This is the fourth posting in a series of bird related poems in honor of National Poetry Month. Birds have been a common poetic subject. This poem honors one of the most common North American birds, the Song Sparrow.
290. The Fringilla Melodia
By Henry Beck Hirst
HAPPY Song-sparrow, that on woodland side
Or by the meadow sits, and ceaseless sings
His mellow roundelay in russet pride,
Owning no care between his wings.
He has no tax to pay, nor work to do:
His round of life is ever a pleasant one;
For they are merry that may naught but woo
From yellow dawn till set of sun.
The verdant fields, the riverside, the road,
The cottage garden, and the orchard green,
When Spring with breezy footstep stirs abroad,
His modest mottled form have seen.
The cedar at the cottage door contains
His nest; the lilac by the walk as well,
From whence arise his silver-swelling strains,
That echo loudly down the dell.
And when at dewy eve the farmer lies
Before his door, his children all around,
From twig to twig the simple sparrow flies,
Frightened to hear their laughter’s sound.
Or when the farm-boy with his shining spade,
Freshening the mould around the garden flowers,
Disturbs him, timid but not yet afraid,
He chirps about him there for hours.
And when, his labor o’er, the urchin leaves
The haunted spot, he seeks some lofty spray,
And there with ruffled throat, delighted, weaves,
Gushing with joy, his lovely lay.
Perchance, his nest discovered, children come,
And peer, with curious eyes, where lie the young
And callow brood, and then, with ceaseless hum,
He, shrew-like, scolds with double tongue.
A little while, and on the gravelled walk
The nestlings hop, or peer between the grass,
While he sits watching on some blossom stalk,
Lest danger might toward them pass.
He sees the cat with stealthy step, and form
Pressed closely to the ground, come creeping through
The whitewashed fence, and with a loud alarm
He flies; and they—they swift pursue.
So passes Summer; and when Autumn treads
With sober step the yellowing woods and vales,
A mellower song the gentle sparrow sheds
From orchard tree or garden pales.
And, as the nights grow cold and woodlands dim,
He seeks, with many a kin, a warmer clime,
And perching there, along some river’s rim,
Fills up with song the solemn time.
But, with the sun of March, his little soul,
Warm with the love of home, impels him where,
In bygone hours, he owned love’s sweet control;
And soon he breathes his native air.
And then again his merry song rings out,
And meadow, orchard, valley, wood, and plain
Ring with his bridal notes, that seem to flout
Dull echo with their silver strain.
And so his round of life runs ever on:
Happy, contented, in his humble sphere
He lives, loves, sings, and, when the day is gone,
Slumbers and dreams, devoid of fear.
Song Sparrows are no longer named Fringilla melodia, but Melospiza melodia. Originally they were classified as finches, first named by Alexander Wilson.