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As usual the poet moralises this very effectively. When in human beings the springs of life are dried up and when our branches, too, show the vacant nests of spring, yet with his optimistic outlook on life he trusts
that, like the birds of spring, Our good goes not without repair, But only flies to soar and sing
Far off in some diviner air,
Where we shall find it in the calms
Of that fair garden 'neath the palms.
The same image of the forsaken and outworn nest which we found so suggestive to other poets is used in The Parting of the Ways. As old age approaches, the senses are bereft of their keenness and become like superannuated nests.
These senses, quivering with electric beats,
Too soon will show, like nests on wintry boughs,
Which whistling north winds line with downy snow
Thither the singing birds no more return.
Once more in Auf Wiedersehen the same thought
Two watched yon oriole's pendent dome,
That now is void and dank with rain,
-oh, hope more frail than foam !
The bird to his deserted home
Sings not "Auf wiedersehen ".
The poet measures time by this bird. Instead of saying 'tis fifty years since, he puts it more poetically thus :
The oriole's fledglings fifty times
Have flown from our familiar elms.
The oriole comes into Under the Willows, where his nest-building is fully described.
Hush! 'tis he!
My oriole, my glance of summer fire,
Where his mate dangles at her cup of felt.
Now the oriole is an unknown bird to us, but apart from the fact that we have seen it in museums, have seen pictures of it in natural history books and have read of its pendent nest which rocks in the wind, and so forth, we have from these numerous descriptions of it a very good and no doubt absolutely correct idea of the bird-its orange
throat, its hanging dome-roofed nest, its cheery
So is it with the bobolink which is more in evidence even than the oriole.
Meanwhile that devil-may-care the bobolink,
Just ere he sweeps o'er rapture's tremulous brink,
A decorous bird of business, who provides
For his brown mate and fledglings six besides,
Describing the New England summer which "with one great gush of blossom storms the world,' he gives a poetic poetic rendering of the bobolink's song, something after the manner of Tennyson's Throstle:
But now, oh rapture! sunshine winged and voiced,
Pipe blown through by the warm wild breath of the West,
The bobolink has come, and like the soul
Gurgles in ecstasy we know not what
Save June! Dear June! Now God be praised for June.
The bird comes into The Biglow Papers even, nó picture of an American June being complete without this feathered songster.
June's bridesman, poet o' the year,
Gladness on wings, the bobolink is here;
Runs down, a brook o' laughter, thru the air.
Glancing at the conventions of poets who do not look at things for themselves, or if they do, are afraid to give expression to what they see, preferring to talk o' daisies, larks, an' things
Ez though we'd nothin' here that blows an' sings,
he roundly affirms :—
Why, I'd give more for one live bobolink
Than a square mile o' larks in printer's ink.
Another bird-the phoebe-so called from its note, has a whole poem devoted to its praise. It sings this plain note at earliest dawn before the other birds are awake, and the poet throws much pathos and imagination into his reflections on the sad, plaintive cadence of this little waif in feathers. It is a wee sad-coloured thing,
As shy and secret as a maid,
It seems pain-prompted to repeat
Phoebe is all it has to say
In plaintive cadence o'er and o'er,
And know their names but nothing more.
I, in strange lands at grey of dawn,
Wakeful, have heard that fruitless plaint
Al Fresco,, from which we have already quoted passages on bees, must be drawn upon again for birds.
The robin sings, as of old, from the limb,
The cat-bird croons in the lilac bush!
The withered leaves keep dumb for him.
O unestranged birds and bees!
Methinks my heart from each of these