Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
What We Owe to the Birds
By Izaak Walton (15931683)
From The Complete Angler
NAY, more, the very birds of the air, those that be not hawks, are both so many and so useful and pleasant to mankind, that I must not let them pass without some observations; they both feed and refresh himfeed him with their choice bodies, and refresh him with their heavenly voices. I will not undertake to mention the several kinds of fowl by which this is done, and his curious palate pleased by day, and which with their very excrements afford him a soft lodging at night. These I will pass by, but not those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties with which Nature has furnished them to the shame of art.
At first the lark, when she means to rejoice, to cheer herself and those that hear her, she then quits the earth and sings as she ascends higher into the air; and, having ended her heavenly employment, grows then mute and sad to think she must descend to the dull earth, which she would not touch but for necessity.
But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, Lord, what music hast Thou provided for the saints in heaven, when Thou affordest bad men such music on earth?