trouble in identifying other plants at any season. 

Music of the Wild 

No nature-lover has described this as I found it, 
and no decorator has conventionalized it ; yet surely 

A New Ac- the berries stand close the head of the beauty class. 

quaintance Brilliant color of Chinese-red and coral-pink at- 
tracted me, and on investigation I found a plant 
of half bush, half vining habit, close two feet in 
height, its stems straight, round, slender, faintly 
bluish-green, its leaves shaped much like and re- 
sembling in veining and color those of some plum 
trees I know. It had seeded in a burr, shaped and 
toothed outside like that of a beechnut, but almost 
four times larger, and of warm coral-pink color. 
These burrs hung over the plant profusely from 
very long, fine threads of stems, and being ripe, 
had burst open, revealing four partitions covered 
by a thin Chinese-red membrane. In some this 
had opened in a straight line down the middle, 
drawing back each way, and evicting at the four 
points of the pink burr a bright-red berry 
fastened by an extremely short stem. These were 
really a seed, of pearl color, oval, and a little ob- 
long in shape, one end touched with flecks of red 
like a bird's egg, and enveloped in a red, pulpy 
cover. I have found this plant only four times in 
all my life afield, and for brilliant color and com- 
plicated arrangement of seeding I do not remem- 
ber its equal. Ebony mus Americanus is its re- 
sounding scientific name. If it is sufficiently well 
known to have a common one I can not find it. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

While I photographed it a rustling among the 
deep leaves called my attention to the typical bird 
of the forest floor, but this was not our first meet- A Ground 
ing; in fact, we were old acquaintances, and one Musician 
box of negatives in my closet at home recorded all 
of its nesting history that I could secure with a 
camera. Studies of this bird are unusual, at least 
I am fairly well informed along this line, and I 
never have seen any published. It is typical of 
the forest floor. It not only builds and raises its 
young on earth, but finds food there, scratching 
like an exemplary hen, with feet working alter- 
nately, and also surpassing her by using both 
feet at once, in a manner she never learned. It 
has scratched and scratched until from much 
scratching its length of toe and nail has developed 
into its most conspicuous part. On the same prin- 
ciple, but in different members, the heron has 
evolved its long legs by wading among the reeds. 
Because constant flight keeps them useless, two of 
a kingfisher's toes are yet grown together and do 
not separate as do those of perching birds. You 
only have to notice the feet of this family group 
to observe the extraordinary length of toe and nail, 
even in the young. 

I suspect you are w r ondering why I do not tell 
their name. There is no necessity. The bird pre- 
fers to introduce itself. Indeed, there is every 
probability you have heard it do so many times, 

Music of the Wild 

while you never have seen the vocalist, for it keeps 
close earth in damp, dark places, although social 
and a constant talker. It mounts to a high choir- 
loft to sing its song. The cricket's is the dominant 
insect note of the forest in August, the crow's the 
bird voice of the treetops ; this is the busybody and 
the unceasing musician of earth. 

Pairs remain together after family cares are 
over, and their conversation consists of a question 
and an answer. "Che-wink?" inquires the male, 
with strong interrogative inflection on the last syl- 
lable. "Che-wee!" exclaims the female, in reply, 
as if she were delighted to say so. "Che-wink?" 
he asks again, with his next breath. "Che- wee!" 
she gurgles, as if she were telling him something 
"perfectly splendid" for the first time. This call 
of the male supplies the species with a common 
name. On his part it means, "Where are you?"- 
and her answer is, "Here!" But as it is delivered 
I think, from the spontaneity of the reply, that 
it means a shade more "Safely here!" "Happily 
here!" or "Glad to be here!" 

I am sure this is true, because in work close 
chewink nests I have had much acquaintance with 
them. If a male calls and does not get instant 
reply, he repeats the notes with perceptibly higher 
tone and stronger inflection. If there is no an- 
swer to this he flies to a bush and begins a per- 
fect clamor of alarm cries, and hurries around the 

The Chorus of the Forest 

location, keeping up and increasing the excitement 
until the straying female hears him and comes 
home. Where many of these birds nest undis- 
turbed their notes are more noticeable than any 
other feathered folk of earth. 

The chewink is a finch, large as a rose-breasted 
grosbeak, and often mistaken for one on account 
of the black coat and cowl worn by both. The The 
chewink is far the more elegant and graceful bird, 
while the grosbeak is the better musician. Mr. 
Chewink wears a black coat, with the sleeves and 
tail touched with white, a black headdress and 
broad black collar. His shirt is creamy white and 
his vest a bright Venetian-red. Mrs. Chewink's 
headdress and collar are a brownish-tan color, the 
back and sleeves of her suit the same color with 
the white touches. Her waist front is a dark 
creamy white, and her toilet is completed with a 
Zouave jacket of red, a shade darker than Mr. 
Chewink's vest. All her colors are richer in sub- 
dued tones and more artistic than his, for where 
he sharply contrasts she harmonizes exquisitely. 
Both birds have long tails, longer legs than others 
of their genus, and the feet and toes as described, 
from much scratching. 

They are the noisiest birds of the forest floor. 
They desire to search the earth for tiny bugs and 
worms, and the fallen leaves make a deep cov- 
ering everywhere. So they alight on a place that 

Music of the Wild 

they select in a manner known to themselves; at 
times I have seen them stand motionless, with one 
side of the head turned toward the ground, as 
robins do, and appear to listen, so that I have 
thought it possible that they hear insect sounds, 
as we may if we bring our ears close earth. When 
a spot is chosen they jump upon it with toes wide- 
spread, and sink their sharp nails deeply into the 
leaves; then with half -lifted wings, to aid the leg 
and body muscles, they spring as far forward as 
they can and drop their load. In this manner I 
have seen them at one effort clear a space as large 
as a breakfast plate, on which to scratch for food. 
Once as I crouched, covered by a tan crava- 
nette exactly the color of the leaves, beside a stump 
A Lost in the forest, a male bird came within six feet of 
Study me anc [ severa ] times uncovered the earth by this 
method. In each operation he appeared to listen 
before he selected a spot to work upon. Once my 
sense of humor spoiled a fine study of his mate. 
She was approaching the nest to feed the young, 
when he attempted to lift a large layer of leaves. 
He must have gripped securely a fine, thread-like 
root that lifted for a few inches and then became 
taut. The shock whirled him sidew r ise and rolled 
him over. He did not know what had happened, 
and he appeared so astonished and cried out so 
indignantly that I laughed and helped increase 
his fright. He dashed from the thicket uttering 


" What gnarled stretch, what depth of shade, is his! 

There needs no crown to mark the forest's king; 
How in his leaves outshines full summer's bliss! 
Sun, storm, rain, dew, to him their tribute bring." 


The Chorus of the Forest 

alarm cries that scared his mate out of focus, so 
I lost a picture. 

Their habit is to build on the earth beneath the 
protection of a gnarled root or fallen limb, but 
once I found a nest in a tangle of bushes ten 
inches above ground. The female slipped from it, 
hopped away, and trailed a wing that appeared to 
be broken, and squealed as if wounded. I never 
saw a killdeer play " 'possum" more naturally. 
Chewinks build of leaves and coarse grass, and line 
with finer material. The eggs are white, touched 
with brown. Aside from that tribal call from 
which they take their names, they sing a sustained 
song of several notes, much more promising in the 
beginning than in the ending, that seems so un- 
necessarily abrupt as to cause one to wish to enter 
protest. The song opens with a sweet, clear whis- 
tle, and then slides off without at all fulfilling the 
expectation it inspired. But where many musi- 
cians mount the bushes and sing, accompanied by 
the endless leaf rustle of their mates, the music 
forms one of the most pleasing parts of the forest 
chorus. They mount still higher and sing with 
more abandon quite late, for birds, in the evening ; 
or else their notes sound particularly well at that 
time on account of the peculiarity of their vocal- 
izing neighbors who are just running scales to clear 
their voices for the night performance. 

You never can say you really belong in the f or- 

Music of the Wild 

est unless you have remained for so many all-night 
concerts that you are familiar with the parts of 
The all the musicians. At night only a few grasshop- 
Midnight p ers are vocalizing, the crickets never cease, and 
6 the katy-dids tune up for their star performance. 
Daytime feathered singers as a rule tuck their 
heads and go to sleep early, and the absence of the 
wavering accompaniment of their varied voices 
gives peculiar pause and tonal color to ensuing 
notes that are of themselves sufficiently emphatic 
and startling. Almost always the wind drops on 
summer evenings, and a great silence so deep it 
enwraps you as a garment and fills your soul with 
awe seems to creep from the very heart of the for- 
est. When not dominated by tree and bird music, 
insect voices ring out shrill and high, and the whip- 
poor-will finds truly artistic pause and setting for 
its remarkable vocal performance. No other bird 
of all ornithology lifts its voice and in such clear 
and distinct English enunciates what it has to say. 
Almost every naturalist and musician afield re- 
cording bird notes disagrees as to the utterance 
and inflection of some of our plainest talkers. 
There is no difference of opinion whatever about 
this bird. To every one it says too plainly to ad- 
mit questioning, "Whip-poor-will!" 

Near the same time the night hawk takes flight 
during the breeding season. After family cares 
are over I have seen bands of them come sweeping 

The Chorus of the Forest 

from the forest and spread over lake and river as 
early as four o'clock in the afternoon. They are 
of tireless flight, darting here and there with 
mouths wide open for whatever they come across, 
as they take their food on wing. Especially dur- 
ing the breeding season the males do aerial stunts, 
possibly for the diversion of weary mates. They 
soar seventy-five or one hundred feet, spread the 
wings and tail widely, and drop toward earth, the 
wind passing between the stiff feathers causing 
the whistling, booming sound that earns for them 
the name of "night jar." 

This performance does jar the night somewhat, 
and might the nerves also, were it wise to allow 
ourselves such a luxury. I prefer the term to Jarring 
night hawk, since the birds are not nearly so much the Nl & ht 
creatures of night as they should be to merit dis- 
tinct designation by the name; neither are they 
hawks at all, but relatives of martins and swal- 
IOM T S. Aside from this instrumental performance 
on wing they utter a nice, cheerful scream that 
some peculiar folks insist upon disliking, but then 
there are people in this world who are forever rais- 
ing strong objections to the vocalizing of their 
human neighbors. Night jars have a third per- 
formance, half vocal, half pantomimic, that is most 
remarkable of all. When surprised close their 
nests, cornered, or slightly wounded, they lie on 
their backs, swell their facial and throat muscles 

Music of the Wild 

to astonishing size, and hiss, with mouths wide 
open. So the ever-discerning French call them 
"flying toads," to commemorate the performance. 

I can not change the subject after this without 
saying for these birds that they are beautiful, in 
rich colors of blended black, gray, creamy white, 
several shades of brown, and the red that scientists 
designate "rufous;" combinations that render them 
especial colorative protection among the grasses, 
leaves, and on the earth or rocks upon which they 
nest. In monetary value they are almost priceless. 
They do not destroy anything of use to man, while 
they gather millions of grasshoppers that are cut- 
ting crops, and sift the air tirelessly for insect 
pests. On wing the white bands of the quills form 
a half-moon that distinguishes them from the whip- 
poor-will, for which they are often mistaken. 

When night envelopes the forest there travel 
its dusky aisles and dark mazes three creatures of 
silent soundless wing: great, exquisitely colored night 
Wings mo ths, ow j Sj and Da t s . The moths are mostly con- 
fined to the months of May and June. Few peo- 
ple see and none ever hear them. Matured in a 
cocoon spun by a big caterpillar, performing all 
the functions of their lives under cover of the dark- 
ness of night, and spending their few days in the 
darkest places possible, never moving in the light 
except when disturbed, one would imagine they 
would be dark-gray, brown, and black in coloring. 


As odd a thing as you ever saw 

Is the changing color of the black haw. 

All its berries hang china white; 

Jack Frost paints them black some October night; 

When the sun sees this ebon hue, 

He veils it in 'bloom' of silvery blue. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

I think most of the tints of the rainbow are repre- 
sented among them. Some are palest blue-green, 
decorated with straw color and lavender; others 
are cowslip-yellow, with touches of maroon; some 
are tan, with pink markings, and others terra cotta, 
with canary-colored spots and gray lines. Some 
are gray, with terra cotta half -moons; others are 
wine-red, with tan; all are of beautiful basic color, 
speckled, dotted, lined, striped, and spotted with 
bright harmonizing or contrasting designs on their 
wings of softest velvet down. Some have trans- 
parent ovals so clear that fine print can be read 
through them, set in their wings, and most moths 
are large as the average warbler. They sweep so 
close that your face is sensitive to the disturbance 
of air in their passing, but you hear no sound. 
Their flight is soft and perfectly noiseless. 

The owl can afford to be of silent wing, it so 
dominates the night with its voice. It would give 
me great satisfaction if I had some way of know- 
ing surely whether other birds sleep serenely dur- 
ing its vehement serenade either to the moon or to 
a coveted mate, or whether they are awake and 
shuddering with fear. 

I know how the heart of a frightened bird leaps 
and throbs in its small breast, and I would be glad 
to learn that they sleep soundly, but I doubt it. 
They are awake and fluttering through the dark- 
ness at such slight disturbance of other nature. 

Music of the Wild 

There is no difficulty whatever in learning the 
status of owl music among people. Repulsion 
and shuddering greet it everywhere. I have been 
making an especial study of this, and I think I 
have learned how it began. 

The Bible contains our first authentic bird his- 
tory, but ornithologists before that time in other 
lands, and all of them everywhere since, are unan- 
imous in doing all in their power to discredit the 
vocal performance of the owl. I can not find a 
single reference to it in the Bible not expressly 
written for the purpose of inspiring fear and re- 
pulsion. Isaiah says in predicting the fall of Bab- 
ylon, "And their houses shall be full of doleful 
creatures, and owls shall dw r ell there, and satyrs 
shall dance there." 

Micah said he would "make a w r ailing like the 
dragons and a mourning as the owls." When Da- 
The vid fell into trouble he became "like a pelican of 
Pariah of ^] ie wilderness and an owl of the desert." Such 
quotations constitute the entire Bible record of the 
bird, and taking their cue from these, ornitholo- 
gists, nature writers, and even poets perpetuate 
such ideas. Proctor distinguished himself by a 
lengthy owl poem, from which I quote, 

In the hollow tree, in the old gray tower, 

The spectral owl doth dwell ; 
Dull, hated, despised, in the sunshine hour, 

But at dusk he ' s abroad and well : 


The Chorus of the Forest 

And the owl hath a bride who is fond and bold, 
And she loveth the wood's deep gloom, 

And, with eyes like the shine of a moonstone cold, 
She awaiteth her ghastly groom." 

The sentiment belongs to the poet, the italics 
are mine. Now, would you not think that the 
bride who is "fond and bold," and who "loveth" 
her home, might have just one line of whole-souled 
appreciation out of a lengthy poem? But she did 
not get it because the people who have written the 
volumes compiled owl history would make have 
forgotten to give one minute of consideration to 
the viewpoint of the bird. Do you suppose that 
to the owl her mate is "dull, hated, despised, spec- 
tral, ghastly," and only fit company for "doleful 
creatures, satyrs, and dragons?" If you ever had 
seen her nestle close to him, rub her head against 
him, stroke his feathers with her beak, and heard 
her jabber her love-story to him, you would change 
your mind speedily, if that is what you have been 

There is good excuse for other birds fearing 
the owl. It seems to be ordained by nature that 
the larger species prey upon the smaller for food, 
and they suffer from the law without being able 
to argue its justice. But people have nothing to 
fear and everything to enlist their sympathy. I 
think the truth is the shudder that greets the vo- 
calizing of the owl is not really for the bird at all, 

Music of the Wild 

but a touch of fear of the forest at night, yet in the 
system. A taint of an inheritance from days when 
our ancestors battled there for existence, that be- 
comes manifest at unexpected sounds, the gleam- 
ing surfaces of pools, the wavering shafts of 
moonlight, the vibrant tree-rustle of the wind, the 
stealthy step of animals crossing the leafy floor, 
the gutteral scream of night-hunters fighting over 
prey. So because this bird of silent wing comes 
hooting from a place of which they stand a little 
in awe they vent their displeasure on its voice. 

Of all the scientists, ornithologists, and nature 
writers whose work graces my library shelves not 
The Owls' one goes on record with the fact that the owl ut- 
Serenade t erance m ost loudly condemned is his love song, 
used in courting his mate, and when these writers 
shudder they do not explain that Mr. Horned Owl 
is throwing in especially intoned and emphatic sen- 
timent. He is imploring with all his might for the 
mate he covets to pair with him and record a title 
to the first location he finds suitable for their 
happy home. Just singing out his heart in the 
best and only serenade he knows. 

Because they are of night and silent flight, no 
doubt, bats are placed in the same class with owls 
at the very foot. Most fastidious people imagine 
that they draw the line at a worm, but they do 
not. They draw it at a bat, and this, again, on 
account of the prejudicial history surrounding a 

The Chorus of the Forest 

wonderful little creature, half bird, half beast. 
The poet Street wrote of it as "a wavering, sound- 
less blot." A bat in the face is considered just 
and sufficient cause for convulsions, yet the worst 
that possibly could result from it would be a tiny 
scratch of a bite, not nearly so annoying as that 
of a mosquito. 

Once I had a face-to- face acquaintance with a 
mother bat whose body bore the weight of three 
young that nursed at her breast and clung to her Bat 
while they slept. She had a very small face, Bi g- 
shaped like that of a young pig, except that the 
ears were round instead of pointed. The male 
must have carried food, or else enough insects to 
sustain life flew her way, for she could not carry 
her burden on wing. With the exception of flight, 
I could not discover one attribute or characteristic 
of the feathered tribe. Her wings were not in 
the least birdlike. They resembled the half of a 
spread umbrella having a thin rubber cover. Each 
wing represented four ribs and three sections of 
cover, and these ribs centered in a joint like the 
long, bony fingers of a hand, with a little sharp 
hook of a thumb, by which the bat clung and 
helped bear her M r eight. She slept head down and 
was liveliest at night. Her fur was silken soft 
and fine, and of beautiful red-brown color. When 
fed milk with a small wooden paddle I could see 
her fine sharp teeth, but she did not offer to bite. 

Music of the Wild 

When I had studied her all I desired and photo- 
graphed the family, she was replaced where she 
had been found. 

She appealed to me as a happy mother busy 
with affairs of momentous importance, for she 
was raising triplets instead of the usual twins of 
bat-land. A human touch that struck straight to 
my heart often occurred when the young finished 
nursing and crept over her body. They dug into 
her skin until she squealed such a sibilant, faint 
sound that it would have required multiplication 
by a million to raise one healthy note in the great 
chorus of the forest. I was reminded of a mother 
crying out when her baby hurts her. It would be 
well for every one to become sufficiently familiar 
with bats to handle them, and find out what they 
are doing, and why, and what their relation is 
to us. 

Having learned these things, people will be- 
come more in harmony with the scheme of crea- 
tion. They will respect the motherhood of this 
small winged animal, and recognize that in sifting 
the night air for noxious insects, as do swallows 
and martins by day, it is fulfilling a purpose in the 
plan of creation and being of inestimable value to 
us. If the pests exterminated by the flycatchers, 
swallows, martins, night hawks, and bats were al- 
lowed to multiply one season without being mo- 
lested, humanity then would be ready to raise a 


The Chorus of the Forest 

great chorus of praise concerning the work of these 
small creatures of silent wing. 

If I had a lifetime to live in the forest, inex- 
haustible plates, indestructible cameras, wells of 
ink, and pens of magic, I am sure that for each 
day yes, every hour I could find some interest- 
ing thing to picture and describe. But the de- 
mands of life will not allow this, and the forest 
ends all too soon in these days. You can locate 
the line where mere woods begin by robin talk. 

Here you find despoiled forest. It is easy to 
work, because in taking out valuable trees for com- 
merce men have cut roads that can be followed even Where 
in quite wild places. Often manv trees have been The 


felled, and the strong light shining in has started Begin 
grasses growing. Men see in these open places 
tender, luxuriant pasture for stock, so when sal- 
able timber is taken out the next step is to kill 
all the shrubs and vines possible, burn the brush, 
and make grazing grounds. Of course the cleared 
fields come next, and as they march with inexorable 
force, they push back the woods farther and yet 

I find that most of the trees are of little or 
no commercial value. They remain because they 
are of twisted growth, bent, soft wood, hollow, nut 
bearers, or too small to be felled with profit. So 
the woods belong to pasturing stock, birds, ani- 
mals, and children. The lure of the unknown in 

Music of the Wild 

the forest is not over the open wood, but it has 
great attractions of its own. To most people who 
fancy they are "roughing it" the woods are emi- 
nently satisfactory, and as far as they care to pen- 

In the woods you are sure to be close a road, 
and you know there are almost constant passers-by, 
in case anything annoys you. You can see your 
way far ahead, and walk on solid foothold, padded 
with thickly growing grass like a lawn. You can 
lie safely on a green couch with a tree for a back 
rest. For atmosphere you find a hint of forest 
pungency and coolness without the damp, mucky 

The music of the woods is very different from 
the forest. The insects are much the same, but 
The widely scattered, so that their songs lack volume. 
Chorus j| s kj rc i s are nQt o f the same voice and habit, and 
Woods ^ homes other animals. Tree music is entirely dif- 
ferent. The density of the forest dissipates the 
force of even heavy wind, and the intricacy of the 
branches divides it into wailing, sobbing murmurs 
of sound. In the woods the winds can blow with 
might, and meet much less obstruction, so that the 
harp music is higher of tone, grander in sweep, 
longer in measure, with more of an instrumental 

Nut trees are spared almost universally in 
clearing, so they are numerous and easy to find, 

The Chorus of the Forest 

and chattering squirrels are plentiful around them. 
Hollow trees have no monetary value; they remain 
and furnish shelter for everything desiring either 
an upright or a prostrate home. I noticed in the 
woods that dead trees had sufficient space to lie 
down and decay at ease. The squirrels bark and 
race along the logs, coons sniff and shuffle in them, 
and the cotton-tails bound with a quick flash of 
white from covert to covert. The jays are kept 
busy guarding the woods. Orioles trail their bub- 
bling song along their chosen paths of air. Flam- 
ing cardinals chip among the bushes, and barn 
owls enliven the night. 

At no time are the woods ever so the property 
of any human being as in early spring they belong 
to the children. For the small people, it seems to Frost 
me, the flowers and birds are an especial inherit- Flowers 
ance from the Father. The Lord knew when He 
blanketed the earth with snowy white how children 
would walk long distances and overturn the dead 
leaves in their search for spring flowers, because 
of all others they love these most, just the white 
anemones, pink-flushed spring beauties, blue vio- 
lets, and Dutchman's breeches. 

No bird note I ever have heard was quite so 
sweet as the voices of the children out for a first 
flower-hunt after the confinement of a long, cold 
winter. Without knowing what it is they love, 
they lift their heads, fill their lungs with the air 

Music of the Wild 

cool with scarce melted snows, pungent with cat- 
kin pollen, tinged with the vague, subtle perfume 
from unsheathing leaves, and the bloom of forest 
trees, and answer to the call of nature. They 
hasten to the woods as cattle dry-fed for months 
race through pasture when first released, too crazed 
with joy to begin grazing at once. If the truth 
were told, I think this love of children for the 
spring flowers is almost as much craving for the 
intoxication of spring air and release from win- 
ter's bondage as it is appreciation of the blooms. 

What a shout the child sends up who finds the 
first flower! The one who secures a dogtooth vio- 
let is envied as men covet each other's gold. What 
matters it that the hot, close-grasping little hands 
will wither the delicate frost blooms hopelessly be- 
fore they can be presented so lovingly to mother 
and teacher? The children have had the joy of 
their outing, the fulfillment of their search, the 
pleasure of giving the precious gift; and where 
the earth lies blanketed with flowers until one must 
look closely to see that it is not yet snow-covered, 
what they take never will be missed, and the com- 
ing spring will bring as profuse bloom as the past. 

Later in the season, when the cardinal flower, 
foxfire, cowslip, bellflower, bluebell, and daisy 
bloom flowers that are of rarer occurrence and 
that would be exterminated by such vigorous at- 
tacks the children have become accustomed to 


"In the outskirts of the village, 

On the river's winding shores, 

Stand the Occidental plane-trees, 

Stand the ancient sycamores." 


The Chorus of the Forest 

freedom and out-door sports, and seldom go to 
the woods. 

I once knew an Irishman who, in reference to 
being greedy about anything, said it was always 
his way to "take a little and leave a little." I wish "Take a 
I could impress this splendid doctrine upon all 
flower hunters, especially city folk who go pleas- Little 
ure-driving through the country. Frequently 
while at my work in the fields and woods I meet 
them, and they never leave anything, not even the 
roots, unless it be wild rose, goldenrod, or some- 
thing so profuse they can not possibly take all. 
That is not the worst. They are not prepared to 
gather flowers. They see a lovely red, blue, or 
yellow bloom, and jump from their carriages long 
enough to drag up the plant by the roots. If the 
flower is a hardy annual, this means death. If a 
seedling, it is death also, for no seed remains to 
ripen. I hope that I may live to see the day when 
our wild flowers will be protected by law, the same 
as our birds. 

If the flowers had been created to furnish 
sweets for honey-gatherers and feeders only, all of 
them might as well have been green or have con- 
sisted merely of stamen and pistil. I never will 
believe that the gorgeously colored petals are only 
a signal to attract bees and butterflies. The the- 
ory is confounded in the beginning by the differ- 
ing colors and the fact that many brilliant flow- 

Music of the Wild 

ers have no perfume whatever and are not visited 
by sweet-lovers. If color were only a signal to in- 
sects, it might as well be all red or yellow. If 
petals were solely an attraction to honey-gatherers, 
why call bees and butterflies to bloom having no 
sweetness? It is as sure as can be that flowers are 
not only for sweet-lovers, but for us, to give pleas- 
ure, to glorify the landscape, to set a joy-song 
singing in the soul. 

Flower forms are complicated, beautiful past 
describing, and their colors varied to suit every de- 
The gree of taste and circumstance of usage. The 
Patent- Lord gave the blossoms decorating the earth, as a 
Divinity masterstroke, a finishing touch, the patent-right of 
Divinity stamped upon the face of His work. 
Then surely it is an offense to Him ruthlessly to 
tear up plants by the root, and to kill them for 
the moment's gratification. Any one who wishes 
to preserve a proper spirit of gratitude to God for 
His gift of the flowers will cut a few carefully, 
and leave the plant to bloom another year, or ma- 
ture its seed. I think, further, that any person of 
refined taste not only will leave a plant alive, and 
a part of its bloom to mature seed ; but he also will 
leave some of its flowers for the next traveler of 
the road. The highway stretches endlessly, and 
human souls more sensitive than you would dream 
are upon it each hour. There is not always a song 
on every lip. The lines on some faces indicate wea- 

The Chorus of the Forest 

riness, care, and deep sorrow. Flowers and bird 
songs are to cheer the way for all, and some need 
encouragement so sorely. Possibly the very next 
comer may be sad-hearted, and the bright blooms 
would offer cheer. Who are you, to monopolize 
any gift of the Lord merely because you happen 
to be the first to find it? 

The only way to make any diminution of the 
small spring flowers \vould be to plow and till the 
soil. But of the larger, later growths mentioned 
some are at present almost extinct. Ten years ago 
tall, blue bellflower waved in almost every fence- 
corner of my immediate territory. This summer 
vigorous search for just enough to fill an eight by 
ten photographic plate revealed it in only three 
places, widely separated. Another hunt disclosed 
foxfire in one location, and no cardinal flower. 

In the woods where mandrake formerly grew 
in half-acre patches, trampling cattle and rooting 
pigs, aided by ruthless flower-gatherers, have Apples 
played havoc with it until search is required to find of May 
a healthy, typical growth. Mandrake is a wonder- 
fully peculiar plant and, aside from its medicinal 
value, is beautiful and bears fruit. In early spring 
the tender leaves, wrapped around their stems like 
a folded umbrella, come pushing through the earth. 
The plants have one stalk, that branches at the 
height of ten or twelve inches, each branch sup- 
porting a big leaf made up of four or six sections, 

Music of the Wild 

lobed to the base, so that they appear to be sepa- 
rated. The flower opens at the branching, a waxy, 
white cup that resembles a lily in texture and has 
six petals. Pollen-laden stamens surround the 
pistil, that is straight and heavy, and on the drop- 
ping of the leaves it develops the fruit. The flow- 
ers are oppressively fragrant, but many people 
admire them and are fond of the ripe apples. 
Country children gather them just at the turning 
to gold, and bury them in the bran barrel for a 
treat long after the w r oods are bare. They are 
called "May-apples," and are entitled to be classed 
as the typical flower and fruit of the woods. Like 
many other species, extinction threatens them. 

Last season from early spring I had been 
watching a large bed of mandrake that I hoped 
would bloom profusely and give me a good study 
for this book. Passing the location one Sabbath 
afternoon, I planned to stop and learn if it would 
be ready for use on the morrow. From afar my 
hopes sank, for I could see a carriage standing at 
the place. When I arrived one man was holding 
the horse, and another with two women were com- 
ing from the woods. Each one of them carried as 
many mandrake stems as they possibly could 
grasp; every stem had an exquisite waxy flower at 
the top, shorn of all vestige of leaf. The bed 
was ruined, and the ground covered with roots 
and leaves. If those people had not torn up, they 


Through cycles the sycamore lifted its head, 
Above savage and beast with stealthy feet, 

Now it stands by the old woodshed, 
And serves to cure the summer meat. 

The Chorus of the Forest 

had trampled down every plant; and the great 
bunches of bloom they carried would not live to 
reach the city, for mandrake is extremely delicate 
when gathered. You could have trailed the party 
from the woods by a milky way of petals already 
fallen, and no doubt the mass of flowers was dis- 
carded before ten miles had been traveled, so sen- 
sitive are these blooms to touch. 

It has been my fortune to find mandrake 
flourishing beneath or near oak trees so often 
that I have wondered if there could be an affinity. 
From the nature of the plant, I suppose not; but 
this I know: foxglove loves to twine its roots 
around those of oaks, and finer specimens flour- 
ish near them than anywhere else. And I have 
been told that more delicious truffles grow among 
oak roots than chestnut. The oak is a wonderful 
tree. It reaches unrecorded age, and is strong 
and hardy. It becomes such a giant that it is king 
of the forest, unsurpassed in the woods, and has 
no peer in the fields. The mellow bass notes of 
nature's tree music are played among its massive 
branches. There are many varieties that are used 
for furniture and wherever stout, unyielding tim- 
bers are required in a house or for ship-building. 
In commerce it is valuable for making furniture 
and musical instruments, and for certain purposes 
no other tree will take its place. 

Oak bark is very rough and deeply grooved 

Music of the Wild 

with the cracks of growth, and where the tree is 
not crowded its shape is symmetrical, and its leaves 
are artistically cut. In the fall some species color 
with great brilliancy, crowning the king with flam- 
ing red. Its flowers are long, greenish-yellow tas- 
sels, pollen-covered, and their perfume is a part 
of that creeping, subtle odor that people struggle 
to define and can not, because they do not dream 
what produces it. I always find the bees, wild and 
domesticated, extremely busy over it, and so far 
as I can judge by my taste it is one of the kinds 
of pollen that tempers the sickening sweetness of 
pure flower honey so that it is edible. 

There are many attractive spring odors, but 
there is difficulty in tracing some of them to their 
The origin. Because they are fond of gathering cat- 
Bloom- kins every one knows that willows bloom and has 
Trees become familiar with the pollen. But they do not 
realize that in early spring forest, wood, and field 
trees are all covered with tiny flowers heavily la- 
dened with pollen, so that to the wind harping in 
the branches is added the music of millions of 
honey-gathering bees. Buckeye, walnut, hickory, 
hazel, chestnut, ash, elm, beech, oak, in fact every 
tree that bears nut, berry or seed is weighted with 
masses of small bloom. 

Oak flowers are not at all gaudy. They make 
no display worth mentioning in comparison with 
the fall coloring of the foliage. But the bursting 

The Chorus of the Forest 

of white oak-leaf buds covers a tree with a pale, 
silvery pinkish effect that is lovely and very showy ; 
much more attractive than the flowers. All vari- 
eties of acorns are interesting with their shiny hulls, 
pointed tips, and flat bases that fit into their rough 
cups securely, until the nuts drop, or else at ma- 
turity are shaken out by the wind. Few of the 
cups fall until pushed off by the growth of the 
following spring. These little cups, clinging to 
a tree all winter, make it appear as if it might be 
a table spread for a fairies' tea party. The leaves 
of oak, and also beech, hang W 7 ith the same te- 
nacity, and in winter days of hoar-frost or drift- 
ing snow they form the most beautiful fringy 
and mossy sprays among the branches. 

There are two peculiarities about the oak that 
as yet science has failed to explain satisfactorily: 
why it is that all through the forest, field, and 
woods these big trees so frequently die in the very 
top branches a death that too often spreads to 
the roots ; and why they are more frequently struck 
by lightning than any other tree. Government re- 
ports tell us they are, but they neglect to state the 

These and other large trees of the forest some- 
times deceive the lumbermen who fell them by be- 
ing a mere shell, and so they are left where they 
are cut. But nothing is ever useless, and birds and 
animals are quick to take possession of anything 

Music of the Wild 

men leave for them. Felled hollow trees are splen- 
did homes for the big black chickens of the woods 
Pharaoh's the vultures. These birds find such trees very 
Chickens Sll it a ble, for in them are combined location, shel- 
ter, and building material. The deep inner coat- 
ing of decayed wood jars loose with the fall of 
the tree, and the homing bird only has to turn on 
the point of her breast a few times in it to make 
a hollow, and she is ready for housekeeping. She 
lays a pair of delicate pale-blue lusterless eggs, 
much the color of a cuckoo's, but heavily mot- 
tled, and splashed with dark chocolate. In these 
circumstances the nest is very beautiful. The de- 
cayed w r ood runs the whole color scheme, from 
almost white through every shade of yellow, and 
then begins on tans and exhausts them, and then 
the browns. The big, speckled blue eggs are 
shaped like a hen's, but large as a turkey's. 

The young are out in a month, and are simply 
comical little creatures, having the sharp, hooked 
beak of the flesh-eater, a little old wrinkled face of 
leathery appearance, and a body that expands to 
three times its shell capacity on the first day of 
emergence. Their dress is of snowy white, fine as 
swan's down. They are so clumsy and helpless 
they must remain many weeks developing in the 
log before taking wing and sailing to the clouds. 
The old birds are relatives of Pharaoh's chick- 
ens of ancient Egypt, where they w^ere so bene- 

The Chorus of the Forest 

ficial in their work of ridding camps, tenting 
families, villages, and cities of refuse and decay- 
ing matter, that in the heat bred plague and 
fever quickly, that one of the kings surpassed the 
stringent laws of his predecessors for the protec- 
tion of the birds by enacting a law inflicting the 
death penalty on any one killing a vulture. Fol- 
lowing this precedent, some of our Southern States 
impose a heavy fine as a means of protecting these 

All over the South they are common, and at 
times become familiar and perch upon housetops 
and buildings, so contaminating the water supply 
that it is a question as to whether they are a bless- 
ing. In the North the birds are not numerous, but 
every year makes them more so. Their cousin, 
turkey-buzzard, is frequent. The old birds spend 
much of their time on wing, ranging the sky over 
miles of country searching for food. They are 
graceful and majestic in flight as any bird, not 
truly black, but shading from a reddish tinge to 
a rich dark-brown with blackish effects. 

I can not see that any bird presents a more at- 
tractive picture in the sky. It is not known how 
high they can soar; beyond our range of vision, Black 
that is sure. Their music resembles a guttural * 
jabber in love-making, most of which is done in 
sign language; and when angry or afraid, they 
hiss much like geese. In danger or anger they do 

Music of the Wild 

not scream and fight with beak and feet, as the 
hawk or eagle, but content themselves with hissing 
and biting if cornered. They duck their heads, 
dodge rapidly, and are very dexterous in making 
their escape. While they appear anxious, they are 
not bold and will not attack you if you touch their 
young. Possibly this is because they consider a 
habit of theirs to be the best means of defense, and 
expect the young to protect themselves in the same 
manner. Their method of warfare is quite as 
unique and effective as that of the skunk. The 
staple food of these birds is carrion, and when 
angry or disturbed they present you with their par- 
tially digested dinners. The question whether 
birds have much sense of smell above all, whether 
a vulture can smell itself long has been discussed 
among scientists. No bird or animal is offensive 
to itself, but vultures must have some hazy knowl- 
edge that this act on their part is disgusting to mor- 
tals; else, why the inclination, even in the newly- 
hatched young? A great amount of flight and pa- 
tient searching is required to secure a vulture's 
chosen food; surely they would not be so ready 
to part with it if they did not know the act would 
secure for them the immunity it usually does. 

Vultures remain in the woods and fields until 

late in the fall, probably because their young need 

much practice before they have the strength and 

agility of wing for migration. Usually the leaves 


The Chorus of the Forest 

have colored, and most of them fallen, before 
these birds migrate. They remain with us, as the 
larks, until frost and cold drive them away. After 
the young become self-supporting the family 
perches among the branches of a big tree for the 
night. This is cold, unattractive business by No- 
vember, for there is little shelter on any tree save 
among the dry leaves of oaks and beeches. 

There is a smaller tree that once deceived me 
into the belief that it was clinging to its dead 
leaves as do its larger fellows, but examination The Hop- 
proved that it was loaded with dry seed clusters. TreeDance 
It was a hop tree, and the seeds were very similar 
to those of the slippery elm. They are almost 
round in shape, flat, a small oval seed in the center, 
a thin dry rim around it, and a twig bears from 
forty to sixty in one cluster. Each seed hangs 
from a tough, slender stem. When the wind blows 
the hop tree is the greatest musician of the woods. 
But there is no sobbing, no wailing, no sadness in 
its notes. It plays a happy, clipping dance tune. 
From every side the wind catches the flat seed sur- 
faces and sets them shaking with an enlivening 
rustle, and when millions of them strike together, 
all the pixies, gnomes, and fairies come trooping 
to the hall of the woods and begin wildly dancing 
as the hop tree shakes its castanets. 

Before you know it you come to the end of 
the woods. When we stop to think, the earth as 

Music of the Wild 

originally given to us was almost solid forest. 
Barring the oceans, a few places of desertness, the 
mountains and swamps, deep forest covered the 
greater portion of the remaining surface at the 
advent of man. A few feet of digging will un- 
cover the roots of extinct forests where some of 
our desert land now lies. 

What the character of the chorus of the for- 
est must have been in those days one can not imag- 
ine. The notes of our great tree harps were the 
first sacrificed. Before the advance of civilization 
the trees must fall to build homes, for fires, to 
clear space for cultivation, and to provide furni- 
ture and implements. As the trees vanished not 
only their music ceased, but the songs of all the 
inhabitants of their branches and the residents of 
the earth beneath them. The voice of the forest 
was hushed. 

So completely were the trees wiped out that 
not even decayed specimens, the big bass-drums, 
were left for the birds. Men saw many places 
where they could use a hollow tree, and save much 
time and expense. So the pump and the watering- 
trough were made of them. Also the bee-hive, 
smoke-house, ash hopper, hen's nest, sugar-water 
trough, feeding-troughs of all sizes, the dog ken- 
nel, bread tray, and first and most important of 
all should have been mentioned the cradle. Hol- 
low trees were used in ditches where we now place 



C O-Q 


The Chorus of the Forest 

tile, and for many other purposes, some of them 
very amusing. Wherever man takes possession of 
the gift of the Lord the forest and its music dis- 

To be sure, new music springs up in the fields 
to take its place, but the substitute is very mild. 
On account of its wild, weird, appealing strain, The 
found nowhere else in nature, the chorus of the > Y 1 - 1 '? e8 . t: 

of Music 

forest thrills the heart. It is the only place on 
earth where tree music can be had in perfection, 
and no other is like it. Great organs have been 
built and numerous wind and string instruments 
made, all in an effort to reproduce the sigh and 
the sob, the w r ail and the roar of the forest, but 
they forever fall short of its grandeur and majesty. 
This incomparable tree harping can not be re- 
produced out of its element; it may be copied in 
parts so accurately that its tones can be recognized, 
but the real music of nature is when the waves 
of wind sweep among the boughs of trees. It is 
when crickets of the forest floor sing cheerily, 
when grasshoppers energetically play their fiddles, 
and locusts sow their notes on summer air. The 
leaf-rustle of the chewink on earth, the mournful 
Avail of the pewee in the treetops, the impudent 
chuckle of the crow, and the battle-cry of the 
hawk, are parts of it. The scream of the night 
jar, the command of the whip-poor-will, and the 
serenade of the courting owl combine their notes. 

Music of the Wild 

It is in the bleating of the fawn, the howl of the 
wolf, and the gutteral growl of the bear. Every 
voice of each living creature lifted in joy, curi- 
osity, pain, or anger, with the leaf-rustle or cy- 
clonic agony of the trees, the murmur of waters, 
the whisper of winds, and the song of humanity 
plays a part. All these unite to form one great 
and throbbing anthem, and if you once learn this 
wildest of music it will become so sacred to you 
that its call will be with you always, and when it 
is most insistent you will find peace only in the 


Songs of the Fields 

" While round pour bed, o'er fern and blade, 
Insects in green and gold arrayed, 
The sun's gay tribes have lightly strayed; 
And sweeter sounds their humming wings 
Than the proud minstrel's echoing strings." 


"Did Katy love a naughty man, 

Or kiss more cheeks than one? 
I warrant Katy did no more 
Than many a Kate has done." 

Songs of the Fields 

IF the forest is the Temple of God, the fields 
are the amphitheater of man. When spring 
arouses a sleeping earth they are painted in Field 
one great, ever-shifting panorama that stretches Music 
beyond our vision, and the world is filled with the 
songs of nature. Because we love this music above 
all other we rejoice that a few old-fashioned fields 
remain to be flooded with such melody in its proper 
environment. Here, dotted with wild trees and 
outlined with lichen and vine-covered old snake- 
fences, every corner of which is filled with shrubs 
and bushes sheltering singing birds and insects, 
the great song festival of the fields is held. Here 
the old-time content with life is voiced from cabin 
homes, and the forest towering high above affords 
shelter and protection, and balances the forces of 
nature. These old farms, forest-guarded, walled 
by growth and moisture, resounding with bird- 
song and trampled with scudding feet, all of 
these have two owners. One is the man who pays 

Music of the Wild 

the taxes and keeps up the fences; the other is the 
woman with the camera, who coolly lays down en- 
closures and trespasses where fancy leads. Every 
such farm on the face of earth is mine, also the 
birds, moths, and animals that it attracts. 

It is undying glory to own these old cabins, 
the orchards that surround them, the gardens, 
stable lots, wood-yards, truck patches, grain fields, 
pastures, creeks, ponds, little hints that remind you 
of real forest, stretches of river, thickets, and all 
the insects, bird, and animal life. These farmers 
do not know there is another claimant to their land. 
They think the title is clear. No one has taught 
them, innocent souls as they are, that they are 
monopolizing all the beauty to be found in the land- 
scape, and that beauty "lies in the eye of the be- 
holder," and therefore it is the property of all who 
see and claim it for their own. 

My old fields lay stretched in warm spring 
sunshine, mellowing slowly; for in the shelter of 
Old- the forest they have not frozen and thawed repeat- 
e( ^y* as w ^ ien unprotected, so the wheat crop is 
sure. Among last year's stubble great velvety mul- 
leins stretch soft green leaves, and thistles prove 
how hardy they are. The pasture shows living 
green all over, and as soon as it is firm enough to 
bear the weight of stock the cattle that bellow dis- 
consolately in the barnyard on dry feed will race 
to it like mad things. 


Songs of the Fields 

Northward bound wild geese dot the river bank 
with excrement as they pause for a short rest in 
their migration. The bees rim the water-trough 
and drink greedily, the guineas clatter, the old 
Shanghai rooster thrashes all his male progeny 
into submission, and the turkey cock wears off the 
tips of his wings with much strutting. The breath 
of earth, ice-tinged, rises to commingle with the 
breath of heaven, pollen-laden, and all nature be- 
comes intoxicated with the combination. Later 
the sun drives the ice chill from the air, and bloom- 
time comes, with almost cloying sweetness. 

Of the ground flowers perhaps the sweet wil- 
liam is most fragrant, the locust of trees, and the 
wild crab among shrubs, so they attract the musi- 
cians and are the best choir-lofts. Xot only is the 
wild crab of such delightful odor that it long has 
been grown for the perfume of commerce, but 
it is more beautiful of flower than wild plum, 
cherry, or any of the haws. Its blossoms are not 
closely grouped, but hang from long, graceful 
stems, a few 7 in a cluster. They have more color 
than any white tree bloom, being a strong red up 
to the day of opening. The unfolded flowers are 
a delicate salmon-pink inside, and retain the red 
on the outside. Their perfume calls wild and do- 
mesticated bees, bumblebees, wasps, and hornets, 
sweat bees, and every insect that ever paused at 
pollen and honey for a treat. 

Music of the Wild 

Much has been written about field flowers, and 
many poets and nature-lovers have celebrated their 
The favorites. I sing for dandelions. If we had to 
Lion's import them and they cost us five dollars a plant, 
all of us would grow them in pots. Because they 
are the most universal flower of field and wood, 
few people pause to see how lovely they are. In 
the first place, the plant is altogether useful. The 
root is a fine blood-purifier. To a less extent the 
leaves partake of the same property, and they are 
beautiful; long and slender, reminding some sci- 
entist of the ragged teeth of a lion "dent de leon" 
dandelion. They are of dark green color when 
full-grown, pale yellow-green at half growth, and 
if at all sheltered, almost white when young. 
Properly cooked, there is nothing better to eat. 
The bloom is a flat, round, thickly-petaled head of 
gold, dusted with pollen that the bees gather, and 
it gives a delicious tang to honey. 

After a few days of bloom the flowers draw 
into tightly-closed heads, and stand maturing the 
seed. At the same time the stems rapidly lengthen, 
to lift the heads high where the wind can have free 
play upon them. Then at a touch, always when 
we are not looking, the heads open into perfect 
balls of misty white. These stand like crystal 
globes for a short time, ripening, and then the 
wind harvests the seed and sows it broadcast, so 
that the dandelion is the most universal flower that 

Songs of the Fields 

grows and the most democratic. Watch the won- 
derful provision of nature in this rapid lengthen- 
ing of the flower stems so the wind may scatter 
the seeds far and wide, and doubt the providence 
of God if you can. 

The flowers show a creamy, pale yellow in the 
forest, darker colors and strong green leaves in 
the swamps, deep yellow and thrifty around the 
fields, over every hill, and in every hollow. Dan- 
delions creep into gardens and barn lots, and bloom 
along the roads to the very wheel tracks, every- 
where developing as their environment will allow; 
but wherever placed, by some miracle making suf- 
ficient growth to mature a golden head and per- 
petuate their family. Just this yellow of dande- 
lion is the most beautiful color in all the world. 
It is like strong sunshine, without which our world 
soon would congeal. Perhaps it is the color God 
loves best, for He has made the most of His 
flowers yellow. And He so has arranged the pro- 
cession that it marches through the season domi- 
nating other colors wherever it goes, and it travels 

Yellow covers the breast of earth in dainty sor- 
rel, violets, six or seven species of cinquefoil, and 
adder's tongue. It lifts its gold banner high in 
orchis, crested and fringed; ladies' tresses, and 
lady's slippers. It waves high in the well-known 
saffron, mullein, goldenrod of many varieties, sev- 

Music of the Wild 

eral marigolds, and foxglove. At half that height 
glow buttercups, cowslips, black-eyed susans, beg- 
The Gold gar's lice, snapdragons, jewel flowers, and touch- 
of God me _ no ts. There are several yellow lilies of the 
field and two of the water. Large spaces are cov- 
ered with wild mustard, while sunflowers and 
tansy grow all along the roadside. 

Then there is the less-known water plantain 
and crowfoot, several poppies, and golden cory- 
dalis, tw r o species of water cress, saxifrage, and 
goat's beard. There is yellow avens, wild indigo, 
rattle-box, and at least two varieties of clover. 
Also wild senna, partridge pea, yellow flax, and 
yellow mallow. There must be a dozen species of 
St. John's-wort; and frostweed, seedbox, and sun- 
drops. That is an exquisite name, and should be 
applied to all yellow flowers, to indicate that the 
sun has dropped of her gold to paint their faces. 
There are several differing parsnips and loose 
strife. Also butterfly weed, which seems a contra- 
diction of terms; toad flax, yellow rattle, wild 
honeysuckle, yellow asters, elecampane, and arti- 
choke to end with, in the fear of growing tiresome; 
but this is not nearly a complete list of the gold 
of God, for it does not even touch the rarest ex- 
hibition that He gives. 

This comes at the time of the blooming of the 
forest, in the mist and shimmer of early spring. 
Then every tree that bears nut, berry, or seed 

Songs of the Fields 

blooms profusely. These flowers, as a rule, are 
not attractive singly. They are a little golden- 
green cluster or a fringe something like a willow When 
catkin in shape, only longer, arid each is covered theTrees 
with such tiny blooms so thickly placed that it re- 
quires a glass to analyze them correctly. A single 
bloom or a bunch of bloom or a branch is not 
much; but an entire forest- no, more than that 
a world of it, is a different matter. 

This bloom comes at a time when our sense 
of color is sated with the grays and whites of win- 
ter and our lungs are starved with the stuff y ar- 
tificial heating of most of our homes. It opens 
when the season is breaking and our hearts are 
mellowed with the change. The trees flower when 
the leaves are just beginning to unfold. Few of 
them are an inch long, and they are nearly as 
bright with yellow, pink, and silvery white as they 
are with green ; and all their green is more strongly 
tinged with yellow at that time than ever again 
until they change color in the fall. 

So when all the trees of earth are covered 
sparsely with golden-green leaves, and hung closely 
with bloom of gold, powdered deeply with dust of 
gold, the color is in the very air. All the world 
is sprinkled with it. If from some elevation you 
can reach a level with the top of the forest you 
will behold a sea of gold washing gently under 
waves of enchanted air, for the touch of ice still 

Music of the Wild 

lingers, and it is perfumed with the pungent fra- 
grance of these blossoms. Then the dormant bees 
awake and come pouring from hollow tree and 
hive to their great festival. No insects are play- 
ing or singing to rival the swarming gold and 
black performers; the birds have not yet returned 
to drown undulant humming with floods of song. 
The "little busy bee" comes down to the footlights 
and captures an appreciative audience. But the 
bee cares nothing for the generous applause that 
always greets his first appearance. Dishevelled 
with backing from flower clusters, his head and 
wings powdered with gold, his burden-bearing legs 
high piled with gold, he goes humming on his way. 
If there is anything in the idea of coloration by 
association, he appears to be striped with the dark- 
ness of his hollow-tree home and the gold of the 
pollen in which he constantly immerses himself. 
His mumbling, humming bumble opens the great 
song festival of the fields. 

After a day or two, when the blossoms are ripe, 
the pollen dust loosens. It sifts over the fields, 
burnishes the breast of lake and pond with a sheet 
of gold, and sails on the surface of the river. 
Throughout the summer season nature revels in 
gold, but now it submerges her. She is covered 
from head to foot. She breathes it, she bathes in 
it. No wonder the coats of the bees that live upon 
pollen are striped with it! So beneficent is the in- 

Songs of the Fields 

fluence of this gold bath that all creation has be- 
come intoxicated with it for centuries. Poets sing 
it, artists paint it, and natural historians wrestle 
with it thus. 

It appeals to me that this would be a fine time 
to celebrate the Xew Year. Why should we call 
the first of January the "Xew Year?" There is The New 
nothing new about a continuation of the same New ' Year 
dead, shut-in winter season. Why go around cry- 
ing, "Happy Xew Year!" when nothing is new 
and people are least happy of all their lives? 

But when winter flees at the awakening of 
spring, when March winds arouse us, when earth 
thrusts up tender grow r th to signal us that she is 
ready for seed-bearing, when nature is given a new 
robe, the sky pure air; when the birds come home, 
animals creep from hibernation, and the Almighty 
showers His gold, everything is refreshed, even 
the oldest hearts of us. Just for the sake of con- 
sistency the year should be new when the earth 
awakens, when human as well as bird, insect, and 
animal hearts are glad, when the soul is uplifted, 
when for a few days all nature is rich enough lit- 
erally to bathe in gold. 

Among the few musicians that have arrived at 
this time in birdland the skylark soars pre-eminent. 
Xot that he is more beautiful than his fellows, 
although he comes in time to stripe his head and 
cover his heart with the choicest of the gold. The 

Music of the Wild 

brightness of his crown is emphasized by alter- 
nating dark stripes, and his breastplate becomes 
Cloud radiant in contrast with a dark collar. His back 
Musicians COV ering is a mixture of dark-brown, gray, and 
gray -brown. The wings are the same, touched with 
white, and the middle feathers of the tail are sim- 
ilar, the shorter outer ones tipped with white. His 
habitat appears to be heaven, and his home earth, 
which certainly seems contradictory. But it is true. 
He is a bird of as constant flight as the kingfisher, 
and of such exalted height that he is often lost to 
our vision above the clouds. The kingfisher sel- 
dom rises above the treetops, the lark scarcely ever 
falls below. He is the oracle of high places, and 
sings from greater altitude than any other bird. 
That very fact may give distinction to him. 

His notes, syllabicated as well as possible in 
the words that of all others seem most appropriate, 
"Spring o' ye-ar!" is the best-loved bird-song in 
our country, and the more he slurs it and rings in 
the half plaintive tone that characterizes it, the 
more it is appreciated. There is a lark out in the 
center of this country that greatly surpasses ours 
in song, although it appears and acts very similar. 
The difference in the character of the notes is de- 
tected instantly by travelers. The bird of the Ne- 
braska alfalfa fields has the same slurring modu- 
lations, but his song is several measures longer. 
He sings, "Come here! Spring o' ye-ar!" an<? 


Its thrifty stalks thrust high their heads, 
Flowers of pale gold to flourish. 

Its roots sink deeply into earth, 
Large, blue-green leaves to nourish. 

Songs of the Fields 

sometimes that is all of the melody, and again he 
adds, as if in afterthought, "My de-ar!" 

Certain it is that the lark is not the greatest 
musician. In pure, serene, soul-piercing melody 
the hermit thrush surpasses him; also the wood 
robin, brown thrush, mocking-bird, and several 
others. Nevertheless to half the people of earth 
the lark is the sweetest of bird songsters. There 
must be a reason, for his notes will not compare 
with many rivals; so one must look elsewhere for 
the source of his popularity. 

For one thing, while doves and bluebirds arrive 
as early, his is the first universal song our longing 
ears hear in the spring. There are times when to 
be first in the field is half the battle. He is trail- 
ing his notes, clear and easily syllabicated, back 
and forth across heaven, over town and village, and 
even above great cities, before any other bird is 
heard, unless, indeed, you except the cry of the 
killdeer. Then his soring propensity, the fact 
that he drops a note from above cloud, gives 
ground for the belief that he picked it up there. 
If a canvass were made of the people of earth as 
to their favorite bird, it is sure that a large ma- 
jority of them would vote for the lark. That this 
preference is founded on sentiment rather than 
fact has nothing to do with the case. Because he 
is common, friendly, and sings first and nearest 
heaven, he is the bird of the people. Neither does 

Music of the Wild 

the fact that not one-tenth of these same lark- 
lovers ever heard the song of the hermit thrush 
have anything to do with the case. They prefer 
the lark because they so love him they are con- 
vinced they yet would like him best if they did 
hear the thrush. 

From their choir-loft one would suppose that 
elms were not high enough to furnish larks a nest- 
ing-place. That is the great surprise about them. 
Earth- Because he whistles close earth, and brings forth 
bom ] 1 j s young on its breast, the quail seems consistent. 
S Because the lark sings nearest heaven one would 
expect him to have the nesting habits of the wood 
pewee. But he drops abruptly to earth, bare earth, 
and in the shelter of a grassy hummock or amidst 
the growing clover or wheat establishes a home. 
His mate turns on the point of her breast until she 
wears out a hollow that she lines, and often roofs, 
with dry grasses, leaving her door to the east, in 
most instances, as my observation has" proved. 
From four to six eggs are deposited more often 
six and almost always the brood comes off 

Larks are secretive and shy about their build- 
ing. They always walk several yards under cover 
of the grasses on leaving their nests before they 
take wing, and return to them in the same man- 
ner, so that when you see a lark alight you are 
not sure he is within a rod of his home in any di- 


"K ft) **N 


Songs of the Fields 

rection. Because they are accustomed to seeing 
only open, level meadow it is very difficult to 
place a camera close or win their confidence suffi- 
ciently to be able to make studies of them. Every 
brooding song-bird sits on the point of the breast, 
and where an arched cup also raises the long tail 
the mother has a cramped, spread-out appearance. 
This one brooded on six eggs and brought off her 
young safely. 

There is a shade of yellow on the breast of a 
young lark when it takes wing, that has escaped 
commerce, and it is infinitely more delicate and Four New 
beautiful than the nearest approach to it. There Yellows 
is another exquisite yellow, not yet in use, on the 
face of a freshly opened false foxglove, and an- 
other on unclosing buckeye buds. An unusual yel- 
low can be found in the bloom of elecampane. 

This magnificent plant grows from five to six 
feet high, in big round stems, having long, hairy, 
blue-green leaves of a frosty appearance, that sur- 
round the stem at their base and curve off grace- 
fully to the tip. The flower has a round head, with 
irregular, straggling petals of beautiful yellow 
that harmonize exquisitely with the leaves. Here 
is another plant that I am sure the artists of Japan 
do not know, else before this all of us would have 
become familiar with it in screen decorations. I 
can recall no statelier growth, no leaf form more 


Music of the Wild 

In my home all my literary and artistic ef- 
forts have a critic; the keenest they ever know: 
one who cuts to the hone and spares not. She 
My Critic is actuated solely by love. Being sensitive to 
criticisms from other sources, she would point out 
all the flaws in my work herself, and so prevent 
others from seeing them too late to be avoided. 

"You never are going to put in that hop-toad !" 
she exclaims. 

"Why not?" 

"Because this is a music-book, and the song of 
a hop-toad is not worth mentioning." 

"Well, if it can not sing much it can set a 
poet singing, which amounts to the same thing. 
Listen !"- 

Howdy, Mister Hop-Toad ! Glad to see you out ! 
Bin a month o' Sundays sence I see you hereabout. 

Mister Hop-Toad, honest- true-Springtime^don't you love it? 
You old rusty rascal you, at the bottom of it ! 

Swell that fat old throat o' yourn and lemme see you swaller ; 
Straighten up and h'ist your head ! You don't owe a dollar ! 

Hulk, sulk, and blink away, you old bloat-eyed rowdy ! 
Hain't you got a word to say? Won't you tell me howdy?" 

Why should a hop-toad have a voice, or strain 

The Song his throat, when he can compel a poet to sing for 

Hop-Toad ki m lifc e that? Burns sang for a louse and a field 

mouse, Bryant for a mosquito, Emerson for the 



"Mr. Hop-Toad, honest true Springtime don't you love it? 
You old rusty rascal you, at the bottom of it!" 


Songs of the Fields 

bumblebee; the poet who put the snail into met- 
rical measure preferred to remain anonymous, and 
other writers have ranged through nature and 
lifted their voices for almost every living creature; 
but when our own Riley brought every reader of 
his lines down to earth and in harmony with a hop- 
toad, he sang the greatest song of all, for they 
occupy a place with humanity set aside for cater- 
pillars, snakes, and bats. From time immemorial 
men have shuddered on seeing a toad. In connec- 
tion with it such pleasing fiction has been culti- 
vated as that to touch one would develop warts on 
your fingers and make your cow give bloody milk. 
Also they were a component part of the brews 
compounded by witches. 

These silly superstitions, passed from genera- 
tion to generation, were splendid protection to the 
toad. Let it alone ! Who wanted warts on his fin- 
gers and blood in his milk? You may be very 
sure it was left alone. "It 's a toad! Don't touch 
it!" rang the cry. 

So the hop-toad homes in the bushes and un- 
der the vines, sleeping during the heat of the day, 
and coming out in the evening for his food. He 
consumes untold numbers of gnats, mosquitoes, 
small flies, fireflies, and tiny worms on grass blades. 
The home that boasts a hop-toad is particularly 
fortunate, for he is a great scavenger, and his wel- 
come should be hearty. For years we have had 
13 193 

Music of the Wild 

one that lived throughout the summer season among 
the rosebushes along the line fence west of the 
cabin, and no doubt hibernated somewhere on the 
premises. This past summer the same one, or an- 
other similar, moved around to the orchard and 
slept among some sunflowers and wild roses shad- 
ing my bedroom window. My critic found him, 
and came racing to know if I wanted his picture, 
but later she objected to having it used in this book. 
The poem reconstructed her, as it should every one. 
You will find it in complete form in the "Home 
Folk's" volume of Riley's poems, and if you do 
not own the book, get it at once and learn what 
you have missed. As has been explained, the hop- 
toad is one of our home folks and lives very close, 
within a few feet of us, and works as diligently 
for our comfort as the martins of the windmill, 
that, with bats and flycatchers, clear the air over- 
head of insect pests. 

There is perpetual amazement in the amount 
of natural history a poet knows. Does he make 
What an especial study of it or does he see so clearly 
Poets ^| ia ^ an object is photographed on his brain and 
he writes of it without knowing that he has impov- 
erished the text-books? Take this poem by James 
Whitcomb Riley. It is a song of three stanzas, 
with a uniform refrain to each. From it you learn 
the fact that the toad has hibernated; the season 
of his appearance, his location, and his character- 

Songs of the Fields 

istics. In personal appearance, you are told that 
he has a rusty back, a habit of ducking his head, 
a full throat, the palpitant motion of which is 
touched upon, as are his warts, and his "bloat" 
eyes; while in the question, "S'pose I want to 'flict 
you any more 'an what you air?" is encompassed 
a volume on his social status. 

I wish that every person in the world were com- 
pelled to read this poem in order to attain a ra- 
tional attitude concerning so valuable a friend and 
neighbor as the hop-toad, in the first place; and in 
the second, to come to a realization of the things 
that lie at the bottom of the bubbling fountain in 
the heart of a poet. I have had undisputed pos- 
session of all the hop-toads in my vicinity since 
my birth; so the feeling that I had been patted 
on the head and personally commended came to 
me on first reading this exquisite song. 

Every grain field of earth has its choral union, 
but it long has been a study of mine to decide which 
musicians have the loveliest environment. I was My Oat- 
strongly attracted with wheat; corn, rye, buck- Field 
wheat, all had weighty consideration, and clover 
almost tipped the scales of my judgment in its 
favor, but after years of deliberation the choice 
has fallen on oats. This decision rests solely on 
artistic merit. The market value of a subject that 
furnishes me a picture or sings me a song is of 
no consideration. Is it beautiful? Does it touch 

Music of the Wild 

the heart? Does it stir the imagination and force 
expression to the lips? If so, it is past monetary 

We are not dealing with model farms, and so 

in the beginning the upturned earth of my oat field 

Moon- is beautiful, because at the heels of the plowman 

seed on f o u ow larks, blackbirds, bluebirds, and robins pick- 
si Snake . '. . v 
Fence m g grubs; and the warm spring air is vibrant with 

their notes. The field is enclosed by a straggling 
old snake- fence overgrown with carrion vine and 
moonseed; the corners filled with alder, wild rose, 
milkweed, saffron, and wild mustard, and inter- 
laced with dodder in myriads of fine gold threads. 
There are big forest trees all around it, making a 
hedge reaching heavenward. Every insect and 
bird of the field homes there, and the river sing- 
ing along on one side adds not only its voice, but 
the notes of kingfisher, killdeer, sheilpoke, and 

From a few inches in height the growing oats 
show a rare blue-green color with frosty lights, 
seen in no other grain. When the lacy heads are 
almost matured, and nodding "Good-day" to the 
level rays of the setting sun, and bowing "Good- 
evening" to the white lights of the rising moon; 
when one at a time thousands of fireflies rise from 
earth, light their lanterns, and begin the business 
of life; when numberless insects play or sing; 
when the big trees rock softly, cradling sleeping 

Songs of the Fields 

birds, and the river whispers their lullaby, the oat 
field is the most beautiful on God's footstool, and 
it is alive with musicians. 

A few days later, when blue tints give place 
to the gold of approaching ripeness, it is lovely 
in a warm, mellow way. Because there is unlim- The 
ited sameness in a field of growing grain a pho- Son g f 

the Sheaves 

tographic study of it is not pleasing. Ihe time 
to reproduce it is when the cutting is over and 
the harvest stands in shocks, from the canopy of 
which crickets sing, a million in unison. Locusts 
hum in the big trees, wild doves coo from the 
thicket across the river, the clacking reaper rattles 
a rhythmic accompaniment, and my partners, 
bending over the sheaves, touch the scene with 
life and color. I never see harvesters cutting 
grain that I do not think of a command uttered 
by Moses three thousand years ago: "And when 
ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not 
wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt 
thou gather the gleanings of the harvest." Moses 
intended these gleanings to remain for the "poor 
and the stranger." In my country gleanings fall 
to the birds, since these fields know neither the 
poor nor the stranger. Harvesting scenes are so 
touched with life, music, and color that they al- 
ways have been great favorites with artists and 
poets. The most vivid shirt of a workman or 
the red 'kerchief knotted around his throat is not 

Music of the Wild 

so brilliant, however, as the pageant of color 
marching adown the old snake-fence. 

To the whites of alder and the pink of wild 

rose are added the lavender of beard's tongue, 

Wild the blue of bellflower, nodding plumy heads of 

Lilies meac i ow rue? an( j j scattered here and there, wild 

tiger lilies. These bear the palm for brilliant color. 

The flowers are so artistic that decorators almost 

have worn them out for art purposes, and yet no 

one has reproduced them with all the beauty of 

one wild bed I know. 

These lilies grow in rather damp, sandy places, 
sometimes in real swamp, sometimes on land that 
would seem too high and dry for them. They 
have brilliant orange-red faces, thickly freckled 
with brown. The bud is a long point, the half- 
unfolded bloom a trumpet, the full-blown flower 
curls its petals so far back it almost turns inside 
out and fully displays the grace of the long sta- 
mens and pistil. In damp ground the flower color 
is paler, and the stems and buds longer. They 
are of deeper red and low r er growth in dry loca- 
tions; but in half moist, half sandy soil they reach 

For three years from passing railroad trains 

A Moving I had seen the finest bed of these lilies of all my 

Flower-bed ex p er i ence> on l an( J owned by the company, just 

inside the fence enclosing rather deep woods, a 

mile or two below the village of Ceylon, beside the 


Songs of the Fields 

Long farm. This season, when a study of them 
was wanted in their prime, the cameras were loaded, 
and the trip made in all confidence not a lily was 
to be found, nor the ghost of a lily. Even more, 
the embankment next the woods was cut away at 
least a foot in depth, and leveled. Then began a 
search all over my country for a large bed of them, 
with no results. A week had not helped matters, 
when my critic came from a drive and announced 
that beside the railroad, half way to Bryant, was 
a superb growth of lilies that, she thought, was 
just what I wanted. She brought one for a sam- 
ple, and she was not mistaken. 

So great was the fear that flower hunters might 
gather them or railroad employees mow the land 
that the trip was made in the rain. A glance 
showed what had happened. The railroad com- 
pany had cut down the embankment beside the 
Long farm and filled in a low place near the Lim- 
berlost crossing with the earth. In so doing they 
had transplanted my lilies, and greatly to the ad- 
vantage of the flowers; for here they were in a 
moist location, and were shaded all the long, hot 
afternoons. As a result these lilies prove that they 
grew in closer clusters, taller, and with blooms 
very nearly twice the size of the average wild lily. 
After the studies were secured and the flowers 
were needed no longer, they peeped at me from 
several fence corners around the Limberlost, Can- 

Music of the Wild 

oper, and Valley of the Wood Robin, just beyond 
which lay my finest field of oats. 

The bees and all kinds of flies and insects were 
attracted to it by the blooms along the fence ; birds 
Grain-field of every field family sought the insects, the ber- 
Vocahsts r | es Q f fa e bushes, and water. Lift a shock of 
oats, and thousands of black field crickets poured 
from under it. Touch any weed or swaying clover 
head, and a grasshopper sprang from it as if shot 
from a catapult, while the chorus of those scat- 
tered over the field made a constant minor to louder 
notes. So the oats field had more than a fair share 
of inhabitants, and almost without exception they 
were musicians that joined the choir, and sang and 
played incomparably. 

Grasshoppers are extremely interesting. They 
are good-natured, clean, and industrious. They 
must be naturally musical, for they need not sing 
all day and half the night unless they choose. At 
least one would not think their notes compulsory, 
and the production of them appears to be work. 
Grasshoppers seem to be enclosed in a coat of 
mail, so firm and hard is the striped, glassy cov- 
ering. They make music with the stiff wing- 
shields by half raising and rubbing them at the 
base. The notes are a queer "Zerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr" 
of a sound, increasing in volume for a few sec- 
onds, and then falling away in three slow, distinct 
notes, "Tink, tink, tink." 


"Thou dost drink and dance and sing, 
Happier than the happiest king! 
All the fields which thou dost see, 
All the plants belong to thee; 
All the summer hours produce, 
Fertile made with early juice. 
Man for thee does sow and plow, 
Farmer he, and landlord thou!" 

Songs of the Fields 

They are cleanly, else they would not be wash- 
ing forever. It almost appears at times as if they 
must carry a Lady Macbeth curse, that they try The Field 
to wash away. They wash their antennae, heads, " 
bodies, wings, each of their four small feet, and 
then the long, springboard legs and larger feet. 
After a few bites of pollen, plant- juice, or any 
dead insects upon which they may happen, they 
wash again. They are the genuine "water babies" 
of the fields, and the most insistent musicians. 
Sometimes they like the open fields, but a little 
search among the grasses and flowers around the 
old snake- fences will prove hoppers even more nu- 
merous there. This may be because the rails and 
bushes afford protection from bird enemies. 

The unusually wet season of 1907 did many 
queer things afield, none more amazing than the 
growth it made possible among some flowers of 
low habit. Botanists tell you that beard-tongue 
(Pentstemon pubescens) grows from one foot to 
a foot and a third. At that height to the casual 
observer it is almost lost among the grasses and 
undergrowth. This season many people called 
my attention to a delicately colored, lacy, exquisite 
flower they never before had seen. It was beard- 
tongue, growing all through the Limberlost, along 
Canoper way, in Rainbow Bottom, and around the 
fields, to the height of the top of seven-rail fences. 
It sprang up a smooth, thrifty stalk, grew slender 
14 209 

Music of the Wild 

green leaves, and unusually large pale lavender 
flowers of much grace and beauty. 

The blooms are a trumpet-shaped corolla, with 
two escallops turning up and three down. There 
Beard- is a stamen, covered with long hairs, and fertilized 
tongue b y tne p u en i t gathers from the down of visiting 
butterflies and bees. From this organ the plant 
takes its name, beard-tongue. Many people un- 
acquainted with a natural growth gathered and 
were enthusiastic over it at the height of a fence. 
It was very beautiful bordering grain fields, no- 
where more so than around the oats where this 
study was made. 

While birds and insects hover over these old 
snake-fences, the squirrels race along them and 
frightened cotton-tails sail between the rails like 
skilled acrobats. Rabbits burrow their nests in 
grain fields and pastures, and beside the fences 
under the cover of bottom rails and stumps of dead 
trees. Close harvest time their young appear. 
Mere youth and helplessness make its appeal. 
The nestlings of song birds are ugly, naked little 
creatures, blind, and agape. But again, some 
ground builders the quail, rail, and many water 
birds are able to travel on leaving their shells, and 
are irresistible balls of fluff. Newly-born rabbits 
and squirrels are blind and unattractive, but when 
led forth to support themselves are beautiful and 
trustingly innocent. A few days' contact with the 


"There 's beard on pour tongue!" laughed the lily, 
As she tossed her head with wild grace. 

"Laugh all you choose!" said Pentstemon, 
"There 's freckles all over your face!" 

Songs of the Fields 

world teaches them so many painful lessons they 
become wild and shy as their elders. 

When this young cotton-tail no longer felt the 
need of the blanket his mother had raked her sides 
to furnish, he trustingly came out to the big Molly 
world and on a strip of bank posed for many Cotton 
studies. He greedily nibbled leaves, washed his 
face when he finished, with all the care of a grass- 
hopper, and then stretched himself for a sunbath. 
When his pictures were taken he was put with the 
remainder of his family at the edge of the oats. 
It must be that rabbits escape their natural ene- 
mies with much skill, or else they breed in untold 
numbers, for every fall and winter men slaughter 
them without mercy, and each succeeding fall they 
seem to be quite as numerous. 

Hunters say that despite speed in running they 
are silly creatures, and often sit perfectly still, 
trusting to the resemblance of their fur to sur- 
rounding dry grass and weeds to protect them, un- 
til they are killed. Xot being a hunter, I can tell 
little about these animals when pursued. If hunted 
with a camera that is concealed and focused on the 
mouth of their burrow, and a feM r apples, pieces 
of cabbage or carrots, of which they are especially 
fond, left around, they tame rapidly and take 
many interesting poses. It is doubtful if there is 
anything so wild that it is not susceptible to judi- 
cious friendly advances. We read in the Book of 

Music of the Wild 

James, "For every kind of beasts, and of birds, 
and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, 
and hath been tamed of mankind." 

In most cases this word "tamed" should be 
changed to "broken." When birds and beasts are 
Caging trapped in their wild estate, caged and starved or 
the Wild b ea t en m t non-resistance or through familiarity 
endure the presence of men without signs of fear, 
they are said to be "tamed." In fact, they are 
heart-broken for home, starving for natural diet, 
and crazed for lack of space, so that they are 
slowly dying, and too desolate to resist. Think of 
a bird that has ranged the heavens from Canada 
to Patagonia reduced to the hop from perch to 
perch and the folded wing estate of a two by three 
foot cage and that is considered unusually large. 
Or of a beast that has roamed the forest and marsh 
for miles being confined inside bars where it can 
not turn without touching steel. Is it any wonder 
these "tamed" creatures kill when they have op- 
portunity? Our laws provide for the taming of 
"wild" men in the same manner, and it is notice- 
able that they, too, kill at the slightest chance for 
escape, if they do not lose their reason and mur- 
der the first person they meet. 

There is a shrub frequenting many of my 
fence corners that has escaped art and that decora- 
tors do not know. I think it has great possibilities. 
It grows to the average height of fence-corner 

Songs of the Fields 

shrubs such as papaw and alder, and, if it had op- 
portunity, no doubt would make a medium-sized 
tree. The stems are smooth and round, quite deeply The Bum- 
indented in places with the strain of growth. The ing Bush 
leaves are large, nobly shaped, and variable in 
shades of color ; rather thick for a leaf, and pulpy. 
The blooms are little clusters of white florets, not 
at all remarkable. 

The shrub takes its name from the seed pods. 
These pods are scattered sparsely over a bush, 
hang from long, graceful stems, and are divided 
into three or four sections, the shape of which can 
be seen in the picture, the color coral-pink. Each 
of these thirds or quarters, as the case may be, con- 
tains a seed. When the seed is ripe the section 
opens, forcing the triangles apart and displaying 
the flame-colored inside. This interior color is the 
crowning glory and beauty of the bush, for which 
it is named. There is no doubt at all but the sci- 
entist who classified it thought of Moses and the 
"burning bush," and so gave that name to the 

This burning bush, to my knowledge, flourishes 
in half a dozen different soils and locations, mak- 
ing me believe it would be particularly adaptive 
for lawn ornamentation. These seed pods cling 
after the leaves fall, and give a touch of brilliant 
color to their location that would be particularly 
appreciated, for most of the bushes we buy of our 

Music of the Wild 

florists are a cluster of bare twigs in winter. When 
the pods open, the membranes incasing the seed 
are bright carmine, exactly the shade of the inner 
lining of Ebony mus Americanus. 

The shrubs and bushes beside these old fences 
are tenanted from leaf to ground with life, and 
What did a volume of sound arises constantly from earth in 
Katy do ? |- ne summer time. The clearest emmciator and the 
handsomest insect of all is the katy-did. What a 
very, very delightful thing it must have been that 
Katy did! How her descendants rejoice in telling 
it over and over. It of necessity had to be some- 
thing wonderfully fine. In all the world there is 
not enough rancor to sing of an evil deed adown 
all time since the morning of creation. But this 
charming thing that Katy did has been celebrated 
from the beginning, and will be to the end. Surely 
it was something big and broad, beneficial to all 
her race, and the wide world as well else why are 
her minstrels forever celebrating her act? It had 
to be something obvious, too; for while they con- 
stantly affirm the deed, they never specify just 
what was done, and this neglect must arise from 
the fact that they suppose all of us know. I be- 
lieve Katy was the first of her family to discover 
sound and teach all of her relatives to voice the 
fullness of their joy in life on their fiddles in such 
exquisite measure and inflection that they deceive 
most of us into thinking it song. To have given 


They thought how the Lord spoke to Moses, 
When they saw its glowing flame, 

And so they said to each other, 
"Burning bush " shall be its name. 

Songs of the Fields 

to her kin their medium of self-expression, that 
would have entitled Katy to the immortality she 
has earned. 

"Katy did!" triumphs one of her admirers, as 
if it were a fact just discovered. 

"Katy did it!" emphasizes another worshiper. 

"Katy did!" corroborates a friend in the next 

"Katy did it!" iterates the first, with all assur- 
ance; and the manner in which these exquisite in- 
sects can emphasize their notes is marvelous. Not 
a bird of ornithology can speak plainer, better- 
accented English than they, not even the whip- 
poor-will; and no insects can approach them. 
Compared with their clean-cut, distinctly enunci- 
ated syllables, all the remainder of their insect rel- 
atives are mere scrapers, buzzers, and hummers. 

The remarkable thing about it is that the 
speech is made by the contact of the glassy plates How 
at the base of the wings, and in much the same Kat y dldlt 
manner as the grasshopper produces his strident 
buzz. Because the fields seem to be the true home 
of the katy-did does not prevent the family from 
scattering widely. There are a few in the forest, 
many in the marshes, and from the fields they 
come close country homes. Most of their music 
is made in August and September, when they are 
matured, mating, and depositing their eggs. 

No insect of their species is so beautiful as 

Music of the Wild 

they. The adult is a solid green of pale color, yel- 
lowish in faint tints in some lights, a dainty bluish 
Katy y s in others. The faceplate and wide "choker" ap- 
Costume p ear to ^ e o f tne same glassy coat of mail as those 
of the grasshopper. The legs are very long, and 
the hind pair has claspers. The wings resemble 
deeply veined and grooved leaves, the musical 
plates showing at the bases. The insect is very 
narrow of body, but quite deep, and the back and 
abdomen are sharp ridges. The antennae are al- 
most twice the length of the body, and so hair-fine 
that a camera focused on a katy-did does not re- 
cord their full extent. With these they explore 
their path, lightly touching objects before them to 
find footing and avoid danger. Their greatest 
protection lies in their close resemblance to tender 
green leaves. 

They have what appears to be a stubby little 
tail turning up at the back. This is the instru- 
ment with which they insert their eggs between the 
layers of a green leaf in the fall. The leaf drops, 
and lies during the winter, and the next summer 
the egg develops into a tiny katy-did, that emerges 
and sets to work foraging on the under side of 
foliage. All that is accomplished by growth in this 
insect is to become larger, as they are always shaped 
much the same; possibly the young ones are of a 
more tender, yellowish green, that changes to a 
bluish cast as they reach maturity. 

Songs of the Fields 

Katy-dids are immaculately clean, dainty in- 
sects. No other member of the "hopper" group 
moves with such calm deliberation. They have all 
the time there is, and seem to know it. They never 
hurry and are wholly lacking in the nervous energy 
of the grasshopper, cricket, and locust. So very 
deliberate are they that there is a possibility, fos- 
tered by their constant wetting of the feet with a 
mucus they eject, that walking is a difficult mat- 
ter for them, and one to be accomplished only with 
great caution. To my mind the katy-did is the 
handsomest, the best musician, and the most inter- 
esting of all insects anywhere near its family. 

From the frequent overflowing of the river, 
that not only decays but washes away rails, one 
side of my oat field is profaned by a short stretch The 
of wire fence. This is to be forgiven only be- ^ nake 

. J Fence 

cause, as can be seen so clearly, it is necessary. 
Then, too, it is in such a damp, shaded place that 
no harm whatever results. The vines and bushes 
almost cover the wire, and queer long-legged water 
birds tilt and rock when they try to perch on it. 
Where it escapes the river the old rail fence still 
stands, and every year clothes it with richer beauty 
and brings it alas! like all the remainder of the 
world nearer the end. 

I have cause for quarrel with scientists who 
named many of our flowers and vines. It seems 
at times as if they tried themselves, as witness: 
15 225 

Music of the Wild 

monkey flower, butterfly weed,, jewelweed, toad- 

flax, and carrion vine. Of all the decorations that 

incon- entwine these old fences none is more beautiful 

gruous than the carrion vine. But what a name ! Enough 


Names to prejudice any one. All because the ball of 
greenish-yellow bloom has a faint pungent odor 
that impressed Linnaeus, or some other early writer, 
as slightly disagreeable. It can not be so very 
noxious, either, for the bees should know their busi- 
ness, and they gather its pollen eagerly. God put 
that pungent, almost sour odor in some flowers to 
cut the cloying sweetness of others, and make 
honey edible. 

So this beautiful vine is disgraced, and there 
are so many more appropriate names it might have 
borne quite as well. It is difficult to understand 
why a slightly unusual odor of the flower should 
have been emphasized, while the exquisite cutting 
and texture of the leaves is overlooked. They are 
heart-shaped at the base, curving off to a long 
lance-point, of delicate texture, and of lovely 
shades of green that vary as the light falls on them. 
So why not name it "lance leaf" or "golden globe," 
either of which is quite as appropriate as carrion 
vine and not suggestive of anything objectionable. 
Another common, but peculiar vine of my ter- 
ritory is wild yam, the dried seed pods of which 
form nature's best rattlebox. Dioscorea villosa is 
a great beauty. Its leaves are a perfect heart- 


"Lavish my gold on the earth," cried the Lord: 

"Color the stately saffron head, 
Paint the dandelion and lily cup, 

And burnish the marsh flower bed!" 

Songs of the Fields 

shape as a heart is conventionalized, and so deeply 
veined that their golden-green surfaces catch the 
light in hills and hollows. Where the vine grows 
in bright sunlight along the road these leaves are 
so closely set they overlap like the scales on a fish. 
Its bloom is insignificant, the male flowers droop- 
ing clusters, the female spike-like heads. The seeds 
are small triangles, and a number of them are 
placed on a long stem. When these are dry and 
shaken by winter winds they make as good music 
as the hop tree. 

Another old snake fence corner pet of mine, 
that flourishes in cultivation, and that is dignified 
and an artistic plant, is wild saffron. It bears Wild 
transplanting well, and if its location and soil are Saffron 
at all congenial, in a few years it grows into a most 
attractive bush. It reaches from three to four feet 
in height, many shoots upspringing from the same 
root. The stems are round, smooth, and even, with 
a slight yellow tint to their green, that extends to 
the leaves also. These are set at different places, 
and point in all directions. They are very grace- 
ful, as each is made up of twenty small leaves 
set on a midrib. Approaching the top, the last 
nine or ten have a small spray of bloom branch- 
ing from their bases. 

These little bloom-sprays and the large crown 
of the plant are masses of small individual yellow 
flowers having five cuppy petals of unequal length, 

Music of the Wild 

and anthers so dark-brown as to be mistaken for 
black at a casual glance. Both the leaves and 
the bloom-clusters help to give it a delicate, lacy 
appearance. I can not so describe the flowers as 
to paint an adequate idea of their richness. The 
separate sprays at the leaf bases appear lighter 
yellow than the massive head and show the indi- 
vidual flowers better. The crown is a conical mist 
of gold accented by touches of almost black. Saf- 
fron is a stately and distinguished plant of great 
beauty in the fence corners, where it has a strug- 
gle to preserve its individuality among the masses 
of growth around it. On a lawn its every feature 
of distinction would be enhanced. 

One point that should be of especial interest to 
those who wish to try the cultivation of wild flowers 
and trees on their premises, is the range of color 
in the mid-summer and fall species. Many people 
relying on cultivated shrubs and flowers grow a 
mass of spring and early summer bloom, and have 
bare shrubs and leafless vines in fall and winter. 
The field flowers are a blaze of color all summer 
until frost, and there are several vines, bushes, and 
trees that are brilliant with seeds and berries 
throughout the winter. 

Few words of our language are more suggest- 

Green ive of peace and comfort than "pasture." Pasto- 

Pastures rem ^ & g reen feeding-ground, according to the old 

Latins. And wherever there is a green feeding- 


Songs of the Fields 

ground you may be very sure you will find the 
shade of trees and bushes, and frequently there is 
running water. Wherever you locate these you 
hear a swelling bird and insect chorus. From the 
dawn of history men in travel and in burden-bear- 
ing have been very dependent on their beasts, and 
so have sought to make suitable provision for them. 
This setting off a space of growing food for stock 
is without date, and over and over the chroniclers of 
the Bible made use of the comparison of the care of 
men for their flocks with the care of God for men. 

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He 
leadeth me beside the still waters." 

The bodily comfort we give to our beasts made 
the basis of a comparison with the spiritual com- 
fort God gives us, in one of the most beautiful ex- 
pressions ever portrayed in language, "He mak- 
eth me to lie down in green pastures." Before the 
eye rises the picture of a lush, green meadow sprin- 
kled with daisies and dotted with buttercups; the 
lark overhead, and the full-fed cattle lying pic- 
tures of contentment in the shade of the newly- 
leafing trees that ring with the songs of courting 
birds. The thought of a pasture is in some way 
connected with spring; perhaps because, as at no 
other time, the cattle cry for it, and beg piteously 
to be released to natural food. At that time the 
pastures are green; later they may not be. Then 

Music of the Wild 

the cattle, dry-fed during the long winter, graze 
and graze until they become so fat the milk they 
give grows richer, and housewives make what they 
call "clover" butter. 

When man treats the beasts that sustain and 
enrich him with the consideration he would like 
A Sign were he a beast, we have one of the very highest 
of God in s jg ns o f the grace of God in the human heart. 
This study was made at almost four o'clock in the 
afternoon, when the cattle, after a day of grazing, 
were lying in fullfed content. It was so early in 
the season that hickory and late-leafing trees were 
bare, but already the stock sought for their resting- 
place the shade afforded by maple and elms. 

There was no real necessity for shelter. The 
heat was not sufficient to worry them, but the in- 
clination to lie in the shade was instinctive. Scat- 
tered around this pasture and in almost every 
fence corner there grows a tree for the express pur- 
pose of providing comfort for the stock and a 
choir-loft for field musicians. How the cattle ap- 
preciate this can be seen by their gathering to lie 
in the strip of light shade in the early spring! If 
they seek a sheltered spot when they really do not 
need it, what would become of them in the burn- 
ing heat of July and August without it? How 
the birds love it they tell you in their notes of 
bubbling ecstasy. 

Not far from this pasture are the grazing lands 

e ( 




Songs of the Fields 

of some "progressive" farmers. These fields are 
enclosed in straight wire fences, guiltless of a leaf 
for shelter, so they offer migrant musicians no in- Songless 
ducement to locate there. All the season tortured Pastures 
horses and cattle graze in early morning and even- 
ing, and at noontime stand in restless groups, striv- 
ing to drive away the flies, and find shelter from 
each other's bodies ; for neither cattle nor horses lie 
w r hen they have finished grazing unless there is 
shade. To rest in the open would be to place them- 
selves between two fires the reflected heat from 
the earth and the direct heat from the sun. 

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures," 
I quoted, when passing such a field on a scorching 
August day. 

"He sendeth His rain to the just as well as to 
the unjust," quoted my critic, in reply. "You 
know if I were He, I would not. I would send 
rain only to pastures with trees in them, and burn 
all the remainder." 

So we agreed to keep watch as we drove across 
the country, making these illustrations, and see 
how much we could learn of the disposition of the 
farmers by the manner in which they provided for 
their stock and their birds. Soon it became ap- 
parent that the man who stripped a pasture of 
every tree treated his family with no greater con- 
sideration. There was scarcely a tree anywhere on 
his premises. In one place we counted four big 

Music of the Wild 

stumps, all within a few rods of the house that 
the felled trees had shaded from noon until sunset. 
These trees had been cut within the past two years, 
and the house had stood for many. There was not 
a growth anywhere around it except a few scrub 
cedars, and not a bird note. It was bared to the 
burning heat. 

What would it have meant to the women and 
children of that stopping-place, for there was no 
A Road- sign of home around it, to have had the tight pal- 
side Dream m g_ f ence torn away from the few yards immedi- 
ately surrounding the house; the shelter of those 
big trees, with an easy seat beneath them, and a 
hammock swinging betM-een? I dreamed those 
trees were growing again and filled with bird notes, 
that fence down, a coat of fresh paint on the house, 
the implements standing in the barn lot sheltered, 
and one day's work spent in arranging the prem- 
ises. Into the dream would come a vision of open 
doors and windows, the sound of the voices of con- 
tented women, the shouts of happy children, and 
the chirping of many birds. 

Some farms belong to men my critic calls a 
"tight-wad." That is not a classic expression; but 
if you saw the lands from which every tree had 
been sold, the creeks and ponds dried and plowed 
over, the fields inclosed in stretches of burning 
wire fence to allow cultivation within a few inches 
of it, not a bird note sounding, you w^ould un- 


"Every clod feels a stir of might, 

An instinct within it that reaches and towers 
And, blindly groping above it for light, 
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers." 

Songs of the Fields 

derstand why the term is suitable as none other. 
Even if the Almighty did give the earth to the 
children of men, it scarcely seems fair to Him to Nature's 
efface every picture and hush all song. It is dim- 
cult to realize just what would happen were most 
men farming by this method. But we still have 
left some degree of comfort because there are so 
many of nature's gentle men: men who see the 
pictures, hear the songs, and wish to perpetuate 
them for their children. 

I know a farm that has been for three genera- 
tions in the same family, passing from father to 
son. The home mark the word is on a little hill 
in the middle of the land, obscured by surround- 
ing trees from the road and its dust and travel. 
The quaint old house is a story and a half, and a 
porch extends the length of the front and both 
sides. That home even turns its back to the road. 
The front porch and door face the orchard in the 
center of the land, "where father always sat when 
he rested, so that he could hear the birds and bees 
sing," the son told me. 

There are old beehives under the trees, and the 
grass is long and fine. One could look at that 
orchard in mid-winter and tell to a certainty just 
what music would swell there in June. The blue- 
bird would claim the hollow apple tree, the catbird 
the plum thicket, the robin, jay, and dove the ap- 
ple trees, and the ground sparrow the earth. The 
16 241 

Music of the Wild 

hens would mother broods there, the turkeys slip 
around warily, and the guineas clatter in the 
grass. Martins and swallows homing under the 
barn eaves would sail above the trees, and black- 
birds from the creek would build on high branches. 
But no dream could encompass all the music that 
would swell there throughout the summer. 

Any lover of sunshine, bird song, and orchard 
pictures almost could see the old man who finished 
his day's work and then rested himself with music, 
sitting beneath his trees, worshiping God in na- 
ture. I have known many men like him, and all 
of them had bodies as strong as their trees, music 
in their hearts if the birds failed to sing, and faces 
serene as summer skies. 

The garden lies on one side of the dooryard, the 
barn lot on the other. The garden is a quaint 
An Old- commingling of use and beauty. There are rasp- 
ashionod ^gj.^ currant, and gooseberry bushes along the 
sides and across the foot, but on either hand at the 
front gate are flowers. Large clusters of white 
lilies grow by each post, and cinnamon pink, lark- 
spur, ragged robin, and many sweet, old-fashioned 
blooms overflow the beds. Straight down the cen- 
ter is another big flower-bed, and at each side of it 
squares of radishes, onions, lettuce, salsify, spinach, 
strawberries, everything edible, and all flower- 
bordered. In each corner is a peach tree, and there 
are others scattered here and there. 


"Give fools their gold, and knaves their power, 

Let fortune's bubbles rise and fall; 
Who sows a field, or trains a flower, 
Or plants a tree, is more than all." 

Songs of the Fields 

The dooryard is filled with pear, plum/ apple, 
and some fine, big walnut trees. The barn is of 
logs; and at the door and all around the well and 
watering-trough are beds of crushed stone. Across 
the end of the house, facing the road, "father" 
built a schoolroom. It was fifteen feet wide and 
twenty long. There he taught the neighbors' chil- 
dren in winter and dried fruit in summer. Just 
back of the house a large meadow, tree-sprinkled, 
stretches down to the road, and in the corner next 
to the barn grow three willows so mighty that they 
called me to them, and so I discovered a home, 
and "father" and "mother." 

In a little dip in the meadow near the barn 
"father" planted those three willows thirty years 
ago. When they had grown to sufficient size to Comfort 
make enough shade, because the barn was low and for Stock 
hot, he built this big feed-trough under them, and 
then he carried corn and grain to it. The trough 
is six feet wide, eighteen long, and six inches deep. 
One of the trees is nine feet in circumference, one 
twelve, and one fourteen; and "all the birds of 
the heaven make their nests" in these boughs, while 
the trees sing unceasingly. The watering-trough, 
that father always kept filled, stands along the side 
of the yard fence next the barn. There must be 
forty acres. of woods, from which trees have been 
taken only for fuel and to let in enough light to 
make the grass grow for pasture. 

Music of the Wild 

I never saw "father" and "mother." They 

were gone before the willows called me. Her son 

"Father" told me that "mother had big brown eyes and 

and white hair, and her cheeks were always a little 

Mother" . ._. 

pink. Of course they were. .Like the cinnamon 
pinks of her garden. So by the lilies and the rag- 
ged robins and her porch, facing from the dust 
and turmoil of travel, we know "mother." And 
by the schoolhouse he built with his hands, by the 
cultivation of beauty and music all around his 
home and entire farm, by the neatness of his barns 
and outbuildings, by the trees he spared and the 
trees he planted, we know "father." By these 
things we know where "father" is to-day. So when 
the last book is written and the last picture made, 
if I have done my work nearly so well as "father" 
did his, perhaps we will have a happjr meeting. 

I should love to tell him that his work lives as 
an example to his neighbors; how his w r illows have 
grown, and that they called me from afar, and I 
put them into a book for thousands to see, that 
they might learn of his great-hearted humanity. 
I shall want to tell him how many hours I have 
lain on the grass under the big pear tree at the 
corner of his house, of all the lunches I have eaten 
on the front porch looking into the orchard, of 
the cotton-tails that yet scampered there unafraid, 
and how one season a little red-eyed vireo built 
on a branch of the apple tree swaying across 

Songs of the Fields 

the end of the porch just above where "mother" 
always sat with her mending. Heaven is heaven 
because it will allow me to tell "father" and 
"mother" these things. 

One of the beautiful trees this man spared for 
decorative purposes was the buckeye. I wonder 
if it was so named from the resemblance of the The 
rich dark-brown nut to the eye of the deer. The Bucke y e 
trees grow more rapidly than some others, flourish- 
ing on upland, slightly sandy soil. The buds are 
large and open, to display vivid streaks of red 
and yellow in the spring. The colors are very 
rich. The flower is a long tassel, covered by tiny 
florets of greenish yellow. The leaves are oblong, 
deeply veined, and grow in clusters of four to the 

The fruit is a round nut, encased in a pulpy 
hull, dotted with warts of a bright tan-yellow in 
the fall. The nuts and hulls sometimes drop to- 
gether, and sometimes the hull opens and the nut 
falls alone. The nuts are a rich dark-red ma- . 
hogany, and in them lies the one objection to the 
tree. To some children they are poisonous, and 
also to grazing stock. Where these dangers can 
be avoided they are beautiful trees for ornament- 
ing lawns. 

Of all my country none is so truly mine as the 
old orchards. On almost every farm of the present 
day there is a deserted orchard. These trees are 

Music of the Wild 

worthless commercially, but at times they bear 
fruit that can be used for cider at least; so their 
Old Or- lives are spared. In some of these orchards the 
chards cabin of tne father or grandfather who first wres- 
tled with the forest yet stands. In many of them 
the home has fallen to decay or been torn down 
for firewood, but the apple trees remain even in 
plowed fields and amidst growing grain. These 
trees are monuments to a deeply-rooted objection 
to cutting a fruit tree, in spite of the fact that 
they produce small, sour, blighted, and wormy 

Almost without exception the old snake-fences 
surround them, weighted with loads of growing 
shrubs and vines, and on and under them home 
field mice, moles, rabbits, chipmunks, lizards, birds 
of low habit, night moths, and bugs and insects of 
innumerable species. The grass grows long, rank, 
and so silken fine it is delightful to lie and thread 
it through the fingers, and recite those exquisite 
lines of Walt Whitman's, 

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, 
Out of hopeful green stuff woven." 

Nearly all the old orchards are on the highest 
spot of a farm and near the center of the land. 
These pioneers had the English plan of an estate, 
with the residence in the middle, away from the 
annoyance of travel and the dust of the highway. 

Songs of the Fields 

But the inclination of their children seems to be 
to see how close to the road they can live. In- 
deed, many men owning several hundred acres of 
land covered with a half dozen valuable building 
sites, elevations that would insure a dry cellar, san- 
itary surroundings, all the breeze passing, and the 
seclusion that is due a family, build their homes 
solely with an eye to living on the road. If they 
are fond of surface water in their wells, which 
breeds typhoid fever, dust, heat, and constant tres- 
pass of travelers, no one can interfere, and the re- 
sult is splendid for the birds and for me. 

The farther away from the old orchard the 
new home is builded the surer am I of finding 
among the trees shy doves from river thickets, The 
brown thrashers, warblers, and bright-eyed vireos, H y mn 
in addition to the catbirds, bluebirds, kingbirds, orchard 
robins, and screech owls that habitually home there. 
Also the long grass invites the larks and ground 
sparrows to join the chorus. And what a song it 
is! The rough bark of old apple trees is a table 
spread for larvee seekers, and the masses of bloom 
a far call to insect hunters, so that from earliest 
spring these beautiful old orchards are the veri- 
table choir-loft of the Lord, and from them arises 
one constant volume of joyful praise and thanks- 
giving. Even in the night the orioles nestle con- 
tentedly on their perches, and you can hear them 
talk about the goodness of God in their sleep. 

Music of the Wild 

Fifteen feet high in the branches of one of 
these old apple trees a robin built her nest before 
A True leafage in the wet, cold April of 1907. There 
Mother were t wo eggs when one morning found the cradle 
filled with snow, and I thought she would desert 
it, but later she returned. Surely brooding bird 
never had a more uncomfortable time. The tree 
had borne apples the previous year, and of course 
she thought it alive and expected protection from 
the leaves. It was quite dead, and never a sign of 
bloom or leaf appeared. 

The weather changed abruptly each day. With 
no shelter whatever she sat through freezing nights, 
snowy days, sleet, rain, and flashes of hot sunshine. 
When she had four babies almost ready to leave 
the nest, a terrific cold rain began on Saturday 
morning. By afternoon it poured, and she pointed 
her bill skyward and gasped for breath. I fully 
expected that she would desert the nest and seek 
shelter before morning, but she remained, although 
drenched and half dead. That rain continued all 
of Sunday, pouring at times, until Monday morn- 
ing. Although I watched by the hour, not once 
from the time it began until rifts of sunlight 
showed Monday morning did I see her leave her 
nest or feed the young, or her mate bring her a 
morsel of food. For an hour at a stretch, several 
times a day, I thought she would drown. My lad- 
der had been erected for some time before her lo- 

Songs of the Fields 

cation, and by noon Monday I resumed a series 
of pictures of her nesting history. There were sev- 
eral dozen of them, representing every phase of 
her home life, the one I use here being especially 

Both birds attended the young alternately, 
with the difference that when the father fed them 
he removed a faeces and flew away. When the 
mother arrived she performed the same operation, 
and then, setting her breast feathers on end, slowly 
moved over the young, who thrust their heads 
against her breast, and she brooded them until the 
male returned. I loved to see the young move 
toward her and watch the sudden swell of the 
feathers to admit them. Several times I was 
tempted to record it, but thought the act was too 
fast for my lens. However, as I had almost every- 
thing else, I decided to try, and that morning as 
I detected the impulse to lift the feathers with the 
snuggling of the young, I snapped. The bird that 
disdained shelter and kept his head out when the 
mother moved over the nest, left it before the day 
was done. 

Robins are true orchard birds, wonderfully 
friendly, and great worm consumers; in fact such 
fabulous numbers are fed to young robins that The Value 
many times over one is repaid for the few apples of a Robm 
and cherries they pick later. They are invaluable 
aids in agriculture, and every robin nest a farmer 
17 257 

Music of the Wild 

finds in his dooryard or orchard is worth five dol- 
lars to him above all the birds possibly can destroy, 
and the music they make, especially the song they 
sing in the rain, should be above price. Robins are 
the alarm clocks of the fields, for almost without 
exception they wake the morning and all birds 
with their glad cry, "Cheer up!" 

These old orchards home many big night moths, 
one that reminds me of the robin. The caterpillar 
An feeds on apple leaves, and its cocoons frequently 
Orchard are S p un on o ] ( i trees either on a water sprout at 
the base or high among the branches. The pre- 
dominant color of this moth is the steel-gray of 
the robin, shading darker and lighter, and it has 
prominent markings, half-moon shaped, on its 
wings, almost the color of the robin's breast. It is 
more gaudy than the bird, however, for it also has 
lines of white, faint lines of black, wider ones of 
tan, and dark-blue circles. It is the commonest of 
all large moths, and is around almost every coun- 
try home at night, and frequents cities as well; 
but because it is a creature of darkness, many peo- 
ple live a lifetime where it is oftenest found and 
never make its acquaintance. 

Of all the birds that frequent orchards near 
Majesty homes, and those rarer ones that settle in my de- 
serte ^ orc hards, the kingbird is most appropriately 
named; for he is king, and his mate is queen, and 
the apple tree they select is a palace, and the nest 


When the sun has gone to rest, 
And the moon rears her shining crest, 
The night moth courts in orchard glade, 
To the screech owl's wavering serenade. 

Songs of the Fields 

is their throne-room. So ably do they defend it 
that never in all my life have I seen a pair con- 
quered or their nest despoiled. The king is not 
such a large bird smaller than a robin, of robin- 
gray, with a white throat and black tail having a 
white tip ; but he is stoutly built, plump, and pugil- 
istic, and of truly remarkable agility on wing. He 
has a smoky, black, rounding crest, and wings of 
the same color. Kingbirds give their young the 
worms that feed on grass blades, small flies, and 
moths that flutter close to the ground. They per- 
form a variety of acrobatics on wing in search of 
food, poising over orchard and meadow hunting 
prey, and darting after it in headlong flight, with 
indescribable turnings and twistings of tireless 

This habit of food-catching in air prepares 
them for the battles they wage on wing, for so 
agile are they, so hardy, and of such unfaltering 
courage, that they attack anything threatening 
their nests. I have seen them chase crows, dusky 
falcons, and in one case a large hawk, in pell-mell 
flight across the sky, and their deft twistings en- 
abled them to escape unharmed, while they darted 
savagely at heads and eyes and put their enemies 
completely to rout. With any bird close their own 
size a mewling catbird or a jay wanting a newly- 
hatched nestling for desert they make quick dis- 


Music of the Wild 

There is very little art in their nests, but their 
eggs are beautifully decorated. The young are 
colored similar to their elders, the families large 
and so cunning as to be irresistible. No bird is 
more useful in an orchard, unless, indeed, it be a 
cuckoo, which is of great value because it eats cat- 
erpillars. In protecting an orchard from jays, 
hawks, and crows, such a pair of fighters saves you 
dozens of more gentle timid birds that carry worms 
and bugs by the million from fruit trees. In con- 
sideration of this you should acknowledge their 
royalty and offer them every encouragement to 
reign over your premises. 

As we regard harmony, the kingbird is the least 

musical resident of the orchard. Tilting on a 

Titled lookout from the top of the tree in which his nest 

\ ace ^ h e uses w } ia ^ t o me SOU nds like, "Ka-tic, 
a-tic, a-tic," for a tribal call and means of com- 
munication between pairs. His sustained song, if 
song it may be called, appeals to me as "Ka-tic, 
a-tic, querr, kerrr, kerrr!" but it is not composed 
of either mellow or musical tones, and is at all 
times inflected as if it were a continued call of de- 
fiance; so that the good folk who attribute to him 
a "sweet musical song, softly warbled," are the 
veriest romancers. 

The picture here given show r s a nest nearly fif- 
teen feet high in one of these old orchards, around 
which I worked until the story of what I did with 


The apple-tree becomes a Palace, 

When the Queen-bird builds her throne, 

And a doughty soldier the King-bird \ 
As he stoutly guards his own. 

Songs of the Fields 

these birds would sound like romance of another 
variety, did I not have a picture just as good as 
this to prove every statement I make. Not a leaf 
of the location was touched, but as it was a sec- 
ond nesting for the season, and in July, the heat 
was so intense that despite the shade of her chosen 
location the mother bird often lolled on the nest, 
as in this picture. The wonderful thing about it 
is that after a few days I placed the camera on 
the top of a ladder opposite the nest and near 
enough to secure reproductions of this size. The 
old birds were so convinced of my good intentions 
that I obtained dozens of poses as good as this, 
and even better, of each of them. I took their 
young from the nest and photographed them every 
day for the last four days before they left home, 
replaced them, and they remained even a day and 
a half after I had finished. 

It is a truth that I can prove amply by reli- 
able people who watched the performance from 
afar, that both old birds sat in the top of their 
tree and never took flight or made a sound while 
the young were away from the nest, and at once 
went on feeding them when they were replaced. 
Of course, I handled those young from the time 
they were little pin-feathered things, and they had 
no fear of me. If they had cried, I fancy the 
old ones would have been alarmed. But that birds 
of their universally admitted pugnacious charac- 

Music of the Wild 

ter would permit me to handle their young, and 
even remove them from the nest for a half hour 
at a time, proves they know enough to distinguish 
friends from foes. It shows that even the wildest 
creatures can be tamed to your will by persistent 
kindness and unlimited patience in approaching 

These birds are never more beautiful and in- 
teresting than when on wing, food-hunting. The 
waving grass of the orchard is one ground for 
them; the shrubs covering the fence, another. 
Other writers have expatiated at length on the 
wild rose, alder, and goldenrod that grow along 
these old fences; I wish to call attention to the 
bloom of the scarlet haw. The kingbirds taught 
me to I followed them to learn what 
insect they hunted there. I found several differ- 
ing flies and gnats, and sometimes a bee was 
snapped up. 

The scarlet haw does not bloom in crowded clus- 
ters, as does its cousin, the red haw. I have found 
The Scarlet eight blooms to a cluster, again four or five, and 
Haw Choir j- en ^ mes a s often six, thus establishing an average 
and preserving detail. Each blossom has five ex- 
quisitely cut and cupped petals, dainty stamens 
and pistil, and long enough stem to display the full 
beauty of the flower without pushing it into the 
others. Neither are these clusters crowded on the 
bush so closely as to lose their individuality, and 

Songs of the Fields 

they bloom so late that while the leaves are vet 
tender and of paler green than later in the season, 
many of them are full size and dark enough in 
color to form a background that emphasizes the 
daintiness and purity of the blooms and makes 
them the beauties of the entire haw family. The 
fruit is scarlet in color and not good to eat. 
The flowers will set the joy-song singing in any 
appreciative heart, and their perfume calls 
up a choir of half-intoxicated, nectar-loving in- 

I have seen night hawks soaring late in the 
evening above old orchards, and heard whip-poor- 
wills cry there, but I think they only settled in Night 
flight for a time, as they might in any secluded Music 
growth of trees. The night bird that really homes, orchard 
breeds, and lives there summer and winter is the 
screech owl. It would be the funniest thing in 
ornithology to see a plucked screech owl or parrot. 
Small owls are such comical creatures in their 
feathers, such caricatures of their great horned 
relatives of the forest! 

Most familiar in the orchards are the little 
brown screechers, and slightly larger ones of a 
cool gray, tan, brown, and black coloring. I am 
very fond of them because I know so well how 
happy they are, how unusually secure in the hol- 
low apple tree, and how successful their hunting. 
I believe they have Jess cause than many other birds 

Music of the Wild 

to be unhappy over anything, and so, of course, 
their songs are of love and contentment. 

The owl has been shuddered at for a sufficient 
length of time. Now for a change I wish to sug- 
The Owls' gest that the people who write further history of 
Serenade j-^ p u j. themselves in the bird's place and describe 
his song as it is sung,, and not as it appeals to the 
interpreter's fancy. I love to hear a screech owl 
screech. It means that he is having a hilarious 
time. His heart is bubbling over with the joy of 
cool, dim night life in the orchard, or throbbing 
with the exultation of the mating fever. He is a 
friendly, social bird. Every winter he comes 
around the cabin hunting food, and he will answer 
my repetition of his calls until I become uncom- 
fortable and close the window. Every time he lifts 
his voice he is either locating his mate, happy 
enough to talk about it or pleading for a wife 
and home. He is the most contented bird of the 
orchard and almost without exception its only 
night singer. 

A hollow apple tree is his favorite home, and 
from four to six the number of his children. I 
doubt if the anatomy of any bird contains a mem- 
ber more wonderful than the eye of an owl. The 
organ of vision is fixed in a socket so that the bird 
turns its head instead of its eyes, and they are sur- 
rounded by a reflector of fine, closely set feathers, 
while the composition of the ball is so intricate as 


The screech owl screeches when courting, 
Because it 's the best he can do, 

If you couldn't court without screeching, 
Why, then, I guess you 'd screech too. 

Songs of the Fields 

to merit a volume by itself. The owl can enlarge 
the retina, in order to see more clearly as he en- 
ters darker places. The Almighty did few things 
more wonderful than to evolve the eye of an owl. 

I love all the music of nature, but none is dearer 
to the secret places of my heart than the Song of 
the Road. The highways are wonderful. They 
appear to flow between the fields, climbing hills The Song 
without effort, sliding into valleys, and stretching of theRoad 
across plains farther than the eye or lens can fol- 
low 7 . All of my roads have three well-defined 
wheel tracks. There are two strongly marked that 
every vehicle makes, and another only slightly out- 
lined, made by those passing on the way. Tiny 
flowers of yellow sorrel, rank fennel, grass, dande- 
lion, smartweed, and catnip grow to the fence cor- 
ners, and these are filled with tall meadow rue, 
milkweed, poke berry, goldenrod, asters, thistle, 
saffron, teazel, and sumac sprouts. There are wild 
roses, alders, maple, oak, and elm shrubs, and the 
straggling old snake- fences are bound together 
and upheld by bittersweet, wild grape, honeysuckle, 
and moonseed. 

I love the morning road, when the air is yet 
tinged with the dampness and mystery of night, Chants 
when the foliage is sharply outlined against the 
reddening sky, and every bird sings his chant as 
if he just had mastered it for a sublime offertory 
to a sun that never arose before. Hope is so high 
18 273 

Music of the Wild 

in the morning. You are going to succeed where 
you failed yesterday. You are going to advance 
so far beyond anything already achieved. God 
is good to give to men a world full of beauty and 
ringing with music, and scarcely realizing it you 
resolve to be good as well. So you add your voice, 
and travel the long road in the morning with a 
light heart. 

But after all the evening road is better, for it 
leads back to home and friends, and it is quite true 
that there is "no place like home." In the red 
glory of the setting sun there is the promise of 
light for another day; the peaceful fields appear 
satisfied with their growth; the birds sing vespers 
with a depth of harmony altogether devotional; 
the hermit thrush and the wood robin make your 
heart ache with the holy purity of their notes. And 
if the high hopes of the morning did not all come 
true, the peace of evening brings the consoling 
thought that perhaps you have grown enough dur- 
ing the day to accomplish them on the morrow; or 
perhaps it is best after all that success did not 
come. Intangible, but springing from everywhere, 
creeps the dark and the time of mystery; the 
screech owl and the whip-poor-will raise their quav- 
ering night songs, and without urging your horse 
lifts his tired head and breaks into a swifter trot, 
for night is coming, and he too is on the home 



'Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 
Strong and content I travel the open road." 


Songs of the Fields 

Many volumes could be filled with the history 
of old snake-fences, their inhabitants, and environ- 
ment. Some of our rarest birds home in the shrub- 
filled corners or swing from branches above, and 
flowers of unusual beauty are found growing in 
them and all along the wayside. If you do not 
believe the birds are social and love the company 
of human beings, compare the number of oriole 
nests you can find in deep forest or open wood 
with those in fields, orchards, and along roads. In 
my country I always learn after the leaves fall 
that orioles in greater number than anywhere else 
to be found have swung over the road above my 
head in their pendant bags of hair and lint through- 
out the summer. 

Of all the myriad flowers that distil sweets and 
call many insects to join in the song of the road 
none are more beautiful than blazing star. The Blaz- 
stems, if not bent by pushing against something ing Star 
unyielding, grow straight toward heaven to a 
height of from two to three feet where the soil is 
dry, and by swampy and damper roads attain to 
four, and during the season of 1907 even five. 
The leaves are slender and sparsely set, alternat- 
ing, and the blooms are exquisite. It is difficult to 
name their shade, because it fluctuates with the 
amount of moisture, exposure to sun. and the 
length of time the flower has been open, but it 
runs from pale violet to deep magenta-purple. 

Music of the Wild 

The bloom, sometimes an inch across, is a head of 
fine petals, and reminds one of a painter's brush, 
filled with exquisite color. Each little flower is 
folded separately, and at maturity opens, one at 
a time, around the outer rim until the whole is a 
mass of shaggy, delicately colored petals. The 
seed slightly, resembles larch fruit or Norwegian 
pine cones, on account of being similar in shape 
and covered with scales, but these are purplish-red. 
One of these plants bears stamens, and another 
pistils, so that they are unable to reproduce them- 
selves: and were it not for the work of the bees 
and butterflies in cross-fertilizing, they would 
become extinct. They have enough stamens and 
pollen to give a golden glow to the base of the 
petals, and are of sufficient perfume to attract bees 
and butterflies. Archippus, Crenia, and Troilus do 
the work necessary in carrying pollen back and 
forth between plants. 

The most exquisite roadside bird of which I 

ever have succeeded in making a series of studies 

The is the goldfinch, commonly known in the country 

Finct as the " wild canai T'" the "lettuce" and "seed bird.'" 
These are almost our latest migrants, wait until 
July to build, and bring off but one brood in a sea- 
son. The nest is a dainty affair of intricate con- 
struction, and takes longer to complete than that of 
any other bird I know. I have seen a pair of orioles 
build their nest in three days; but the goldfinches 


In a milkweed cradle, rocked by harvest winds, 
Hungry Goldfinch nestlings crowd and cry. 

"Put seed in 'em! Put seed in 'em! " 
Sing the old birds as they fly. 

Songs of the Fields 

work for a week, and sometimes longer. They use 
quantities of plant fiber stripped from last year's 
dead, dry weeds, and line copiously with thistle 
and milkweed down. Why such deliberate and 
dainty architecture is not conducive to neater home- 
life is difficult to say; for these exquisite little birds 
are the filthiest housekeepers I know intimately. 

Nearly all songsters almost every bird, in 
fact with its bill removes from the young the 
excrement, carrying and dropping it far from the 
nest. The goldfinches have cradles filled to over- 
flowing, five and six young to the brood, and the 
elders pay no attention to this feature of parent- 
hood, so that in a short time their nests are as white 
outside with a rain of droppings as they are inside 
with milkweed down. 

The females are olive-green and yellow birds, 
and the males are similar in winter. In summer 
they don a nuptial dress, that with the pure, bub- 
bling melody of their song must make them irre- 
sistible. They wear a black cap and sleeves, have 
a tail touched with black and white, and a pure 
lemon-yellow waistcoat. They frequent gardens, 
deserted orchards, and roadsides. Their song is of 
such bubbling spontaneity that they can not re- 
main on a perch to sing it, but go darting in waves 
of flight over fields and across the road before you, 
sowing notes broadcast as the wind scatters the 
seed they love. They have a tribal call that can 

Music of the Wild 

be imitated so they answer it readily. The male 
cries, "Pt'seet!" and the female answers, "Pt'see!" 
The continuous song that they sow on the air with 
an abandon approaching the bubbling notes of the 
bobolink, and really having more pure glee in it, 
to my ears syllabicates, "Put seed in it! Put seed 
in it!" 

Possibly I thought of this because they are 
always putting seed into themselves. Mustard, 
thistle, lettuce, oyster plant, millet, and every gar- 
den vegetable and wild weed that produces a seed, 
in time will bear a goldfinch singing as it sways 
and feasts. 

One of the commonest plants of the wayside, 

dignified and attractive in bloom, and wholly ar- 

Milk- tistic in seedtime, is the milkweed. This plant is 

weed and inseparably connected in my mind with the gold- 


finch, that depends upon it for most of its nesting 
material, and with the monarch butterfly, the cat- 
erpillar of which feeds upon the leaves. Any plant 
that blankets a goldfinch family and nourishes a 
butterfly is an aristocrat of the first order. In 
touch of it grows our best-loved climber. 

Because of its elegant leaves, its stout, twining 
stem, and brilliant and long clinging berries, the 
bittersweet is the very finest vine of the roadside. 
In winter it outshines all others, because the hulls 
of the yellow clusters open in four divisions and 
expose a bright-red berry divided sometimes into 


Proudly the milkweed lifts its head, 
And bears its pods on high, 

For it lines the dainty goldfinch nest, 
And fosters a butterfly. 

Songs of the Fields 

three, and again four parts, each containing a small 
oblong seed. The elegant vines cover fences, trees, 
climb poles, and spread over bushes all along the 
road. The berries retain their brilliant color dur- 
ing winter, so that on gray days they lighten the 
gloom, and on white ones they contrast with a bril- 
liancy that is equaled only by the scarlet heads of 
the mountain ash. 

Such pictures and music are the natural ac- 
companiment of the old snake-fences. Whenever 
I come into country abounding in them my heart The 
always begins softly to sing, "Praise the Lord!" Music 
For where these old fences are replaced by wire 
the farmers always make a clean sweep to the road- 
side, and not the ghost of a picture or the echo 
of a song is left to me. There are times when my 
disappointment is so great it is difficult to avoid a 
feeling of childish resentment. Sometimes I stop 
my horse and attempt to preach timber conserva- 
tion and the laws of attraction as applied to mois- 
ture; but what has a passing woman to tell a lord 
of creation busily improving his field? He is pro- 
viding a few more feet of space for corn and po- 
tatoes and enlarging his egotism over greater per- 
sonal possessions. I notice that in making a field 
most men exhibit a sense of creation. It is where 
their work is made manifest. Yes, even to a 
greater degree than they realize, for sometimes 
when they arrogantly dismiss me and my theories 

Music of the Wild 

I smile as a summer storm sweeps unbroken over 
their field to emphasize my assertions. 

Then men must seek shelter and stand helpless 
while a stout hickory they thought could weather 
such conditions alone is wrung to ribbons. The 
great oak left because of its value is stripped of 
its heart, their stock falls dead, their barns and 
homes ascend in smoke or their crops are beaten 
down with the storm or carried away with the wind, 
and their buildings demolished. Blest and benefi- 
cent is most of the music of nature. But when 
there is a storm, and the earth trembles, the heavens 
appear to open before our eyes; w r hen the wind- 
harps shriek, and the big bass-drum rolls its thun- 
der, all other notes are hushed and forgotten. 
When nature presses the bass pedal and plays for- 
tissimo we acknowledge the grandeur and irresist- 
ible power of the storm. And we see its beauty 
also. No other picture equals the splendor of 
mountains of black massing clouds, the white flare 
of electricity, the falling sheets of glistening water. 
Most of us enjoy a storm with palpitant exulta- 
tion, although it is one musical performance that 
seldom gets an encore. But there are times when it 
teaches man that if he had left a few acres of for- 
est in the middle of his land, and a border of trees 
around the edge deep enough for a wind-break, 
he would have saved his summer's labor, his home, 
and provided music and shade for the highway. 


"One bears a scar 

Where the quick lightning scored its trunk, yet still 
It feels the breath of Spring." Bryant. 

Songs of the Fields 

The roads run systematically across the face 
of earth, singing the song of travel and commerce. 
Then there is a far sweeter song, sung by little The Song 
streams of water, wandering as they will, in be- * the 
neficent course, quenching the thirst of the earth, 
enhancing its beauty, and lulling us with their 
melody. Any one of these little streams is typical 
of all, but each nature-lover has his own particu- 
lar brook that to him is most beautiful. 

I come from haunts of coot and hern," 

sang Tennyson of his. My Limberlost comes 
from the same haunts, and nothing can convince 
me that any running water on the face of earth is 
more interesting or more beautiful. I have read 
of the streams that flow over India's golden sands, 
down Italy's mountains, through England's mead- 
ows; but none of them can sing sweeter songs or 
have more interest to the inch than the Limberlost. 
It is born in the heart of swampy wood and 
thicket, flows over a bed of muck or gravel, the 
banks are grass and flower-lined, its waters cooled 
and shaded by sycamore, maple, and willow. June 
drapes it in misty white, and November spreads a 
blanket of scarlet and gold. In the water fish, 
turtle, crab, muskrat, and water puppy disport 
themselves. Along the shores the sandpiper, 
plover, coot, bittern, heron, and crane take their 
pleasure and seek their food. Above it the hawk 
19 289 

Music of the Wild 

and vulture wheel, soar, and sail in high heaven, 
and the kingfisher dashes in merry rattling flight 
between the trees, his reflection trailing after him 
across sunlit pools. The quail leads her chickens 
from the thicket to drink, and the wild ducks con- 
verse among the rushes. In it the coon carefully 
washes the unwary frog caught among the reeds, 
and the muskrat furrows deeper ripples than the 

The lambs play on the pebbly banks and drink 
eagerly, the cattle roll grateful eyes as they quench 
What the their thirst and stand belly-deep for hours lazily 
Limberlost sw itching their tails to drive away flies. Little 
children come shouting to wade in the cool waters, 
and larger ones solemnly sit on the banks with 
apple-sucker rods, wrapping twine lines and bent 
pin hooks, supporting their families by their indus- 
try, if the gravity of their faces be token of the 
importance of their work. Sweethearts linger 
beside the stream and surprise themselves with a 
new wonder they just have discovered their se- 
cret ; but the Limberlost knows, and promises never 
to tell. 

Perhaps that is what it chuckles about while 
slipping around stones, over fallen trees, and whis- 
pering across beds of black ooze. The Limberlost 
is a wonderful musician, singing the song of run- 
ning water throughout its course. Singing that 
low, somber, sweet little song that you must get 


Songs of the Fields 

very close earth to hear, because the creek has such 
mighty responsibility it hesitates to sing loudly lest 
it appear to boast. All these creatures to feed and 
water; all these trees and plants to nourish! The 
creek is so happy that it can do all this, and if 
it runs swiftly other woods, thickets, fields, and 
meadows can be watered. Then the river must be 
reached as soon as possible, for there are factory 
wheels to be turned, boats to be carried, and the 
creek has heard that some day it is to be a part of 
the great ocean. When the Limberlost thinks of 
that its song grows a little more exultant and 
proud, bends are swept with swifter measure, 
louder notes are sung, and every bird, bee, insect, 
man, and child along the banks joins in the accom- 
paniment. All the trees rustle and whisper, shak- 
ing their branches to shower it with a baptism of 
gold in pollen time. The rushes and blue flags 
murmur together, and the creek and every sound 
belonging to it all combine in the song of the Lim- 

Sometimes it slips into the thicket, as on the 
Bone farm; for it is impartial, and perhaps feels 
more at home there than in the meadows, surely The 
more than in cultivated fields, where the banks 
often are stripped bare, the waters grow feverish 
and fetid, its song is hushed, and its spirit broken. 
But in the thicket the birds gather very low above 
the surface, the branches dip into the friendly 

Music of the Wild 

floods, and it nourishes such an abundance of rank 
growth as men scarcely can penetrate. Then the 
Limberlost and the thicket hold a long conversa- 
tion, to tell each other how very content and happy 
they are. The bed of the Limberlost in the thicket 
is ooze and muck, so the water falls silent while 
slipping over the velvet softness, with only a whis- 
per to the birds and trees ; not so loud as the song 
of the flags, rushes, and water hyacinths that grow 
on the banks. The many trees and masses of 
shrubs lower their tones to answer the creek, and 
he who would know their secret must find for him- 
self a place on the bank and be very quiet, for in 
the thicket the stream will sing only the softest 
lullaby, just the merest whisper song. 

The big turtles in the water are quiet folk. 
So are the sinous black snakes sunning on the 
bushes, and the muskrats homing along the banks. 
As if loth to break the dark, damp stillness with 
louder notes, the doves coo softly; for they, too, 
have a secret, the greatest of any bird in all the 
world. Xo wonder they keep together and live so 
lovingly, and coo and coo softly; those wild, ten- 
der, and above all other loving birds. One 
would think they would warble from the treetops 
and soar with the eagle, had not long years taught 
that modesty and tenderness are their most promi- 
nent characteristics. 

For this is their secret. They are the chosen 

Songs of the Fields 

bird of Omnipotence. It was a dove that carried 
the news of release to the prisoners in the ark, and 
it was in the form of a dove that the Spirit of The Bird 
God is said to have materialized and hovered over of God 
the head of Jesus when He was baptized in the 
Jordan. What other bird bears honors high as 
these? Yet doves home in the thicket, on a few 
rough twigs they place their pearly, opalescent 
eggs, and in trembling anxiety brood and raise a 
pair of young that go modestly and lovingly 
through life, exactly the same as their parents. 
Nowhere else in all nature does the softly-uttered 
coo of a dove so harmonize with the environment 
as over a stream in a thicket; and no accompani- 
ment to the murmuring voice of the Limberlost is 
quite so melodious as the love-song of this bird. 

The thicket seems a natural home for almost 
every feathered creature. This because there are 
trees, bushes, and shrubs, with their berries, nuts, 
and fruits; vines and weeds bearing seed; every 
variety of insect and worm, and water with its sup- 
ply of food, thus providing things to eat in a small 
space for almost every species. In spring and sum- 
mer the birds have full sway; but in the fall, after 
the first black frost, come rugged country boys 
and girls and village children in search of fruit 
and nuts. 

To some there is nothing so delicious as the 
black haw white until almost ripe, then a day of 

Music of the Wild 

mottled estate, and then such a luscious, shining 
black berry it has no equal; and if the birds get 
any they must be ahead of the boys and girls. The 
opossums must be before the boys at the persim- 
mon tree, for few are left when they finish. The 
robins love wild grapes, and cedar birds the poke 
berries, and squirrels, hazelnuts. 

Hazel bushes are beautiful. The leaf is some- 
thing like the elm in shape, though the hazel is of 
finer cutting. They are nearly the same size, 
deeply grooved on top, and heavily veined under- 
neath. The nuts grow from two to six in a cluster 
and are sheltered in a leafy, pulpy green cover with 
fringed edges, most artistic and, I should think, of 
great benefit to the decorator searching for an un- 
hackneyed subject. There are many places where 
they could be used with fine effect in leather work, 
especially as the ripe nut is a good leather color. 
But the boy who reaches the hazel bushes before 
the squirrels gets up very early in the morning, 
and then only too often to find that the worms 
have been ahead of him ; for when green the shells 
of hazelnut and chestnut are so very soft that bee- 
tles bore into them and deposit eggs that hatch, 
and the worm develops inside the shell, that hard- 
ens later. This explains why so often you crack 
a perfectly sound nut and find a wormy kernel. 

When the Limberlost leaves the thicket and 
comes into the open again it does not spread, as 

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Songs of the Fields 

it did on the bed of ooze; for in the firm clay soil 
of fields and meadows only a narrow channel is 
cut, and so with forces renewed by concentration Where 
it comes slipping across Bone's woods pasture. theCreek 
Through his fields, always tree-shaded, it flows, 
and then crosses farms whose owners I am glad 
I do not know; for here my creek is robbed of 
shelter, and left to spread ineffectually, and to 
evaporate in fetid, unwholesome pools. The trees 
are cut, and grazing stock by wading everywhere 
trample down the banks and fill the channel with 
soil; thus wantonly wasting water that in a few 
more years these land-ow y ners will be digging 
ditches to reclaim. With broken heart it is dissi- 
pated by the sun, and a dry sob of agony is the 
only note raised as it painfully oozes across this 
land and beneath the road bridge. 

Here the creek reaches deep-shaded channel 
once more, and bursts into song crossing Arman- 
trout's pasture; for it is partly shaded, though 
many large trees on the banks are being felled. 
A happy song is sung on the Rayn farm, where 
it is sheltered by trees and a big hill. In full 
force it crosses the road again, slides below the 
railroad bridge, rounds the hill, chanting a requiem 
to the little city of the dead on its banks, flows 
through the upper corner of the old Limberlost 
swamp, hurries across the road once more, and so 
comes singing into Schaffer's meadow. 

Music of the Wild 

The low, open meadow covered closely with 

cropped velvet grass, "green pastures," where full- 

The Creek fed cattle lie in deep shade. Xowhere in its course 

to the river does the Limberlost "preen" and sing 
exultingly as when crossing this meadow. All the 
water babies travel with it, the kingfisher and the 
plover follow; the children play along the banks, 
and if it has any intuition at all, surely the creek 
can see gratitude in the eyes of the inhabitants of 
the meadow as they thrust their muzzles in the 
depths or stand cooling under trees. If the Lim- 
berlost loves admiration, here it receives a full 
share. The banks are covered with enough trees 
and bushes to make almost continuous shade for 
the waters, and a thing of beauty it goes laughing 
on the way to the Wabash. In fact it is so close 
the river here that big fish come adventuring and 
to spawn, and their splash is part of the music 
that the family living on the banks hears daily. 
Mr. SchafFer says that he can stand on his back 
porch, bait a fish, turn, and drop it into the fry- 
ing-pan. This really could be done, but much as 
I have trespassed there I never have seen the fish 
on their way anywhere except to the river. 

Aside from the song of the creek and the birds 
that follow, there comes an occasional wild duck, 
sometimes a loon lost in migration or slightly 
wounded by a hunter, and every spring and fall 
migrating wild geese pay a visit and add strange 

Songs of the Fields 

voices to the running chorus. Through Grove's 
meadow, adjoining, the creek is wilder and wider, 
and then gathering force in a last rush, with a glad 
song it goes hurrying to mingle with the Wabash. 

The river, when swollen with the flood of 
spring rains, sings a sweeping, irresistible measure 
that carries one's thoughts by force; but this is its The 
most monotonous production. There is little vari- Flood 
ation, and the birds are the strongest accompanists. 
Later, when it falls into the regular channel, it 
sings its characteristic song and appears so much 
happier and more content. I believe the river 
loves and does not willingly leave its bed. When a 
strong, muddy current it sweeps the surface from 
valuable fields, drowns stock and washes away 
fences; it works as if forced, and I like to think 
the task is disagreeable. At times it seems to moan 
and sob, while sucking around big tree trunks and 
washing across meadows and fields. 

When it comes home again and runs in the 
proper channel it shouts and sings with glee the 
true song of the river. You can hear the water 
triumph as it swirls around great maple and syca- 
more roots, chuckle as it buffets against rocks, 
gurgle across shoals, and trill where it ripples over 
a pebbly floor. The muskrat weaves currents 
against its flow, the carp wallow in mucky pools, 
and the black bass leap in air as if too full of life 
to remain in their element. 

Music of the Wild 

The river is a house, the bed its floor, the sur- 
face its roof, and all the water-folk its residents. 
What a wonderful thing it would be if the water 
were transparent, that we might see the turtles, 
eels, and catfish busy with the affairs of life; bass, 
pickerel, and suckers maintaining the laws of su- 
premacy, and water puppies at play! When the 
purple tints on its banks fade, tree-bloom baptizes 
it with golden pollen, and a week later showers 
it with snowy petals of wild plum, thorne, crab, 
and haw. All summer the trees drop a loosened 
leaf here and there, with Good Samaritan results; 
for these make lifeboats on which luckless wasps, 
bees, and worms fallen from blooming trees ride 
to safety and dry their drenched coats and 
weighted wings. Trees are the great life-saving 
service of the river, especially in the fall, when the 
water is covered with crisp, dead leaves. Many of 
them are needed, for the cool nights chill the in- 
sects so that they fall easily, the winds blow with 
unusual violence, and there are three times as many 
victims drowning as in summer. 

Throughout the season many blooms decorate 
the river bank, but two stand pre-eminent: the 
God's redbud borne on a small tree, the mallow on a 
sm ' u ^' The tree flower is remarkable because it 
is almost the first color shown, and it breaks all 
over the branches like a severe attack of measles, 
when not the hint of a leaf is in sight. These come 


"No wonder he laughs so loud, 
No wonder he looks so proud, 
There are great kings would give their royalty 
To have one day of his felicity." 


Songs of the Fields 

later in beautiful heart-shaped design, and the 
flowers are replaced by long, wine-red seed pods. 
The tiny blooms are shaped like the separate flow- 
ers of a locust spray, and of a shade our mothers 
spoke of as red analine. The blunt point of the 
bloom once was called a "pink tinted tear" by a 
poet, and this color flushes stronger until it be- 
comes a deep magenta at the base, while the cup 
that holds it is reddish-brown. 

This shade must be the rarest in all God's work- 
shop, because He uses it so very sparingly. It is 
found on flower faces and in nature less often than 
any other. How He prizes it is proven by its ap- 
pearance among the very first, at a time when we 
are eager for the color and perfume of spring. 
Our grandmothers taught us to love it on the pe- 
tunia faces bordering olden flow r er beds. I de- 
lighted in it early on the Easter eggs my mother 
colored for me. It is one of the most ancient and 
popular of manufactured colors, chosen for re- 
production, without a doubt, because nature is so 
miserly in its use; for only in hints and sugges- 
tions does it fleck the face of creation. First w r e 
see it on the redbud beside the river. Then as 
the poke berry matures it stripes the thrifty stem 
with gorgeous color to attract the bibulous cedar 
bird. In mid-summer you find hints of it on way- 
side blazing star, and in the fall New York asters 
and ironw-ort suggest it in their bloom. 

Music of the Wild 

But its time of greatest glory is in the first 
appearance, when anything else that may be in 
The flower is white or faint pink and lavender, and 
Red bud's on jy serves as a background for its tones of posi- 
Glory tive color. This hint of nature should be remem- 
bered well by lovers of the redbud. It is ex- 
tremely choice about its setting. It refuses to tol- 
erate color other than green, white, or modifica- 
tions of its ow r n shades. The trees are numerous 
along the Wabash and in the w r oods, so that 
blooming before leafage -and almost first, and 
seeming to commingle with the mist and haze of 
early spring they touch the horizon with a faint 
purple that melts into the blue of the sky and the 
lazy white clouds. 

Then comes the time to worship the river. Not 
even when decorated in the gold of tree bloom is 
it so exquisitely lovely, so delicate to look upon. 
Few leaves are unfolded, and those a faint green- 
ish-yellow; the magenta masses on the banks, the 
water singing loudest at high tide, the purple mists 
in the air, and fleecy clouds over all. Returning 
birds are warbling in a craze of joy at home-com- 
ing, and we look and listen with eyes and ears 
hungering for just this after the long days of 

To the accompaniment of water voices are 
added songs of birds on the banks, bushes, and 
trees, and the animals that live beside it.- The sun 


The river sings its beauty, 

While the mallow leans with grace, 
And softly flushes rosy 

At sight of its lovely face. 

Songs of the Fields 

bird the oriole with breast and heart of gold, 
flashes above it; the cardinal, with shrill whistle, 
nests beside it; the catbird and jay, the robin, The 
thrush, dove, and chat, all home along its banks, T yp cal 
and in them nests the typical bird of the river, the 

No wonder he laughs so loud, 

No wonder he looks so proud, 

There are great kings would give their royalty, 

To have one day of his felicity." 

Thus sang Maurice Thompson, the sweetest 
musician the Wabash ever knew. Six feet the 
birds tunnel into a pebbly, firm embankment; on 
the ground deposit at least six oblong, white eggs, 
and the mother w r alls them in with regurgitated 
fish bones heaped around her as she broods. One 
family to a season is the rule, and the young re- 
main long in the nest before they become self-sup- 
porting and add their voices to the chorus of the 

The kingfisher is one of the birds of most an- 
cient history, and very interesting. A large vol- 
ume could be filled with tradition and story con- 
cerning it. This proves that people of all time 
have found it worthy of consideration. Its song 
is not musical according to our standards, but it 
is the gayest, most care- free, rollicking bird of the 
river, and one whose presence is almost universally 

Music of the Wild 

respected. In all my work afield I never have 
found a kingfisher wantonly shot, or heard of such 
a thing. There seems to be an understanding that 
they are not suitable for food, and do not interfere 
with other birds; so they are unmolested. They 
fly in dashes and perch at short intervals, making- 
it a task for any one so disposed to harm them. 
The only depredation I have known them to suf- 
fer is from snakes entering their nests. 

The animals that join their grunting, sniffling, 
and snarling with the voices of the river are the 
opossum, ground hog, muskrat, coon, and fox. I 
do not mean that all of these are river animals, 
but that their species home close the water, go there 
to quench their thirst, prey upon its denizens, and 
mingle their voices with its song. 

Of all vegetation along the river, mallows are 
the typical flowers, the blooms we see most often, 
The and love best. The masses of spring color that 
Queen j me |- ne r j ver as a ru ] e belong quite as much to the 
Flowers fields, fences, and thickets as to the water. They 
are generally everywhere that a shrub remains. 
The mallow is a true water flower, and grows in 
greater beauty and blooms in a profusion unknown 
to its swampy relatives. The plants flourish so 
close to the w^ater that half the roots are washed 
in the river. The succulent stems are pithy and 
of a golden-green color. The leaves are olive- 
green above and whitish underneath, slightly re- 


* 1 



EN K, 

Songs of the Fields 

sembling maple foliage, but they are more artis- 
tically cut. 

The buds are incased in a big, loose, heavily 
veined covering that opens to permit their exit, 
and this cover is set in a fringed cup, adding an 
artistic touch. The rosy, delicate, pink bloom 
emerges in a crumpled, folded state, and slowly 
opens and stretches to a smooth trumpet-shaped 
flower, as the wings of a moth expand and grow 
even; and it appears in late July and August, 
when it has a solid green background to em- 
phasize its beauty and scarcely a rival to attract 
attention from it. There are five petals of the 
bloom, maroon at the base, abruptly shading to 
delicate pink at the edges, and strongly veined 
with maroon color on the outside. The flowers 
measure from four to six inches across and closely 
resemble pink hollyhocks. At the base the sta- 
mens and pistils combine in a tube that spreads in 
a pollen-covered tip and attracts bees and all 
sweet-lovers to the plant. When the petals fall, 
the case that opened for their exit closes again, and 
the seeds ripen inside. From pods that I gathered 
beside the river I have two mallow plants growing 
at my well curb. They were kept during winter 
and planted in early spring. Mallows bear cul- 
tivation easily in sufficiently damp places, but they 
can not have too much water. 

The river with its accompanying voices forms 


Music of the Wild 

a characteristic part of the Song of the Fields; 

a pure, liquid note tinged with serene and tranquil 

River melody sung from a perfect setting, and perhaps 

Voices draws a larger audience than any other music of 

the open. Because the fields are the scene of man's 

greatest activity, the voice of toiling humanity is 

their dominant note. 

The roar of great cities, the screaming of lake, 
river, and railroad traffic, and the busy hum of 
workers in the fields combine in the song of life. 
But bare and unadorned existence is an ugly, sor- 
did thing, so some men have kept all the beauty 
they could. That part of the original gift of the 
Lord to the children of men that they themselves 
have preserved furnishes every picture it rests our 
weary eyes to see and every note our tired ears 
care most to hear the divine and unceasing Song 
of the Fields. 

The Music of the Marsh 

"Angles of water- fowl winnowed the purple sky, 
Clanging their trumpet notes 
As if from brazen throats, 

And seeming to fan the star-dust with their wings." 



Come with me and you shall know 
The garden where God's flowers grow. 
Come with me and you shall hear 
His waters whisper songs of cheer. 


The Music of the Marsh 

"TV AT O'ROURKE! Pat O'Rourke! Pat 

r^ O'Rourke!" rolls Father Bullfrog's basso 
* profundo. 

"Got drunk! Got drunk! Got drunk!" echoes 
Mother Bullfrog's contralto, responsive. 

"Keel 'im! Keel 'im! Keel 5 im!" pipes the 
youngster's shrill treble. 

Thus the frogs sing the opening chorus. 
Through earth's long winter sleep the marsh lies 
the barest and dreariest of places. With the first The 
black frost all its tender, succulent water plants Prelude 
and vines droop their graceful heads and become 
masses of decaying vegetation. Stripped of June's 
riot of foliage and bloom, the bushes stand bare 
and scraggy. The trees reach heavenward stark 
branches, like bony fingers, as if imploring the 
powers of nature to come quickly and reclothe 

Music of the Wild 

them in their coats of living green. Somber and 
almost deserted the marsh lies, while above it 
toM r ers the woodpecker's drum, a monument to 

Then comes Jack Frost, waving his magician's 
wand and transforming the gray old marsh to a 
scene of splendor. Xot a tree, bush or log does 
he miss w r hen he spreads his white robe and scat- 
ters his jewels; and his lace-webbed work on fine 
vines and weeds is most beautiful of all. Betimes 
a cardinal flashes like a tongue of flame across the 
white sheen, powdering his gay plumage with crys- 
tals as he searches for seeds or rocks on a twig and 
sings to the world of "Good cheer!" Again, a 
song sparrow bravely pipes in the face of ice and 
snow, a falcon cries or a hawk screams. Small 
gray titmice chatter socially as they search for 
seed, and crows, appearing their biggest and black- 
est in this white setting, keep watchful eyes for 
the sleeping quarters of all smaller birds. 

From hollow trees the squirrels loudly bark. 
There are long irregular trails across the snow 
where the furred people go hunting, and down to 
the water to drink, and trampled places where the 
cotton-tails dance in the moonlight. And always, 
with darkness, from big hollow sycamores slip the 
only feathered singers of winter nights the owls 
with faces to fear, soundless wings, and dread- 
ful claws, to prey on other musicians. 

The Music of the Marsh 

At last the sun creeps nearer and smiles ar- 
dently, and the heart of the pregnant marsh grows 
warm. The winds come sweeping with wailing The 
notes and carry away earth's leafy covering;; the Resur - 

. , rection 

rains pour, and vegetation springs to meet them. 
As soon as silky catkins hang from the willows 
and frogs sing their first chorus, only a few days 
are required to transform the bare old earth into 
summer fairyland. Graceful, gayly-colored plants 
and flowers lift their heads everywhere. Like 
magic, water grasses, cattails, flags, ferns, and del- 
icate lacy, twining vines spring up to cover the 
black muck, while moss and air plants trail over- 
head. Every stump and log has a bright velvet 
dress, and crimpled lichen faces renew their un- 
ending shades of gray and green. 

Pond lily pads reach the surface and spread 
over acres of water, their covering of golden green 
with tints of purple underneath furnishing choir- 
lofts for the frogs, sun parlors for tiny turtles, 
and good hunting grounds for small, wire-legged 
sanderlings. Above them yellow lilies thrust leaves 
of ranker growth, and these in turn are crowned 
with the heart-shaped foliage of water hyacinth. 
Then come the sweet marsh grasses, blue flags, and 
foxfire, topped wiih waving cattails and bulrushes, 
and high above all the graceful wild rice waves its 
feathery plumes. 

The marsh flowers form masses of positive col- 


Music of the Wild 

oring. Pearl white and pearl fine are the lustrous 
blooms of the arrowhead. White pond lilies lift 
faces of snow to the morning and resemble star 
reflections at night, while the yellow are the purest 
gold of nature's alchemy. Water hyacinths and 
blue flags flash back the azure of the sky above 
them, and clumps of foxfire blaze like flaming 

On the tops of the highest mountains can be 
found evidence that they once were submerged, 
and so I imagine that as the w r ater receded, in the 
beginning, the whole earth was one great marsh. 
When the waters evaporated or were pushed back 
by eruptions, the highest places were left bare, the 
next highest grew forests, the lower remain marsh, 
and the lowest lakes and seas. 

The road to the marsh is not so difficult to find 
as that to the forest. Men learn that it is easier 
The to fell and burn trees than to control water in 
Road to Jepth anc i quantity. The marsh road probably 
will be either deep sand or corduroy laid in a bed 
of muck; a mere path to the object of your goal, 
but on either side of it lies the garden of the Lord. 
Acres upon acres of the most brilliant color wav- 
ing above man-height, interlaced by delicate vines 
and watered with fountains springing naturally 
from the wet bosom of earth and flowing away in 
tiny streams so narrow they are soon lost beneath 
the flowers closing over them, and so cold they 

The Music of the Marsh 

seem as if ice-chilled, each bank fringed with water 

The masses of flowers are made up of golden- 
rod, aster, ironweed, Joe Pye-weed, milkweed, 
swamp laurel, cardinal flower, turtlehead, and 
daisies peeping wherever they can reach the light. 
There are cone flowers, swamp sunflowers, every- 
thing you know, and others the books fail to name, 
among the vines and mosses especially; and all of 
abnormal growth from the rich muck, warmth, and 
the abundance of water. 

Although it is not so easy to attack the swamp 
as the forest, on all sides man is pressing close. 
Big ditches are being dredged, leading from the 
marshes lying highest on the face of earth to lower 
bodies of running water, so that the marsh level is 
reduced by several feet, giving an unbelievable 
amount of space that soon dries for cultivation. 
I know of homes being built so close the marsh 
that water rises in your footsteps between rows of 
cultivated vegetables. Everywhere the marsh is 
driven back, and as it recedes men hurry in with 
garden truck first, and grain later. 

The character of wild growth changes as mois- 
ture is removed. Mullein and thistle take the place 
of flowers of damper habit. Because they are so 
tall, so delicate, and of such clear, exquisite blue, 
marsh lilies (Camassia fraseri] are conspicuous 
above any. They grow where it is slightly high 

Music of the Wild 

and sandy, but close the water, and spring from 
a deeply-rooted bulb. The leaves are like those of 
The a tuberose, and from a tall, slender stem grow 
Bumble- sm gi e flowers forming a cluster that slightly re- 
sembles hyacinths. They are loaded with pollen, 
and the wild honey-bee and all species of bumble- 
bees, in fact, ants, flies, and sweet-lovers of every 
family, feast upon them. They are one of the 
rarest and most beautiful blues of nature, and the 
music around them is unceasing. 

From the top of an elevation from which the 
sweet marsh grass had been shorn I looked down 
to a cultivated strip bordering a marsh, last 
August. I could see blades of corn waving, and 
distinguish a solid mass of peculiar blue-green. 
Making my way through the intervening swamp, 
and climbing a fence buried in bloom, I came to 
the queerest effort at cultivation I ever had seen. 
From a layer of soil so thin that it would not bear 
my weight without quivering beneath me the flow- 
ers had been mowed, and with such cultivation as 
could be given with a hoe were growing the finest 
cucumbers and cabbage imaginable. The picture 
I made there illustrates the character of the soil 
and proves how closely men are pressing the marsh, 
as no words of mine can. 

It was Thoreau who, in writing of the destruc- 
tion of the forests, exclaimed, "Thank Heaven, 
they can not cut down the clouds!" Aye, but they 


"Every tongue of Nature sings; 
The air is palpitant with wings." 

The Music of the Marsh 

can! That is a miserable fact, and soon it will 
become our discomfort and loss. Clouds are beds 
of vapor arising from damp places and floating Cutting 
in air until they meet other vapor masses, that Down 

l 4.1, J o-u the Clouds 

mingle with them, and the weight becomes so 
great the whole falls in drops of rain. If men in 
their greed cut forests that preserve and distil 
moisture, clear fields, take the shelter of trees 
from creeks and rivers until they evaporate, 
and drain the \vater from swamps so that they 
can be cleared and cultivated, they prevent vapor 
from rising; and if it does not rise it can not fall. 
Pity of pities it is; but man can change and is 
changing the forces of nature. I never told a 
sadder truth, but it is truth that man can "cut 
down the clouds." In utter disregard or ignorance 
of what he will do to himself, his children, and 
his country he persists in doing it wherever he 
can see a few cents in the sacrifice. 

And of all the dreary, desolate places for a 
home these little cabins perched on a small eleva- 
tion at the edge of a marsh are the worst, espe- 
cially in the mists of morning and evening. I can 
see the artistic possibilities of the gray cabin, the 
heavy mists, the drenched grasses, the straggling, 
vine-covered old fences, and the vapor-shrouded 
trees and swamp. It is all most beautiful, but so 
desolate. As a setting for a funeral it is appro- 
priate, but as a home it appeals to me as insupport- 

Music of the Wild 

able. Home means solid foundations, light, pure 
air, congenial surroundings; and while the marsh 
is the most beautiful place in the whole world in 
summer; in early spring, late fall, and winter it is 
bare and cheerless. In recompense for this, sum- 
mer outdoes herself in a babel of music, masses of 
glowing flower color, delicate mosses too fragile 
to touch, and swaying vines festooned everywhere 
they can find something to which to cling. 

One lovely swamp vine that I never have seen 
used in decoration or conventionalized or in fact 
Ground reproduced anywhere outside botanies, is the 
Nut ground nut. Unfortunately for my study, the 
only perfect vine I ever have found grew on that 
thing I most detest, disfiguring the face of na- 
ture a wire fence. This fence crossed a tract so 
swampy, rails soon decayed, and wire was substi- 
tuted. The location was on the banks of the Elk- 
hart Ris r er, in a very marshy country. 

The vine springs from a pear-shaped tuber that 
botanists pronounce edible. The leaves grow along 
a stem, five to a group. The ground nut bloom 
clusters slightly resemble wistaria, but in beauty 
and exquisite perfume far exceed its loveliest 
flowers. The bean-shaped blossoms are essentially 
so wild, so of the swamps. They grow in a 
short tassel, are of rich brown and maroon color, 
and as clusters are turned in the light a change- 
able shade of lilac shows strongly; and added to 

The Music of the Marsh 

that, the entire surface of the bloom is of texture 
velvet-fine. A short distance away the blooms 
smell like the sweetest of English violets; closer, 
a touch of pungency that is pure wildness can be 

Held to light the flower presents lilac shades 
on the outer surfaces, maroon in the middle dis- 
tances, and rich, velvety brown in the depths. All 
the plant requires is fertile, damp soil to make a 
vigorous growth ; so it is easily domesticated. For 
downright grace and richness of coloring it sur- 
passes any cultivated vine of which I can think at 
this time, and being edible, there would be no 
danger in transplanting it. 

Another delicious plant of the marshes is water 
cress. Wherever there are streams fed by springs 
and cold enough to harbor trout, there pungent The 
water cress STOWS. The leaves and stems of this Nose 

5 . . Twister 

plant at its prime make one of the most appetiz- 
ing and healthful salads known. It grows from 
six to ten inches in height, with brownish, dark- 
green leaves in early spring, gradually becoming 
lighter as summer advances. The leaves are round 
and form compound clusters of from three to nine. 
The tiny white flower is insignificant. 

Its scientific term is Nasturtium officinale, de- 
rived from the Latin nasus, meaning nose, and 
tortus, twisted; the name originating from the 
fact that pungent odors of the plant sting and 

Music of the Wild 

twist sensitive organs. So extremely thrifty is 
this water member of the nasturtium family along 
creeks and cold running w^ater that I know large 
streams that are literally choked with cress, run- 
ning through miles of unbroken marsh. The mu- 
sic is threefold. There is water ten inches deep 
whispering and gurgling around the stems, bees 
visit the blossoms, and the human voice rings 
loudly and clearly when a bed is discovered in early 
spring; for this is just the tonic needed to thin 
sluggish winter blood. The biting tang is craved 
by the system, and a shout of joy greets the dis- 
covery; so it, too, has a place in this music-book. 
There is more human as well as bird and insect 
music every time a lover of nature on his way to 
silky the marsh finds a bed of Cornus amomum in 
Cornel bi O om. It grows from two to six feet high, and 
leaves densely before it flowers ; there is an especial 
cluster around the blooms. These heads are made 
from masses of fine white flowers, each having 
four \vide-open petals, an exaggerated set of sta- 
mens, and long pistil, so that the pollen, when ripe 
and dusty, gives a golden tinge to the entire white 

Quantities of this pollen must be used by tame 
bees, or else there is a worldful, having the same 
snappy, tart wild tang; for the bees of country 
hives make honey that has precisely this flavor. 
In the fall each flower cluster is represented by 

The Music of the Marsh 

a bunch of hard berries, at first green, later almost 
white, and not good to eat. 

In early June on any thorn or willow growing 
along the road to the marsh a short search will 
reveal a treasure that I do not understand why The 
poets fail to sing. You find a dangling, oblong Moth of 

i (T. i i . r* the Marsh 

cocoon, hanging irom a twig by a bit 01 spinning. 
The outside appears as if it were coated with 
lime and then wrapped in leaves, whose veining 
shows with remarkable clearness. All the long 
winter, during the cold rains, snows, ice, and winds, 
it hangs and is buffeted; but by late May or early 
June a wet spot develops on the top. Soon a 
struggling big night moth climbs out and clings 
with its feet to the under side of a limb. 

There the crumpled wet wings straighten, ex- 
pand, and develop a sweep of from six to six and 
a half inches larger than a wren and take on 
an indescribable richness of color. Almost every 
shade from lightest tan to dark-brown makes up 
a complicated series of linings and veinings, that 
are brighter in color on the upper side and touched 
with pink. Each wing has a transparent eye-spot 
like isinglass, so that print can be read through it, 
and the body and feet are covered with long, fine, 
velvety down. 

The moths fly the first night after they emerge ; 
mate, deposit their eggs, and soon die. The cater- 
pillar that hatches, eats thorn or willow leaves, 

Music of the Wild 

grows for five or six weeks, then spins a cocoon 
around itself, and lies dormant during the winter, 
developing another big moth that will flit above 
the marshes, fields, and towns the coming June, 
and awake a joy song in the heart of every one 
who sees it. 

Typical marsh begins with cultivated land run- 
ning down to a stretch of wild growth that shades 
off into masses of water grasses, cattails, and bul- 
rushes. These in turn are edged by true water 
flowers, hyacinths, blue flags, arrowhead lilies, then 
the water; and that covered for acres with yellow 
lilies near the shore, farther out the spreading 
leaves and masses of white flowers blanketing as 
much more of the surface, and next clear, deep 
water in which you can row and fish. 

At first, in crossing the waters of a marsh, the 
eye is almost blinded and the senses stunned by 
the glory of the masses of colors, and as you be- 
come accustomed to fairyland a roll of swelling, 
throbbing sound fills the ears. 

Then, ho, for the music of the marsh! It be- 
gins with the frogs. When the first faint breath 
The of catkin pollen tinges the wind, morning and 
Chorus of evening vesper is caroled bv a babel of voices and 

the Frogs * 

a paean 01 praise greets every passing shower. 
The moment the sun shows his face, orange-bellied 
tree-toads with backs like an unusually brilliant li- 
chen plaster themselves to limbs from which it is 

The Music of the Marsh 

almost impossible to distinguish them, and in solo, 
duet, and full chorus set up a never-ending peti- 
tion for more rain. Bullfrogs drum until one 
wonders what would be the size of their bodies 
were they in proportion with their vocal powers. 

But it is only for a few days that the frogs 
are allowed to monopolize the music, for when the 
green hyla pipes and the bullfrog drums, the en- 
tire aquatic orchestra and the full chorus make 
haste to join them. Xowhere else in nature do 
scales, fur, feathers, and gauzy-winged things 
meet in such commonalty. Here black bass, musk- 
rat, and blue heron seek their food in the same 

Marsh music is unceasing, and it is all so good. 
As you guide your boat between the rushes and 
glide softly over the lily pads, sweet as jEolian Marsh 
harps is the music of the wind sobbing among the Music 
branches, the rushes rustling with each passing- 
breeze, the grasses whispering together, and the 
softly lapping water. You hear crickets singing 
as cheerily as beneath the hearthstone; grasshop- 
pers voicing constant praise of the sweet marsh 
growth; honey-ladened wild bees droning over the 
pollen, and swaying snakefeeders singing on the 

O, how the snakefeeders swing and sing, and 
how beautiful they are! There are many mem- 
bers in the family, all of bright color ; a trim head, 

Music of the Wild 

big eyes, a slender, long body, dainty legs, and 

four wings set in pairs on each side, with a strong 

When costa or rib along the front edge, the remainder 

Dragon- ^ transparent isinglass of the locust. They have 

flies Sing L . & ' 

a pair of sharp grinders in the mouth, and feed on 
small insects among the rushes. As every living 
creature has equal rights to life with all others, 
the tragedy is quite as great when a dragon fly 
pounces upon a water spider and tears off its legs 
and eats the body as when a hawk sweeps down 
upon a partridge and carries it away. 

Dragon flies are the typical insects of the 
marsh, and of beauty surpassing all others. Not 
only are their bodies brightly colored, but their 
wings glitter as diamonds in the light. They have 
curving, jointed antennas, and grow to a wing- 
spread of four inches in some larger species, so 
that they attack prey the size of cabbage butter- 
flies. They deposit their eggs in water, and their 
young are aquatic until time to take wing; when 
they crawl on the rushes, burst their covering, 
and emerge damp and crumpled, like night moths. 
Soon, however, their wings expand and harden, 
and they begin to flash their glancing colors over 
the marshes and sing their song on the thwarts of 
your boat ; yes, even on the brim of your hat. They 
stray far inland, and often when on the road to 
the marsh you can see them hunting through beds 
of rank bergamot and cone flower, ruthlessly de- 


" Where the dusky turtle lies basking on the gravel 
Of the sunny sand-bar in the middle tide, 

And the ghostly dragon fly pauses in his travel 
To rest like a blossom where the water lily died" 


The Music of the Marsh 

stroying every small sweet-hunter to be found; so 
that they become veritable dragons, and their name 
applies to them rarely well. 

These same beds of bergamot deserve a pass- 
ing mention. In botanies they are located on 
higher ground, but no dry place ever bred them Marsh 
in such profusion as the margin of some swamps Ber s amot 
I know. The illustration here given was made of 
flowers that grew in a damp approach to a marsh, 
and the bergamot was so thrifty it waved grace- 
ful heads high above me in the summer of 1907, 
and also over yellow cone flowers, that in dry lo- 
cations are usually taller. This bed of bergamot 
grew from six to eight feet in height and spread 
along my path for the greater part of a quarter 
of a mile in just such profusion as is shown in this 
study. I doubt if the plant ever surpassed the 
growth here shown. The hairy stems grew straight 
and slender, the sharply pointed leaves were rough, 
having a whitish cast, and the flowers were a large 
head, from which sprang many small trumpet- 
shaped blooms, with a prominent upper lip grow- 
ing fine hairs. The center stamens and pistil were 
of stronger color. The blooms were a pale ma- 
genta-purple, at times almost pure lavender, and 
you knew you were close the heart of nature when 
you smelled them. Their perfume struck the nos- 
trils as the tang of a wild apple excites the palate. 
It brought the savage to the surface and made one 
23 353 

Music of the Wild 

cry with Walt Whitman, "I think I could turn 
me and live with the animals." 

There is music in the voices of the furred peo- 
ple. It may sound like sniffling, grunting, and 
Animal growling to us, but that is because we fail in our 
Talk translations. They are searching for food, build- 
ing their homes, raising their babies, loving and 
caring for their mates just as do human folk, and 
when undisturbed all their notes are of love and 

There is music in the water. Can you name 
a sweeter note than the splash of the black bass 
so full of abundant life it can not keep beneath 
the surface? And how fond it is of making this 
music everywhere except in the immediate vicinity 
of your boat! You may drag up your muck and 
moss-ladened anchor until your back aches, and 
row in pursuit until your hands blister ; but always 
you hear the music of the splash and see the widen- 
ing circles of waves from a leaping bass just a 
short distance away. 

Where deep water meets those reeds and rushes 
that grow beneath the surface, the variety fishermen 
Water call "bass-weeds," the children of nature are close 
Voices together, and creatures of land and water habit 
find themselves in touch. Such shores are beauti- 
ful, and in great marshes stretch away endlessly. 
Living creatures are so numerous you need not 
linger to study their music: it travels with you. 


" Were I in churchless solitudes remaining, 

Far from all voice of teachers and divines, 
My soul would find, in flowers of God's ordaining, 
Priests, sermons, shrines. 1 " Smith 

The Music of the Marsh 

You can hear what the lark tells the cardinal, the 
cardinal tells the heron, the heron tells the duck, 
the duck tells the turtle, the turtle tells the musk- 
rat, the muskrat tells the bass, the bass tells the 
water puppy, and the water puppy tells the eel, 
all along your way. The story is musical because 
it is recitative of freedom, living, and loving. 

But of all nature's minstrelsy the palm always 
must be awarded the birds. The fact that the 
music of the marsh is distinctive to the location, The Bird 
only makes it dearer to those so in sympathy with Chorus 
it as to interpret aright. Long before the marsh 
is ready to receive them its feathered denizens are 
hovering over it, filling the air with exquisite song 
while they wait the laying of the foundation on 
which to begin the superstructure of their homes. 
Marsh Avrens intersperse their love-making with 
scolding chatter because the rushes grow so slowly. 
While they wait, red-winged blackbirds, true chil- 
dren of the marsh, rock on the flags and sw r ell their 
throats Avith notes so liquid and golden that in all 
birdland the most exquisite singer can produce but 
a faint breath of harmony above their "O-ka-lee!" 
and "Con-quer-eee!" 

Counting out the pervasive, black-coated crow, 
a permanent resident, the killdeer is the first mu- 
sician to reach the marsh. In early seasons he ar- 
rives in March; under any conditions he is sure in 
April. When flocks of these birds circle against 

Music of the Wild 

the sun, high above you their breasts gleam silver- 
like, and they fling through space their lovable 
"Kill-deer, kill-deer!" cry until you recognize in 
them one of the attractions that draws you there. 
Over desk and counter all the long winter you have 
hungered for their exquisite notes. Now they are 
a treat for your ears, and your eyes follow the 
graceful gleaming figures across the sky with ad- 
miration and interest you never before realized you 
had felt in them. 

Enough of the instinct of the plover family 
clings to the killdeer to induce us to believe it is 
Kilideer a true marsh bird, for it lands there on arrival and 
Notes nun t s food until it is plentiful everywhere. But 
when nesting-time comes it is quite as likely to seek 
upland and prairie as to remain around the marsh. 
Two peculiarities of a brooding killdeer are always 
worth mentioning. Since the nest is a mere hol- 
low of earth, with only a few clods and chips 
drawn together, the eggs are so colored as to be 
indistinguishable from their surroundings, and so 
sharply pointed that the severest winds only circle 
them on their bases, but do not roll them away. 
As a further preventive of this the mothers always 
place them with the four sharp points nosing each 
other in the nest. 

Also, the killdeer is so fanatically devoted to 
its young that its tones are plaintive with anxi- 
ety. A great difference can be distinguished be- 

The Music of the Marsh 

tween the notes of the male away pleasuring and 
those of the brooding mother. Early in incuba- 
tion she deserts her nest as readily as any other 
bird; near its close, when she feels against her 
breast the workings of small feet and wings quick- 
ening into life, when to her ears come the first 
faint calls of her shell-incased babies, the music of 
Elysium has touched her heart, she becomes pos- 
sessed with the spirit of martyrdom, ready to die 
at her post. If she sees your approach in time to 
dart a rod from her nest, by feigning a broken 
wing she almost invariably can tole you from her 
location. If you take her unaware she stands 
astride her eggs, valiantly pecking at your hand, 
and frequently suffering your touch like a brood- 
ing domestic bird. 

Who that has seen a killdeer nestling can 
blame her? In all bird-babyland there is nothing 
more cunning to see or more appealing to hear. 
They have a tiny, w r edge-shaped body little over an 
inch in length; a small, sharp beak for probing; a 
cap of speckled pepper and salt, with a black band 
and a white visor; a broad collar, snowy white, with 
a black tie ; a white vest shading to delicate salmon 
in the under parts; a coat and upper sleeves to 
match the cap crown, with elbow bands of black and 
lower sleeves of white, and the legs bare well above 
the second joint for wading. This is as it should 
be; for, think what a pity to soil so elegant a suit 

Music of the Wild 

merely to appease the appetite! And how these 
tiny legs fly! In fright or excitement they flash 
across the sand and stones with such rapidity that 
you can not distinguish their motion, and the ba- 
bies appear like small airships. 

In all marsh music there is no more plaintive 

and wholly sweet tone than their faltering, plead- 

infant ing baby notes in rendering the tribal call of the 

Pipings family^ They pipe it out as if uncertain about its 

being right, but perfectly confident that it will 

bring protection, provided they make it sufficiently 

pathetic. There never should be any wonder that 

these mothers so valiantly risk their lives for their 


The wonder should be if they did not ; and when 
we stop to think of it w r e realize that it is for these 
things we love them. To know the killdeer is to 
delight in its music and respect its character. Ex- 
cepting the upland species, that also like marshy 
places, the remainder of the members of the plover 
family are more constant to the marsh, taking 
pleasure trips, nesting and raising their babies, and 
their notes are among the most attractive of its 
music. They have three distinctive utterances com- 
monly heard. 

The common plover note is a clear, penetrating 
whistle, long-drawn, mellow, resonant beautiful 
music. Their mating cry, very seldom heard ex- 
cept between a pair busy with household affairs 

The Music of the Marsh 

of gravest importance, is a loud, mournful wail, 
resembling the sobbing of a November wind 
among the pines. Like the killdeer's note, it is The 
so tinged with parental concern that, being heard 
by hunting parties coming in at night, it causes 
an involuntary shudder. When disturbed in 
brooding, the female screams lustily, much like a 
half dozen other marsh birds; and her mate an- 
swers from afar with a strident insistence that 
might be interpreted as an effort to encourage her 
to remain on her nest. He thrashes among the 
grass and rushes, and makes a big demonstration, 
but it ends at that, for he keeps his distance. 

When brooding is over and flocks of plover 
are caring for and pleasuring with their young, 
they have a grand concert that is delightful and 
alluring. They congregate around the mouth of 
some small creek that empties into the marsh, skim- 
ming low over the water and hunting food close 
the roots of the marsh weeds and flowers. This 
is real plover music. Then the peeping and cheep- 
ing of the young and the chatter and chirp of the 
old ones resemble in volume the vocalizing of 
ducks. Their notes grow clearer and sweeter, more 
nearly like those of a songbird. 

The} 7 are small, plump-breasted, friendly 

bodies, that in dry weather go tilting over rotten 

logs, and with sharp, dainty bills probe the moss 

for worms. Four in a row they line up and watch 


Music of the Wild 

a boat drift by close enough to photograph them. 
The coming of a storm develops their true plover 
Children nature. Then they are a sight to see, and rare 
of the Wild music to hear. Skimming along close to the sur- 
face of the water, darting through reeds and 
rushes, wheeling, dipping, alert, full of life and 
grace, they become for the time different birds 
from their dry weather selves. They seem exalted, 
glorying in the tumult of the elements, and as they 
sail with the storm or wheel and beat against the 
face of it, O, what music! Clear, sweet, pure of 
tone, scarce a note in the marsh can surpass it. 

Good hunting to his liking adds the rattle of 
the kingfisher to the marsh chorus early in May. 
His coat is as vivid a spot in air as the sweet flag 
and water hyacinth below him. Among these som- 
ber-robed marsh musicians his bright color is a de- 
light to the eye; his rollicking call a series of jolly 
notes good to hear. They may not embody so 
much melody, but there is nothing sneaking about 
them. They give fair notice of his coming and in- 

Does the word "sneak" call to mind the crow? 
He belongs to the marsh choir he is a part of 
its daily life, his notes come with greater frequency 
and intrusion than those of any other bird. He 
is constantly slipping everywhere and peering 
into nests, to the sorrow of many smaller musi- 
cians; for he is dangerous near eggs and young. 

s g* Si 

a "1 

* .5 H 


The Music of the Marsh 

"Caw, caw, caw, cawk," he cries from every tree- 
top and stump. 

When the tall marsh grasses and the blue flags 
wave as with the sinuous passage of a large snake, 
and a low, steady, prolonged "Um-um-um-um" The 
comes booming across the water, know that you Kin s RaiI 
are poaching on the preserves of a king rail, and 
that the male bird is going into an impromptu 
convulsion in the hope of luring you from his nest. 
If you follow and search for him you may catch 
a glimpse of an elegant, bright brown water bird 
darting between the stems of the grasses among 
which he feeds. 

But if you remain in your first location and 
search until you find his home, you will see that 
nature seldom has been more generous \vith the The Cradle 
treats she has in store for her lovers. The nest, of 
eggs, and home life of the king rail are beautiful 
things, and should be known by every friend of the 
marsh. Search for a hummock only a few inches 
above the water, where the dead, dry, straw-colored 
grass blades of last year are trampled into a large, 
flat, bowl-shaped nest. It is slightly lined with 
finer grasses and a few feathers of a rich dark- 
brown color, twice narrowly banded with \vhite, 
plucked from the breast of the mother near the 
butt of the wing. Here are cradled as many as 
twelve whitish eggs, sparsely sprinkled with small 
reddish spots, and splotched with larger markings 

24 369 

Music of the Wild 

of pale lavender that have the effect of being 
dabbled on with a brush and seen through an oily 
veiling. Then the tops of the flags and young 
grasses are caught and deftly woven into a cool 
green arch above the rich straw-colored bed that 
holds these rarely beautiful eggs, making a pic- 
ture that must be seen to be appreciated fully. 

Some experience will be required in detecting 
a location, so slightly does the roofing of the nest 
affect the general appearance of the marsh. Care- 
ful searching will reveal the "run-a-way," usually 
at the northeast, through which the slender-bodied 
mother slips to feed and rest. 

If you have the luck to find a nest after a few 
days of brooding so has burned the mother heart 
A Queen that she will remain, you will become ac- 
Mother q ua i n ted with a lovely, graceful bird, whose poise, 
dignity, and extreme courage will compel your ad- 
miration and make you wish her voice were sweet- 
est music as would seem befitting her splendid 
presence. Her long, dark beak is finely cut and 
curved. Her eyes are so wise, and filled with 
steady, tender devotion. Her coloring is a rich 
brown, quite dark on the top of the head, lighter 
in a streak running from the base of the beak 
above the eye and on the throat, and lining across 
the back of the wings in varied marking of brown, 
black, and white with beautiful V-shaped effects. 

If you touch her or go too close she utters a 

The Music of the Marsh 

rasping "Gyck, gyck r " but she does not desert her 
nest and eggs. True men admire motherhood. 
No spot in their hearts is so tender as the place 
for wife and child. Xo sight is so appealing as 
that of a mother shielding her baby. These birds 
are mothers also, with true, maternal instinct. 
When you look into the brave eyes of this feath- 
ered mother, one of nature's shyest, wildest crea- 
tures, that fears you as death, yet steadily remains 
on her nest for the sake of the mites she is pro- 
tecting, take off your hat to one of the finest ex- 
hibitions of courage you ever will be permitted 
to see. 

While you are becoming acquainted with her, 
away in the marsh the grasses bend as before a 
strong wind with the frantic rushes of her agon- character- 
ized mate, who answers her cry with a sharper lstlc Music 
"Gyck, gyck," and rumbles his groaning "Um- 
um-um-um," making the nearest approach to the 
boom of a bittern of any other marsh bird. It 
may not be the most pleasing music, but coming 
from strong characters with brave hearts, it com- 
pels warm sympathy always. 

The king rail is a wader with slender bare legs 
and feet, neither webbed nor lobed, but having 
long, slim toes with sharp nails. A marsh adja- 
cent to a corn field is his chosen location. His 
favorite diet is seed rich in starches, from the weeds 
and grasses, that make him a plump, dainty dish 

Music of the Wild 

for the epicure by fall, when he is fair game in 

To look at the cattails and swamp grasses grow- 
ing five and six feet tall, and the graceful heads 
of wild rice like feather dusters sweeping the sky 
and scattering seeds over the water, one would 
think the food on which the rail fattens would be 
lost; but when the Almighty works out a design 
in nature there are no missing parts, and the mind 
of man must study deeply to comprehend His 
plans and providences. Wherever the wild rice 
and seed grass grow for the food of marsh birds, 
beneath you will find that the Lord has spread a 
table of stout, overlapping lily pads, upon which 
He scatters the seed with the winds, and the birds 
dine royally. They are very fond of wild rice, 
and some birds eat the seed of the yellow pond lily 
that ripens in peculiar cone-shaped heads. 

When your boat slips through the mists of 

earliest morning the first note you will hear is the 

The long, shrill "Kuw, kuw, kuw!" of the cinereous 

Herald coot ^t its best the performance of the herald 

of Dawn of ^^ . g only slightly touched with melody, but 

it is a distinctive note that you would miss if you 

did not hear; for it is a part of that first eager, 

throbbing joy that grips your throat and thrills 

your heart over your initial day of freedom for 

the season. 

You will recognize the tribal call, a short, hard 


The Music of the Marsh 

"Pitts, pitts!" as one you frequently have heard 
around your boat, even if you never have seen the 
bird. Like all marsh residents in excitement or 
anger > the coot screams a deep, guttural cry, most 
unpleasant, and music that can be avoided easily; 
for he will not perform it unless you trample on 
his rights and provoke him. 

The coot appears to be the connecting link be- 
tween the wading and the swimming birds. It is 
a queer compound, having the compact body of 
the grain-eater, the long, bare legs of the wader, 
and the lobed feet of a swimmer. It is a true 
marsh bird, avoiding lakes and running water, 
breeding and pleasuring among the reeds and 
rushes, and swimming in the open pools. It is al- 
most as expert a diver as the grebe, but the lobed 
feet that make it such a splendid swimmer are 
slightly awkward on land; and though a fairly 
good runner, it is not nearly so agile as the rail. 

Perhaps this watchman, who for centuries has 
announced to the marsh the first red peep of com- 
ing day, has tinged his coat by long contact with The 
the black muck and water. Aside from the mourn- S e f r . al . d ! s 
ing of the crow, and the brighter black lit by Ro b e 
iridescent gleams of the blackbird, the coot is 
the most somber-robed musician of the marsh. 
He wears a suit of dark steel-gray, shading to 
black on the wings and tail. The head-feather- 
ing is fine to the touch as moleskin, and of vel- 


Music of the Wild 

vety blackness. He has full brilliant eyes, and a 
beak by which he can be identified. The mandi- 
bles are close the length of a duck's, but pointed 
and rather sharp, of a beautiful white, with opal- 
escent tints of pale pink and salmon. The nos- 
trils are long and sharply cut, and a narrow, 
rufous band bridges the upper part, lapping on 
each side of the lower. His make-up displays 
two unusual and comical attempts at decoration. 
At the base of the upper mandible the coot wears 
a large frontal plate of bright chestnut, and the 
under side of the short tail is lined with white. 
Aside from these, in his dark robe and black 
cowl he is in dress the plainest resident of the 

During the breeding season the male bird lines 
off his nesting location and swims around close 

Young his mate, guarding, and keeping her company. 

Trum- YV T oe t o an y bj rc i th a j. encroaches on the invisible 

boundary! Coots nest beside the water in the tall 
marsh grasses, and lay from six to ten large, yel- 
lowish-brown eggs, heavily dotted with darker 
spots on the larger end. The young, hatched after 
three weeks' brooding, take to the water as soon 
as their down is dry. In an unexpectedly short 
time they become self-supporting, and, with the 
addition of their baby chatter to the swelling vol- 
ume of their elders', form a conspicuous feature 
of marsh music. No doubt your boat has shot past 

The Music of the Marsh 

small bays and screened pools often, and as the 
chatter of old and young commingled in the music 
of a coot party you have said, "That scarcely 
sounds like ducks." 

I have seen coots running throughout a season 
in this swampy corner of a marsh, and it is as 
nearly typical of their location as any I know. The 
The muck of such places is alive with worms, the Indi 8- 

,,,. , ,, T . i Bird's Nest 

grasses with insects, and the surrounding vines and 
bushes bear seed. It seems that birds of any habit 
might flourish there, and indeed I often have seen 
a little red-eyed vireo so busy in these bushes that 
I am sure there was a nest and family, and when 
I landed and worked my way into the marsh I 
scared up a female Indigo finch, and soon found 
her nest in a thicket of blackberry and wild 

Both were in bloom and growing so closely 
around the little cup with its four delicate white 
eggs that the brooding bird could have sat on her 
nest and snapped up flies and gnats attracted by 
the sweets of the flowers. The nest was securely 
woven and placed in a perfect picture of loveliness, 
the eggs appearing as pure and white as the berry 
blooms, but I doubt if the brood came off safely. 
That location was the most unfortunate I ever 
knew an Indigo finch to choose. As I stood be- 
side the nest I seemed to see big black water snakes, 
weasels, coons, foxes, and a whole flock of bird 

Music of the Wild 

enemies stealing up to destroy it. I did not enter 
the thicket again, so its fate is unknown. But 
that a vireo and a finch should be homing in such 
a place proves how universally birds as well as 
flowers are distributed. Brilliant color attracts 
bird and insect musicians not only to the water's 
edge, but over it to the depth of the longest white 
water lily stem, which ranges from three feet to 
a specimen I once pulled that was sixteen. 

The five typical flowers growing in the water 

at the outer edge of all other vegetation are the 

Water arrowhead lily, blue flag, yellow lily, water hya- 

Flowers cm th, white water lily, and differing members of 

their families. They are all beautiful plants of 

fine leaf and exquisite bloom; and there are some 

who will prefer one, and some another. My choice 

is the arrowhead, not only of marsh flowers, but 

among any; it ranks well toward first with me. 

I love a red flower in the fields; it appears so 
vital, so full of life, it excites the imagination and 
warms the cockles of the heart; for red is love's 
own color. A red flower or fruit or leaf appears 
to be a consummation of something worth while; 
the fields have done a perfect work, now I must 
busy myself and produce results to prove what I 
am attempting. Any day my faith weakens, a bed 
of foxfire or cardinal flower waving salutation can 
renew my courage and urge me on with fresh zeal ; 
and if a cardinal bird just then comes winging 

The Music of the Marsh 

across my way, singing "Good cheer! Good cheer!" 
I immediately feel so full of power that I dream 
I can accomplish something worth doing. 

Red is the love color, but white is the holy one ; 
and above all other white flowers the lily is em- 
blematic of the holy of holies. Of all lilies not the 
proud ascension nor the lowly lily of the valley is 
so serenely, pearly pure as the arrowhead lifting 
its jewels above the mire of the marsh. If only I 
were a poet and had the gift of rhyming, or meas- 
uring stately periods, I know the story well 
enough. There are many things in nature that 
bring the same thought to every heart. The com- 
pilers of the Bible knew that when they epito- 
mized the very Spirit of God in a dove and com- 
pared the Prince of Peace with the white lily. 
Above all else, white, unspotted white, is the em- 
blem of truth, purity, and holiness; so this is the 
song a poet should sing. 

The lordly ascension lily was set high in the 
fields as a perpetual reminder to men that Christ 
gave His life, and ascended to heaven to inter- 
cede for them with God the Father. The humble 
lily of the valley was placed low among the grasses 
of untraveled ways that any wanderer there might 
see the emblem, so precious that it w r as said of 
Jesus, "I am the lily of the valley." Then to the 
muck and mire of the marsh the Almighty gave 
the whitest and sweetest lily of all, that any lost and 
25 385 

Music of the Wild 

sinking soul again might see with his latest vision 
the white sign of holiness. 

There is music all the day among the rushes 
rustling with each breeze, and where they harp the 
purest note of God these white lilies grow. Their 
stems and buds are round, and the leaves wonder- 
ful. They are a fine arrow-shape, and some in 
this study were almost two feet in length, having 
a stout midrib, grooved on the upper surface, with 
deep veins on the under. Both bloom and leaf 
stems are round, and the bud is a perfect little 
globe, the sign of the earth. The lilies open with 
three simple petals that spread widely and curve 
with indescribable grace, so that light and shadow 
are caught on the face of the same bloom. No 
other white flower I know has the fineness of tex- 
ture of the arrowhead petals; similar to pearls is 
the only comparison. Then they have a heart of 
gold, for the anthers are yellow, which adds rich- 
ness to the petals. 

Each stalk bears six clusters of bloom. The 
flowers are set on stems of sufficient length to dis- 
play their beauty fully without crowding. Three 
blooms are placed at equal distances in a circle 
around the stem, and three inches above another 
circle, each stalk terminating in a cluster of four 
blooms: three around the stem, and one on the tip. 
The fragile, ethereal whiteness of the bloom is 
further enhanced by the surroundings. The back- 

The Music of the Marsh 

ground is almost invariably graceful flowers, dark- 
green cattail leaves, and the golden-green, round, 
aspiring stems of the bulrush. These are genuine 
pointers; they are the signboards of earth direct- 
ing man toward heaven. Water shallow enough 
to grow these lilies always shows the black muck 
of its bed, and this further emphasizes their ap- 
pearance of purity. Worship is their due, and 
they receive it; for no mortal with senses alive 
to beauty can see them without having the joy 
song awakened in its most holy form in the 

Around them flit the sweet-lovers of the marsh 
with music-breeding wings, and in pursuit, equally 
musical, the dragon fly. At their feet the water 
folk are busy with the affairs of life, and among 
the lilies and between their slender stems dart the 
chattering grebes. 

These small musicians can be shrill of voice 
and active with their bills in the fright of captiv- 
ity; but at home in the marsh, filled with domestic The 
solicitude, they make their location charming with 
sweet, tender, low-voiced cheepings and chatter as 
they dart around, caring for their young. Grebe 
babies will thrill any normal human heart with 
tenderness. For a nest the mothers pull weeds 
from the marsh bed and stack them on a bit of 
morass, a grassy tuft, or drift-covered brush. 
They cover their eggs on leaving them, and when 

Music of the Wild 

the little ones are hatched their down is scarcely 
dry before they take to the water. 

How cunning they are! Sitting like an auk, 
where you would expect a tail to be, yet it is not; 
tiny yellow feet, not webbed like a duck's, but the 
webbing in escallops on the outside of each flat 
toe; small, armlike wings; a bill that is sharp for 
a water bird ; round, bright-irised eyes ; plump, full 
breasts of finest snow-white velvet; backs striped 
much like those of young quail, and the baby not 
larger than your thumb. 

On land they are the most helpless birds imag- 
inable. They can not fly until almost fullgrown, 
and their legs are so far back they are unable to 
lift the weight of their bodies. They rise on their 
feet, launch themselves forward, with the tips of 
their wings breaking the fall on their breasts, and 
thus, like uncouth four-foocea things, go sprawl- 
ing until they reach the water. 

One can see their comic relief and the deep 
breath they draw as they reach their native ele- 
Expert ment. What a transformation! The prince of 
Swimmers sw i mmers j s the baby grebe. Like lightning play 
the tiny escalloped feet. It fairly seems to glide 
over the surface, not infrequently distancing its 
elders. When tired or ready to sleep these com- 
ical baby birds often climb upon the back of their 
mother, making a picture delightful to see. 

The diving of the grown grebe is so nearly 


" Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms, 
Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms, 
Ye ministers meet for each passi in that grieves, 
Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves. 
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air, 
Pray me a myriad prayer." Lanier. 

The Music of the Marsh 

without parallel that in many localities it is called 
the helldiver, on account of striking so deep and 
remaining so long that it is supposed to have ample The 
time to reach the lower region and return before H f H ' 
again seeing the surface. A grebe does dive deep E 
and long ; but do you understand the trick to which 
it resorts ? Heading shoreward it comes up among 
driftwood or rushes, lifting above water just 
enough of the small, sharp bill to enable it to 
breathe, and with film-covered eyes and water- 
proof coat comfortably awaits the passing of dan- 
ger, while pursuers are crediting it with wonderful 
ability in deep diving. 

From babyhood the structural formation of the 
grebe remains unchanged. The wing feathers are 
almost spineless, and appear more like fringe than 
quills. Yet, being migratory, it must be able to 
make a strong flight. After reaching a chosen lo- 
cation, however, and beginning housekeeping, it 
will not take wing again until time to migrate. It 
will suffer itself to be picked up and killed before 
resorting to flight. For this reason it is the easiest 
prey imaginable for feather hunters. 

A grebe very seldom leaves the water. When it 
does it propels the body with feet and wings, just 
as in young days, sits erect like an auk, or lies sun- 
ning in the same position taken in swimming. It 
is a rare thing to catch a grebe attempting to bear 
the weight of its body on the feet. The attitude 

Music of the Wild 

assumed in so doing is distinctive, and not at all 
like the position taken by a duck or goose in 
standing. The breast is lifted so high there ap- 
pears to be imminent danger of toppling back- 

The color is some shade of brown over the 
back, and whether you know what it is or not, you 
Grebe are familiar with the breast of the grebe. When 
Millinery vou see a woman w ith a band of white plumage 
tinted almost invisibly with blue and green, and 
more strongly with golden brown, ornamenting 
her hat, know that from one to six of these harm- 
less, lovable, sweet-voiced birds were stripped 
from chin to vent to supply it. When you see that 
other woman wearing a cape, the collar of which 
reaches above her ears and the skirt to her elbows, 
and it is made of almost indiscernible, delicately- 
colored sections the size of your hand, know that 
each stands for the life of one of these charming 
marsh chatterers. 

The breast of the grebe is its curse. The feath- 
ers are so tiny and fine as to render adequate de- 
scription impossible. There are eight members of 
the family having this exquisite plumage, that 
varies in rarity with the different species. Crested 
grebes are killed without mercy for this small patch 
of rare feathering, and their marsh cousins do not 
escape. There is no bird slaughter for plumage 
more wanton, unless it be that practiced by the 

The Music of the Marsh 

egret hunters, who take the life of the brooding 
bird for a few beautiful feathers found on the 
shoulders only at nesting-time, and leave the young 
to slow death from starvation. 

When plume-decked women chide you for tak- 
ing a moderate amount of game in season, tell 
them this egret story. Tell them, too, how the 
grebes are caught by hand, because they will not 
fly; and how the skin of the throat is cut with nip- 
pers and ripped to the vent of the living bird, which 
is then left to die as it may in its chosen location 
among the grasses, rushes, and blue flags of the 
marsh border. 

Here is a cloying sweetness that insures an un- 
usually strong insect chorus, attracted first to the 
blue flags. These flowers, borne singly upon slen- The 
der, upright stems, are of complicated arrangement Blue Flag 
in their hearts, so they were given a far-reaching 
sweetness that many visitors might be lured to 
them and thus accomplish their cross-fertilization. 
They have three curving, graceful petals curling 
back, of many tinted purplish shades; three up- 
right pale-blue ones inside them, much smaller in 
size, and a complicated arrangement of pistil and 
fringy anthers in their hearts, that touches the 
bloom with gold. These anthers are designed es- 
pecially to catch the pollen of their kind, carried 
on the' backs of bees, so that, even if the plants 
can not reach each other, their species is perpetu- 

Music of the Wild 

ated. These complex parts in the hearts of flowers 
are their sex organism, and the honey they distil 
is the bribe offered bees and butterflies to con- 
summate conception for them. Nature is very 
frank, and these marvels are spread closely over 
her face for any one who cares to learn. I think 
those who really understand and appreciate these 
delicate processes among the flowers never again 
doubt that there is a Supreme Being. The Cre- 
ator said, "And a bow shall be set in the cloud; 
and I will look upon it, that I may remember the 
everlasting covenant between God and every liv- 
ing creature of all flesh that is upon the earth." 
So He evolved the rainbow. On the painted lily 
faces the botanists of early Greece saw repro- 
duced these wonderful colors, and so they named 
the plant "1/tW the rainbow. 

Because the sky is blue, eternal, and never- 
changing, men have adopted this color to express 
True Blue friendship, which also should be eternal and never- 
changing. True blue is dear to all hearts and con- 
veys an express meaning; so again these wonder- 
ful flowers are baptized with truth. And as if no 
honor might be lacking, to the blue is added "flag." 
Never was other flower more highly honored in its 
naming. Sometimes beautiful plants and vines are 
insulted by scientists applying to them careless, 
contradictory, and incongruous terms. Here is 
one embarrassed by riches both in its scientific and 

The Music of the Marsh 

common name. Think what his flag symbolizes to 
a man! It means so much that for it he severs 
the dearest ties of earth, leaves a home of comfort 
and faces untold hardships, exposes his body to 
sickness, wounds, and many forms of death. For 
it he sacrifices everything else on earth, yielding 
with smiling lips life itself. 

So when the slender, exquisite leaves of the iris 
waved on the free winds of the marsh with the 
abandon and grace of a flag, some one caught the 
resemblance, and to the symbol of eternal truth 
was added that of liberty, and the rainbow lily be- 
came the blue flag, the true flag. 

It is not alone in complicated arrangement of 
parts to facilitate cross- fertilization. Many marsh 
and swamp flowers have similar hearts, with much 
sweetness as a lure, so that not only wild bees and 
insects but many butterflies are constant visitors. 

Although this study was made on a roadside 
flower, the black swallow-tail is a true marsh but- 
terfly and beautiful above all others. The wing- A Butterfly 
sweep is from three and a half to four inches, and Aristocrat 
this is one of the few aristocrats of butterflydom, 
because it bears trailed wings. These wings are 
black above, with lines of yellow spots running 
across them. They are lemon-yellow below, with 
the row of spots showing through. The trailers 
are black, touched with a stroke of strong yellow, 
and the upper sides of the back pair of wings each 
26 401 

Music of the Wild 

have a spot of blue. In company with Troilus, 
Archippus, and Coenia, these handsomest of all 
marsh butterflies flutter slowly from flower to 
flower, providing most beautiful pictures where 
everything is v a component part of one great, bril- 
liant panorama. 

What a quantity of gold there is in a marsh 
when it even takes wing and flies through the air! 
Pure Gold So many of the plants and flowers are yellow that 
in August the color predominates all around the 
borders; yes, and even more. It lifts above the 
water as well; for there is the yellow lily, the pur- 
est gold of all, sturdily erecting its unalloyed head 
above the murky surface. 

Its habitat is a short distance farther out than 
the arrowhead lily and the blue flag. It requires 
more water. The white pond lily leaf and bloom 
rests directly on the surface, the yellow raises its 
thick, woolly leaf and flower stems above. The 
blooms have six cuppy, deeply overlapping petals 
of purest gold at the tip, green at the base outside, 
and maroon of bright color inside. In the smallest 
species the inside maroon is almost red. The 
stigma is a deep yellow disk, very large; and as it 
ripens the stamens seem to peel from it and grow 
dusty with pollen, while the flower unfolds. 

On the first day of bloom the petals open so 
narrowly that any bee entering must of necessity 
trail the pollen adhering to its fuzz, across the 


"As poised on vibrant wings. 
Where its sweet treasure swings 
The honey-lover clings 
To the red flowers." 


The Music of the Marsh 

stigma. When the bloom petals fall the disk 
grows rapidly into a large head with the appear- 
ance of having a lid. This pod is full of seed, that 
the Indians grind for one of their dainties at wed- 
ding feasts. These balls of gold, before they are 
fully open, resemble small fallen suns; and when 
we reflect that the sun stands for light and warmth, 
by which we live, yellow becomes our most pre- 
cious color. There is not so much sound on the yel- 
low lilies as on the white or blue, but there is a 
world of busy musicians all around them. 

A tea party of prima donnas would not reveal 
sweeter tones than the incessant vocalizing of a 
flock of wild ducks. They make entrancing music. The Orig- 
At one moment come notes of glad content over inal Q uack 
motherhood, sunshine, and feasting; then an en- 
dearing call as they gather small ones close to 
them; then a warning lest a venturesome baby 
stray too far; then a word of satisfaction over a 
very luscious worm, and too often the high alarm 
cry when the water riffles with a big turtle or musk- 
rat coming their way. When a rival interferes 
with his love-making, a courting drake sends across 
the marsh a hair-raising scream, quite unlike that 
of his domesticated cousin. 

The marsh music of wild geese is almost of the 

same character, differing from the ducks only in 

tone and one tribal call. The "Honk! Honk!" 

of the old gander that leads his wedge-shaped flock 


Music of the Wild 

in migration is a distinctive note, but it gives small 
idea of the vocal power he displays when he mar- 
shals his followers on the lakes and rivers of 

"Couk, couk, couk!" The cry of the sheitpoke 

is composed of enlivening notes, and rings with the 

The delight of boundless freedom. Coming unexpect- 

Jt is ' to say the least ' startlm S- Tne sheit- 
is of the heron family, and he is a bird that 
deserves sympathetic admiration, he attends his 
own affairs so diligently and appears so absorbed 
in them. He goes about his business in such a 
"hammer and tongs" style that the heart warms to 
his independence. Rolling his jolly call, he comes 
slashing and splashing through muck and water, 
quite as frequently for mischief as in search of 
food the veriest rowdy in the marsh. Soiled and 
dripping, he reaches a solid footing with a look 
half apologetic, half defiant, exactly as if he were 
saying, "Had a lot of fun doing that; but why in 
the world do you suppose I did it?" 

He is a warm-hearted, warm-headed, impulsive 
roustabout, yet at the first suspicious note intro- 
duced into his paradise he can slink like a cuckoo. 
His generous crest flattens until it appears pasted 
down; his oily, hairlike plumage hugs his body, 
and his eyes snap and pop. A frightened sheit- 
poke trying to decide in which direction to flee an 
unknown danger is an amusing spectacle. He is 

The Music of the Marsh 

not an extremely handsome bird. An old male has 
a few beautiful iridescent feathers around the back 
of the neck and across the shoulders, the throat is 
narrowly striped with cream; but the general color 
is a dark, dull brown. He has smooth, scaled legs 
and feet of greenish yellow, full bright eyes, and 
quite a lively coloring on his elegantly shaped bill. 
He is a romping, mischievous, free, wild bird, and 
no marsh choir would be complete without his clear, 
ringing notes. 

If it be fair to laugh at anything that is young 
and helpless, then a baby sheitpoke is almost, if 
not quite, the most laughable specimen in birdland. 
A long, slender, yellow-tinted beak; long, slender 
neck; long, slender legs; long, slender body; big, 
popping eyes; an insatiable appetite, and vocal 
powers to proclaim it loudly around the marsh. 

Of the same location as the yellow lily are the 
water hyacinths. Their leaves lift above the sur- 
face, are near one-fourth the size of the yellow lily, Water 
and lance-shaped. They are a crisp dark-green Hy acinths 
and stiffly upstanding. The stems of the leaf and 
bloom are very similar to the yellow lily, except 
that the blooms rise on an average of six or eight 
inches higher and are a long head set with tiny 
bracts, in each of which blooms an exquisite little 
blue flower. Blooming begins at the base and 
slowly climbs to the tip, the lower flowers fading 
before the top are all open. The head is of pure 

Music of the Wild 

blue and forms a rare and graceful addition to 
marsh flowers. I mean rare in the sense of rarely 
beautiful. The entire plant is artistic. It attracts 
bees and insects for its music; the waves come lip- 
ping around it, and birds that hunt food near are 
the feathered giants of the marsh, the real operatic 
high C singers the bittern, loon, and blue heron. 
When the bittern booms, when the loon cries, 
when the blue heron screams, you hear the Calves 
Marsh and the Melbas of the marsh; but you must decide 
Pnma f QT yourself to which belongs the palm. The bit- 
tern and heron are of the same family. The bit- 
tern is plumper of body, shorter of beak and leg, 
with a handsome golden-brown back. A black line 
begins at each corner of the mouth, passes under 
the eye, and gradually widens until it meets the 
corresponding line at the back of the neck. The 
breast is of creamy white, beautifully outlined in 
shaded stripes of golden brown. Excepting the 
white heron, a bird of snow and surpassingly beau- 
tiful, the breast of the bittern is the most exquisite 
piece of feather-marking in the entire heron fam- 
ily. These birds nest on the ground, and their 
bony, long-billed babies are very interesting. 

Scientists are yet discussing whether the bittern 
When really booms. Actual contact with the birds, in- 

the Bit- s t ea( j of research in ancient authorities, would set- 
tern Booms . 

tie many a similar vexing question. Surely the 

bittern booms. Go live in the haunts of one long 

The Music of the Marsh 

enough to become sufficiently familiar to photo- 
graph him, and by that time you will have learned 
for yourself. You also will find that his boom 
does closely resemble the low, distant rumble of an 
angry bull, and that, although partly nocturnal 
when breeding, and frequently throughout the en- 
tire season, he sometimes booms during the day, 
and is in evidence while bathing and fishing. We 
gravely are told by more than one old-school orni- 
thologist that he feeds only at night and booms 
only during the breeding season, always under 
cover of darkness. If he could not be heard fre- 
quently around the marsh during the summer, and 
pictured as he feeds at almost any hour of the day, 
this might be given credence. In fact hunters and 
fishers sometimes remark, "We must look out for 
a bull," when it is the rumbling "Umm-umm- 
umm" of the bittern they hear. 

It is on account of this boom that in backwood 
localities he is called the "thunder-pumper." The 
boom supplies the "thunder." The "pumper" The 
arises from the fact that he is supposed to have Thunder 

. Pumper 

an extra intestine running straight through his 
anatomy; he thrusts his beak into a small puddle 
he wishes to explore for worms, and with a "ca- 
chook! ca-chook!" pumps off the water and feasts 
at his leisure. There are places where this belief 
is so firm that it would be unwise to appear to 
think it amusing. The only method by which to 

Music of the Wild 

convince any one of its untruth would be to dis- 
sect a bird and find the peculiar membrane in his 
windpipe that enables him to furnish this distinct- 
ive and most interesting marsh music. Xo doubt 
the organ would somewhat resemble the same for- 
mation at the base of the windpipe of a drake. 

The bittern is a fine, dignified specimen. He 
likes to have his beak and feet clean, and mani- 
fests his pride in his beautiful plumage by con- 
stantly dressing and keeping it immaculate. Com- 
pared with his cousin, shielpoke, he differs as the 
prince from the fishmonger. Xo slashing and 
splashing in marsh muck and dirty water for him. 
He selects a clear, clean spot having a slight cur- 
rent and, standing immovable, watches the bottom 
until he sees signs of a worm; and then, with a 
quick, neat nip he has it.' He is in every way a 
self-respecting bird. He moves with fine poise 
and dignity, and in flight he is strong and grace- 
ful. His vocalizing is almost as surprising as that 
of the loon, but quite different. 

The loon is a diver, and a relative of the grebe. 
As a rule loons are of the lakes and marshes of the 
The far Xorth, where their cries are considered dread- 
Laughter .p u j k nervous people. In early spring, near nest- 

of the Loon . J . J ^ . \ g . 

mg-time, their vocalization is startling, especially 
in a first experience. The morning call rolling 
across the water is not so unpleasant ; some eminent 
authorities confess a sneaking fondness for it, as 

The Music of the Marsh 

if it were a thing for which to apologize. Perhaps 
they hesitate to admit it on account of the mourn- 
ful evening and night cry, which is a terror, re- 
sembling a rolling, melancholy, long-drawn "Ha, 
ha! week! Ha, ha! week." Poets have written 
of the laughing of the loon; but as this cry swells 
across the marsh, gathering force as it travels, un- 
til it comes reverberating from the forests and hills 
of the distance, it seems to awaken feelings simi- 
lar to those roused by the cries of a hungry panther. 
As loons occur only as straying migrants in my 
country, I am not sufficiently acquainted with 
them to know what act accompanies these cries, or 
why they are uttered. It is presumable that the 
loon is having just as good a time as any other 
bird, and no doubt his crazy laughter is uttered in 
calling a mate, in love-making, or to express the 
pure enjoyment of his life. 

After an experience with loon music it is al- 
most a relief to hear the rasping scream of a blue 
heron "Ker-awk! ker-awk!" The entire family 
of cranes and herons are beautiful marsh birds. 
The blue heron is a fine specimen, at times over 
forty inches in height, with an immense beak; 
bright, steel-blue plumage, clearly marked with 
black, brown, and white; high crest, flowing beard, 
eyes that snap as the bird vaguely realizes an un- 
seen danger, and feathers sparkling with mist and 
dew from the wet rushes among which he feeds. 

Music of the Wild 

A heron's voice is at its best when he calls his 

mate; but even then those who all their lives have 

The Bat- studied bird notes under stress of different emo- 

tie-cryof tj O ns have difficulty in deciding whether he says, 

the Heron * . o. 

Come, my love; this spot is propitious. Share a 
morning treat with your dearest!" or, "Better keep 
away, old skin and bones ; there 's danger around 
this frog pond!" But what he says when he de- 
fends his mate and young from intruders there is 
no trouble in understanding, and he emphasizes it 
with beak, wings, and feet. That is the hoarse, 
rasping battle-cry of the heron, and if you do not 
Avant to fight you had better run. 

Water carries sound so clearly and for such dis- 
tances the woodpeckers and flickers that choose 
The marsh drums for their performances outdo their 
Drum- f e u ow musicians of the land. Every hollow, vine- 
the Marsh covered tree stump of the marsh is a big bassdrum, 
and on it these drummers perform all day with 
never-ending vigor, while the breast of the water 
serves as their sounding-board. When they have 
drummed until they are tired clinging to their in- 
struments, they lean back and cry, "Kerr, kerr, 
kerr!" like the wailing notes of a fife, and then 
return to their drumming. 

To these performers of the day and partly of 

the night now are added other musicians, wholly 

nocturnal, that have arrived from the forest. 

When dusk creeps from the deep wood and in- 



He wears a modest uniform 

Of gray, with black and white, 
He plays the fife till short of breath, 

Then drums with all his might. 
And when he can not beat his drum 

Another single note, 
He fifes out, "Kerr, Kerr, Kerr," again, 

Till he almost splits his throat. 

The Music of the Marsh 

closes the marsh there is short time for pause be- 
fore the singers of darkness lift their voices. The 
frogs begin with renewed energy. Before the The 
moon silvers the water and blackens the shadows Sere ' 
comes the whip-poor-will's cry. It is not unmu- 
sical, but it comprises peculiar notes; they are 
enunciated so clearly, and with such insistence, and 
mingled always with the mystery of the dark. Not 
mystery because the moon looks on anything 
different from the sun, but because we are in 
darkness; and when we hear and can not see, 
we dread. 

Near the same time the night jar lifts his 
voice, and he is a veritable screamer. What a cry 
he can utter! We shudder involuntarily. But 
what of the mate he calls? Did you ever pause 
to think that to her perhaps the cry means: 
"Awake! Come, sail with me through the forest 
and over the marsh! Let us search for food 
and enjoy life!" Is there not more in that to 
arouse sympathy than repulsion in the human 

The maestro of all night musicians is the great 
horned owl. The big hollow sycamores and the im- 
penetrable thickets around the marsh are his birth- 
right. His music echoes throughout the year and 
belongs to his location as the white mantle of win- 
ter and the green of summer. It is not that his 
cry is harsh or unmusical, but that coupled with 

Music of the Wild 

darkness his notes are so startling. If a belated 
hunter was not acquainted with the bird when the 
deep-toned "Who, huh, whoo, who, waugh?" comes 
rolling out of the darkness, he well might wonder 
whether his imperative questioner used the voice 
of bird, beast, or devil. 

It is the marsh that furnishes the croakings, 
the chatter, the quackings, the thunder, the cries, 
The and the screams of birdland. These notes may 
al seem disagreeable as they are described, but they 
are not so in realization. At times we may think 
that Vie would be glad not to hear again the most 
discordant of these musicians, but they are all dear 
in their places, and were any one of them to be- 
come extinct, something of its charm would be 
taken from the damp, dark, weird marsh life that 
calls us so strongly. We have learned to know 
and understand them, and they have won our sym- 
pathy and our love. We would miss the strident 
rasp, the flapping of wings, and the vision of 
long-legged awkwardness as they rise from the 
rushes; for these are prominent parts of the at- 
tractions we go to seek. 

As the season advances the choir of the marsh 
is augmented, not only by the natural increase of 
its true residents, but also by swarms of birds lov- 
ing the water, seeds, and insects afforded ; and the 
moment they are free from other duties they come 
flocking here with their young. In early August 


On the hollow vine-girt tree 
Old red-head beats, "Turn-turn!" 

Then to practice economy 
He keeps house inside his drum. 

The Music of the Marsh 

the rushes are weighted with bobolinks, and the 
air resounds with their sweet, liquid notes. A few 
days later the straying killdeer and upland plover 
return, and the blackbirds and tanagers sweep 
upon it in countless numbers. From then until 
fall migration marsh life is at its fullest and 
best, and if from its babel of voices comes an oc- 
casional rasping note, to counteract it there is an 
endless variety of exquisite tones to the heart of 
the music-lover most dear. 

To any man the call of the marsh is threefold. 
Whether he realizes it or no, his faith in all re- 
newal is strengthened in watching this yearly res- The 
nrrection. Dead as any death appears the marsh Three- 

J fold Lure of 

during winter s long sleep ; no other place so abun- t he Marsh 
dant with life in summer. Most people dread the 
thought of annihilation. The marsh, that can die 
and yet return to life at the first breath of spring, 
seems each year to repeat anew to its lovers, 
"Though a man die, yet shall he live again." All 
men are cheered by that message, whether it comes 
by precept or impression. 

There is a visual call from the marsh. Men 
travel across continents and pay high prices to 
purchase the greatest reproductions of nature that 
have been painted. The marsh is the most won- 
derful picture nature herself has to offer. There 
is no sky to surpass these, for all skies drift over 
in answer to changing moods. There are no clouds 

Music of the Wild 

so real as these, that are reality. There is no 
background so perfect as giants of the forest de- 
veloping from the beginning; no middle distance 
so beautiful as these plumes of wild rice sweeping 
the sky, these waving flags and rushes, this riot of 
red and yellow, white and blue flower faces; no 
foreground so rare as this mass of growing leaves 
and lily pads that shade off into the black, un- 
fathomable water. There is no still life to sur- 
pass in grandeur the upheavals of nature in a tem- 
pest. There are no subjects more picturesque than 
stilt-legged waders that stand motionless by the 
hour or rise on wide wings and with trailing legs 
make nature's picture complete by sailing slowly 
across it. And the breath of muck-ladened air, 
touched with the resin of pines, heavy with the 
perfume of pollen, pungent with the tang of 
mint, this is atmosphere for hunger of which 
the nostrils may wither; but whose brush shall re- 
produce it? 

Always there is the call of the music; the best 
in the wide world, the spontaneous, day long, night 
long song of freedom and content. From a mil- 
lion gauze-winged musicians, from the entire 
aquatic orchestra singing to the accompaniment of 
the pattering rain, from the killdeer's call trailing 
across the silver night, from the coot waking the 
red morning, from the chattering blackbirds of 
golden noon, from the somber-robed performers of 

The Music of the Marsh 

the gray evening, comes the great call that above 
all others lures men to return again, and yet again, 
to revel in it; comes the sweetest note from the 
voice of the wild; comes the music of the marsh. 


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