06 November 2013

Spring Notes - Bird Verses from 1880

The Blue Bird.

In tropic summer's endless smile
I hibernate on some bright isle —
Some coral reef that slowly grew
From ocean's sunless depths to view,
Which tiny masons upward urge
To reach the stir of breeze and surge.
Just, only a sojourner there,
In spring I yearn for northern air,
For greener sward of northern earth,
For far-off orchard of my birth,
For dim-seen North Star's mystic ray,
For apple-blossoms of Northern May,
Where balmy scents make vain, in sooth,
The gaudier floras of the South.
We birds of migrant pinion know
The gulf streams of the upper air,
Which poleward the Equator's glow
Through azure deeps of heaven bear.
My punctual flight knows no delay,
I disappoint not bards of May,
Who listen in their Auburn dells
Till on the breeze my warble swells.

The Robin.

Long, long ere russet nature weaves
Her meshes green of vernal leaves
In orchards bare I sing again
My eve song sweet, my old refrain,
Which used in forest days to bless
At sunset's hour the wilderness,
While frogs are piping in the marsh
Their querulous spring-notes harsh.

The Oriole.

Though fitly plumed for tropic zone,
I live not in its glory alone,
But love the North Star's region well,
And there, when May winds blow, I dwell.
More dear than palm the elm to me,
With its pensive boughs that sway
O'er the village street in May.
When on the south wind rides the bee.
I deftly weave my pendulous nest
From sly marauders far away,
So placed they can not it molest.
On the elm tree's delicate spray
Hang its net-like meshes, finely wove
Of housewife's skeins, my treasure trove,
Of flax, tow, hemp and silk, which I
Appropriate, with foray sly,
From featherless man, my lawful game.
My horsehair stitching puts to shame
The handiwork of maid and dame.
Then, when my hammock fine is done,
And spotted eggs my gentle mate,
O'er watched by me, doth incubate,
Caressed all day by breeze and beam.
For her I foray all the air,
To fetch her morsels rich and rare.
Meantime, with mellow whistle wild,
My woo-note sweet, she is beguiled.
The rustics watch my gorgeous trim
Flashing through elm boughs greenly dim;
With wondering vision they behold
My tropic plumage, black and gold,
On genuine song-bird feathers fine,
Not oft are wont to gleam like mine;
But I, despite my sumptuous vest,
All ears with my songs arrest,
My flute-note, cadence wild of May,
Heard when in-soft winds branches sway,
And nature basks in holiday.
I am not proud — a lordling stole
The rich hues of the Oriole
For livery — they were my wear
Ere caste was known, and e'en ere man
On earth his sad career began.
I flaunted them in summer air,
And haply, when his race is done,
I shall flash them in the sun.

The Humming Bird.

Haunter of summer nature boon,
Lancing with gentle tongue the flowers,
Which hang dew-pearled in morning's bowers,
Sipper of nectar sweet of June,
Winged emerald of amethyst,
By swiftness turned to gold-green mist,
The tiny form quick glances o'er,
The continent from shore to shore,
From sea-like bay, with Arctic strand,
To far savannahs' breezes bland.

The Wild Goose.

For myriad years my migrant wing,
At advent of the fall and spring,
The ether hath been furrowing.
Austral heat and Arctic cold
Shunning with adventure bold.
Once all this new-world hemisphere
Stretched wide and wild, a desert drear,
With screams and lakes and tarns inlaid,
Green-fringed by pine and hemlock's shade.
Marauders sly from village and town
Now harry me when floundering down
On watery caravansera
At night to rest and feed and play,
Ere I resume my airy way.
Secure in Arctic circles dim
And lone bayou, I breed and swim;
All earth beside is foeman's ground
Where at my peril I am found.

The Night-hawk.

I am a diver of the air,
A plunger through the summer's gold;
A mount till ether thin and rare
My respiration doth withhold.
Then from the zenith rush sheer down
To roofs of underlying town
With dissonant roar, whence up again
I wheel into the azure air's domain;
On swift vibrating pinions raised
Whence bird of love hath seldom gazed.
I peer into the city's street,
Where men like emmets mix and meet.
Ah! glad am I for wings of might
To soar back to the zenith's height,
Through glorious privacies of light —
To range and revel at my will,
Snatching of insects game my fill.

The Owl.

Here in this lone bucolic glen
An eremite, I have my den;
The hollow of an ancient tree
Is castle, domestic for me.
Most like I night and star and moon
And midnight weird — of night the moon.
To brooklet's babble through the dark
Delightedly my lulled ears hark;
The news nocturnal midst distill
With dampness all my feathers fill.
I flutter forth with loud to-whoo
Amid the silence and the dew,
Raiding on roost and farmstead near,
While drowses sleepy chanticleer,
No more with clarion shrill to cheer,
As morning breaks, his master's ear.
I care not for vile man's abuse,
Who dubs me mystic and recluse;
Far from his haunts I make my camp
In solitude of treey swamp,
Whence send I forth my solos till
With raucous wails ring wood and hill.
The maid of wisdom's buckler bore
My large-eyed face in days of yore;
My ancient attic kindred flew
Engraved on coins the wide world through.
The fixed regard of my great eyes
Let men assume to pass for wise —
The unfeathered biped I despise.
Meantime revolving earth warms me,
When back to hurry to my tree;
In sylvan covert shy withdrawn
I blink the rose-streaks cool of dawn,
Hiding, as its serial gold
Is over eastern hill-tops rolled,
Quenching in its refulgent scream,
The morn-star Phosphor's ardent beam.
April 28, 1880. Sycamore True Republican 23(29): 2. From the Boston Herald.