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Rustic Sounds and Other Studies in Literature and Natural History   By: (1848-1925)

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This ebook was transcribed by Les Bowler.




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PAGE I Rustic Sounds 1 II Francis Galton 13 III The Movement of Plants 36 IV A Lane in the Cotswolds 55 V Jane Austen 61 VI The Education of a Man of Science 78 VII The Pipe and Tabor 97 VIII Stephen Hales 115 IX Nullius in Verba 140 X Sir George Darwin 152 XI War Music 195 XII The Teaching of Science 201 XIII Picturesque Experiments 210 XIV Dogs and Dog Lovers 219 Plate Pipe and Tabor to face 102

To F. H. D.


Sounds are to me more reminiscent than sights; they bring back the sensations of childhood, and indeed all memories of my past life, in a way more touching and clear than what is seen. Wendell Holmes claims the sense of smell as most closely associated with memory; for me, as I say, it is that of hearing.

In this paper I shall wander in imagination through the different seasons in the home of my youth, and let the recalled rustic sounds lead where they will.

To children there is something impressive and almost sacred in the changes of the seasons, in the onset of winter, or the clear approach of spring. The first of these changes was heralded for me by the appearance of puddles frozen to a shining white; mysterious because the frost had drunk them dry in roofing them with ice, and especially delightful in the sharp crackling sound they gave when trodden on. This was the noise of the beginning of winter. Another winter memory is the humming whistle of the boys’ feet as they slid on the village pond, a remembrance that recalls my envious admiration of their heavily nailed boots, giving them an advantage in pace and a more noble style of sliding.

Another familiar sound was the wicked groaning crack that ran round the solitary pond on which we skated, as it unwillingly settled down to bear us on its surface. It had a threat in it, and reminded us how helpless we were, that the pond spirit was our master and had our lives in its grip.

Another winter note was the hooting of invisible owls, boldly calling to each other from one moonlit tree to another. In the spring there was the querulous sound of the lambs, staggering half fledged in the cold fields among the half eaten turnips beside their dirty yellow mothers. Not the sheep of the Dresden shepherdess, but rather of the old man in As You Like It , who warns Rosalind that shepherding has its ugly side. Yet it had something prophetic of more genial days.

[Picture: Whistle: Fig. 1] As the sap began to rise in the trees my thoughts lightly turned to the making of whistles. I was taught the mystery by a labourer in my father’s employ and never departed from his method... Continue reading book >>

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