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LINES TO A LADY-BIRD, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: Cow-lady, or sweet lady-bird
Last Line: I bid thee hail, bright lady-bird!
Alternate Author Name(s): Lancaster, William P.; Preston, George F.; De Tabley, 3d Baron; De Tabley, Lord
Subject(s): Insects; Ladybirds; Bugs; Ladybugs

Cow-lady, or sweet lady-bird,
Of thee a song is seldom heard.
What record of thy humble days
Almost ignored in poets' lays,
Salutes thy advent? Oversung
Is Philomel by many lyres;
And how the lark to heaven aspires,
Is rumoured with abundant fame,
While dim oblivion wraps thy name.
Hail! then, thou unpresuming thing,
A bright mosaic of the spring,
Enamelled brooch upon the breast
Of the rich-bosomed rose caressed.
Thy wings the balmy zephyrs bear
When woods unfold in vernal air,
When crumpled buds around expand,
Thou lightest on our very hand.
Red as a robin thou dost come,
Confiding, in entreaty dumb.
Who would impede thy harmless track,
Or crush thy wing or burnished back?
'Tis said, thy lighting and thy stay
Bring luck: and few would brush away
The small unbidden crawling guest,
But let thee sheathe thy wings in rest,
And take thy voluntary flight
Uninjured to some flower's delight.
For there is nothing nature through,
Lovely and curious as you:
A little dome-shaped insect round,
With five black dots on a carmine ground.
What art thou? I can hardly tell.
A little tortoise of the dell
With carapace or vaulted shell
Of shining crimson? Or again,
I picture thee, in fancy plain,
A little spotted elfin cow,
Of whose sweet milk a milkmaid fairy
Makes syllabub in Oberon's dairy.
Thou hast a legend-pedigree
That gives thy race a high degree
From the shed blood of Venus sweet,
Thorn-wounded in her pearly feet,
As thro' the dewy woods she went,
Love-lorn, in utter discontent,
Listening afar the echoing horn
Of coy Adonis, in whose scorn
The Love-queen languished, love-forlorn.
He burned to hunt the boar at bay,
And loathed the lover's idle play;
So Venus followed in the chase
And from her wounded heel a trace
Of blood-drip tinged the dewy mead,
And, from the ichor she did bleed,
From Aphrodite's precious blood,
Arose the lady-birds, a brood
As gentle as the hurt of love,
That gave them birth and parentage
In legends of the golden age.
But, coming to our modern day,
Thee peevish children scare away,
And speed thy flight with evil rhyme,
Waving an idle hand meantime,
To make thee spread thy wings in fear
With rumours of disaster near,
And tidings of thy home in flames,
And all thy burning children's names,
How all are scorched but Ann alone
Who safely crept inside a stone;
With many an old unlettered fable
Of churlish lips inhospitable.
And when these fancies all are past,
I see thee as thou art at last,
A welcome sign of genial spring,
Awaited as a swallow's wing,
The cuckoo's call, the drone of bee,
The small gnat's dancing minstrelsy.
Ere hawthorn buds are sweetly stirred
I bid thee hail, bright lady-bird!

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