Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CUCKOO SONG, by HILDA DOOLITTLE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

CUCKOO SONG, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Ah, bird
Last Line: When all her hope was dead.
Alternate Author Name(s): H. D.; Aldington, Richard, Mrs.
Subject(s): Bible; Birds; Cuckoos

Ah, bird,
our love is never spent
with your clear note,
nor satiate our soul;
not song, not wail, not hurt,
but just a call summons us
with its simple top-note
and soft fall;
not to some rarer heaven
of lilies over-tall,
nor tuberose set against
some sun-lit wall,
but to a gracious
cedar-palace hall;
not marble set with purple
hung with roses and tall
sweet lilies—such
as the nightingale
would summon for us
with her wail–
(surely only unhappiness
could thrill
such a rich madrigal!)
not she, the nightingale
can fill our souls
with such a wistful joy as this:
nor, bird, so sweet
was ever a swallow note—
not hers, so perfect
with the wing of lazuli
and bright breast—
nor yet the oriole
filling with melody
from her fiery throat
some island-orchard
in a purple sea.
[Page 26]
Ah dear, ah gentle bird,
you spread warm length
of crimson wool
and tinted woven stuff
for us to rest upon,
nor numb with ecstasy
nor drown with death:
only you soothe, make still
the throbbing of our brain:
so through her forest trees,
when all her hope was gone
and all her pain,
Calypso heard your call—
across the gathering drift
of burning cedar-wood,
across the low-set bed
of wandering parsley and violet,
when all her hope was dead.

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