Page images

This beautiful description of winter, from the pen of a living poet of deserved celebrity, is rather a picture of this season as it was, than as it is, or has been for several years past in this country. Such was the extraordinary mildness of the last winter, that the following flowers were seen in full blossom in January, and looked nearly as vigorous as in the summer months :—Carnations, roses, chrysanthemums, auriculas, ten week stocks, mignionette, marigolds, sweet peas, polyanthuses, primroses, and violets. So that the tenure by which an estate in Yorkshire is said to be held, of presenting to the landlord ' a red rose at Christmas, and a ball of snow at Midsummer,' is not now so difficult as it probably appeared when first instituted. The botanic gardens also afforded the novel spectacle of many exotics blowing in the open air, which, at this season, seldom or ever emerge from the comfortable security of the hot-house. The warm and open weather, however, was accompanied by almost continual rain; and the inconveniences usually experienced from the breaking up of a long and hard frost were severely felt in many parts of the country, and in the neighbourhood of London.

The subsequent frost enabled the confectioners to lay in some ice, that they might freeze their creams in winter; but as this supply was by yo means sufficient for the London market, a speculating patissier sent to Norway for two ship-loads of clear ice, to be cut out of some of the extensive lakes in this country. The first cargó arrived safely and opportunely, as the weather was cold, though in May, and the commodity was quickly distributed to the different confectioners in London. It ws sold at three halfpence a pound, and afterward retailed at fourpence halfpenny. The speculato. we are assured from unquestionable authority, gained four thousand pounds by the venture! The second ship, however, did not arrive soon enough, and much of the ice was lost in consequence of the heat

of the weather. About six years ago a similar speculation was made in this slippery commodity.-When the cargo arrived in the river, the Customhouse officers were, as usual, on the alert, and the iceberg from which it had been abstracted, not having either a custom-house or an accomptinghouse erected on it, the customary bills of lading and clearance were wanting. This was not the only informality discovered in the case. The commodity being foreign, it was clear that it should be entered at the Custom-house of London; but whether under the head of produce or of manufacture, was a very puzling question. After much dispute, it was proposed to cut the knot, by entering the commodity as foreign fabric; and not being enumerated in the customhouse list, it was consigned to pay a duty ad valorem, or, according to the value. This is 25 per cent., and the importer has the option of estimating the value. A compromise was, however, effected in time to prevent a premature dissolution; and the remnants of the precarious commodity were, in haste, distributed among the ice-houses in town. .

As frost and snow may be still within the recollection of our readers, and perhaps, ere these pages | shall issue from the press, may again present their

curious and beautiful phenomena to the eye of the inquisitive observer, we shall, in continuation of our former notices on the subject, proceed to offer some remarks on the various interesting appearances which are exhibited by the progeny of winter in the frozen regions of the North.

The beautiful appearances occasioned by the Sun shining in a cold of twenty or thirty degrees of Reaumur, are scarcely to be conceived by those who live in more temperate countries. Ten thousand spark

"See the Naturalist's Diary for January and February in our previous volumes, and particularly the last, pp. 27, 52, 82, for an interesting account of the Phenomena and Natural History of the Arctic Regions.'

While there with thus meintense of travelle w hues if fearlfur mantiring forei it is bornele hardihe winter

ling stars of ice, brighter than the brightest diamond, play on the surface of the frozen snow; and the slightest breeze sets in motion myriads of icy atoms whose gleaming light and beautiful rainbow hues dazzle and weary the eye. A recent traveller in Russia, while describing the intense cold of the winter in that country, thus mentions the hardihood and indifference with which it is borne by the natives. While the shivering foreigner, buried in some six or seven fur mantles, bastily leaps into the carriage as if fearful of a moment's exposure to the air, and there fences himself round with cushions and curtains; the active driver, attired in his short pelisse, and with his neck bared to the inclemency of the weather, leaps on his seat with an agility equal to that of a French operą dancer; and immediately commences both his journey, and his clear, animated song. The keen winds cut his face, icicles hang upon his hair, his rugged beard is congealed to ą mass of ice, flakes of snow fill both his bosom and his open mouth-no matter, he still continues to sing until he arrives at the next inn: there he hastens to the warm stove; removes the icicles from his visage, crosses himself before the smoked saint placed in one corner of the apartment; swallows his glass of brandy, and is again in his seat, and on his journey.

During the thaw at the breaking up of winter in Canada, a very extraordinary effect is produced on some of the trees: where this occurs, the tree, from the trunk to the point of the smallest branch, becomes incrusted with pure ice. There may be a small degree of frost during the night which freezes the moisture that covered the trees during the day; and it is probable that the external parts of the trees themselves (being cooled down below the freezing point by the extreme cold of the previous weather) freeze the vapour the moment it comes in contact with them ; in the same way that the glass of a wide


is with difficulty come a storthe destructie from


dow, in winter; becomes' incrusted with ice by the freezing of the moisture in the air of a room. The branches become, at last, so laden with ice, that it is with difficulty they support its weight; and if there happen to come a storm of wind, the branches infallibly break off, and the destruction among trees, of all sorts, is immense. Branches from six to twelve inches in diameter are seen every where banging from the trees, completely broken down. Nothing can be more curious and beautiful than one of these ice-incrusted trees, when the Sun shines upon it, having the appearance of fairy work, or enchantment.

In stating facts illustrative of the severity of a Canadian winter, a recent traveller mentions the experiments on bomb-shells, made at Quebec some years ago by a Major Williams, of the Artillery, in order to ascertain the force of freezing water : these Were made on iron shells of different sizes, from the thirteen inch shell to the cohorn of four inches diameter. The shells were nearly filled with water, and an iron plug was driven in at the fuže hole by a Sledge hammer. It was found, however, that the plug could never be driven šo firmly into the fuze hole as to resist the expanding ice, which pushed it out with great force and velocity, and a bolt or cylinder of ice immediately shot up from the hole; but when à plug was used that had springs, which would expand and lay hold of the inside of the cavity, so that it could not possibly be pushed out, the force of the expansion split the shell.

The amazing force of expansion in congelation is also shown from the distance to which these iron plugs were thrown out of the fuze hole. A plug of two pounds and a half weight was thrown no less than 415 feet from the shell; the fuže axis was at an angle of 45: the thermometer showed 51 degrees below the freezing point. Here it appears that ice and gunpowder perform the same operations.

[ocr errors]

than 115 es and a hut of the futo which hlation is

The month of January in England, if not clad in snow and icicles, is generally borne upon the strong tempest's wing,' and speaks in loud and audible tones,' the woods and fields among;' but two-faced, like Janus, whence he takes his name, he has also bis summer garb, his smiling features, and his wreaths of flowers, as the past year abundantly testified.

The numerous tribes of birds now quit their retreats in search of food. Larks (alauda arvensis) con gregate, and fly to the warm stubble for shelter; and the nut-hatch (sitta europea) is heard. The shell-less snail or slug (limax) makes its appearance, and commences its depredations on garden plants and green wheat. The missel thrush (turdus viscivorus) begins its song. This bird sings between the flying showers, and continues its note till the beginning of August. ,

"The red-breast (motacilla rubecula) chaunts its pretty, song. This little bird, on account of its near approach to our dwellings and its familiarity. with man, is, perhaps, the best known of all the feathered race, except such as are kept in domes-ě tication. They are capable of enduring the most severe winters in this island; but, at the approach of such inclement seasons, they leave the woods, where they reside in summer, and are willing to acknowledge a kind of dependence upon man. It is then that they enter the orchards of the farmer, and establish themselves in some hedge, or unoccupied house; making frequent calls at the kitchen-door, during the continuance of frost, in order to pick up any crumbs and fragments that have been dropped there, before they are destroyed or congealed by the frost. Many of them have been fed from the window during the whole season: some entrust themselves even within the room; and it is seldom that they repent of this confidence; for they are universal favourites, and, almost always, meet with that generous treatment which their wants or their trust in the human race so well merit. It is remarkable,

where che inclemon this apable of are kept

« PreviousContinue »