Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

THE BIRDS OF KILLING

WORTH.

And thrifty farmers, as they tilled

the earth, Heard with alarm the cawing of

the crow, That mingled with the universal

mirth, Cassandra - like, prognosticating

woe: They shook their heads, and doomed

with dreadful words To swift destruction the whole race

of birds.

And a town-meeting was convened

straightway To set a price upon the guilty

heads Of these marauders, who, in lieu of

pay, Levied black-mail upon the gar

den-beds And cornfields, and beheld without

dismay The awful scarecrow, with his

fluttering shreds, The skeleton that waited at their

feast, Whereby their sinful pleasure was

increased.

It was the season when through all

the land The merle and mavis build, and

building sing Those lovely lyrics written by His

hand Whom Saxon Cadmon calls the

Blithe-heart King; When on the boughs the purple buds

expand, The banners of the vanguard of

the Spring; And rivulets, rejoicing, rush and

leap, And wave their fluttering signals

from the steep. The robin and the bluebird, piping

loud, Filled all the blossoming orchards

with their glee; The sparrows chirped as if they still

were proud Their race in Holy Writ should

mentioned be; And hungry crows, assembled in a

crowd, Clamored their piteous prayer in

cessantly, Knowing who hears the ravens cry,

and said, “Give us, O Lord, this day our dai

ly bread!” Across the Sound the birds of pas

sage sailed, Speaking some unknown language,

strange and sweet Of tropic isle remote, and, passing,

hailed The village with the cheers of all

their fleet; Or, quarrelling together, laughed

and railed Like foreign sailors landed in the

street Of seaport town, and with outland

ish noise Of oaths and gibberish frightening

girls and boys. Thus came the jocund Spring in

Killingworth,
In fabulous days, some hundred

years ago;

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

Then thought of fair Almira, and

took heart To speak out what was in him,

clear and strong, Alike regardless of their smile or

frown, And quite determined not to be

laughed down. “Plato, anticipating the reviewers, From his republic banished with

out pity The poets: in this little town of

yours,
You put to death, by means of

committee, The ballad-singers and the trouba

dours, The street-musicians of the heav

enly city, The birds, who make sweet music

for us all In our dark hours, as David did for

Saul.

And next the Deacon issued from

his door, In his voluminous neck oth,

white as snow; A suit of sable bombazine he wore: His form was ponderous, and his

step was slow; There never was so wise a man be

fore: He seemed the incarnate “Well,

I told you so!” And to perpetuate his great renown, There was a street named after hiin

in town.

These came together in the new

town-hall, With sundry farmers from the re

gion round: The Squire presided, dignified and

tall, His air impressive and his reason

ing sound. Ill fared it with the birds, both great

and small; Hardly a friend in all that crowd

they found, But enemies enough, who every one Charged them with all the crimes

beneath the sun.

" The thrush, that carols at the dawn

of day From the green steeples of the

piny wood; The oriole in the elm; the noisy

jay, Jargoning like a foreigner at his

food; The bluebird balanced on some top

most spray, Flooding with melody the neigh

borhood; Linnet and meadow-lark, and all the

throng That dwell in nests, and have the

gift of song, “You slay them all! and wherefore ?

For the gain Of a scant handful, more or less,

of wheat, Or rye, or barley, or some other

grain, Scratched up at random by indus

trious feet Searching for worm or weevil after

rain, Or a few cherries, that are not so

sweet As are the songs these uninvited

guests Sing at their feast with comfortable

breasts,

When they had ended, from his

place apart Rose the Preceptor, to redress the

wrong, And, trembling like a steed before

the start, Looked round bewildered on the

expectant throng;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

They were the terror of each favor

ite walk, The endless theme of all the village

talk.

There was another audience out of

reach, Who had no voice nor vote in

making laws, But in the papers read his little

speech, And crowned his modest temples

with applause: They made him conscious, each one

more than each, He still was victor, vanquished in

their cause: Sweetest of all the applause he won

from thee, O fair Almira at the Academy!

The farmers grew impatient; but a

few Confessed their error, and would

not complain; For, after all, the best thing one can

do, When it is raining, is to let it rain. Then they repealed the law, al

though they knew It would not call the dead to life

again : As school-boys, finding their mis

take too late, Draw a wet sponge across the accus

ing slate.

And so the dreadful massacre began: O'er fields and orchards, and o'er

woodland crests, The ceaseless fusillade of terror ran. Dead fell the birds, with blood

stains on their breasts, Or wounded crept away from sight

of mall,

While the young died of famine in

their nests : A slaughter to be told in groans, not

words, The very St. Bartholomew of birds! The Summer came, and all the birds

were dead; The days were like hot coals; the

very ground Was burned to ashes: in the or

chards fed Myriads of caterpillars, and around The cultivated fields and garden

beds Hosts of devouring insects crawled,

and found No foe to check their march, till

they had made The land a desert without leaf or

shade.

That year in Killingworth the Au

tumn came Without the light of his majestic

look, The wonder of the falling tongues

of flame, The illumined pages of his Dooms

Day Book. A few lost leaves blushed crimson

with their shame, And drowned themselves despair

ing in the brook, While the wild wind went moaning

everywhere, Lamenting the dead children of the

air.

But the next Spring, a stranger sight

was seen, A sight that never yet by bard was

sung, As great a wonder as it would have

been, If some dumb animal had found

a tongue: A wagon overarched with evergreen, Upon whose boughs were wicker

cages hung, All full of singing-birds, came down

the street, Filling the air with music, wild and

sweet,

Devoured by worms, like Herod,

was the town, Because, like Herod, it had ruth

lessly Slaughtered the Inuocents. From

the treas spun down The canker-worms upon the pass

ers-by, – Upon each woman's bomet, shawl,

and gown, Who shook them off with just a

little cry:

From all the country round these

birds were brought By order of the town, with anx

ious quest,

And, loosened from their wicker

prison, sought In woods and fields the places they

loved best, Singing loud canticles, which many

thought Were satires to the authorities ad

dressed; While others, listening in green

lanes, averred Such lovely music never had been

heard.

But blither still and louder carolled

they Upon the morrow, for they seemed

to know It was the fair Almira's wedding

day; And everywhere, around, above,

below, When the Preceptor bore his bride

away, Their songs burst forth in joyous

overflow, And a new heaven bent over a new

earth Amid the sunny farms of Killingworth.

LONGFELLOW.

For well thou know'st, 'tis not the

extent Of land makes life, but sweet con

tent. When now the cock, the ploughman's

horne, Calls forth the lily-wristed morne; Then to thy cornfields thou dost go, Which, though well soyl'd, yet thou

dost know, That the best compost for the lands Is the wise master's feet and hands: There at the plough thou find st thy

teame, With a hind whistling there to them; And cheer'st them up, by singing

how The kingdom's portion is the plough; This done, then to the enameled

meads Thou go'st, and as thy foot there

treads, Thou seest a present godlike power Imprinted in each herbe and flower; And smell'st the breath of great-eyed

kine, Sweet as the blossoms of the vine: Here thou behold'st thy large sleek

neat Unto the dew-laps up in meat; And as thou look'st, the wanton

steere, The heifer, cow, and oxe draw neare, To make a pleasing pastime there: These seen, thou go'st to view thy

flocks Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox, And find'st their bellies there as full Of short sweet grass, as backs with

wool; And leav'st them, as they feed and

fill, A shepherd piping on a hill. For sports, for pageantrie, and

playes, Thou hast thy eves and holydayes; On which the young men and maids

meet To exercise their dancing feet, Tripping the comely country round, With daffodils and daisies crowned. Thy wakes, thy quintels, here thou

hast, Thy May-poles, too, with garlands

grac't, Thy morris-dance, thy Whitsun ale, Thy shearing-feast, which

faile,

THE COUNTRY LIFE.

SWEET country life, to such un

known, Whose lives are others, not their

own; But, serving courts and cities, be Less happy, less enjoying thee. Thou never plough'st the ocean's

foame To seek and bring rough pepper

home; Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove To bring from thence the scorched

clove; Nor, with the loss of thy loved rest, Bring'st home the ingot from the

west: No, thy ambitious masterpiece Flies no thought higher than a fleece; Or to pay thy hinds, and cleere All scores, and so to end the yeare: But walk'st about thine own dear

bounds, Not envying others' larger grounds;

never

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »