"NEITHER can men hear the voice of the cattle; both the fowl of the heavens and the beast are fled, they are gone." The forests are silent, over hill and dale hangs a black pall; beast and bird are in hiding; the voices are hushed. But before they have disappeared, following in the track of others, I have endeavoured to catch the hum of the bee, the twitter of the bird, the chirp of the cricket, the song of the dying swan, and all the tales which beasts and birds and little beetles tell their young before they go to sleep ere the flash of the glow-worm flits across the darkness of the forest.
I have followed up to their lairs the ferocious wolf, the cantankerous dog, the sly fox and the wise hedgehog, have listened to the lark and to the nightingale, and paid homage to little king wren. Who knows how much longer they will disport themselves in the fields and forests of Rumania, where the hoofs of the horses, the feet of the marching men, the shout of battle and the thunder of the guns have silenced--let us hope only for a while--the voice of the dumb creatures, who still speak so eloquently to him who knows their language and understands the cunning spell of their hidden wisdom. It is as if I had gathered flowers from the field of the Rumanian popular imagination. They are fresh from the field, and the dew still hangs upon them like so many diamonds, flashing in the light of popular poetry; nay, sometimes a few specks of the original soil are still clinging to the roots. I have not pressed them between the leaves of this book. I have handled them tenderly. It has been a work of love, the dreamy fancies of youth, the solace of maturer age. Peradventure one or the other may be taken out and planted anew in the nurseries of the West, where they may blossom and grow afresh. They might bring with them the breath of the open field, the perfume of the forest. They might conjure up the time when the nations were still young and lived in the great Nursery of Nature. If one could only bring to the nations of the West for awhile a glimpse of the time of their youth! In my wanderings through these enchanted fields I have tried to find whence the seeds have come, whose hands have sown them, and what spiritual wind and weather have fostered their growth, whether the rain of heaven or the fountains of the deep have watered the roots, what sun has shone upon them, what fiery blast has made these flowers wither and die.
Such as they are, then, they are offered in love to the English people.
I have to thank Mr. S. L. Bensusan, who in true friendship, with admirable skill and with untiring zeal has helped me to remove the boulders, to level the ground, to plan the beds and to trim the edges; Miss C. S. Burne, whose keen sympathy, unerring eye and deft hand have helped to weed the tares and group the flowers; my son Vivian, who with loving care and gentle touch has brushed away the dead leaves that had fallen on the green sward, and last, but not least, the Folk-Lore Society, which has granted me a niche in its great Pantheon. It is indeed no small honour to be in the company of the gods.
In the month when "smale fowles maken melodie."