free ebooks

A Holiday in the Happy Valley with Pen and Pencil

While Itylus became a pheasant


I

regret exceedingly that my ornithological knowledge is extremely limited. I could find no books to help me,[2] and, as I did not care to kill any birds merely to enable me to identify their species, my notes were merely "popular" and not "scientific."

Shall I confess that I began an erudite work on the birds of Kashmir, but got no further than the Hoopoe? It began as follows:--

THE HOOPOE

_Early history of_.--Tereus, King of Thrace, annoyed his wife Procne so much by the very marked attention which he paid to her sister Philomela, that she lost her temper so far as to chop up her son Itylus, and present him to his papa in the form of a ragout.

This, naturally, disgusted Tereus very much, and he "fell upon" the ladies with a sword, but, just as he was about to stab them to the heart, he was changed into a Hoopoe, Philomela into a nightingale, Procne into a swallow, while Itylus became a pheasant.

"Vertitur in volucrem, cui stant in vertice cristae Prominet immodicum pro longa cuspide rostrum; Nomen epops volucri."

OVID, _Metam_. lib. vi.

_His crest and patent of nobility_.--Once upon a time, King Solomon, while making a royal progress, was much, incommoded by the powerful rays of the sun, and as he had ascendency over the birds, and

knew their language, he called upon the vultures to come and fly betwixt the sun and his nobility, but the vultures refused. Then the kindly Hoopoes assembled, and flew in close mass above his head, thus forming a shade under which he proceeded on his journey in ease and comfort.

At sundown the monarch sent for the King of the Hoopoes, and desired him to name a reward for the service which he and his followers had rendered.

Then the King of the Hoopoes answered that nothing could be more glorious than the golden crown of King Solomon; and so Solomon decreed that the Hoopoes should thenceforward wear golden crowns as a mark of his favour. But alas! when men found the Hoopoes all adorned with golden crowns, they pursued and slew them in great multitudes for greed of the precious metal, until the King of the Hoopoes, in heavy sorrow, hied hastily to King Solomon, and begged that the gift of the golden crowns might be rescinded, ere every Hoopoe was slain.

Then Solomon, seeing the misery they had brought upon themselves by their presumption, transformed their crowns of gold to crowns of feathers, which no man coveted (for the Eastern ladies didn't wear hats), and the Hoopoes wear them to this day as a mark of royal favour, but all the feathers fell off the necks of the disobliging vultures.

_His amazing talent_.--In those dark ages ... the Hoopoe was considered as prodigiously skilful in defeating the machinations of witches, wizards, and hobgoblins. The female, in consequence of this art, could preserve her offspring from these dreaded injuries.

She knew all the plants which defeat fascinations, those which give sight to the blind; and, more wondrous still, those which open gates or doors, locked, bolted, or barred.

Aelian relates that a man having three times successively closed the nest of a Hoopoe, and having remarked the herb with which the bird, as often, opened it, applied the same herb, and _with the same success_, to charm the locks off the strongest coffer.--_Naturalists' Magazine_ (about 1805).

_His personal appearance_.--The beak is bent, convex and sub-compressed, and in some degree obtuse; the tongue is obtuse, triangular and very short, and the feet are ambulatory. As this bird has a great abundance of feathers, it appears considerably thicker than it is. It is, in fact, about the size of a mistletoe thrush, but looks, while in its feathers, to be as large as a common pigeon.--_Naturalists' Magazine_.


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us