Jean Ingelow

(17 March 1820 - 20 July 1897 / Boston, Lincolnshire)

Songs Of The Voices Of Birds: Introduction - Poem by Jean Ingelow

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CHILD AND BOATMAN.

“Martin, I wonder who makes all the songs.”
“You do, sir?”
“Yes, I wonder how they come.”
“Well, boy, I wonder what you’ll wonder next!”
“But somebody must make them?”
“Sure enough.”
“Does your wife know?”
“She never said she did.”
“You told me that she knew so many things.”
“I said she was a London woman, sir,
And a fine scholar, but I never said
She knew about the songs.”
“I wish she did.”
“And I wish no such thing; she knows enough,
She knows too much already. Look you now,
This vessel’s off the stocks, a tidy craft.”
“A schooner, Martin?”
“No, boy, no; a brig,
Only she’s schooner rigged,—­a lovely craft.”
“Is she for me? O, thank you, Martin, dear.
What shall I call her?”
“Well, sir, what you please.”
“Then write on her ‘The Eagle.’”
“Bless the child!
Eagle! why, you know naught of eagles, you.
When we lay off the coast, up Canada way,
And chanced to be ashore when twilight fell,
That was the place for eagles; bald they were,
With eyes as yellow as gold.”
“O, Martin, dear,
Tell me about them.”
“Tell! there’s nought to tell,
Only they snored o’ nights and frighted us.”
“Snored?”
“Ay, I tell you, snored; they slept upright
In the great oaks by scores; as true as time,
If I’d had aught upon my mind just then,
I wouldn’t have walked that wood for unknown gold;
It was most awful. When the moon was full,
I’ve seen them fish at night, in the middle watch,
When she got low. I’ve seen them plunge like stones,
And come up fighting with a fish as long,
Ay, longer than my arm; and they would sail,—­
When they had struck its life out,—­they would sail
Over the deck, and show their fell, fierce eyes,
And croon for pleasure, hug the prey, and speed
Grand as a frigate on a wind.”
“My ship,
She must be called ‘The Eagle’ after these.
And, Martin, ask your wife about the songs
When you go in at dinner-time.”
“Not I.”


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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