06 November 2013

The Old-World Sparrow - An 1869 Poem

By Wm. Cullen Bryant.
We hear the note of a stranger bird
That ne'er till now in our land was heard.
A winged settler has taken his place
With Teutons and men of Celtic race;
He has followed their path to our hemisphere
The Old-World Sparrow at last is here.
He meets not here, as beyond the main,
The fowler's snare and poisoned grain,
But snug-built homes on the friendly tree;
And crumbs for his chirping family
Are strewn when the winter fields are drear,
For the Old-World Sparrow is welcome here.
The insects legions that sting our fruit
And strip the leaves from the growing shoot,
A swarming, skulking, ravenous tribe,
Which Harris and Flint so well describe
But cannot destroy, may quail with fear,
For the Old-World Sparrow, their bane, is here.
The apricot, in the summer ray,
May ripen now on the loaded spray,
And the nectarine, by the garden-walk,
Keep firm its hold on the parent stalk,
And the plum its fragrant fruitage rear,
For the Old-World Sparrow, their friend is here.
That pest of gardens, the little Turk
Who signs, with the crescent, his wicked work,
And causes the half-grown fruit to fall,
Shall be seized and swallowed, in spite of all
His sly devices of cunning and fear,
For the Old-World Sparrow, his foe, is here.
And the army-worm and the Hessian fly
And the dreaded canker-worm shall die,
And the thrip and slug and fruit-moth seek,
In vain, to escape that busy beak,
And fairer harvests shall crown the year,
For the Old-World Sparrow at last is here.

I hope I have not said too much for the sparrow. The multiplication of insects in this country within a few years past has occasioned the loss of many kinds of fruits, and the introduction of a bird which propagates in vast numbers, and feeds on almost every kind of insect, is a remedy which promises more than any other that I know of. In Great Britain, the house sparrow -- Fringilla domestica -- is by most farmers regarded as a pest as mischievous as the most noxious vermin, and is pursued and destroyed as remorselessly by traps and poisons as rats and mice. Yet some naturalists hold that they do as much good by destroying weeds and insects as harm by destroying crops and fruits. It is certain that the insect pests which make such havoc among our fruits do comparatively little mischief in Great Britain, probably, as it seems to me, because of the war carried on against them by the multitudes of sparrows.

January 1, 1869. Fremont Weekly Journal 17(1): 1, new series.