Signs of spring, courtesy of Washington Irving

Published:

Wednesday, 2/26/2014 5:25pm

Washington Irving experienced many New York winters during his time at Sunnyside. In his short story The Birds of Spring, he writes about the "sociable little birds, almost the only visitors we have, during this early part of the year." Here, in a charming excerpt from the story, Irving describes one of the most memorable of those feathered songsters:

Those who have passed the winter in the country, are sensible of the delightful influences that accompany the earliest indications of spring; and of these, none are more delightful than the first notes of the birds. There is one modest little sad-colored bird, much resembling a wren, which came about the house just on the skirts of winter, when not a blade of grass was to be seen, and when a few prematurely warm days had given a flattering foretaste of soft weather. He sang early in the dawning, long before sun-rise, and late in the evening, just before the closing in of night, his matin and his vesper hymns. It is true, he sang occasionally throughout the day; but at these still hours, his song was more remarked. He sat on a leafless tree, just before the window, and warbled forth his notes, free and simple, but singularly sweet, with something of a plaintive tone, that heightened their effect. The first morning that he was heard, was a joyous one among the young folks of my household. The long, deathlike sleep of winter was at an end; nature was once more awakening; they now promised themselves the immediate appearance of buds and blossoms. I was reminded of the tempest-tossed crew of Columbus, when, after their long dubious voyage, the field birds came singing round the ship, though still far at sea, rejoicing them with the belief of the immediate proximity of land. A sharp return of winter almost silenced my little songster, and dashed the hilarity of the household; yet still he poured forth, now and then, a few plaintive notes, between the frosty pipings of the breeze, like gleams of sunshine between wintry clouds.

Login to post comments