Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HERMIT THRUSH, by JOHN BURROUGHS



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THE HERMIT THRUSH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the primal forest's hush
Last Line: A benediction on the air.
Subject(s): Birds; Thrushes


In the primal forest's hush,
Listen! . . . the hermit thrush!
Silver chords of purest sound
Pealing through the depths profound,
Tranquil rapture, unafraid
In the fragrant morning shade.

Pausing in the twilight dim,
Hear him lift his evening hymn,
Clear it rings from mountain crest,
Pulsing out from speckled breast.
Day is done, the moon doth soar,
Still the hermit, o'er and o'er,
In the deep'ning twilight long
Holds and swells his cadenced song.

Purest sounds are farthest heard,
Voice of man or song of bird,
And the hermit's silver horn
In dreaming night or dewy morn
Is a serene, ethereal psalm,
Devoutly gay, divinely calm --
The soul of song, the breath of prayer,
In melody beyond compare,
'Tis borne afar on every breeze,
Nor captive held by housing trees.
Where louder voices faint and fail
The hermit's purer tones prevail.

O silver throat, O golden heart,
What magic in thy artless art!
In boyhood days I knew thee well
And yielded to thy music's spell.
Thy tawny wing, thy silent flight,
Thy gesture soft when thou didst light,
Thy graceful pose, thy gentle mien,
Thy still reserve when thou wast seen.
I knew the woods where thou didst bide,
I knew the nest that was thy pride --
An open secret on the ground
By russet leaves encompassed round.

I linger long where thou dost sing,
To drink my fill of everything
That waves above or blooms below,
And all that sylvan spirits know --
The hoary trunks, the whispering leaves,
Pewee that pensive sighs and grieves,
Clintonia with her modest bells,
Columbine with honeyed cells,
Violet pale and orchid rare,
Fragrant brakes and maiden-hair,
Mitchella with her floral twins,
Crimson fruit that partridge wins,
Oxalis with her girlish face,
Squirrel corn with leafy grace,
Herb Robert rank, with veined eye,
And liver leaf "to match the sky" --
These and others fair and sweet
Bedeck the floor of thy retreat.

Two other birds oft with thee fare
And syllable the wilding air.
The veery thrush blows in his flute
When all but thou and he are mute --
Reverb'rant note in leafy halls
That echo to his fluty calls.
And winter wren with thee abides, --
A dapper bird that skulks and hides,
Now court'sying on a mossy stone,
Then ducking 'neath a tree-trunk prone;
Pert his mien, his wondrous throat
Quivers and throbs with rapid note --
A lyric burst with power imbued
To thrill and shake the solitude.

But thou art master in these aisles,
Our troubled hearts thy strain beguiles;
Deep solemn joy thy soul knoweth well.
Chant on, from heights where thou dost dwell,
The hymn of faith, thy peace, thy prayer --
A benediction on the air.






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