Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FEATHERS, by PHOEBE CARY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

FEATHERS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: You restless, curious little jo
Last Line: Who can't tell birds from feathers.
Subject(s): Feathers

YOU restless, curious little Jo,
I have told you all the stories I know,
Written in poem or fable;
I have turned them over, and let you look
At everything like a picture-book
Upon my desk or table.

I think it's enough to drive one wild
To be shut up with a single child,
And try for a day to please her.
Oh, dear me! what does a mother do,
Especially one who lives in a shoe,
And has a dozen to tease her?

"Aha! I've found the very thing,"
I cried, as I saw the beautiful wing
Of a bird, and I said demurely:
"Now, if you'll be good the rest of the day,
I'll give you a bird with which to play;
You know what a bird is, surely?"

"Oh, yes!" and she opened wide her eyes,
"A bird is alive, and sings and flies;"
Then, folding her hands together,
She archly shook her wise little head,
And, looking very innocent, said,
"I know a bird from a feather!"
Well! of all the smart things uttered yet
By a baby three years old, my pet!
It's enough to frighten your mother.
Why, I've seen women -- yes, and men,
Who have lived for threescore years and ten,
Who didn't know one from the other!

Now there is Kitty, past sixteen --
The one with the soldier beau, I mean --
When he makes his bayonet rattle,
And acts so bravely on parade,
She thinks he wouldn't be afraid
In the very front of battle.

But yet, if I were allowed to guess,
I should say her soldier was all in the dress,
And you'll find my guess is the right one.
If ever he has to meet the foe,
The first, and only feather he'll show
That day will be a white one.

There's Mrs. Pie, in her gorgeous plumes;
Why, half the folks who visit her rooms,
Because she is dressed so finely
And holds herself at the highest price,
Pronounce her a bird of paradise,
And say she sings divinely;

While many a one, with a sweeter lay,
Because her feathers are plain and gray,
The world's approval misses,
And only gets its scorn and abuse;
She is called a failure, and called a goose,
And her song is met with hisses.

Men will stick as many plumes on their head
As an Indian chief who has bravely shed
The blood of a hostile nation,
When all the killing they've done or seen
Was killing themselves -- that is, I mean
In the public estimation.

When Tom to his pretty wife was wed,
"She's fuss and feathers," people said,
That any woman could borrow;
And sure enough, her feathers fell,
Though the fuss was the genuine article,
As Tom has found to his sorrow.

When Mrs. Butterfly, who was a grub,
First got her wings, she was such a snob,
She scorned the folks around her,
And made, as she said, the feathers fly;
But when she fell, she had gone so high,
She was smashed as flat as a flounder.

Alas, alas! my little Jo,
I'm sorry to tell it, and sorry it's so;
But as to deceiving, I scorn to.
And I only hope that when you are grown
You will keep the wonderful wisdom you've shown,
Nor lose the wit you were born to.

But whether folks, so wise when they're small,
Can ever live to grow up at all,
Is one of the doubtful whethers.
I'm sure it happens but seldom, though,
Or there wouldn't be so many, you know,
Who can't tell birds from feathers.

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