“He sends forth springs in the valleys; They flow between the mountains; They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; They lift up their voices among the branches.” (Psalms 104:10-12 NASB)
McGuffey Readers were a series of graded primers for grade levels 1-6. They were widely used as textbooks in American schools from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, and are still used today in some private schools and in homeschooling.
Here is a story of The Oratorio from the Sixth Grade Reader. (From Gutenberg) Pictures are current photos.
XI. THE MORNING ORATORIO. (90)
Wilson Flagg, 1806-1884, was born in Beverly, Mass. He pursued his academical course in Andover, at Phillips Academy, and entered Harvard College, but did not graduate. His chief Works are: “Studies in the Field and Forest,” “The Woods and Byways of New England,” and “The Birds and Seasons of New England.”
Nature, for the delight of waking eyes, has arrayed the morning heavens in the loveliest hues of beauty. Fearing to dazzle by an excess of delight, she first announces day by a faint and glimmering twilight, then sheds a purple tint over the brows of the rising morn, and infuses a transparent ruddiness throughout the atmosphere. As daylight widens, successive groups of mottled and rosy-bosomed clouds assemble on the gilded sphere, and, crowned with wreaths of fickle rainbows, spread a mirrored flush over hill, grove, and lake, and every village spire is burnished with their splendor.
At length, through crimsoned vapors, we behold the sun’s broad disk, rising with a countenance so serene that every eye may view him ere he arrays himself in his meridian brightness. Not many people who live in towns are aware of the pleasure attending a ramble near the woods and orchards at daybreak in the early part of summer. The drowsiness we feel on rising from our beds is gradually dispelled by the clear and healthful breezes of early day, and we soon experience an unusual amount of vigor and elasticity.
During the night, the stillness of all things is the circumstance that most powerfully attracts our notice, rendering us peculiarly sensitive to every accidental sound that meets the ear. In the morning, at this time of year, on the contrary, we are overpowered by the vocal and multitudinous chorus of the feathered tribe. If you would hear the commencement of this grand anthem of nature, you must rise at the very first appearance of dawn, before the twilight has formed a complete semicircle above the eastern porch of heaven.
The first note that proceeds from the little warbling host, is the shrill chirp of the hairbird,—occasionally vocal at an hours on a warm summer night. This strain, which is a continued trilling sound, is repeated with diminishing intervals, until it becomes almost incessant. But ere the hairbird has uttered many notes, a single robin begins to warble from a neighboring orchard, soon followed by others, increasing in numbers until, by the time the eastern sky is flushed with crimson, every male, robin in the country round is singing with fervor.
It would be difficult to note the exact order in which the different birds successively begin their parts in this performance; but the bluebird, whose song is only a short, mellow warble, is heard nearly at the same time with the robin, and the song sparrow joins them soon after with his brief but finely modulated strain. The different species follow rapidly, one after another, in the chorus, until the whole welkin rings with their matin hymn of gladness.
I have often wondered that the almost simultaneous utterance of so many different notes should produce no discords, and that they should result in such complete harmony. In this multitudinous confusion of voices, no two notes are confounded, and none has sufficient duration to grate harshly with a dissimilar sound. Though each performer sings only a few strains and then makes a pause, the whole multitude succeed one another with such rapidity that we hear an uninterrupted flow of music until the broad light of day invites them to other employments.
When there is just light enough to distinguish the birds, we may observe, here and there, a single swallow perched on the roof of a barn or shed, repeating two twittering notes incessantly, with a quick turn and a hop at every note he utters. It would seem to be the design of the bird to attract the attention of his mate, and this motion seems to be made to assist her in discovering his position. As soon as the light has tempted him to fly abroad, this twittering strain is uttered more like a continued song, as he flits rapidly through the air.
But at this later moment the purple martins have commenced their more melodious chattering, so loud as to attract for a while the most of our attention. There is not a sound in nature so cheering and animating as the song of the purple martin, and none so well calculated to drive away melancholy. Though not one of the earliest voices to be heard, the chorus is perceptibly more loud and effective when this bird has united with the choir.
When the flush of the morning has brightened into vermilion, and the place from which the sun is soon to emerge has attained a dazzling brilliancy, the robins are already less tuneful. They are now becoming busy in collecting food for their morning repast, and one by one they leave the trees, and may be seen hopping upon the tilled ground, in quest of the worms and insects that, have crept out during the night from their subterranean retreats.
But as the robins grow silent, the bobolinks begin their vocal revelries; and to a fanciful mind it might seem that the robins had gradually resigned their part in the performance to the bobolinks, not one of which is heard until some of the former have concluded their songs. The little hairbird still continues his almost incessant chirping, the first to begin and the last to quit the performance. Though the voice of this bird is not very sweetly modulated, it blends harmoniously with the notes of other birds, and greatly increases the charming effect of the combination.
It would be tedious to name all the birds that take part in this chorus; but we must not omit the pewee, with his melancholy ditty, occasionally heard like a short minor strain in an oratorio; nor the oriole, who is really one of the chief performers, and who, as his bright plumage flashes upon the sight, warbles forth a few notes so clear and mellow as to be beard above every other sound. Adding a pleasing variety to all this harmony, the lisping notes of the meadowlark, uttered in a shrill tone, and with a peculiar pensive modulation, are plainly audible, with short rests between each repetition.
There is a little brown sparrow, resembling the hairbird, save a general tint of russet in his plumage, that may be heard distinctly among the warbling host. He is rarely seen in cultivated grounds, but frequents the wild pastures, and is the bird that warbles so sweetly at midsummer, when the whortleberries are ripe, and the fields are beautifully spangled with red lilies.
There is no confusion in the notes of his song, which consists of one syllable rapidly repeated, but increasing in rapidity and rising to a higher key towards the conclusion. He sometimes prolongs his strain, when his notes are observed to rise and fall in succession. These plaintive and expressive notes are very loud and constantly uttered, during the hour that precedes the rising of the sun. A dozen warblers of this species, singing in concert, and distributed in different parts of the field, form, perhaps, the most delightful part of the woodland oratorio to which we have listened.
At sunrise hardly a robin can be beard in the whole neighborhood, and the character of the performance has completely changed during the last half hour. The first part was more melodious and tranquilizing, the last is more brilliant and animating. The grass finches, the vireos, the wrens, and the linnets have joined their voices to the chorus, and the bobolinks are loudest in their song. But the notes of the birds in general are not so incessant as before sunrise. One by one they discontinue their lays, until at high noon the bobolink and the warbling flycatcher are almost the only vocalists to be heard in the fields.
Title: McGuffey’s Sixth Grade Eclectic Reader, Author: William Holmes McGuffey
Release Date: September 26, 2005 [EBook #16751], Language: English