« AnteriorContinuar »
Then this most wretched father went his way
Upon the market-place, builded of stone
O pitiless earth! why opened no abyss
Three centuries and more above his bones
Thus closed the tale of guilt and “In such a company as this, gloom,
A tale so tragic seems amiss, That cast upon each listener's face That by its terrible control Its shadow, and for some brief space | O'ermasters and drags down the soul Unbroken silence filled the room.
Into a fathomless abyss. The Jew was thoughtful and distressed; The Italian Tales that you disdain, Upon his memory thronged and pressed Some merry Night of Straparole, The persecution of his race,
Or Machiavelli's Belphagor, Their wrongs and sufferings and dis- Would cheer us and delight us more, grace ;
Give greater pleasure and less pain His head was sunk upon his breast, Than your grim tragedies of Spain!" And from his eyes alternate came Flashes of wrath and tears of shame. And here the Poet raised his hand,
With such entreaty and command, The Student first the silence broke, It stopped discussion at its birth, As one who long has laid in wait, And said: “The story I shall tell With purpose to retaliate,
Has meaning in it, if not mirth ; And thus he dealt the avenging Listen, and hear what once befell stroke.
| The merry birds of Killingworth!'
THE POET'S TALE.
THE BIRDS OF KILLINGWORTH.
The merle and mavis build, and building sing
Whom Saxon Cadmon calls the Blithe-heart King; When on the boughs the purple buds expand,
The banners of the vanguard of the Spring,
Filled all the blossoming orchards with their glee;
Their race in Holy Writ should mentioned be; And hungry crows assembled in a crowd,
Clamoured their piteous prayer incessantly, Knowing who hears the ravens cry, and said : “Give us, O Lord, this day our daily bread!”
Across the Sound the birds of passage sailed,
Speaking some unknown language strange and sweet Of tropic isle remote, and passing hailed
The village with the cheers of all their fleet;
Like foreign sailors, landed in the street
Thus came the jocund Spring in Killingworth,
In fabulous days, some hundred years ago; 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 garden beds
The awful scarecrow, with his fluttering shreds;
Then from his house, a temple painted white,
With fluted columns and a roof of red,
Slowly descending, with majestic tread,
Down the long street he walked, as one who said,
The instinct of whose nature was to kill;
And read, with fervour, Edwards on the Will;
In Summer on some Adirondac hill;
The hill of Science with its vane of brass,
Now at the clouds, and now at the green grass,
Of fair Almira in the upper class,
In his voluminous neck-cloth, white as snow;
His form was ponderous, and his step was slow; There never was so wise a man before;
He seemed the incarnate “ Well, I told you so !” And to perpetuate his great renown There was a street named after him in town. These came together in the new town-hall,
With sundry farmers from the region round. The Squire presided, dignified and tall,
His air impressive and his reasoning 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. 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; 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,
“ Plato, anticipating the Reviewers,
From his Republic banished without pity The Poets; in this little town of yours,
You put to death, by means of a Committee, The ballad-singers and the Troubadours,
The street-musicians of the heavenly city, The birds, who make sweet music for us all In our dark hours, as David did for Saul.
6. The thrush that carols at the dawn of day
From the green steeples of the piny wood;
Jargoning like a foreigner at his food;
Flooding with melody the neighbourhood;
“ You slay them all! and wherefore ? for the gain
Of a scant bandful more or less of wheat, Or rye, or barley, or some other grain,
Scratched up at random by industrious feet,
Or a few cherries, that are not so sweet
“Do you ne'er think what wondrous beings these?
Do you ne'er think who made them, and who taught The dialect they speak, where melodies
Alone are the interpreters of thought ?
Sweeter than instrument of man e'er caught!
“ Think, every morning when the sun peeps through
The dim, leaf-latticed windows of the grove, How jubilant the happy birds renew
Their old, melodious madrigals of love! And when you think of this, remember too
'Tis always morning somewhere, and above The awakening continents, from shore to shore, Somewhere the birds are singing evermore.
“ Think of your woods and orchards without birds!
Of empty nests that cling to boughs and beams!