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“ Think of your woods and orchards without birds !
Of empty nests that cling to boughs and beams As in an idiot's brain remembered words
Hang empty 'mid the cobwebs of his dreams ! Will bleat of flocks or bellowing herds
Make up for the lost music, when your teams Drag home the stingy harvest, and no more The feathered gleaners follow to your door !
“What! would you rather see the incessant stir
Of insects in the windrows of the hay,
Their melancholy hurdy-gurdies play!
Of meadow-lark, and her sweet roundelay,
“ You call them thieves and pillagers ; but know,
They are the winged wardens of your farms, Who from the cornfields drive the insidious foe,
And from your harvests keep a hundred harms ; Even the blackest of them all, the crow,
Renders good service as your man-at-arms,
“ How can I teach your children gentleness,
And mercy to the weak, and reverence
Is still a gleam of God's omnipotence,
The selfsame light, although averted hence,
When by your laws, your actions, and your speech,
With this he closed; and through the audience went
A murmur, like the rustle of dead leaves ;
Their yellow heads together like their sheaves;
Who put their trust in bullocks and in beeves, The birds were doomed ; and, as the record shows, A bounty offered for the heads of crows.
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 !
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 man,
While the young died of famine in their nests ;
The Summer came, and all the birds were dead;
The days were like hot coals; the very ground
Was burned to ashes; in the orchards 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.
Devoured by worms, like Herod, was the town,
Because, like Herod, it had ruthlessly Slaughtered the Innocents. From the trees spun down
The canker-worms upon the passers-by, Upon each woman's bonnet, shawl, and gown,
Who shook them off with just a little cry; They were the terror of each favorite walk, The endless theme of all the village talk,
The farmers grew impatient, but a few
Confessed their error, and would not complain,
When it is raining, is to let it rain.
It would not call the dead to life again ;
That year in Killingworth the Autumn came
Without the light of his majestic look, The wonder of the falling tongues of flame,
The illumined pages of his Doom's-Day book. A few lost leaves blushed crimson with their shame,
And drowned themselves despairing 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.
From all the country round these birds were brought,
By order of the town, with anxious quest, And, loosened from their wicker prisons, sought
In woods and fields the places they loved best, Singing loud canticles, which many thought
Were satires to the authorities addressed, 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.
The hour was late ; the fire burned low,
At this all laughed; the Landlord stirred,
Then all arose, and said “Good Night.”
A COLD, uninterrupted rain,