Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BIRDS, by ELIZA COOK

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BIRDS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Birds! Birds! Ye are beautiful things
Last Line: Is the eloquent hymn of the beautiful bird.
Subject(s): Birds

Birds! birds! ye are beautiful things,
With your earth-treading feet and your cloud-cleaving wings.
Where shall Man wander, and where shall he dwell,
Beautiful birds, that ye come not as well?
Ye have nests on the mountain all rugged and stark,
Ye have nests in the forest all tangled and dark;
Ye build and ye brood 'neath the cottagers' eaves,
And ye sleep on the sod 'mid the bonnie green leaves:
Ye hide in the heather, ye lurk in the brake,
Ye dive in the sweet flags that shadow the lake;
Ye skim where the stream parts the orchard-deck'd land,
Ye dance where the foam sweeps the desolate strand;
Beautiful birds, ye come thiekly around,
When the bud's on the branch and the snow's on the ground;
Ye come when the richest of roses flush out,
And ye come when the yellow leaf eddies about.

Gray-haired pilgrim, thou hast been
Round the chequered world I ween;
Thou hast lived in happy lands,
Where the thriving city stands;
Thou hast travell'd far to see
Where the city used to be;
Chance and change are everywhere,
Riches here and ruins there;
Pilgrim, thou hast gazed on all,
On rising pile and fading wall.
Tell us, saw ye not, brave birds,
In the crumbled halls of old,
Where monarch's smile and rulers' words
Breathed above the chaliced gold?

Say who is it now that waits
At the "hundred brazen gates?"
Who is now the great High Priest,
Bending o'er the carrion feast?
Who is now the reigning one,
O'er the dust of Babylon?
It is the owl with doleful scream,
Waking the jackal from his dream;
It is the Raven black and sleek,
With shining claw and sharpened beak!
It is the Vulture sitting high
In mockery of thrones gone by.

Pilgrim, say, what dost thou meet
In busy mart and crowded street?
There the smoke brown Sparrow sits,
There the dingy Martin flits,
There the tribe from dove-house coop
Take their joyous morning swoop;
There the treasured singing pet,
In his narrow cage is set,
Welcoming the beams that come
Upon his gilded prison-home.

Wearied pilgrim, thou hast march'd
O'er the desert dry and parch'd,
Where no little flower is seen,
No dew-drop cold, no oasis green,
What saw'st thou there? the Ostrich fast
As Arab steed or northern blast,
And the stately Pelican
Wondering at intrusive man.

Pilgrim, say, who was it show'd
A ready pathway to the Alp?
Who was it crossed your lonely road,
From the valley to the scalp?
Tired and timid friends had failed,
Resting in the hut below,
But your bold heart still was hailed
By the Eagle and the Crow.
Pilgrim, when you sought the clime
Of the myrtle, palm, and lime,
Where the diamond loves to hide,
Jostling rubies by its side,
Say, were not the brightest gleams
Breaking on your dazzled eye,
From the thousand glancing beams
Poured in feathered blazonry?
Pilgrim, hast thou seen the spot,
Where the winged forms come not?

Mariner! mariner! thou may st go
Far as the strongest wind can blow,
But much thou'lt tell when thou comest back
Of the sea running high and the sky growing black,
Of the mast that went with a rending crash,
Of the lee-shore seen by the lightning's flash,
And never shall thou forget to speak
Of the white Gull's cry and the Petrel's shriek.
For out on the ocean, leagues away,
Madly skimmeth the boding flock,
The storm-fire burns, but what care they?
'Tis the season of joy and the time for play,
When the thunder-peal and the breaker's spray
Are bursting and boiling around the rock.

Lovers linger in the vale
While the twilight gathers round,
With a fear lest mortal ear
Should listen to the whisper'd sound.
They would have no peering eye
While they tell the secret tale,
Not a spy may venture nigh,
Save the gentle Nightingale.
Swinging on the nearest bough
He may witness every vow,
Perch'd upon the tree close by,
He may note each trembling sigh;
Favoured bird, oh thou hast heard
Many a soft and mystic word,
While the night breeze scarcely stirr'd,
And the stars were in the sky.

Up in the morning, while the dew
Is splashing in crystals o'er him,
The ploughman hies to the upland rise,
But the lark is there before him.
He sings while the team is yoked to the share,
He sings when the mist is going,
He sings when the noon-tide south is fair,
He sings when the west is glowing.
Now his pinions are spread o'er the peasant's head,
Now he drops in the furrow behind him,
Oh the Lark is a merry and constant mate,
Without favour or fear to bind him.

Beautiful birds! how the schoolboy remembers
The warblers that chorused his holiday tune,
The Robin that chirp'd in the frosty Decembers,
The Blackbird that whistled through flower-crowned June, --
That schoolboy remembers his holiday ramble,
When he pull'd every blossom of palm he could see,
When his finger was raised as he stopped in the bramble
With "Hark! there's the Cuckoo, how close he must be."

Beautiful birds! we've encircled thy names
With the fairest of fruits and the fiercest of flames.
We paint War with his Eagle and Peace with her Dove,
With the red bolt of Death and the olive of Love;
The fountain of Friendship is never complete
Till ye coo o'er its waters, so sparkling and sweet;
And where is the hand that would dare to divide
Even Wisdom's grave self from the Owl by her side?

Beautiful creatures of freedom and light,
Oh where is the eye that groweth not bright
As it watches you trimming your soft, glossy coats,
Swelling your bosoms and ruffling your throats.
Oh! I would not ask as the old ditties sing,
To be "happy as sand-boy" or "happy as king,"
For the joy is more blissful that bids me declare,
"I'm as happy as all the wild birds in the air."
I will tell them to find me a grave when I die
Where no marble will shut out the glorious sky;
Let them give me a tomb
Where the daisy will bloom,
Where the moon will shine down and the leveret pass by;
But be sure there's a tree stretching out high and wide,
Where the Linnet, the Thrush, and the Wood-lark may hide,
For the truest and purest of requiems heard
Is the eloquent hymn of the beautiful Bird.

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