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Bird Poems


Poems by Bird Species


Poems About Birds

Fine feathers do not make a fine bird.

– Old Saying
  1. If a Bird May Think

    by Annette Wynne

    If a bird may think, its thoughts are not so small,
    For it may think of skies or hills or anything at all.

    So a child may think, thoughts big and free and wide—
    It's good for birds and children, thoughts need not fit inside.

  2. Birds

    by Moira O'Neill

    Sure maybe ye've heard the storm-thrush
    Whistlin' bould in March,
    Before there's a primrose peepin' out,
    Or a wee red cone on the larch;
    Whistlin' the sun to come out o' the cloud,
    An' the wind to come over the sea,
    But for all he can whistle so clear an' loud,
    He's never the bird for me.

    Sure maybe ye've seen the song-thrush
    After an April rain
    Slip from in-undher the drippin' leaves,
    Wishful to sing again;
    An' low wi' love when he's near the nest,
    An' loud from the top o' the tree,
    But for all he can flutter the heart in your breast,
    He's never the bird for me.

    Sure maybe ye've heard the cushadoo
    Callin' his mate in May,
    When one sweet thought is the whole of his life,
    An' he tells it the one sweet way.
    But my heart is sore at the cushadoo
    Filled wid his own soft glee,
    Over an' over his "me an' you!"
    He's never the bird for me.

    Sure maybe ye've heard the red-breast
    Singin' his lone on a thorn,
    Mindin' himself o' the dear days lost,
    Brave wid his heart forlorn.
    The time is in dark November,
    An' no spring hopes has he:
    "Remember," he sings, "remember!"
    Ay, thon's the wee bird for me.

  3. Birds

    by Richard Henry Stoddard

    Birds are singing round my window,
    Tunes the sweetest ever heard,
    And I hang my cage there daily,
    But I never catch a bird.

    So with thoughts my brain is peopled,
    And they sing there all day long:
    But they will not fold their pinions
    In the little cage of Song!

  4. The Reveille

    by Anonymous

    It is made of the jubilant sparrows,
    All chirping a different song,
    And the song sparrow singing supremely,
    So royally rippling along,

    It is made of the chirruping robins
    The orioles carolling gay
    The pewees plaintively urgent
    The trumpeting crow and the jay.

    It is made of the yellowthroat's whistle,
    And the redstart's sibilant rune,
    Of the towhee's militant summons,
    And the vireo's iterant tune.

    It's a rare and imperial chorus,
    So jauntily merry and true;
    Bird brothers! 'tis mightily pleasant
    Beginning the day's work with you!

  5. Bird Egotism

    by Amos Russell Wells

    A vireo sings in the top of the tree
    The whole of the livelong day.
    He sings: "See me! Look at me! See me!"
    And that is all he can say.

    He is well worth looking at, natty and trim
    In his garments of olive green;
    He is hard at work on his leafy limb,
    And he wears the friendliest mien.

    But he sings: "Here, here! Look at me! Look, look!
    See me! Look at me! Do, do!"
    And that is the whole of his wisest book,
    Declaiming it through and through.

    I like his grit, and I like his cheer,
    And surely he's good to see;
    But I own it is tiresome forever to hear;
    "See me! Look at me! See me!"

  6. Nineteen Birds

    by Anonymous

    Nineteen birds and one bird more,
    Just make twenty, and that's a score.

    To the score then add but one;
    That will make just twenty-one.

    Now add two, and you will see
    You have made up twenty-three.

    If you like these clever tricks.
    Add three more-for twenty-six.

    Then three more, if you have time;
    Now you’ve got to twenty-nine.

    Twenty-nine now quickly take—
    Add one more and Thirty make.

  7. Inside the Shell

    by Amos Russel Wells

    I am a bird in a shell,
    Busy by night and by day
    In decking and fashioning well
    The spherical home where I stay.

    With the warm red blood of my heart
    I paint the enveloping white
    In forms of luxuriant art,
    In symbols of grace and delight.

    This is the world and the all,
    This that enwraps me around,
    This warm, symmetrical ball
    Without beginning or bound.

    Strange are the voices that come
    My peaceful contentment to mar;
    For the spaces beyond it are dumb,
    If spaces beyond it there are.

    Strange are the forces that stir
    This orbic mansion and me.
    For we are all things that ever were,
    And all that ever can be.

    And so I do wisely and well,
    Adorning by night and by day
    This perfect and permanent shell,&mdash
    My dwelling forever nnd aye.

  8. The Wounded Bird

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    HERE'S the last food your poor mother can bring!
    Take it, my suffering brood!
    Oh! they have stricken me under the wing;
    See, it is dripping with blood!

    Fair was the morn, and I wished them to rise
    And taste of its beauties with me;
    The air was all fragrance, all splendor the skies;
    And bright shone the earth and the sea.

    Little I thought, when so freely I went,
    Spending my earliest breath
    To wake them with song, it could be their intent
    To pay me with arrows and death!

    Fear that my nestlings would feel them forgot
    Helped me, a moment, to fly;
    Else, I had given up life on the spot,
    Under my murderer's eye.

    Feeble and faint, I have reached you, at length,
    Over the hill and the plain,
    Strewing my feathers, and losing my strength,
    Wounded and throbbing with pain!

    Yet, I can never brood o'er you again,
    Closing you under my breast!
    Its coldness would chill you; my blood would but stain
    And spoil the warm down in your nest.

    Ere the night-coming, your mother will lie
    Motionless, under the tree—
    Helpless and silent, I still shall be nigh,
    While ye are moaning for me!

  9. Birds at Night

    by Amos Russel Wells

    Soft little hush songs heard in the night,
    Young birds practising songs in their sleep,
    Old birds dreaming of sunshiny flight,
    Sweep, pe-e-ep, sweep!

    Daintiest fragments of daylight song
    Drift through my window out of the dark,
    Drift through my window all the night long,
    Hark, che-e-e, hark!

    Lying I listen and take to my soul
    Fine little lessons of hope and of cheer,
    Darkness and daylight one beautiful whole,
    Hear, swe-e-et, hear!

  10. Nest Eggs

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Birds all the sunny day
    Flutter and quarrel
    Here in the arbour-like
    Tent of the laurel.

    Here in the fork
    The brown nest is seated;
    Four little blue eggs
    The mother keeps heated.

    While we stand watching her
    Staring like gabies,
    Safe in each egg are the
    Bird's little babies.

    Soon the frail eggs they shall
    Chip, and upspringing
    Make all the April woods
    Merry with singing.

    Younger than we are,
    O children, and frailer,
    Soon in blue air they'll be,
    Singer and sailor.

    We, so much older,
    Taller and stronger,
    We shall look down on the
    Birdies no longer.

    They shall go flying
    With musical speeches
    High over head in the
    Tops of the beeches.

    In spite of our wisdom
    And sensible talking,
    We on our feet must go
    Plodding and walking.

  11. The Building of the Nest

    by Margaret Sangster [1838-1912]

    They'll come again to the apple tree—
    Robin and all the rest—
    When the orchard branches are fair to see,
    In the snow of the blossoms dressed;
    And the prettiest thing in the world will be
    The building of the nest.

    Weaving it well, so round and trim,
    Hollowing it with care,—
    Nothing too far away for him,
    Nothing for her too fair,—
    Hanging it safe on the topmost limb,
    Their castle in the air.

    Ah! mother bird, you'll have weary days
    When the eggs are under your breast,
    And shadow may darken the dancing rays
    When the wee ones leave the nest;
    But they'll find their wings in a glad amaze.
    And God will see to the rest.

    So come to the trees with all your train
    When the apple blossoms blow;
    Through the April shimmer of sun and rain,
    Go flying to and fro;
    And sing to our hearts as we watch again
    Your fairy building grow.

  12. Answer to a Child's Question

    by Samuel Taylor Coleridge [1772-1834]

    Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove,
    The Linnet and Thrush say, "I love and I love!"
    In the winter they're silent—the wind is so strong;
    What it says, I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
    But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
    And singing, and loving—all come back together.
    But the Lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
    The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
    That he sings, and he sings, and for ever sings he—
    "I love my Love, and my Love loves me!"

  13. "What Does Little Birdie Say?"

    by Alfred Tennyson [1809-1892]. From "Sea Dreams"

    What does little birdie say
    In her nest at peep of day?
    Let me fly, says little birdie,
    Mother, let me fly away.
    Birdie, rest a little longer,
    Till the little wings are stronger.
    So she rests a little longer,
    Then she flies away.

    What does little baby say,
    In her bed at peep of day?
    Baby says, like little birdie,
    Let me rise and fly away.
    Baby, sleep a little longer,
    Till the little limbs are stronger,
    If she sleeps a little longer,
    Baby too shall fly away.

  14. The Reverie of Poor Susan

    by William Wordsworth

    At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,
    Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:
    Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
    In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.

    'Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
    A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
    Bright volumes of vapor through Lothbury glide,
    And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.

    Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
    Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
    And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,
    The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.

    She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
    The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
    The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
    And the colors have all passed away from her eyes!

  15. "Sing On, Blithe Bird"

    by William Motherwell [1797-1835]

    I've plucked the berry from the bush, the brown nut from the tree,
    But heart of happy little bird ne'er broken was by me.
    I saw them in their curious nests, close couching, slyly peer
    With their wild eyes, like glittering beads, to note if harm were near;
    I passed them by, and blessed them all; I felt that it was good
    To leave unmoved the creatures small whose home was in the wood

    And here, even now, above my head, a lusty rogue doth sing;
    He pecks his swelling breast and neck, and trims his little wing.
    He will not fly; he knows full well, while chirping on that spray,
    I would not harm him for the world, or interrupt his lay.
    Sing on, sing on, blithe bird! and fill my heart with summer gladness;
    It has been aching many a day with measures full of sadness!

  16. The Birds Discuss the Aeroplane

    by Anonymous

    Said the Owl: "It's a marvel! I never have heard
    Of such a gigantic, impossible bird."

    Said the Vulture: "Its wings are of awkward design,
    But as big as a hundred, a thousand, of mine."

    Said the Swallow: "It's one of the funniest things,
    For often I've seen it with two pairs of wings."

    Said the Thrush: "What a clatter and whir are its cries!
    And it won't sing a note except when it flies."

    Said the Eagle: "It climbs most amazingly high;
    I've met it a mile or more up in the sky."

    Said the Buzzard: "It soars with a beautiful grace,
    And it curves and it dives at a wonderful pace."

    Said the Duck: "I have seen one afloat on the sea,
    That rose from the water exactly like me."

    Said the Hawk: "It's astounding! Again and again
    I've seen the bird capture and carry off--men!"

    "But sometimes it tumbles," the Whippoorwill said,
    "And lies on the ground like a bundle of lead."

    "And one," said the Crane, "with a terrible sound
    Exploded, and fell, all afire, to the ground."

    "Dear me!" said they all, "what a puzzling affair!
    It's the queerest of creatures that fly in the air!"

  17. Birdie's Morning Song

    by George Cooper

    Wake up, little darling, the birdies are out,
    And here you are still in your nest!
    The laziest birdie is hopping about;
    You ought to be up with the rest.
    Wake up, little darling, wake up!

    Oh, see what you miss when you slumber so long—
    The dewdrops, the beautiful sky!
    I can not sing half what you lose in my song;
    And yet, not a word in reply.
    Wake up, little darling, wake up!

    I've sung myself quite out of patience with you,
    While mother bends o'er your dear head;
    Now birdie has done all that birdie can do:
    Her kisses will wake you instead!
    Wake up, little darling, wake up!

  18. Don't Kill the Birds

    by Anonymous

    Don't kill the birds! the little birds,
    That sing about your door
    Soon as the joyous Spring has come,
    And chilling storms are o'er.

    The little birds! how sweet they sing!
    Oh, let them joyous live;
    And do not seek to take the life
    Which you can never give.

    Don't kill the birds! the pretty birds,
    That play among the trees;
    For earth would be a cheerless place,
    If it were not for these.

    The little birds! how fond they play!
    Do not disturb their sport;
    But let them warble forth their songs,
    Till winter cuts them short.

    Don't kill the birds! the happy birds,
    That bless the field and grove;
    So innocent to look upon,
    They claim our warmest love.

    The happy birds, the tuneful birds,
    How pleasant 't is to see!
    No spot can be a cheerless place
    Where'er their presence be.

  19. The Empty Bird's Nest

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    AND thou, my sad, little, lonely nest,
    Hast oft been sought as the peaceful rest
    Of a weary wing and a guiltless breast!
    But where is thy builder now?
    And what has become of the helpless brood,
    For which the mother, with daily food,
    Came flitting so light, through the spicy wood,
    To her home on the waving bough?

    The fowler, perhaps, has hurled the dart,
    Which the parent bird has received in her heart;
    And her tender orphans are scattered apart,
    So wide, they never again
    In thy warm, soft cell of love can meet,
    And thou hast been filled with the snow and the sleet,
    By the hail and the winds have thy sides been beat,
    And drenched by the pitiless rain.

    Though great was the toil which thy building cost,
    With thy fibres so neatly coiled and crossed,
    And thy lining of down, thou art lorn and lost,
    A ruin beyond repair!
    So I'll take thee down, as I would not see
    Such a sorrowful sight on the gay green tree;
    And when I have torn thee, thy parts shall be,
    Like thy tenants, dispersed in air.

    Thou hast made me to think of each heart-woven tie;
    Of the child's first home, and of her, whose eye
    Watched fondly o'er those, who were reared to die
    Where the grave of a distant shore
    Received to its bosom the strangers' clay;
    For when, as thy birds, they had passed away,
    'T was not to return, and the mother and they
    In time were to meet no more!

  20. A Question

    by Anonymous

    A little bird sat on a telegraph wire,
    And said to his mates: "I declare,
    If wireless telegraphy comes into vogue,
    We'll all have to sit on the air."

  21. "God made the little birds to sing"

    by Anonymous

    God made the little birds to sing,
    And flit from tree to tree;
    'Tis He who sends them in the spring
    To sing for you and me.

  22. The Little Bird's Song

    by Anonymous

    A little bird, with feathers brown,
    Sat singing on a tree;
    The song was very soft and low,
    But sweet as it could be.

    The people who were passing by,
    Looked up to see the bird
    That made the sweetest melody
    That ever they had heard.

    But all the bright eyes looked in vain;
    Birdie was very small,
    And with his modest, dark-brown coat,
    He made no show at all.

    "Why, father," little Gracie said
    "Where can the birdie be?
    If I could sing a song like that,
    I'd sit where folks could see."

    "I hope my little girl will learn
    A lesson from the bird,
    And try to do what good she can,
    Not to be seen or heard.

    "This birdie is content to sit
    Unnoticed on the way,
    And sweetly sing his Maker's praise
    From dawn to close of day.

    "So live, my child, all through your life,
    That, be it short or long,
    Though others may forget your looks,
    They'll not forget your song."

  23. Snow-Birds

    by John Burroughs

    From out the white and pulsing storm
    I hear the snow-birds calling;
    The sheeted winds stalk o'er the hills,
    And fast the snow is falling.

    Like children laughing at their play
    I hear the birds a-twitter,
    What care they that the skies are dim
    Or that the cold is bitter?

    On twinkling wings they eddy past,
    At home amid the drifting,
    Or seek the hills and weedy fields
    Where fast the snow is sifting.

    Their coats are dappled white and brown
    Like fields in winter weather,
    But on the azure sky they float
    Like snowflakes knit together.

    I've heard them on the spotless hills
    Where fox and hound were playing,
    The while I stood with eager ear
    Bent on the distant baying.

    The unmown fields are their preserves,
    Where weeds and grass are seeding;
    They know the lure of distant stacks
    Where houseless herds are feeding.

    O cheery bird of winter cold,
    I bless thy every feather;
    Thy voice brings back dear boyhood days
    When we were gay together.

  24. The Winter King

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    Oh! what will become of thee, poor little bird?
    The muttering storm in the distance is heard;
    The rough winds are waking, the clouds growing black,
    They'll soon scatter snowflakes all over thy back!
    From what sunny clime hast thou wandered away?
    And what art thou doing this cold winter day?

    "I'm picking the gum from the old peach tree;
    The storm doesn't trouble me. Pee, dee, dee!"

    But what makes thee seem so unconscious of care?
    The brown earth is frozen, the branches are bare:
    And how canst thou be so light-hearted and free,
    As if danger and suffering thou never should'st see,
    When no place is near for thy evening nest,
    No leaf for thy screen, for thy bosom no rest?

    "Because the same Hand is a shelter for me,
    That took off the summer leaves. Pee, dee, dee!"

    But man feels a burden of care and of grief,
    While plucking the cluster and binding the sheaf:
    In the summer we faint, in the winter we're chilled,
    With ever a void that is yet to be filled.
    We take from the ocean, the earth, and the air,
    Yet all their rich gifts do not silence our care.

    "A very small portion sufficient will be,
    If sweetened with gratitude. Pee, dee, dee!"

    But soon there'll be ice weighing down the light bough,
    On which thou art flitting so playfully now;
    And though there's a vesture well fitted and warm,
    Protecting the rest of thy delicate form,
    What, then, wilt thou do with thy little bare feet,
    To save them from pain, mid the frost and the sleet?

    "I can draw them right up in my feathers, you see,
    To warm them, and fly away. Pee, dee, dee!"

    I thank thee, bright monitor; what thou hast taught
    Will oft be the theme of the happiest thought;
    We look at the clouds; while the birds have an eye
    To Him who reigns over them, changeless and high.
    And now little hero, just tell me thy name,
    That I may be sure whence my oracle came.

    "Because, in all weather, I'm merry and free,
    They call me the Winter King. Pee, dee, dee!"

  25. In the Garden

    by Emily Dickinson

    A bird came down the walk:
    He did not know I saw;
    He bit an angle-worm in halves
    And ate the fellow, raw.

    And then he drank a dew
    From a convenient grass,
    And then hopped sidewise to the wall
    To let a beetle pass.

    He glanced with rapid eyes
    That hurried all abroad, —
    They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
    He stirred his velvet head

    Like one in danger; cautious,
    I offered him a crumb,
    And he unrolled his feathers
    And rowed him softer home

    Than oars divide the ocean,
    Too silver for a seam,
    Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
    Leap, plashless, as they swim.

  26. A train went through a burial gate

    by Emily Dickinson

    A train went through a burial gate,
    A bird broke forth and sang,
    And trilled, and quivered, and shook his throat
    Till all the churchyard rang;

    And then adjusted his little notes,
    And bowed and sang again.
    Doubtless, he thought it meet of him
    To say good-by to men.

  27. At half-past three a single bird

    by Emily Dickinson

    At half-past three a single bird
    Unto a silent sky
    Propounded but a single term
    Of cautious melody.

    At half-past four, experiment
    Had subjugated test,
    And lo! her silver principle
    Supplanted all the rest.

    At half-past seven, element
    Nor implement was seen,
    And place was where the presence was,
    Circumference between.

  28. High from the earth I heard a bird

    by Emily Dickinson

    High from the earth I heard a bird;
    He trod upon the trees
    As he esteemed them trifles,
    And then he spied a breeze,
    And situated softly
    Upon a pile of wind
    Which in a perturbation
    Nature had left behind.
    A joyous-going fellow
    I gathered from his talk,
    Which both of benediction
    And badinage partook,
    Without apparent burden,
    I learned, in leafy wood
    He was the faithful father
    Of a dependent brood;
    And this untoward transport
    His remedy for care, —
    A contrast to our respites.
    How different we are!

  29. The Winged Worshipers

    by Charles Sprague

    Gay, guiltless pair,
    What seek ye from the fields of heaven?
    Ye have no need of prayer,
    Ye have no sins to be forgiven.

    Why perch ye here,
    Where mortals to their Maker bend?
    Can your pure spirits fear
    The God ye never could offend?

    Ye never knew
    The crimes for which we come to weep;
    Penance is not for you,
    Blessed wanderers of the upper deep.

    To you 't is given
    To wake sweet Nature's untaught lays;
    Beneath the arch of heaven
    To chirp away a life of praise.

    Then spread each wing,
    Far, far above, o'er lakes and lands,
    And join the choirs that sing
    In yon blue dome not reared with hands.

    Or, if ye stay
    To note the consecrated hour,
    Teach me the airy way,
    And let me try your envied power.

    Above the crowd,
    On upward wings could I but fly,
    I'd bathe in yon bright cloud,
    And seek the stars that gem the sky.

    'T were Heaven indeed,
    Through fields of trackless light to soar,
    On Nature's charms to feed,
    And Nature's own great God adore.

  30. The Choristers

    by Bliss Carman

    When earth was finished and fashioned well,
    There was never a musical note to tell
    How glad God was, save the voice of the rain
    And the sea and the wind on the lonely plain
    And the rivers among the hills.
    And so God made the marvellous birds
    For a choir of joy transcending words,
    That the world might hear and comprehend
    How rhythm and harmony can mend
    The spirits' hurts and ills.

    He filled their tiny bodies with fire,
    He taught them love for their chief desire,
    And gave them the magic of wings to be
    His celebrants over land and sea,
    Wherever man might dwell.
    And to each he apportioned a fragment of song—
    Those broken melodies that belong
    To the seraphs' chorus, that we might learn
    The healing of gladness and discern
    In beauty how all is well.

    So music dwells in the glorious throats
    Forever, and the enchanted notes
    Fall with rapture upon our ears,
    Moving our hearts to joy and tears
    For things we cannot say.
    In the wilds the whitethroat sings in the rain
    His pure, serene, half-wistful strain;
    And when twilight falls the sleeping hills
    Ring with the cry of the whippoorwills
    In the blue dusk far away.

    In the great white heart of the winter storm
    The chickadee sings, for his heart is warm,
    And his note is brave to rally the soul
    From doubt and panic to self-control
    And elation that knows no fear.
    The bluebird comes with the winds of March,
    Like a shred of sky on the naked larch;
    The redwing follows the April rain
    To whistle contentment back again
    With his sturdy call of cheer.

    The orioles revel through orchard boughs
    In their coats of gold for spring's carouse;
    In shadowy pastures the bobwhites call,
    And the flute of the thrush has a melting fall
    Under the evening star.
    On the verge of June when peonies blow
    And joy comes back to the world we know,
    The bobolinks fill the fields of light
    With a tangle of music silver-bright
    To tell how glad they are.

    The tiny warblers fill summer trees
    With their exquisite lesser litanies;
    The tanager in his scarlet coat
    In the hemlock pours from a vibrant throat
    His canticle of the sun.
    The loon on the lake, the hawk in the sky,
    And the sea-gull—each has a piercing cry,
    Like outposts set in the lonely vast
    To cry "all's well" as Time goes past
    And another hour is gone.

    But of all the music in God's plan
    Of a mystical symphony for man,
    I shall remember best of all—
    Whatever hereafter may befall
    Or pass and cease to be—
    The hermit's hymn in the solitudes
    Of twilight through the mountain woods,
    And the field-larks crying about our doors
    On the soft sweet wind across the moors
    At morning by the sea.

  31. The Rainbird

    by Bliss Carman

    I hear a rainbird singing
    Far off. How fine and clear
    His plaintive voice comes ringing
    With rapture to the ear!

    Over the misty wood-lots,
    Across the first spring heat,
    Comes the enchanted cadence,
    So clear, so solemn-sweet.

    How often I have hearkened;
    To that high pealing strain
    Across wild cedar barrens,
    Under the soft gray rain!

    How often I have wondered,
    And longed in vain to know
    The source of that enchantment,
    That touch of human woe!

    O brother, who first taught thee
    To haunt the teeming spring
    With that sad mortal wisdom
    Which only age can bring?

  32. The Night Hawk

    by Charles G.D. Roberts

    When frogs make merry the pools of May,
    And sweet, oh, sweet,
    Through the twilight dim
    Is the vesper hymn
    Their myriad mellow pipes repeat
    As the rose-dusk dies away,
    Then hark, the night-hawk!
    (For now is the elfin hour.)
    With melting skies o'er him,
    All summer before him,
    His wild brown mate to adore him,
    By the spell of his power
    He summons the apples in flower.

    In the high, pale heaven he flits and calls;
    Then swift, oh, swift,
    On sounding wing
    That hums like a string,
    To the quiet glades where the gnat-clouds drift
    And the night-moths flicker, he falls.
    Then hark, the night-hawk!
    (For now is the elfin hour.)
    With melting skies o'er him,
    All summer before him,
    His wild brown mate to adore him,
    By the spell of his power
    He summons the apples in flower.

  33. Lines to a Waterfowl

    by William Cullen Bryant

    Whither 'midst falling dew,
    While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
    Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
    Thy solitary way?

    Vainly the fowler's eye
    Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
    As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
    Thy figure floats along.

    Seek'st thou the plashy brink
    Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
    Or where the rocky billows rise and sink
    On the chafed ocean side?

    There is a Power whose care
    Teaches thy way along that pathless coast.
    The desert and illimitable air,
    Lone wandering, but not lost.

    All day, thy wings have fanned,
    At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
    Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land
    Though the dark night is near.

    And soon that toil shall end,
    Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
    And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
    Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.

    Thou'rt gone; the abyss of heaven
    Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart,
    Deeply has sunk the lesson thou hast given,
    And shall not soon depart.

    He, who, from zone to zone,
    Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
    In the long way that I must tread alone,
    Will lead my steps aright.

  34. A March Glee

    by John Burroughs

    I hear the wild geese honking
    From out the misty night,—
    A sound of moving armies
    On-sweeping in their might;
    The river ice is drifting
    Beneath their northward flight.

    I hear the bluebird plaintive
    From out the morning sky,
    Or see his wings a-twinkle
    That with the azure vie;
    No other bird more welcome,
    No more prophetic cry.

    I hear the sparrow's ditty
    Anear my study door;
    A simple song of gladness
    That winter days are o'er
    My heart is singing with him,
    I love him more and more.

    I hear the starling fluting
    His liquid "O-ka-lee;"
    I hear the downy drumming,
    His vernal reveillé;
    From out the maple orchard
    The nuthatch calls to me.

    Oh, spring is surely coming.
    Her couriers fill the air;
    Each morn are new arrivals,
    Each night her ways prepare;
    I scent her fragrant garments,
    Her foot is on the stair.

  35. A Duet

    by John B. Tabb

    A little yellow Bird above,
    A little yellow Flower below;
    The little Bird can sing the love
    That Bird and Blossom know;
    The Blossom has no song nor wing,
    But breathes the love he cannot sing.

  36. The Autumn Flight

    by Daniel G. Elliot

    From the strongholds of the North
    When the Ice-King marches forth,
    The southern lands to harry with his host,
    The fowl with clang and cry
    Come speeding through the sky,
    And steering for the shelter on our coast.

    I hear the swish and swing
    Of the fleetly moving wing,
    I see the forms drawn faintly 'gainst the sky,
    As the rush of feathered legions
    From out the frozen regions,
    Sail onward 'neath the silent stars on high.

    Like a cloud that's borne along
    By a mighty wind, and strong,
    Then parting, disappears in vapor light,
    They glide o'er lake and sea,
    O'er mountain, moor, and lea,
    And passing swiftly vanish in the night.

    They seek a sunny clime,
    A land of blooms and thyme,
    The tranquil surface round the Southern key;
    A home of peace and rest
    On the friendly water's breast
    Of lake or flowing river, or the murmuring sea,
    The gently heaving bosom of the sea.

  37. To a Bird

    by Raymond Garfield Dandridge

    Sweet singer, how I envy you,
    Faint, fleeting, speck 'gainst azure hue.
    You have gone up to chant your lay,
    While I must be content to stay
    Below, and gaze, with hungry eyes,
    Upon you, soaring t'ward the prize.

  38. Preparation

    by Paul Laurence Dunbar

    The little bird sits in the nest and sings
    A shy, soft song to the morning light;
    And it flutters a little and prunes its wings.
    The song is halting and poor and brief,
    And the fluttering wings scarce stir a leaf;
    But the note is a prelude to sweeter things,
    And the busy bill and the flutter slight
    Are proving the wings for a bolder flight!

  39. The Yellow Bird

    by Hannah Flagg Gould

    They've caught my little brother,
    And he was to me a twin!
    They stole him from our mother,
    And the cage has shut him in!

    I flitted by and found him,
    Where he looked so sad and sick,
    With the gloomy wires around him,
    As he crouched upon a stick.

    And, when I tried to cheer him
    With the cherry in my bill,
    To see me there so near him,
    Oh! it made him sadder still.

    His tender eye was shining
    With the brightness of despair,
    With sorrow and repining,
    As he bade me have a care!

    He said they'd come and take me,
    As they'd taken him; and then,
    A hopeless prisoner make me,
    In the fearful hands of men:—

    That once in their dominion,
    I should have to pine away,
    And never stretch a pinion
    To my very dying day:—

    That the wings that God had made him
    For freedom in the air,
    Since than had thus betrayed him,
    Were stiff and useless there.

    And, the little darling fellow,
    As he showed his golden vest,
    He said beneath the yellow,
    He'd a sad and aching breast:—

    That since he'd been among them,
    They had ruffled it so much,
    The only song he'd sung them,
    Was a shriek beneath their touch.

    How can they love to see him
    So sickly and so sad,
    When, if they would but free him,
    He'd be so well and glad?

    My little hapless brother!
    I would fain his bondage share,
    I never had another,
    And he's a captive there!

  40. A Bird's Nest

    by James McIntyre

    An old man who had charge of field,
    With pride he saw two birds did build,
    A broad capacious warm nest,
    So full of young with speckled breast,

    And when the old man there did pass,
    They soon ran merry 'mong the grass,
    But of the youth they were so shy,
    They made strong efforts for to fly.

    Youths tried with old man to prevail,
    To let them blaze away at quail,
    But though they longed for a fat pot,
    At them they never got a shot.

    No more the old man doth them shield,
    For they have flown to broader field,
    Long may they spread their wings and tail,
    And may no foe them 'ere assail.

  41. The Broken Pinion

    by Hezekiah Butterworth

    I walked through the woodland meadows,
    Where sweet the thrushes sing;
    And I found on a bed of mosses
    A bird with a broken wing.
    I healed its wound, and each morning
    It sang its old sweet strain,
    But the bird with a broken pinion
    Never soared as high again.

    I found a young life broken
    By sin's seductive art;
    And touched with a Christlike pity,
    I took him to my heart.
    He lived with a noble purpose
    And struggled not in vain;
    But the life that sin had stricken
    Never soared as high again.

    But the bird with a broken pinion
    Kept another from the snare;
    And the life that sin had stricken
    Raised another from despair.
    Each loss has its compensation,
    There is healing for every pain;
    But the bird with a broken pinion
    Never soars as high again.

  42. Migration of Birds

    by Lydia Howard Sigourney. "I am not far from home therefore I need not make much provision for the way."

    November came on, with an eye severe,
    And his stormy language was hoarse to hear;
    And the glittering garland of brown and red,
    Which he wreathed for a while round the forest's head,
    With a sudden anger he rent away,
    And all was cheerless, and bare, and gray.

    Then the houseless grasshopper told his woes,
    And the humming-bird sent forth a wail for the rose,
    And the spider, that weaver of cunning so deep,
    Roll'd himself up in a ball to sleep;
    And the cricket his merry horn laid by
    On the shelf, with the pipe of the dragon-fly.

    Soon the birds were heard, at the morning prime,
    Consulting of flight to a warmer clime.
    "Let us go! let us go!" said the bright-wing'd jay;
    And his gay spouse sang from a rocking spray,
    "I am tired to death of this hum-drum tree,
    I'll go, if 'tis only the world to see."

    "Will you go?" asked the robin, "my only love?"
    And a tender strain from the leafless grove
    Responded, "Wherever your lot is cast,
    Mid summer skies or the northern blast,
    I am still at your side your heart to cheer,
    Though dear is our nest in the thicket here."

    "I am ready to go," cried the querulous wren,
    "From the hateful homes of these northern men;
    My throat is sore, and my feet are blue;
    I fear I have caught the consumption too."
    And the oriole told, with a flashing eye,
    How his plumage was spoil'd by this frosty sky.

    Then up went the thrush with a trumpet-call,
    And the martins came forth from their box on the wall,
    And the owlets peep'd out from their secret bower,
    And the swallows convened on the old church-tower,
    And the council of blackbirds was long and loud,
    Chattering and flying from tree to cloud.

    "The dahlia is dead on her throne," said they;
    "And we saw the butterfly cold as clay;
    Not a berry is found on the russet plains,
    Not a kernel of ripen'd maize remains;
    Every worm is hid—shall we longer stay
    To be wasted with famine? Away! Away!"

    But what a strange clamour on elm and oak,
    From a bevy of brown-coated mocking-birds' broke;
    The theme of each separate speaker they told
    In a shrill report, with such mimicry bold,
    That the eloquent orators started to hear
    Their own true echo, so wild and clear.

    Then tribe after tribe, with its leader fair,
    Swept off, through the fathomless depths of air.
    Who marketh their course to the tropics bright?
    Who nerveth their wing for its weary flight?
    Who guideth that caravan's trackless way
    By the star at night and the cloud by day?

    Some spread o'er the waters a daring wing,
    In the isles of the southern sea to sing,
    Or where the minaret, towering high,
    Pierces the blue of the Moslem sky,
    Or amid the harem's haunts of fear
    Their lodges to build and their nurslings rear.

    The Indian fig, with its arching screen,
    Welcomes them in to its vistas green,
    And the breathing buds of the spicy tree
    Thrill at the burst of their melody,
    And the bulbul starts, mid his carol clear,
    Such a rushing of stranger-wings to hear.

    O wild-wood wanderers! how far away
    From your rural homes in our vales ye stray.
    But when they are waked by the touch of Spring,
    Shall we see you again with your glancing wing?
    Your nests mid our household trees to raise,
    And stir our hearts in our Maker's praise?

  43. The Oven Bird

    by Robert Frost

    There is a singer everyone has heard,
    Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
    Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
    He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
    Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
    He says the early petal-fall is past
    When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
    On sunny days a moment overcast;
    And comes that other fall we name the fall.
    He says the highway dust is over all.
    The bird would cease and be as other birds
    But that he knows in singing not to sing.
    The question that he frames in all but words
    Is what to make of a diminished thing.

  44. The Exposed Nest

    by Robert Frost

    You were forever finding some new play.
    So when I saw you down on hands and knees
    In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
    Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
    I went to show you how to make it stay,
    If that was your idea, against the breeze,
    And, if you asked me, even help pretend
    To make it root again and grow afresh.
    But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day,
    Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
    Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
    Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
    ’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
    The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
    (Miraculously without tasting flesh)
    And left defenseless to the heat and light.
    You wanted to restore them to their right
    Of something interposed between their sight
    And too much world at once—could means be found.
    The way the nest-full every time we stirred
    Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
    Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
    Made me ask would the mother-bird return
    And care for them in such a change of scene
    And might our meddling make her more afraid.
    That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
    We saw the risk we took in doing good,
    But dared not spare to do the best we could
    Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
    You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
    All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
    No more to tell? We turned to other things.
    I haven’t any memory—have you?—
    Of ever coming to the place again
    To see if the birds lived the first night through,
    And so at last to learn to use their wings.

  45. Birds in Autumn

    by Lydia Sigourney

    November came on, with an eye severe,
    And his stormy language, was hoarse to hear,
    And the glittering garland, of brown and red,
    Which he wreath'd for awhile, round the forest's head,
    In sudden anger he rent away,
    And all was cheerless, and bare, and grey.

    Then the houseless grasshopper told his woes,
    And the humming-bird sent forth a wail for the rose,
    And the spider, that weaver, of cunning so deep,
    Roll'd himself up, in a ball, to sleep,
    And the cricket his merry horn laid by,
    On the shelf with the pipe of the dragon-fly.

    Soon voices were heard, at the morning prime,
    Consulting of flight, to a warmer clime,
    "Let us go! let us go!" said the bright-wing'd jay,
    And his grey spouse sang from a rocking spray
    "I am tir'd to death of this hum-drum tree,
    I'll go, if 'tis only this world to see."

    "Will you go," ask'd the robin, "my only love?"
    And a tender strain from the leafless grove
    Responded, "wherever your lot is cast,
    Mid sunny skies, or the wintry blast,
    I am still at your side, your heart to cheer,
    Though dear is our nest, in this thicket here."

    "I am ready to go, cried the plump young wren,
    From the hateful homes of these northern men,
    My throat is sore, and my feet are blue,
    I fear I have caught the consumption too,
    And the Oriole told with a flashing eye,
    How his plumage was spoil'd by the frosty sky.

    Then up went the thrush, with a trumpet-call, [wall,]
    And the martins came forth from their box on the
    And the owlets peep'd out from their secret bower,
    And the swallows conven'd on the old church tower,
    And the council of blackbirds was long and loud,
    Chattering and flying from tree to cloud.

    "The dahlia is dead on her throne," said they,
    And we saw the butterfly, cold as clay,
    Not a berry is found on the russet plains,
    Not a kernel of ripen'd maize remains,
    Every worm is hid, shall we longer stay,
    To be wasted with famine, away! away!"

    But what a strange clamour on elm and oak,
    From a bevy of brown-coated mocking-birds broke!
    The theme of each separate speaker they told,
    In a shrill report, with such mimickry bold,
    That the eloquent orators stared to hear,
    Their own true echoes, so wild and clear.

    Then tribe after tribe, with its leader fair,
    Swept off, through the fathomless depth of air;
    Who maketh their course to the tropics bright?
    Who nervcth their wing for its weary flight?
    Who guideth that caravan's trackless way,
    By the stars at night, and the cloud by day?

    The Indian fig with its arching screen,
    Welcomes them in, to its vistas green
    And the breathing buds of the spicy tree,
    Thrill at the burst of their revelry,
    And the bulbul starts, 'mid his carol clear,
    Such a rushing of stranger-wings to hear.

    O wild-wood wanderers! how far away
    From your rural homes in our vales ye stray;
    But when they are wak'd by the touch of Spring,
    We shall see you again with your glancing wing,
    Your nests 'mid our household trees to raise,
    And stir our hearts in our Maker's praise.

  46. A Morning Call

    by Ellen P. Allerton

    Come in and welcome, tiny thing,
    With snowy breast and soft brown wing,
    And beak of tawny hue.
    But why, I pray, this wild alarm?
    I will riot let you come to harm;
    I'm fond of such as you.

    Stop, little bird! you foolish thing!
    Why will you beat your tender wing
    Against the cruel pane?
    I do the same myself; I fret
    Against the bonds about me set,
    And find it all in vain.

    I cannot make you understand.
    Wait—I will take you in my hand,
    And put you through the door.
    You precious, panting little mite!
    The cat would eat you at a bite
    And lick his jaws for more.

    He shall not have you, nor will I.
    Keep you from yonder clear blue sky.
    There! soar where'er you list.
    To cage a bird breaks Nature's laws;
    And then Iain and always was
    An abolitionist.

    Go, find your mate: she waits for you
    Somewhere in yonder fields of blue,
    Or on some swaying bough.
    Tell her you got into a scrape,
    But made a fortunate escape—
    And please just tell her how.

    You might have met a prisoner's doom,
    When you came blundering to my room;
    Yet I have set you free.
    Then, sometimes fold your wee brown wing
    Upon my hickory tree, and sing
    Your sweetest songs to me.

  47. What a Bird Taught

    by Alice Cary

    Why do you come to my apple tree,
    Little bird so gray?
    Twit-twit, twit-twit, twit-twit-twee!
    That was all he would say.

    Why do you lock you rosy feet
    So closely round the spray?
    Twit-twit, twit-twit, twit-tweet!
    That was all he would say.

    Why on the topmost bough do you get,
    Little bird so gray?
    Twit-twit-twee! twit-twit-twit!
    That was all he would say.

    Where is your mate? come, answer me,
    Little bird so gray.
    Twit-twit-twit! twit-twit-twee!
    That was all he would say.

  48. If Ever I See

    by Lydia Maria Child

    If ever I see,
    On bush or tree,
    Young birds in their pretty nest;
    I must not, in play,
    Steal the birds away,
    To grieve their mother's breast.

    My mother, I know,
    Would sorrow so,
    Should I be stolen away;
    So I'll speak to the birds
    In my softest words,
    Nor hurt them in my play.

    And when they can fly
    In the bright blue sky,
    They'll warble a song to me;
    And then if I'm sad
    It will make me glad
    To think they are happy and free.

  49. The Little Maiden and the Little Bird

    by Lydia Maria Child

    “Little bird! little bird! come to me!
    I have a green cage ready for thee;
    Beauty-bright flowers I’ll bring anew,
    And fresh, ripe cherries all wet with dew.”

    “Thanks, little maiden, for all thy care,
    But I love dearly the clear, cool air,
    And my snug little nest in the old oak tree.”
    “Little bird! little bird! stay with me.”

    “Nay, little damsel; away I’ll fly
    To greener fields and warmer sky;
    When spring returns with pattering rain,
    You’ll hear my merry song again.”

    “Little bird! little bird! who'll guide thee
    Over the hills and over the sea?
    Foolish one! come in the house to stay,
    For I'm very sure you'll lose your way."

    "Ah no, little maiden! God guides me
    Over the hills and over the sea;
    I will be free as the rushing air,
    And sing of sunshine everywhere.”