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Duck Poems

Table of Contents

  1. Wood-Duck by Isaac McLellan
  2. The Dusky Duck by Isaac McLellan
  3. Canvas-Back and Red-Heads by Isaac McLellan
  4. A Pleasant Ship by Emilie Poulsson
  5. Ducks by F. W. Harvey

  1. Wood-Duck

    by Isaac McLellan

    In May-time, when the lilac-plumes
    Droop from the branch their purple blooms;
    When chestnuts clap their leafy hands,
    And every bud with joy expands;
    When in the moist, sequester'd nooks
    Of woods is heard the call of brooks,
    The wood-duck builds its downy nest
    Secure from prowling schoolboy's quest.

    The swampy, shallow creeks they haunt,
    Where thick woods o'er the waters slant,
    Whose interlacing branches make
    A dusky evening in the brake;
    And there their little nests are made
    In hollow mossy log decay'd,
    Or where the woodpecker had bored
    The crumbling bark to hide his hoard,
    Fast by the stream whose ripples beat
    The tree-roots of their close retreat.
    Most beauteous of all the race
    That skim the wave or soar in space,
    With plumage fairer than the rays
    The bird-of-paradise displays,
    A mottled purple gloss'd with green,
    All colors in the rainbow seen;
    No tropic bird of Indian skies
    May rival thy imperial dyes.
    Least wary of all fowl that wing
    O'er salty bay or inland spring,
    They haunt the pond whose reedy shore
    Extendeth by the farmer's door,
    Or rivulet whose waters trill
    Their melodies below the mill;
    And here the ambush'd gunner lies
    To gather in his lovely prize.

  2. The Dusky Duck

    by Isaac McLellan

    September nights have scarcely felt
    The first cool breath of autumn time,
    Ere high the black duck pinions fan
    Our shore-line, in their flight sublime.

    At first these swift fowl skim the cloud,
    And high in lessening circles sweep;
    Then slow to lonely bays descend,
    Glad to repose their wings in sleep.

    And so for passing weeks they haunt
    The inland marsh and muddy creek,
    Where in the shallows or the grass,
    Their pastime or their food they seek.

    Most shy, at midday they disport
    In ocean surf or ample bay;
    But when the evening shades pervade
    And fades the twilight of the day,

    Then with a soaring flight they rise
    And seek some lonely marsh remote,
    Some salt-pool in the meadow scoop'd;
    And here their quacking numbers float,
    And here the watchful fowler lies
    In ambush for the dusky prize.

  3. Canvas-Back and Red-Heads

    by Isaac McLellan

    In sharp November, from afar,
    From Northern river, stream, and lake,
    The flocks of noble canvas-back
    Their migratory journeys make;
    The frosty morning finds them spread
    Along the flats of Barnegat,
    Where grows the Valisneria root,
    The duck-grass with its russet thread;
    But chief where Chesapeake receives
    From Susquehanna brackish tides.
    By calm Potomac and the James,
    Feeding at will from morn till eve,
    'Mid those aquatic pastures green,
    The ribbon'd grass and bulbous root,
    Where slant the reedy edges lean.

    By thousands there the wild-fowl come
    To taste the rich, delicious fare;
    The red-head and the canvas-back,
    The widgeon with his plumage rare;
    The ruddy duck, the buffle-head,
    The broad-bill and Canadian goose,
    Loving o'er placid shoal or cove
    Their flapping pinions to unloose.
    Through all the day, dispers'd around,
    They swim and circle o'er the bay;
    At eve, in congregated flocks,
    To mouths of creeks they take their way;
    While some a wakeful vigil keep,
    Others at anchor float asleep.

    When winter early sharp sets in,
    And frozen is the river's face,
    To its salt confluence with the bay
    The flocks seek out their feeding-place.
    And where across the ice a pool
    Of open water they discern,
    The hungry flocks their flight suspend
    And toward the friendly pasture turn
    And there the lurking gunner waits
    (Amid the ice-blocks hid from sight),
    With heavy gun and deadly aim
    To thin the numbers that alight.

  4. A Pleasant Ship

    by Emilie Poulsson

    I saw a ship a-sailing,
    A-sailing on the sea,
    And oh! it was all laden
    With pretty things for thee!

    There were comfits in the cabin,
    And apples in the hold;
    The sails were made of silk,
    And the masts were made of gold.

    The four-and-twenty sailors
    That stood between the decks
    Were four-and-twenty white mice,
    With chains about their necks.

    The captain was a duck,
    With a packet on his back,
    And when the ship began to move,
    The captain said "Quack! Quack!"

  5. Ducks

    by F. W. Harvey

    From troubles of the world
    I turn to ducks,
    Beautiful comical things
    Sleeping or curled
    Their heads beneath white wings
    By water cool,
    Or finding curious things
    To eat in various mucks
    Beneath the pool,
    Tails uppermost, or waddling
    Sailor-like on the shores
    Of ponds, or paddling
    —Left! Right!—with fanlike feet
    Which are for steady oars
    When they (white galleys) float
    Each bird a boat
    Rippling at will the sweet
    Wide waterway...
    When night is fallen you creep
    Upstairs, but drakes and dillies
    Nest with pale water-stars.
    Moonbeams and shadow bars,
    And water-lilies:
    Fearful too much to sleep
    Since they've no locks
    To click against the teeth
    Of weasel and fox.
    And warm beneath
    Are eggs of cloudy green
    Whence hungry rats and lean
    Would stealthily suck
    New life, but for the mien
    The hold ferocious mien
    Of the mother duck.

    Yes, ducks are valiant things
    On nests of twigs and straws,
    And ducks are soothy things
    And lovely on the lake
    When that the sunlight draws
    Thereon their pictures dim
    In colours cool.
    And when beneath the pool
    They dabble, and when they swim
    And make their rippling rings,
    Oh, ducks are beautiful things!

    But ducks are comical things—
    As comical as you.
    They waddle round, they do.
    They eat all sorts of things,
    And then they quack.
    By barn and stable and stack
    They wander at their will,
    But if you go too near
    They look at you through black
    Small topaz-tinted eyes
    And wish you ill.
    Triangular and clear
    They leave their curious track
    In mud at the water's edge,
    And there amid the sedge
    And slime they gobble and peer
    Saying "Quack! quack!"

    When God had finished the stars and whirl of coloured suns
    He turned His mind from big things to fashion little ones;
    Beautiful tiny things (like daisies) He made, and then
    He made the comical ones in case the minds of men
    Should stiffen and become
    Dull, humourless and glum,
    And so forgetful of their Maker be
    As to take even themselves—quite seriously.
    Caterpillars and cats are lively and excellent puns:
    All God's jokes are good—even the practical ones!
    And as for the duck, I think God must have smiled a bit
    Seeing those bright eyes blink on the day He fashioned it.
    And he's probably laughing still at the sound that came out of its bill!

    The far famed Canvas backs at once we know
    Their broad flat bodies wrapped in pencilled snow
    The burnished chestnut o'er their necks that shone
    Spread deep'ning round each breast a sable zone

    – Alexander Wilson
    The Foresters

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