06 November 2013

To the Mocking Bird - An 1828 Poem

Bird of the wild and wond'rous song!
I hear they rich and varied voice,
Swelling the greenwood depths among
Till gloom and silence pleased rejoice!
Spell bound, entranced in rapture's chain
We list to that inspiring strain!
We tread the forest's tangled maze,
The thousand choristers to see,
Who mingled thus their voices raise,
In that ecstatic minstrelsy!
We search in vain each pause between,
The choral band is still unseen.
'Tis but the music of a dream,
Such as doth oft our slumbers cheer;
But hark again! the eagle's scream!
It rose and fell distinct and clear!
And list, in yonder hawthorn bush,
The red bird, robin, and the thrush!
Lost in amaze we look around,
Nor thrush nor eagle there behold!
But still that rich aerial sound,
Like some forgotten song of old,
That o'er the heart hath held control,
Falls sweetly on the ravish'd soul.
And yet the woods are vocal still,
The air is redolent with song --
Up the hill side, above the rill,
The wild'ring sounds are borne along!
But where, ye viewless minstrels! where
Dwell ye? on earth or upper air?
High on a solitary bough,
With glancing wings and restless feet,
Bird of untiring throat are thou,
Sole songster in this concert sweet!
So perfect, full and rich, each part,
It mocks the highest reach of art.
Once more, one more, that thrilling strain!
I'll-omened owl, be mute, be mute!
Thy native notes I hear again!
More sweet than harp or lover's lute!
Compared with thy impassioned tale,
How cold, how tame, the nightingale!
Alas! capricious is thy power,
Thy 'wood-note wild' again is fled;
The mimic rules, the changeful hour,
And all the 'soul of song' is dead!
But no! to every borrow'd tone,
He lends a sweetness all his own.
On glittering wing erect and bright,
With arrowy speed he darts aloft,
As though his soul had ta'en its flight,
In that last strain so sad and soft.
And he would call it back to life,
To mingle in the mimic strife.
And aye to every fitful lay,
His frame in restless motion wheels,
As though he would indeed essay,
To set the ecstasy he feels;
As though his very feet kept time,
To that inimitable chime.
And ever, as the rising moon
Lifts her bright orb the trees above,
he chants his most melodious tune
While echo wakes through all the grove,
Perch'd on the topmost bough he sings,
Till all the forest loudly rings!
The sleeper from his couch starts up
To listen to that lay forlorn,
And he who quaffs the midnight cup,
Looks out to see the purpling morn.
O! ever in the merry spring,
Sweet mimic let me hear thee sing!
November 7, 1828. Portland Eastern Argus 5(428): 1. From the Atlantic Souvenir.