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Cuckoo Poems

Table of Contents

  1. The Cuckoo by Frederick Locker-Lampson
  2. The Cuckoo by John Burroughs
  3. To the Cuckoo by John Logan
  4. To The Cuckoo by William Wordsworth
  5. The Rain-Crow by Madison Cawein

  1. The Cuckoo

    by Frederick Locker-Lampson

    We heard it calling, clear and low,
    That tender April morn; we stood
    And listened in the quiet wood,
    We heard it, ay, long years ago.

    It came, and with a strange, sweet cry,
    A friend, but from a far-off land;
    We stood and listened, hand in hand,
    And heart to heart, my Love and I.

    In dreamland then we found our joy,
    And so it seemed as 'twere the Bird
    That Helen in old times had heard
    At noon beneath the oaks of Troy.

    O time far off, and yet so near!
    It came to her in that hushed grove,
    It warbled while the wooing throve,
    It sang the song she loved to hear.

    And now I hear its voice again,
    And still its message is of peace,
    It sings of love that will not cease—
    For me it never sings in vain.

  2. The Cuckoo

    by John Burroughs

    Strange, reserved, unsocial bird,
    Flitting, peering 'mid the leaves,
    Thy lonely call a twofold word
    Repeated like a soul that grieves—
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou"—a solemn plaint
    Now loud and full, now far and faint.

    A joyless wingèd anchorite,
    Or hapless exile in the land,
    Oft intoning in the night
    A rune I fain would understand—
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a boding cry,
    When night enfolds the earth and sky.

    With eye and motions of the dove,
    And throat that swells and heaves,
    Thy life seems quite untouched by love,
    Or by the spell that passion weaves.
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a doleful note,
    From out a smooth and dovelike throat.

    Thy nest a little scaffolding
    Of loosely woven boughs,
    Compared with nests of birds that sing,
    A hut beside a house.
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," unsocial sound,
    When blithe and festive calls abound.

    Art prophet of the coming rain—
    The raincrow, wise in weather lore?
    Or dost thou try to say in vain
    The words of thine in days of yore?
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou." Weird thy call,
    Though happy skies are over all.

    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," repeated oft,
    Like one who half recalls the chimes
    Of "Cuckoo," "Cuckoo," in wood and croft,
    Across the seas in Wordsworth's times.
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," thy cheerless strain
    To country folk foretelleth rain.

    Thy voice hath lost its blithesome tone,
    Thy ways have changed from gay to grave;
    Do nesting cares make thee to moan
    Since finchie now is not thy slave?
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," in voice forlorn,
    As if thy breast were on a thorn.

    But thou hast gained in love, I ween,
    And gained in hue a burnished brown;
    In thicket dense thy nest is seen,
    And love of young is now thy crown.
    "Kou-kou," "Kou-kou," a call of love,
    Though doleful as a mourning-dove.

  3. To the Cuckoo

    by John Logan

    Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!
    Thou messenger of Spring!
    Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat,
    And woods thy welcome ring.

    What time the daisy decks the green,
    Thy certain voice we hear:
    Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
    Or mark the rolling year?

    Delightful visitant! with thee
    I hail the time of flowers,
    And hear the sound of music sweet
    From birds among the bowers.

    The school-boy, wandering through the wood
    To pull the primrose gay,
    Starts, the new voice of Spring to hear,
    And imitates thy lay.

    What time the pea puts on the bloom,
    Thou fli'st thy vocal vale,
    An annual guest in other lands,
    Another Spring to hail.

    Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
    Thy sky is ever clear;
    Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
    No Winter in thy year!

    O could I fly, I'd fly with thee!
    We'd make, with joyful wing,
    Our annual visit o'er the globe,
    Companions of the Spring.

  4. To The Cuckoo

    by William Wordsworth

    O blithe New-comer! I have heard,
    I hear thee and rejoice.
    O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
    Or but a wandering Voice?

    While I am lying on the grass
    Thy twofold shout I hear;
    From hill to hill it seems to pass,
    At once far off, and near.

    Though babbling only to the Vale
    Of sunshine and of flowers,
    Thou bringest unto me a tale
    Of visionary hours.

    Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
    Even yet thou art to me
    No bird, but an invisible thing,
    A voice, a mystery;

    The same whom in my school-boy days
    I listened to; that Cry
    Which made me look a thousand ways,
    In bush, and tree, and sky.

    To seek thee did I often rove
    Through woods and on the green;
    And thou wert still a hope, a love;
    Still longed for, never seen.

    And I can listen to thee yet;
    Can lie upon the plain
    And listen, till I do beget
    That golden time again.

    O blessed Bird! the earth we pace
    Again appears to be
    An unsubstantial, faery place;
    That is fit home for Thee!

  5. The Rain-Crow

    by Madison Cawein. The term "Rain-Crow" is another name for Cuckoo.

    I
    Can freckled August, — drowsing warm and blonde
    Beside a wheat-stock in the white-topped mead,
    In her hot hair the ox-eyed daisies wound, —
    O bird of rain, lend aught but sleepy heed
    To thee? when no plumed weed, no feather'd seed
    Blows by her; and no ripple breaks the pond,
    That gleams like flint between its rim of grasses,
    Through which the dragon-fly forever passes
    Like splintered diamond.

    II
    Drouth weights the trees, and from the farmhouse eaves
    The locust, pulse-beat of the summer day,
    Throbs; and the lane, that shambles under leaves
    Limp with the heat — a league of rutty way —
    Is lost in dust; and sultry scents of hay
    Breathe from the panting meadows heaped with sheaves —
    Now, now, O bird, what hint is there of rain,
    In thirsty heaven or on burning plain,
    That thy keen eye perceives?

    III
    But thou art right. Thou prophesiest true.
    For hardly hast thou ceased thy forecasting,
    When, up the western fierceness of scorched blue,
    Great water-carrier winds their buckets bring
    Brimming with freshness. How their dippers ring
    And flash and rumble! lavishing dark dew
    On corn and forest-land, that, streaming wet,
    Their hilly backs against the downpour set,
    Like giants vague in view.

    IV
    The butterfly, safe under leaf and flower,
    Has found a roof, knowing how true thou art;
    The bumble-bee, within the last half-hour,
    Has ceased to hug the honey to its heart;
    While in the barnyard, under shed and cart,
    Brood-hens have housed. — But I, who scorned thy power,
    Barometer of the birds, — like August there, —
    Beneath a beech, dripping from foot to hair,
    Like some drenched truant, cower.