The Lark

IF the Nightingale is the most famed of the feathered tribe for the variety, length, and sweetness of its notes, the skylark surely claims the next place of honor. There is a great contrast, however, in the habits of the two birds. The Nightingale is exceedingly timid, very choice as to the locality he visits, and speedily retreats if his favored spots are encroached upon. Not so the Lark. He is found from one end of the land to the other, and wherever you can find a green field, though it be just outside of big noisy London, your ear will catch the thrilling cheerful notes of the Lark, as early in the morning he springs up, lighthearted and buoyant, to greet the sun and hail the approach of day. Nor does it shun the abodes of man, for perhaps every one of my young friends has often watched it start up from the beautiful golden meadow, and has followed it with intense delight as it has soared apparently straight up to the very gates of heaven, till you have lost sight of it altogether.
The Lark is the only bird that sings as it flies. The Nightingale, like most birds, loves to perch on some bare withered branch, and in the darkness and stillness of night to pour forth his enchanting song; but the moment he hears a footstep his song is hushed, and he is gone. It is in the very early morning, even before it is day, that the Lark loves most to mount aloft and pour forth his sweetest melody. To get the finest of his notes you must be like himself, an early riser: lazy children, whether in town or country, who never see the sun rise, are not likely to enjoy the pleasure Milton speaks of—
“To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watchtower in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise.”
The Nightingale, as we saw, is with us only a summer bird, but the lark remains with us all the year round.
Now let me try to give you a description of the Lark. His length is about seven and a quarter inches, his breadth is twelve and a half, and he weighs about one ounce and a half: he has a broad tongue and cloven. It is a brown, sober-feathered bird, has a spotted breast with just a tinge of yellow upon it, and it has a little crest upon its head. The skylark is made for the sky or the ground. It is never seen to perch, as all other birds, upon a tree. Its claws are all straight, as you will see in the picture, and not made to grasp the bough. But it can run with great speed on the ground, and its feet seem made for that very purpose.
There is something very peculiar and beautiful in the way in which the Lark mounts into the air.
Most birds climb the air by a succession of leaps or steps, with pauses between. Not so the lark. Have you ever seen a column of ascending smoke? As it rises it spreads, but equally in all directions. So the lark; it ascends in a circle as if inside a spiral column, ever widening the circle as it rises. It descends in the same way, beginning with a wide circle and narrowing the same as it nears the ground, when suddenly it drops like a stone, just as if it had been shot.
No bird continues its songs so long throughout the year as the Lark. It begins with the first peep of the pretty daisy, even while snow is on the ground; and when the primrose puts forth its beautiful delicate flower, then it sings more cheerily still. Then comes the rich-scented honeysuckle, the wild rose of summer; the corn fields ripen and are laid low by the sickle, or now-a-days by the reaping machine; then autumn comes at length, the apples grow red, the leaves begin to fall, but all the while the lark sings on and on, and it is not till winter is near at hand that he drops his beautiful song.
Most birds sing their song through, and then pause awhile as if to take more breath, but the Skylark never pauses all the time he is in the air, and never seems to tire. In this respect he much resembles the Nightingale. If either of them are forced to take a breath while singing it is not perceived by the listener, and it is done with as much skill as by the most proficient of human singers.
The note of the Skylark is far inferior to that of the Nightingale in its mellowness, but it is much more sprightly and of almost equal compass.
Indeed, perhaps the one grand feature of the song of the Lark is its unbroken continuous cheerfulness. The Nightingale moves the inmost emotions by its plaintive strains, but the Lark, as if ever gazing upon the glories of heaven, and as if it knew naught of the pain and fear and sorrow of earth, pours out, as it were, an everlasting song of deep-toned joy and merry gladness.
His food in summer is chiefly the earth worm, but in winter he lives on all hinds of seeds. Then they fly about in large flocks, and a great number are caught and sold in the market for food.
The Skylark has several relations, but they differ in some things, and none sing so lustily as he. The Wood Lark is a smaller bird and lives partly on the trees and partly on the ground. Then there is the Tit Lark, frequently found in low marshy grounds, and like the Wood Lark it sits on the trees and has a remarkably fine note. Unlike the Skylark, it sings alike in all positions, whether on the ground, on trees, or in the air. If you are careful in examining you will soon learn the difference between these and the true Skylark.
And now, what shall we learn from the Lark? Well, while his song takes our thoughts to heaven, his nest tells us how little he seems to care for aught on earth. It is built of the commonest materials, on the bare ground, hidden by some clod, and in such a careless manner you would scarcely think it a nest. Like the Nightingale, the Lark has no time to build a splendid mansion.
His whole heart is in his song, and it is only at heaven's-gate he loves to pour it out. My young friend, has your heart been so drawn to heaven that you care little about anything on earth? You know it is not often so with young people. They love a fine home and fine clothes; and the gaiety and pleasures, and follies too, of the world are all attractive to them.
But there is a something which makes them not like to think of heaven, or of Him who is there. Yes, they know they are not fit for God; they have got a guilty conscience and they do not like to think of God. But if you have believed God, and found out what sin really is, and all the sad mischief it has wrought— guilt and ruin and death; and most of all, if by faith in the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, you have been delivered from it all, redeemed to God, then I know your hearts are in heaven.
There is a Person up there—the Lord Jesus, who has died for you and saved you—and He has won your affections, and, like the Lark, you love, in thought, oft to go up to heaven, and if you can't sing a very sweet song on earth your heart loves to think of Him, and your sweetest moments are those of praise and thanksgiving to Him who has washed away your sins by His own precious blood.