06 November 2013

Words - An 1864 Poem

By J.G. Holland.
The robin repeats his two beautiful words,
The meadow lark whistles his one refrain;
And steadily, over and over again,
The same song swells from a hundred birds.
Bobolink, chickadee, blackbird, and jay,
Thrasher and woodpecker, cuckoo and wren,
Each sings its word, or its phrase, and them
It has nothing further to sing or say.
Into that word or sweet little phrase,
All there may be of its life must crowd;
And low and liquid, or hoarse and loud,
It breathes its burden of joy and praise.
A little child sits in his father's door,
Chatting and singing with careless tongue;
A thousand musical words are sung,
And he holds unuttered a thousand more.
Words measure power, and they measure thine;
Greater art thou in thy childish years
Than all the birds of a hundred spheres?
They are brutes only, but thou art divine.
Words measure destiny. Power to declare
Infinite ranges of passion and thought,
Holds with the infinite only its lot —
Is of eternity only the heir.
Words measure life and they measure its joy;
Thou hast more joy in thy childish years
Than the birds of a hundred musical spheres;
So, sing with the beautiful birds, my boy.
July 1, 1864. Burlington Free Press 11(1): 1, new series.