01 February 2009

Celebrating Birds in Poetic Expressions of 1850s California

Singing Birds

By Monadnock.
By the river, by the lake,
Where the silver ripples break;
In the dark sequestered glen;
In the crowded haunts of men;
In the woods from footsteps free,
In the garden apple tree, -
Wherever shadows flit around,
Little singing birds abound.
In the Northern land of storm,
'Mid the iceberg's awful form,
Under burning tropic skies,
Where the verdure never dies;
Where Siberian exiles roam,
In the cold and cheerless home; -
Where the Niger rolls his tide,
Little singing birds abide.
On Atlantic's rock-bound shore,
Where the sullen surges roar;
Where Pacific's calmer strand,
Leaves the gorgeous golden land;
In the lonely mountain glen, -
Homes of hardy mining men,
Washing gold with will so strong,
Birds are singing all day long.
In the valleys still and lowly,
Where the baffling brooks move slowly;
Where the mountain ash is waving,.
And the pines the storms are braving;
In the pastures spreading green,
Where the sportive lambs are seen;
Lights and shadows flitting round,
Little singing birds are found.
San Francisco, July 23d, 1856. In: August, 1856. Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine 2(1): 87.

Spring Birds

By L.R. Goodman.
[Sketch of Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 1835]
Sweet birds of Spring ! from sunny climes,
Where orange-groves are blooming,
You have returned; your notes and rhymes
With silver throats resuming: —
But when smile she, whose every strain
You emulated, come again?
When Autumn woods are fringed with gold,
And Autunm winds were sighing,
And you your tender farewells told
While terns find flowers were dying,
She bade us all a fond adieu,
And went away, sweet birds, with you.
The lark is piping to the sun,
The linnet loudly singing,
The noisy jay has just begun
To set the woodland ringing: —
But she no more shall wake the lay
That ushered in the golden day.
Mount up, sweet lark! above the skies,
Beyond the ken of mortals,
And catch the morning melodies
That float through Glory's portals;
Then bring to me her new-born lay,
And I will wipe each tear away
July, 1859. Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine 4(1): 16. [Sketch of Mockingbird, 1835]

To a Mocking Bird, Singing in a Tree
By John R. Ridge.

Sing on, thou little mocker, sing —
Sarcastic poet of the bowery clime!
Though full of scoff, thy notes are sweet
As ever tilled melodious rhyme!
I love thee for thy gracefulness,
And for thy jollity - such happiness!
Oh, I could seize it for my booty,
But that the deed would make thy music less.
Say, now, do not the feathery bands
Feel hatred for thy songs which mock their own!
And, as thou passest by, revile
Thee angrily, with envy in their tone?
Or are their little breasts too pure
To know the pangs our human bosoms feel?
Perhaps they love thee for that same,
And from thy sweetness new heart-gushes steal?
Upon the summit of yon tree
How gaily thou dost sing? how free from pain
Oh, would that my sad heart could bound
With half the Eden rapture of thy strain!
I then would mock at every tear
That falls where Sorrow's shaded fountains flow,
And smile at every sigh that heaves
In dark regret o'er some bewildering woe.
But mine is not thy breast- nor would
I place within its little core one sting
That goads my own, for all the bliss
That heartless robbery of thee would bring.
Ah no, still keep thy music-power,
The ever radiant glory of thy soul,
And let thy voice of melody
Soar on, as now, abhorrent of control.
Maybe, thou sing'st of heaven sometimes,
As raptured consciousness pervades thy breast;
Maybe, of some far home, where Love
O'er Bird-land spreads soft, cooling shades of rest.
If man, whose voice is far less sweet
Than thine, looks high for his eternal home
Oh say, do not thy dreamings too
To some green spot and habitation roam ?
If living thought can never die,
Why should thine own expire? If there is love
Within thy heart, it must live on,
Nor less than man's have dwelling-place above.
Thy notes shall then be brighter far
Than now they be! And I may listen, too,
With finer ear, and clearer soul,
Beneath a shade more soft, a sky more blue!
August, 1859. Hutchings' Illustrated California Magazine 4(2): 65.

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