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Now the sweet clematis tipping,
Now into the bluebell dipping;
Hither, thither, flashing, bright'ning,
Like a streak of emerald lightning:
Round the box, with milk-white plox;
Round the fragrant four-o'-clocks;
O'er the crimson quamoclit,
Lightly dost thou wheel and flit;
Into each tubèd throat
Dives little Ruby-throat.

Bright-glowing airy thing,
Light-going fairy thing,
Not the grand lyre-bird
Rivals thee, splendid one! -
Fairy-attended one,
Green-coated fire-bird!
Shiniest fragile one,
Tiniest agile one,
Falcon and eagle tremble before thee!
Dim is the regal peacock and lory,
And the pheasant, iridescent,
Pales before the gleam and glory
Of the jewel-change incessant,
When the sun is streaming o'er thee!

Hear thy soft humming,
Like a sylph's drumming!


* * * * *


A little brown mother-bird sat in her nest,
With four sleepy birdlings tucked under her breast,
And her querulous chirrup fell ceaseless and low,
While the wind rocked the lilac-tree nest to and fro.

"Lie still, little nestlings! lie still while I tell,
For a lullaby story, a thing that befell
Your plain little mother one midsummer morn,
A month ago, birdies - before you were born.

"I'd been dozing and dreaming the long summer night,
Till the dawn flushed its pink through the waning moonlight;
When - I wish you could hear it once! - faintly there fell
All around me the silvery sound of a bell.

"Then a chorus of bells! So, with just half an eye,
I peeped from the nest, and those lilies close by,
With threads of a cobweb, were swung to and fro
By three little rollicking midgets below.

"Then the air was astir as with humming-birds' wings!
And a cloud of the tiniest, daintiest things
That ever one dreamed of, came fluttering where
A cluster of trumpet-flowers swayed in the air.

"As I sat all a-tremble, my heart in my bill -
'I will stay by the nest,' thought I, 'happen what will;'
So I saw with these eyes by that trumpet-vine fair,
A whole fairy bridal train poised in the air.

"Such a bit of a bride! Such a marvel of grace!
In a shimmer of rainbows and gossamer lace;
No wonder the groom dropped his diamond-dust ring,
Which a little elf-usher just caught with his wing.

"Then into a trumpet-flower glided the train,
And I thought (for a dimness crept over my brain,
And I tucked my head under my wing), 'Deary me!
What a sight for a plain little mother like me!'"


* * * * *


A lazy hen, the story goes,
Loquacious, pert, and self-conceited,
Espied a bee upon a rose,
And thus the busy insect greeted:

"I've marked you well for many a day,
In garden blooms and meadow clover;
Now here, now there, in wanton play,
From morn till night an idle rover.

"While I discreetly bide at home,
A faithful wife, the best of mothers,
About the fields you idly roam,
Without the least regard for others.

"While I lay eggs and hatch them out,
You seek the flowers most sweet and fragrant;
And, sipping honey, stroll about,
At best a good for nothing vagrant."

"Nay," said the bee, "you do me wrong:
I'm useful, too, - perhaps you doubt it:
Because, though toiling all day long,
I scorn to make a fuss about it.

"Come now with me and see my hive,
And note how folks may work in quiet;
To useful arts much more alive
Than you with all your cackling riot!"


* * * * *


When the willows gleam along the brooks,
And the grass grows green in sunny nooks,
In the sunshine and the rain
I hear the robin in the lane
Singing "Cheerily,
Cheer up, cheer up;
Cheerily, cheerily,
Cheer up."

But the snow is still
Along the walls and on the hill.
The days are cold, the nights forlorn,
For one is here and one is gone.
"Tut, tut. Cheerily,
Cheer up, cheer up;
Cheerily, cheerily,
Cheer up."

When spring hopes seem to wane,
I hear the joyful strain -
A song at night, a song at morn,
A lesson deep to me is borne,
Hearing, "Cheerily,
Cheer up, cheer up;
Cheerily, cheerily,
Cheer up."

_Masque of Poets._

* * * * *


Rollicking Robin is here again.
What does he care for the April rain?
Care for it? Glad of it. Doesn't he know
That the April rain carries off the snow,
And coaxes out leaves to shadow his nest,
And washes his pretty red Easter vest,
And makes the juice of the cherry sweet,
For his hungry little robins to eat?
"Ha! ha! ha!" hear the jolly bird laugh.
"That isn't the best of the story, by half!"

Gentleman Robin, he walks up and down,
Dressed in orange-tawney and black and brown.
Though his eye is so proud and his step so firm,
He can always stoop to pick up a worm.
With a twist of his head, and a strut and a hop,
To his Robin-wife, in the peach-tree top,
Chirping her heart out, he calls: "My dear
You don't earn your living! Come here! Come here!
Ha! ha! ha! Life is lovely and sweet;
But what would it be if we'd nothing to eat?"

Robin, Sir Robin, gay, red-vested knight,
Now you have come to us, summer's in sight.
You never dream of the wonders you bring, -
Visions that follow the flash of your wing.
How all the beautiful By-and-by
Around you and after you seems to fly!
Sing on, or eat on, as pleases your mind!
Well have you earned every morsel you find.
"Aye! Ha! ha! ha!" whistles robin. "My dear,
Let us all take our own choice of good cheer!"


* * * * *


There's a call upon the housetop, an answer from the plain,
There's a warble in the sunshine, a twitter in the rain.
And through my heart, at sound of these,
There comes a nameless thrill,
As sweet as odor to the rose,
Or verdure to the hill;
And all the joyous mornings
My heart pours forth this strain:
"God bless the dear old robins
Who have come back again."

For they bring a thought of summer, of dreamy, precious days,
Of king-cups in the summer, making a golden haze;
A longing for the clover blooms,
For roses all aglow,
For fragrant blossoms where the bees
With droning murmurs go;
I dream of all the beauties
Of summer's golden reign,
And sing: "God keep the robins
Who have come back again."


* * * * *


"Now, robins, my darlings, I think it is best,"
Said old mother bird, "that you all quit the nest.
You've grown very plump, and the nest is so small
That really there isn't quite room for you all.

"The day is so fair and the sun is so bright,
I think I can teach you to fly before night:
And, when you have learned, you can go where you please,
As high as the gable, - yes! high as the trees.

"Come, Dickey, hop out, and stand up here by me;
The rest of you stand on the branch of the tree;
Don't be frightened, my dears; there's no danger at all,
For mother will not let her dear birdies fall.

"Now all spread your wings. Ah! but that is too high;
Just see how _I_ do it. Now, all again try!
Ah! that is much better. Now try it once more.
Bravo! much better than ever before!

"Now flutter about, up and down, here and there:
My dears, you'll be flying before you're aware.
Now carefully drop from the tree to the ground;
There's nothing to fear, for there's grass all around.

"All starting but Robbie. 'Afraid you shall fall?'
Ah! don't be a craven, be bravest of all.
Now up and now down, now away to yon spire:
Go on: don't be frightened: fly higher and higher."

* * * * *

"I've waited one hour, right here on the tree:
Not one of my robins has come back to me.
How soon they forget all the trouble they bring!
Never mind: I'll fly up on the tree-top and sing."


* * * * *


Oh, where is the boy, dressed in jacket of gray,
Who climbed up a tree in the orchard to-day,
And carried my three little birdies away?
They hardly were dressed,
When he took from the nest
My three little robins, and left me bereft.

O wrens! have you seen, in your travels to-day,
A very small boy, dressed in jacket of gray,
Who carried my three little robins away?
He had light-colored hair,
And his feet were both bare.
Ah me! he was cruel and mean, I declare.

O butterfly! stop just one moment, I pray:
Have you seen a boy dressed in jacket of gray,
Who carried my three little birdies away?
He had pretty blue eyes,
And was small of his size.
Ah! he must be wicked, and not very wise.

O bees! with your bags of sweet nectarine, stay;
Have you seen a boy dressed in jacket of gray,
And carrying three little birdies away?
Did he go through the town,
Or go sneaking aroun'
Through hedges and byways, with head hanging down?

O boy with blue eyes, dressed in jacket of gray!
If you will bring back my three robins to-day,
With sweetest of music the gift I'll repay;
I'll sing all day long
My merriest song,
And I will forgive you this terrible wrong.

Bobolinks! did you see my birdies and me -
How happy we were on the old apple-tree?
Until I was robbed of my young, as you see?
Oh, how can I sing,
Unless he will bring
My three robins back, to sleep under my wing?

MRS. C. F. BERRY: _Songs for Our Darlings_.

* * * * *


The farmer looked at his cherry-tree,
With thick buds clustered on every bough.
"I wish I could cheat the robins," said he.
"If somebody only would show me how!

"I'll make a terrible scarecrow grim,
With threatening arms and with bristling head;
And up in the tree I'll fasten him,
To frighten them half to death," he said.

He fashioned a scarecrow all tattered and torn, -
Oh, 'twas a horrible thing to see!
And very early, one summer morn,
He set it up in his cherry-tree.

The blossoms were white as the light sea-foam,
The beautiful tree was a lovely sight;
But the scarecrow stood there so much at home
That the birds flew screaming away in fright.

But the robins, watching him day after day,
With heads on one side and eyes so bright,
Surveying the monster, began to say,
"Why should this fellow our prospects blight?

"He never moves round for the roughest weather,
He's a harmless, comical, tough old fellow.
Let's all go into the tree together,
For he won't budge till the fruit is mellow!"

So up they flew; and the sauciest pair
'Mid the shady branches peered and perked,
Selected a spot with the utmost care,
And all day merrily sang and worked.

And where do you think they built their nest?
In the scarecrow's pocket, if you please,
That, half-concealed on his ragged breast,
Made a charming covert of safety and ease!

By the time the cherries were ruby-red,
A thriving family hungry and brisk,
The whole long day on the ripe food fed.
'Twas so convenient! they saw no risk!

Until the children were ready to fly,
All undisturbed they lived in the tree;
For nobody thought to look at the guy
For a robin's flourishing family!


* * * * *


A little gray bird with a speckled breast,
Under my window has built his nest;
He sits on at twig and singeth clear
A song that overfloweth with cheer:
"Love! Love! Love!
Let us be happy, my love.
Sing of cheer."

Sweet and true are the notes of his song;
Sweet - and yet always full and strong,
True - and yet they are never sad,
Serene with that peace that maketh glad:
"Life! Life! Life!
Oh, what a blessing is life;
Life is glad!"

Of all the birds, I love thee best,
Dear Sparrow, singing of joy and rest;
Rest - but life and hope increase,
Joy - whose spring is deepest peace:
"Joy! Life! Love!
Oh, to love and live is joy, -
Joy and peace."

MISS HARRIET E. PAINE: _Bird Songs of New England._

* * * * *


A bubble of music floats
The slope of the hillside over -
A little wandering sparrow's notes -
On the bloom of yarrow and clover.
And the smell of sweet-fern and the bayberry-leaf
On his ripple of song are stealing;
For he is a chartered thief,
The wealth of the fields revealing.

One syllable, clear and soft
As a raindrop's silvery patter,
Or a tinkling fairy-bell, heard aloft,
In the midst of the merry chatter
Of robin and linnet and wren and jay,
One syllable, oft-repeated:
He has but a word to say,
And of that he will not be cheated.

The singer I have not seen;
But the song I arise and follow
The brown hills over, the pastures green,
And into the sunlit hollow.
With the joy of a lowly heart's content
I can feel my glad eyes glisten,
Though he hides in his happy tent,
While I stand outside and listen.

This way would I also sing,
My dear little hillside neighbor!
A tender carol of peace to bring
To the sunburnt fields of labor,
Is better than making a loud ado.
Trill on, amid clover and yarrow:
There's a heart-beat echoing you,
And blessing you, blithe little sparrow!


* * * * *


Glad to see you, little bird;
'Twas your little chirp I heard:
What did you intend to say?
"Give me something this cold day?"

That I will, and plenty too;
All the crumbs I saved for you.
Don't be frightened: here's a treat.
I will wait and see you eat.

Shocking tales I hear of you;
Chirp, and tell me, are they true?
Robbing all the summer long;
Don't you think it very wrong?

Thomas says you steal his wheat;
John complains his plums you eat,
Choose the ripest for your share,
Never asking whose they are?

But I will not try to know
What you did so long ago:
There's your breakfast; eat away;
Come and see me every day.

_Child's Book of Poetry._

* * * * *


Poor, sweet Piccola! Did you hear
What happened to Piccola, children dear?
'Tis seldom Fortune such favor grants
As fell to this little maid of France.

'Twas Christmas-time, and her parents poor
Could hardly drive the wolf from the door,
Striving with poverty's patient pain
Only to live till summer again.

No gifts for Piccola! Sad were they
When dawned the morning of Christmas Day;
Their little darling no joy might stir,
St. Nicholas nothing would bring to her!

But Piccola never doubted at all
That something beautiful must befall
Every child upon Christmas Day,
And so she slept till the dawn was gray.

And, full of faith, when at last she woke,
She stole to her shoe as the morning broke;
Such sounds of gladness tilled all the air,
'Twas plain St. Nicholas had been there!

In rushed Piccola sweet, half wild:
Never was seen such a joyful child.
"See what the good saint brought!" she cried,
And mother and father must peep inside.

Now such a story who ever heard?
There was a little shivering bird!
A sparrow, that in at the window flew,
Had crept into Piccola's tiny shoe!

"How good Piccola must have been!"
She cried as happy as any queen,
While the starving sparrow she fed and warmed,
And danced with rapture, she was so charmed.

Children, this story I tell to you,
Of Piccola sweet and her bird, is true.
In the far-off land of France, they say,
Still do they live to this very day.


* * * * *


Touch not the little sparrow who doth build
His home so near us. He doth follow us,
From spot to spot, amidst the turbulent town,
And ne'er deserts us. To all other birds
The woods suffice, the rivers, the sweet fields,
And Nature in her aspect mute and fair;
But he doth herd with men. Blithe servant! live,
Feed, and grow cheerful! on my window's ledge
I'll leave thee every morning some fit food
In payment for thy service.


* * * * *


A swallow in the spring
Came to our granary, and beneath the eaves
Essayed to make a nest, and there did bring
Wet earth and straw and leaves.

Day after day she toiled
With patient art; but, ere her work was crowned,
Some sad mishap the tiny fabric spoiled,
And dashed it to the ground.

She found the ruin wrought;
But, not cast down, forth from the place she flew,
And, with her mate, fresh earth and grasses brought,
And built her nest anew.

But scarcely had she placed
The last soft feather on its ample floor,
When wicked hands, on chance, again laid waste,
And wrought the ruin o'er.

But still her heart she kept,
And toiled again; and last night, hearing calls,
I looked, - and, lo! three little swallows slept
Within the earth-made walls.

What truth is here, O man!
Hath hope been smitten in its early dawn?
Have clouds o'ercast thy purpose, truth, or plan?
Have faith, and struggle on!


* * * * *


Once the Emperor Charles of Spain,
With his swarthy, grave commanders,
I forget in what campaign,
Long besieged, in mud and rain,
Some old frontier town of Flanders.

Up and down the dreary camp,
In great boots of Spanish leather,
Striding with a measured tramp,
These Hidalgos, dull and damp,
Cursed the Frenchmen, cursed the weather.

Thus as to and fro they went,
Over upland and through hollow,
Giving their impatience vent,
Perched upon the Emperor's tent,
In her nest, they spied a swallow.

Yes, it was a swallow's nest,
Built of clay and hair of horses,
Mane, or tail, or dragoon's crest,
Found on hedge-rows east and west,
After skirmish of the forces.

Then an old Hidalgo said,
As he twirled his gray mustachio,
"Sure this swallow overhead
Thinks the Emperor's tent a shed,
And the Emperor but a Macho!"

Hearing his imperial name
Coupled with those words of malice,
Half in anger, half in shame,
Forth the great campaigner came
Slowly from his canvas palace.

"Let no hand the bird molest,"
Said he solemnly, "nor hurt her!"
Adding then, by way of jest,
"Golondrina is my guest,
'Tis the wife of some deserter!"

Swift as bowstring speed, a shaft,
Through the camp was spread the rumor,
And the soldiers, as they quaffed
Flemish beer at dinner, laughed
At the Emperor's pleasant humor.

So unharmed and unafraid
Sat the swallow still and brooded,
Till the constant cannonade
Through the walls a breach had made,
And the siege was thus concluded.

Then the army, elsewhere bent,
Struck its tents as if disbanding,
Only not the Emperor's tent,
For he ordered, ere he went,
Very curtly, "Leave it standing!"

So it stood there all alone,
Loosely flapping, torn and tattered,
Till the brood was fledged and flown,
Singing o'er those walls of stone
Which the cannon-shot had shattered.


* * * * *


Thou too hast travelled, little fluttering thing -
Hast seen the world, and now thy weary wing
Thou too must rest.
But much, my little bird, couldst thou but tell,
I'd give to know why here thou lik'st so well
To build thy nest.

For thou hast passed fair places in thy flight;
A world lay all beneath thee where to light;
And, strange thy taste,
Of all the varied scenes that met thine eye -
Of all the spots for building 'neath the sky -
To choose this waste.

Did fortune try thee? was thy little purse
Perchance run low, and thou, afraid of worse,
Felt here secure?
Ah no! thou need'st not gold, thou happy one!
Thou know'st it not. Of all God's creatures, man
Alone is poor.

What was it, then? some mystic turn of thought,
Caught under German eaves, and hither brought,
Marring thine eye
For the world's loveliness, till thou art grown
A sober thing that dost but mope and moan,
Not knowing why?

Nay, if thy mind be sound, I need not ask,
Since here I see thee working at thy task
With wing and beak.
A well-laid scheme doth that small head contain,
At which thou work'st, brave bird, with might and main,
Nor more need'st seek.

In truth, I rather take it thou hast got
By instinct wise much sense about thy lot,
And hast small care
Whether an Eden or a desert be
Thy home, so thou remain'st alive, and free
To skim the air.

God speed thee, pretty bird; may thy small nest
With little ones all in good time be blest.
I love thee much;
For well thou managest that life of thine,
While I! oh, ask not what I do with mine!
Would I were such!


* * * * *


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient, solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell forever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.


* * * * *


Forms of saints and kings are standing
The cathedral door above;
Yet I saw but one among them
Who hath soothed my soul with love.

In his mantle, - wound about him,
As their robes the sowers wind, -

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Online LibraryUnknownVoices for the Speechless → online text (page 7 of 14)