Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CUCKOO, by JOHN BURROUGHS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CUCKOO, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Strange, reserved, unsocial bird
Last Line: Though doleful as a mourning-dove.
Subject(s): Birds; Cuckoos

Strange, reserved, unsocial bird,
Flitting, peering, 'mid the leaves,
Thy lonely call a twofold word
Repeated like a soul that grieves --
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou" -- a solemn plaint
Now loud and full, now far and faint.

A joyless winged anchorite,
Or hapless exile in the night
Oft intoning in the night
A rune I fain would understand --
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a boding cry,
When night enfolds the earth and sky.

With eye and motions of the dove,
And throat that swells and heaves,
Thy life seems quite untouched by love,
Or by the spell that passion weaves,
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a doleful note,
From out a smooth and dovelike throat.

Thy nest a little scaffolding
Of loosely woven boughs,
Compared with nests of birds that sing,
A hut beside a house.
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," unsocial sound,
When blithe and festive calls abound.

Art prophet of the coming rain --
The raincrow, wise in weather lore?
Or dost thou try to say in vain
The words of thine in days of yore?
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou." Weird thy call,
Though happy skies are over all.

"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," repeated oft,
Like one who half recalls the chimes
Of "Cuckoo," "Cuckoo," in wood and croft,
Across the seas in Wordsworth's times.
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," thy cheerless strain
To country folk foretelleth rain.

Thy voice hath lost its blithesome tone,
Thy ways have changed from gay to grave;
Do nesting cares make thee to moan
Since finchie now is not thy slave?
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," in voice forlorn,
As if thy breast were on a thorn.

But thou hast gained in love, I ween,
And gained in hue a burnished brown;
In thicket dense thy nest is seen,
And love of young is now thy crown.
"Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a call of love,
Though doleful as a mourning-dove.

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