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The Months by E. V. Lucas

 

Who is this, clad in russet-brown? His distant step sounds hollow on the frozen ground; no beam of beauty is on his face, but his look is healthy, and his step is firm. As he approaches the peasant bars his door and renews his fire. The sparkling home-brewed goes round and mantles in the foaming jug, the oft-repeated tale is told, the rain patters against the casement, but the night passes away, and the storm is no longer heard.

Bright in his career the sun arises. Millions of gems seem suspended from the leafless branches. The familiar robin and the bolder sparrow seek the abode of man. Swift fly the balls of snow; the ruddy youth binds on his skates and gracefully flies over the frozen pool.

Who is this stranger? He is the first-born of his family, and his name is JANUARY.

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A grave and placid maiden now advances. The crocus and the snow-drop adorn her brown garments, a wreath of primroses binds her brows, the robin, perched on the leafless branch, welcomes her approach, and the lovely green of the young wheat is spread over the lately barren fields. The lambs frisk about her, they nibble the grass of the valley, then suddenly start and bound up the shelving mountain. But their infant coats are now wet with rain, and their sports are over. Shivering, they follow the shepherd with their bleating dams. And now, adorned with rustic lays and bleeding hearts, the swain sends to his favourite maid the mysterious valentine. The birds choose their mates; it is the season of connubial joys. Mild then be thy reign, gentle FEBRUARY.

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Who is this froward youth, with his loud and boisterous voice? He comes from the east; limping rheumatism and shivering ague are in his train; but his face is now dressed in smiles. The birds begin their lays, the lambs again frolic around. The daisy and the violet grow beneath his feet; he dresses himself with the buds of the spring. Vegetation displays her lovely green, and holds out the promise of future riches. Again the tempest of his passions arise; he tears the chaplet from his brows, and scatters it in the wind. Oh! hasten far away from us, variable and boisterous MARCH.

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Clad in a robe of light green, and decorated with lilies of the valley, a lovely maid advances. She breathes on the opening flowers, and their beauty is expanded. The leaves of the grove burst forth, and the hedges exhibit their partial verdure. Nature, invigorated, smiles around her; but she weeps, and her flowerets bend, drooping, to the earth. Mild is her mien, and the tint of modesty is on her cheek. She smiles, whilst the tear still trembles in her eye, like placid resignation bending over the tomb of a departed friend. She is a pensive maiden, and her name is APRIL.

[Illustration: 'The lambs frisk about her.'—Page 16.]

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Hark to the sound of rustic mirth, which precede a cheerful youth! His step is light and airy, his robe is of many colours, roses adorn his flowing ringlets, health and pleasure float on the freshening gale, exercise and mirth gambol before him, age forgets his troubles, quits his arm-chair, and welcomes his approach. The maids of the hamlet assemble and dance round the pole, decked with many a flower and many a streaming pendant. The village lovers loiter at the stile, or wander down the retired lane, where the hedges are covered with their white blossoms, and the modest wild rose, emblem of the blushing maid, peeps from the sheltering thorn. Season of love and delight! long may thy reign be protracted, young and beauteous MAY!

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Who is the maid now approaching? She arises when the lark first pours his melody in air. Her dress is of a darker green, her head is adorned with full-blown flowers, her face is tanned by labour. The bleating and affrighted sheep are plunged, unwillingly, into the pool, and now by the sturdy hand stripped of their fleecy coats. The bottle quickly passes, the simple tale goes round, the ballad purchased at the fair is sung; the mower whets his scythe, and the grass and the wild-flowers fall before it; the waggon, heavily laden, removes the odoriferous hay; and the neat-mown fields display a brighter green. The cuckoo, with his never-varying note is heard; but let us, when the day is over, placed in some secluded nook, listen to the sweeter nightingale, who, as poets feign, was once a hapless female. Industry now toils through the lengthened day, and the name of this sun-burnt maiden is JUNE.

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Who is the youth that now advances in his robe of gauze? He comes when the rosy morn first trembles in the east. Slow and languid is his step; he seeks the damp cavern and the impervious shade. It is the heat of noon, and the kine no longer low. Not a breeze stirs: the foliage of the groves, all—is still, except the insect world, who dimple the stream, or, buzzing round the head of the sleeping youth, rouses the panting dog that lies at his side.

Now the terrified birds dart swiftly through the air; a solemn and portentous stillness reigns; the thunder mutters, the lightnings flash, and the pouring storm approaches; the traveller seeks the sheltering cottage. But when the sun again returns in his glory, the birds plume their dripping feathers; the gardener ties up his fallen roses, and trails anew the gadding woodbine. How sweetly refreshing is the air; we will wander over the breezy hill; we will pluck the summer fruits; and still welcome shalt thou be to us, sultry JULY.

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Who is she, who, with the first blush of Aurora, brushes the pearly dew from the grass? Her robe is thin and airy, and on her head is a garland of wheat-ears and poppies. How busy is the scene around her! The shining scythe cuts down the bearded barley and the quivering oat; the reaper bends over the golden wheat, and fills the plenteous sheaf.

All are employed: even old age and childhood bend, with prying eyes, to glean the scattered ears. The master looks on his riches, and swells with satisfaction; the busy housewife loads the hospitable board, and hands the mantling ale around; age tells the tale of past times; and the loud laugh and rustic song burst from the lips of jocund youth. Oh! ever thus return to us, with plenty in thy train, mirth-inspiring AUGUST.

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Who is the youth that, at early dawn, brushes the stubble with his feet? His gun is on his arm. His well-taught dogs are with him. The harmony of the groves is destroyed, and the feathered race fall before his cruel hand. The timid hare, starting at the sound of early feet, flies from the furzy brake, and she returns to her shelter no more. Content thyself, youth, with the various fruits which Nature now bestows. The golden apricot, the downy peach, and the blooming plum, peep from beneath their green foliage. Feast on these gifts, but spare the feathered race, sanguinary SEPTEMBER.

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Who now comes, with the steady air of a matron? Her robe is of yellow, tinged with brown; and a wreath of berries encircles her head. She fills her barns; and the flail, with monotonous sound, is heard. Labour blesses her as he turns the earth with his plough, and scatters, with a seemingly careless hand, the seeds of future harvests. She shakes the clustering nuts from the trees, and gathers the rosy produce of the orchard, where the apple and the mellow pear yield their refreshing juice.

The poet wanders through the silent grove; the mournful breeze wafts the withered leaves around him; the huntsman winds his horn; exercise bounds over the plain; the sportsman rejoices in the barren fields. Season that I love, ever welcome shalt thou be to me, mild and pensive OCTOBER.

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What terrific form is this? Sullen and haggard is his face; his ragged garments float in the blast; a wreath of yew binds his head; thick fogs arise around him; he tears from the groves the last leaves of autumn; disease attends his baneful steps; he drinks at the stagnant pool; he throws himself on the beetling rock; he courts the foaming billows; he listens to the last groans of the shipwrecked mariner; he wanders through the churchyard; he seeks the abode of the raven, and horror is in all his thoughts. Oh, hasten far away from us, gloomy NOVEMBER.

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Who is this clad in flannel and warm furs? He wraps his garments close about him; a wreath of holly binds his bald head; he seeks the warm hearth and the blazing fire; he expands his hands: they are thin and shrivelled with age. The snow fast descends; the sweeping blast howls over the dreary heath, and shakes the cottage of the aged man—he is the father of the year, and his name is DECEMBER.

 
 
 

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