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Owl Poems

Table of Contents

  1. A Wise Old Owl by Anonymous
  2. The Owl by Alfred Tennyson
  3. What Sees the Owl by Elizabeth Sears Bates
  4. The Owls by Charles Baudelaire
  5. The Early Owl by Oliver Herford
  6. The Oracular Owl by Anonymous
  7. The Great Brown Owl by Aunt Effie
  8. The Owl by Bryan Waller Procter
  9. Sweet Suffolk Owl by Thomas Vautor
  10. Owl Against Robin by Sidney Lanier
  11. A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur
  12. The Fern Owl's Nest by John Clare
  13. Limerick: There was an Old Man with a owl by Edward Lear
  14. To a Captive Owl by Henry Timrod
  15. The Owl, the Eel and the Warming-Pan by Laura E. Richards

  1. A Wise Old Owl

    by Anonymous

    A wise old owl lived in an oak
    The more he saw the less he spoke
    The less he spoke the more he heard.
    Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

  2. The Owl

    by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    When cats run home and light is come,
    And dew is cold upon the ground,
    And the far-off stream is dumb,
    And the whirring sail goes round,
    And the whirring sail goes round;
    Alone and warming his five wits,
    The white owl in the belfry sits.

    When merry milkmaids click the latch,
    And rarely smells the new-mown hay,
    And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
    Twice or thrice his roundelay,
    Twice or thrice his roundelay;
    Alone and warming his five wits,
    The white owl in the belfry sits.

  3. What Sees the Owl

    by Elizabeth Sears Bates

    His velvet wing sweeps through the night:
    With magic of his wondrous sight
    He oversees his vast domain,
    And king supreme of night doth reign.

    Around him lies a silent world,
    The day with all its noise is furled;
    When every shadow seems a moon,
    And every light a sun at noon.

    How welcome from the blinding glare
    Is the cool grayness of the air!
    How sweet the power to reign, a king,
    When day his banishment will bring!

    For him the colorless moonlight
    Burns brilliant, an aurora bright;
    The forest's deepest gloom stands clear
    From mystery and helpless fear.

    He sees the silver cobwebs spun,
    The dewdrops set the flowers have won,
    The firefly's gleam offends his sight,
    It seems a spark of fierce sunlight.

    Clear winter nights when he so bold,
    "For all his feathers, is a-cold,"
    Sees the Frost-spirit fling his lace,
    And fashion icicles apace.

    At his weird call afar and faint
    A sleepy echo, like the quaint
    Last notes of some wild chant, replies
    And mocks his solitude—and dies.

  4. The Owls

    by Charles Baudelaire

    Among the black yews, their shelter,
    the owls are ranged in a row,
    like alien deities, the glow,
    of their red eyes pierces. They ponder.
    They perch there without moving,
    till that melancholy moment
    when quenching the falling sun,
    the shadows are growing.
    Their stance teaches the wise
    to fear, in this world of ours,
    all tumult, and all movement:
    Mankind drunk on brief shadows
    always incurs a punishment
    for his longing to stir, and go.

  5. The Early Owl

    by Oliver Herford

    An owl once lived in a hollow tree,
    And he was as wise as wise could be.
    The branch of learning he didn't know
    Could scarce on the tree of knowledge grow,
    He knew the tree from branch to root,
    And an owl like that can afford to hoot.

    And he hooted — until, alas! one day,
    He chanced to hear, in a casual way,
    An insignificant little bird
    Make use of a term he had never heard.
    He was flying to bed in the dawning light
    When he heard her singing with all her might,
    "Hurray! hurray! for the early worm!"
    "Dear me," said the owl, "what a singular term!
    I would look it up if it weren't so late,
    I must rise at dusk to investigate.
    Early to bed and early to rise
    Makes an owl healthy, and stealthy, and wise!"

    So he slept like an honest owl all day,
    And rose in the early twilight gray,
    And went to work in the dusky light
    To look for the early worm at night.

    He searched the country for miles around,
    But the early worm was not to be found;
    So he went to bed in the dawning light
    And looked for the "worm" again next night.
    And again and again, and again and again,
    He sought and he sought, but all in vain,
    Till he must have looked for a year and a day
    For the early worm in the twilight gray.

    At last in despair he gave up the search,
    And was heard to remark as he sat on his perch
    By the side of his nest in the hollow tree:
    "The thing is as plain as night to me —
    Nothing can shake my conviction firm.
    There's no such thing as the early worm."

  6. The Oracular Owl

    by Amos Russel Wells

    The oracular owl
    Is a very wise fowl.
    He sits on a limb
    By night and by day,
    And an eager assembly waits on him
    To listen to what the wise bird may say.
    I heard him discourse in the following way:
    "The sun soon will set in the west."
    "'Twill he fair if the sky is not cloudy."
    "If a hundred are good only one can be best."
    "No gentleman's ever a rowdy."
    "Ah! ah!" cry the birds. "What a marvellous fowl!
    Oh, who could excel this oracular owl?"

  7. The Great Brown Owl

    by Aunt Effie

    The Brown Owl sits in the ivy-bush,
    And she looketh wondrous wise,
    With a horny beak beneath her cowl,
    And a pair of large round eyes.

    She sat all day on the selfsame spray,
    From sunrise till sunset;
    And the dim grey light, it was all too bright
    For the Owl to see in yet.

    "Jenny Owlet, Jenny Owlet," said a merry little bird,
    "They say you're wondrous wise;
    But I don't think you see, though you're looking at ME
    With your large, round, shining eyes."

    But night came soon, and the pale white moon
    Rolled high up in the skies;
    And the great Brown Owl flew away in her cowl,
    With her large, round, shining eyes.

  8. The Owl

    by Bryan Waller Procter

    In the hollow tree, in the old gray tower,
    The spectral Owl doth dwell;
    Dull, hated, despised, in the sunshine hour,
    But at dusk he's abroad and well!
    Not a bird of the forest e'er mates with him;
    All mock him outright, by day;
    But at night, when the woods grow still and dim,
    The boldest will shrink away!
    O, when the night falls, and roosts the fowl,
    Then, then, is the reign of the Hornéd Owl!

    And the Owl hath a bride, who is fond and bold,
    And loveth the wood's deep gloom;
    And, with eyes like the shine of the moonstone cold,
    She awaiteth her ghastly groom;
    Not a feather she moves, not a carol she sings,
    As she waits in her tree so still;
    But when her heart heareth his flapping wings,
    She hoots out her welcome shrill!
    O, when the moon shines, and dogs do howl,
    Then, then, is the joy of the Hornéd Owl!

    Mourn not for the Owl, nor his gloomy plight!
    The Owl hath his share of good:
    If a prisoner he be in the broad daylight,
    He is lord in the dark greenwood!
    Nor lonely the bird, nor his ghastly mate,
    They are each unto each a pride;
    Thrice fonder, perhaps, since a strange, dark fate
    Hath rent them from all beside!
    So, when the night falls, and dogs do howl,
    Sing, ho! for the reign of the Hornéd Owl!
    We know not alway
    Who are kings by day,
    But the King of the night is the bold brown Owl!

  9. Sweet Suffolk Owl

    by Thomas Vautor

    Sweet Suffolk owl, so trimly dight
    With feathers, like a lady bright;
    Thou sing'st alone, sitting by night,
    "Te whit! Te whoo!"

    Thy note that forth so freely rolls
    With shrill command the mouse controls;
    And sings a dirge for dying souls.
    "Te whit! Te whoo!"

  10. Owl Against Robin

    by Sidney Lanier

    Frowning, the owl in the oak complained him
    Sore, that the song of the robin restrained him
    Wrongly of slumber, rudely of rest.
    "From the north, from the east, from the south and the west,
    Woodland, wheat-field, corn-field, clover,
    Over and over and over and over,
    Five o'clock, ten o'clock, twelve, or seven,
    Nothing but robin-songs heard under heaven:
    How can we sleep?

    "Peep! you whistle, and cheep! cheep! cheep! Oh, peep, if you will, and buy, if 'tis cheap,
    And have done; for an owl must sleep.
    Are ye singing for fame, and who shall be first?
    Each day's the same, yet the last is worst,
    And the summer is cursed with the silly outburst
    Of idiot red-breasts peeping and cheeping
    By day, when all honest birds ought to be sleeping.
    Lord, what a din! And so out of all reason.
    Have ye not heard that each thing hath its season?
    Night is to work in, night is for play-time;
    Good heavens, not day-time!

    "A vulgar flaunt is the flaring day,
    The impudent, hot, unsparing day,
    That leaves not a stain nor a secret untold,—
    Day the reporter,—the gossip of old,—
    Deformity's tease,—man's common scold—
    Poh! Shut the eyes, let the sense go numb
    When day down the eastern way has come.
    'Tis clear as the moon (by the argument drawn
    From Design) that the world should retire at dawn.
    Day kills. The leaf and the laborer breathe
    Death in the sun, the cities seethe,
    The mortal black marshes bubble with heat
    And puff up pestilence; nothing is sweet
    Has to do with the sun: even virtue will taint
    (Philosophers say) and manhood grow faint
    In the lands where the villainous sun has sway
    Through the livelong drag of the dreadful day.
    What Eden but noon-light stares it tame,
    Shadowless, brazen, forsaken of shame?
    For the sun tells lies on the landscape,—now
    Reports me the what, unrelieved with the how,—
    As messengers lie, with the facts alone,
    Delivering the word and withholding the tone.

    But oh, the sweetness, and oh, the light
    Of the high-fastidious night!
    Oh, to awake with the wise old stars—
    The cultured, the careful, the Chesterfield stars,
    That wink at the work-a-day fact of crime
    And shine so rich through the ruins of time
    That Baalbec is finer than London; oh,
    To sit on the bough that zigzags low
    By the woodland pool,
    And loudly laugh at man, the fool
    That vows to the vulgar sun; oh, rare,
    To wheel from the wood to the window where
    A day-worn sleeper is dreaming of care,
    And perch on the sill and straightly stare
    Through his visions; rare, to sail
    Aslant with the hill and a-curve with the vale,—
    To flit down the shadow-shot-with-gleam,
    Betwixt hanging leaves and starlit stream,
    Hither, thither, to and fro,
    Silent, aimless, dayless, slow
    (Aimless? Field-mice? True, they're slain,
    But the night-philosophy hoots at pain,
    Grips, eats quick, and drops the bones
    In the water beneath the bough, nor moans
    At the death life feeds on). Robin, pray
    Come away, come away
    To the cultus of night. Abandon the day.
    Have more to think and have less to say.
    And cannot you walk now? Bah! don't hop!
    Stop!
    Look at the owl, scarce seen, scarce heard,
    O irritant, iterant, maddening bird!"

  11. A Barred Owl

    by Richard Wilbur

    The warping night air having brought the boom
    Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
    We tell the wakened child that all she heard
    Was an odd question from a forest bird,
    Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
    “Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

    Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
    Can also thus domesticate a fear,
    And send a small child back to sleep at night
    Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
    Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
    Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

  12. The Fern Owl's Nest

    by John Clare

    The weary woodman rocking home beneath
    His tightly banded faggot wonders oft
    While crossing over the furze-crowded heath
    To hear the fern owl's cry that whews aloft
    In circling whirls and often by his head
    Wizzes as quick as thought and ill and rest
    As through the rustling ling with heavy tread
    He goes nor heeds he tramples near its nest
    That underneath the furze or squatting thorn
    Lies hidden on the ground and teasing round
    That lonely spot she wakes her jarring noise
    To the unheeding waste till mottled morn
    Fills the red East with daylight's coming sounds
    And the heath's echoes mocks the herding boys

  13. Limerick: There was an Old Man with a owl

    by Edward Lear

    There was an Old Man with a owl,
    Who continued to bother and howl;
    He sat on a rail
    And imbibed bitter ale,
    Which refreshed that Old Man and his owl.

  14. To a Captive Owl

    by Henry Timrod

    I should be dumb before thee, feathered sage!
    And gaze upon thy phiz with solemn awe,
    But for a most audacious wish to gauge
    The hoarded wisdom of thy learned craw.

    Art thou, grave bird! so wondrous wise indeed?
    Speak freely, without fear of jest or gibe—
    What is thy moral and religious creed?
    And what the metaphysics of thy tribe?

    A Poet, curious in birds and brutes,
    I do not question thee in idle play;
    What is thy station? What are thy pursuits?
    Doubtless thou hast thy pleasures—what are they?

    Or is’t thy wont to muse and mouse at once,
    Entice thy prey with airs of meditation,
    And with the unvarying habits of a dunce,
    To dine in solemn depths of contemplation?

    There may be much—the world at least says so—
    Behind that ponderous brow and thoughtful gaze;
    Yet such a great philosopher should know,
    It is by no means wise to think always.

    And, Bird, despite thy meditative air,
    I hold thy stock of wit but paltry pelf—
    Thou show’st that same grave aspect everywhere,
    And wouldst look thoughtful, stuffed, upon a shelf.

    I grieve to be so plain, renowned Bird—
    Thy fame’s a flam, and thou an empty fowl;
    And what is more, upon a Poet’s word
    I’d say as much, wert thou Minerva’s owl.

    So doff th’ imposture of those heavy brows;
    They do not serve to hide thy instincts base—
    And if thou must be sometimes munching mouse,
    Munch it, O Owl! with less profound a face.

  15. The Owl, the Eel and the Warming-Pan

    by Laura E. Richards

    The owl and the eel and the warming-pan,
    They went to call on the soap-fat man.
    The soap-fat man he was not within:
    He'd gone for a ride on his rolling-pin.
    So they all came back by the way of the town,
    And turned the meeting-house upside down.

    Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    ...
    Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
    The moping owl does to the moon complain
    Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
    Molest her ancient solitary reign.

    – Thomas Gray
    Elegy in a Country Churchyard