A Singing Bird In The City Poem by Dora Sigerson Shorter

A Singing Bird In The City

Golden-throated, hath God sent thee for our comfort in the city?
Sweet, sweet! singing, singing all the day.
I said Ah, the young Spring she will lure him from his pity,
And he'll seek the sunny distance in the May.
For all the other birds have left us lonely
That sought us when the hungry winter came;
Quick they forgot, and he remembered only,
But with the breath of Spring he'll fly the same.
For the daffodil is nodding, just awaking,
With a sunny ray imprisoned in its breast;
Over purple violets the hawthorn buds are breaking—
There a perfect Eden for a nest.
There, I said, the lazy cattle in the sunshine will be resting,
Dreaming in the pasture lands where summer airs blow sweet,
Or standing in the river to feel each slow wave cresting
In snowy pearl bracelets around their cloven feet.
But here they gasp and stumble, foot-sore and full of sorrow;
No question 'Why these sufferings?' to the careless passer-by
In their patient weary eyes that shall see no fair tomorrow,
And find no balm of tears as they stagger on to die.

I said A feathered choir in the leafy heights are singing
A farewell to the West where the evening sun dreams low,
And the passion of their song sets their budding perch slow swinging,
Till the moon with silver sail glides through the afterglow.
Here, crimeless prisoners caged, they sigh and dream for ever
Of a lonely mate in some cool grove that droops beside her brood;
They beat the cruel bars in a passionate endeavour
To hush the little voices that call in vain for food.
They dream of autumn colours, the crimson of the cherries,
The breath of heaven's glory o'er the fields of yellow corn;
They sigh for draughts delicious from juicy rowan berries,
The breath of heaven in the air, so fresh and fair the morn.
How they rested on the wind or pierced the low clouds flying
Across the storm-swept heaven, that barred and distant sky!
Men gave a plot of grass—all earth's wide range denying—
Scarce large enough to sod them when they die.
I said Of sight of kingcups and cowslips yellow gleaming,
No avaricious eye will envious loose its hold,
Nor will a greedy hand, where the celandine lies dreaming,
Dart hungrily to rob her of her gold.

There is an end of passion—a joy reigns there for ever,
That the storm's great exultation cannot conquer or displace;
Here is an end of quiet, and weary hearts rest never,
Lest coming feet should crush them in the passion of life's race.
There amidst long fern and perfumed breath of heather
A laughing river wakes far up the mountain-side,
To meet a hundred streams and join their songs together
As they glance through mead and woodland to meet the restless tide.
But here the mourning river flows past in sullen sorrow—
In her shamed desecration she hurries to the sea;
She hath heard full many cries that sought a great to-morrow,
Many a desperate soul that curst the laws that be.
Many griefs are covered by her dark mantle flowing,
Many a cold white face liès hidden on her breast;
With her, men would escape the reaping of their sowing,
Sad women give their souls for her sweet rest.
I said When he has heard how hollow is our laughing,
Seen Crime and grey Despair creep hand in hand with Night,
How Failure spills the cup Ambition fills for quaffing,
How Love is timid, coming to Care's sight.
I said in discontentment Oh, who hath heart for singing?
Go seek some worthier spot for thy sweet lay.
But through the changing summer until bare boughs are swinging,
He goes singing, singing, singing all the day.

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