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Part Five

Bird Song

Answer to a Child's Question

Do you ask what the birds say? The sparrow, the dove,
The linnet, and thrush say, "I love and I love!"
In the winter they're silent, the wind is so strong;
What it says I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving, all come back together.
Then the lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings, and forever sings he,
"I love my Love, and my Love loves me."


The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,--
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

                           Lowell: "The Vision of Sir Launfal"

Birds' Music

The little leaves upon the trees
   Are written o'er with notes and words,
The pretty madrigals and glees
   Sung by the merry minstrel birds.

Their teacher is the Wind, I know;
   For while they're busy at their song,
He turns the music quickly, so
   The tune may smoothly move along.

So all through summer time they sing,
   And make the woods and meadows sweet,
And teach the brooks, soft murmuring,
   Their dainty carols to repeat.

And when, at last, their lessons done,
   The winter brings a frosty day,
Their teacher takes them, one by one,
   Their music, too, and goes away.

                     Frank Dempster Sherman

Morning In Birdland

   At one in the morning,
Ali's silent in Birdland, all bright eyes are curtained,
       and folded all wings.

   At two in the morning,
Some dreaming young thing a snatch of its daytime
       roundelay sings.

   At three in the morning,
Early-Bird chides his neighbors, and then falls asleep

   At four in the morning,
All merry and mad, pour a medley of song on the
       quivering air.

                                                 Edith M. Thomas

*The Way to Sing

The birds must know. Who wisely sings
   Will sing as they;
The common air has generous wings,
   Songs make their way.
No messenger to run before,
   Devising plan;
No mention of the place or hour
   To any man;
No waiting till some sound betrays
   A listening ear;
No different voice, no new delays,
   If steps draw near.

"What bird is that? Its song is good."
   And eager eyes
Go peering through the dusky wood,
   In glad surprise.
Then late at night, when by his fire
   The traveller sits,
Watching the flame grow brighter, higher,
   The sweet song flits
By snatches through his weary brain
   To help him rest;
When next he goes that road again,
   An empty nest
On leafless bough will make him sigh,
   "Ah me! last spring
Just here I heard, in passing by,
   That rare bird sing!"

But while he sighs, remembering
   How sweet the song,
The little bird on tireless wing,
   Is borne along
In other air, and other men
   With weary feet,
On other roads, the simple strain
   Are finding sweet.
The birds must know. Who wisely sings
   Will sing as they;
The common air has generous wings,
   Songs make their way.

                            Helen Hunt Jackson

*NOTE.--Reprinted by permission of
Little, Brown & Co.

Then will the birds sing anthems; for the earth and sky and air
Will seem a great cathedral, filled with beings dear and fair;
And long processions, from the time that bluebird notes begin
Till gentians fade, through forest-aisles will still move out and in.

                                                                    Lucy Larcom

Spring Twilight

Singing in the rain, robin?
Rippling out so fast
All thy flute-like notes, as if
This singing were thy last!

After sundown, too, robin?
Though the fields are dim,
And the trees grow dark and still,
Dripping from leaf and limb.

'Tis heart-broken music--
That sweet, faltering strain,--
Like a mingled memory,
Half ecstasy, half pain.

Surely thus to sing, robin
Thou must have in sight
Beautiful skies behind the shower,
And dawn beyond the night.

Would thy faith were mine, robin!
Then, though night were long,
All its silent hours should melt
Their sorrow into song.

                                       E. R. Sill

Do you ne'er think what wondrous beings these?
   Do you ne'er think who made them, and who taught
The dialect they speak, where melodies
   Alone are the interpreters of thought?
Whose household words are songs in many keys,
   Sweeter than instrument of man e'er caught!
Whose habitations in the treetops even
   Are half-way houses on the road to heaven!

Think, every morning when the sun peeps through
   The dim, leaf-latticed windows of the grove,
How jubilant the happy birds renew
   Their old, melodious madrigals of love!
And when you think of this, remember, too,
   'Tis always morning somewhere, and above
The awakening continents, from shore to shore,
   Somewhere the birds are singing evermore.

                         Longfellow: "Birds of Killingworth"


The nesting-time is o'er, the nestlings flown;
The forests and the meadows hushed have grown
Save for a stray song; though the earth's astir
With drowsy insect hordes which hum and whir.

The quiet songsters hide away from view
While donning winter plumage, fresh and new;
And then in flocks they gather and alight
In feeding-grounds, upon their southward flight.

           *         *         *         *         *

The autumn woods are radiant and fair,
But oh, the poignant silence reigning there!
'Tis like a home, with rarest beauty filled,
Where children's happy voices have been stilled.


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