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The Girl's Own Paper, Vol. VIII, No. 355, October 16, 1886   By:

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THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER

VOL. VIII. NO. 355.

OCTOBER 16, 1886.

PRICE ONE PENNY.

THE BROOK AND ITS BANKS.

BY THE REV. J. G. WOOD, M.A., Author of "The Handy Natural History."

"Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays, As through the glen it dimpl't; Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays; Whyles in a weil it dimpl't; Whyles glittered to the nightly rays, Wi' bickering, dancing dazzle; Whyles cookit underneath the braes Below the spreading hazel."

Burns: "Halloween."

[Illustration: THE BROOK AND ITS BANKS.]

CHAPTER I.

The many aspects of a brook The eye sees only that which it is capable of seeing Individuality of brooks and their banks The rippling "burnie" of the hills The gently flowing brooks of low lying districts Individualities even of such brooks The fresh water brooks of Oxford and the tidal brooks of the Kentish marshes The swarming life in which they abound An afternoon's walk Ditches versus hedges and walls A brook in Cannock Chase Its sudden changes of aspect The brooks of the Wiltshire Downs and of Derbyshire.

A brook has many points of view.

In the first place, scarcely any two spectators see it in the same light.

To the rustic it is seldom more than a convenient water tank, or, at most, as affording some sport to boys in fishing. To its picturesque beauties his eyes are blind, and to him the brook is, like Peter Bell's primrose, a brook and nothing more.

Then there are some who only view a brook as affording variety to the pursuit of the fox, and who pride themselves on their knowledge of the spots at which it can be most successfully leaped.

Others, again, who are of a geographical turn of mind, can only see in a brook a necessary portion of the water shed of the district.

To children it is for a time dear as a playground, possessing the inestimable advantage of enabling them to fall into it and wet their clothes from head to foot.

Then there are some who are keenly alive to its changing beauties, and are gifted with artistic spirit and power of appreciation, even if they should not have been able to cultivate the technical skill which would enable them to transfer to paper or canvas the scene which pleased them. Yet they can only see the surface, and take little, if any, heed of the wealth of animated life with which the brook and its banks are peopled, or of the sounds with which the air is filled.

Happy are those in whom are fortunately combined the appreciation of art and the gift (for it is a gift as much as an eye for art or an ear for music) of observing animal life. To them the brook is all that it is to others, and much besides. To them the tiniest brook is a perpetual joy, and of such a nature I hope are those who read these pages.

Not only does a brook assume different aspects, according to the individuality of the spectator, but every brook has its individuality, and so have its banks.

Often the brook "plays many parts," as in Burns' delightful stanza, which seems to have rippled from the poet's brain as spontaneously as its subject.

Sometimes, however, as near Oxford, it flows silently onwards with scarcely a dimple on its unruffled surface. Over its still waters the gnats rise and fall in their ceaseless dance. The swift winged dragon flies, blue, green, and red, swoop upon them like so many falcons on their prey; or, in the earlier year, the mayflies flutter above the stream, leaving their shed skins, like ghostly images of themselves, sticking on every tree trunk near the brook.

On the surface of the brook are seen the shadow like water gnats, drifting with apparent aimlessness over the surface, but having in view a definite and deadly purpose, as many a half drowned insect will find to its cost.

Under the shade of the willows that overhang its banks the whirligig beetles will gather, sociably circling round and round in their mazy dance, bumping against each other in their swift course, but glancing off unhurt from the collision, protected from injury by the stout coats of mail which they wear... Continue reading book >>


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