Robert of Lincoln

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Robert of Lincoln
by William Cullen Bryant
"Robert of Lincoln," by William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), is one of the finest bird poems ever written. It finds a place here because I have seen it used effectively as a memory gem in the Cook County Normal School (Colonel Parker's school), year after year, and because my own pupils invariably like to commit it to memory. With the child of six to the student of twenty years it stands a source of delight.

    Merrily swinging on brier and weed,
      Near to the nest of his little dame,
    Over the mountain-side or mead,
      Robert of Lincoln is telling his name.
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Snug and safe is this nest of ours,
    Hidden among the summer flowers.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Robert of Lincoln is gayly dressed,
      Wearing a bright, black wedding-coat;
    White are his shoulders, and white his crest,
      Hear him call in his merry note,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Look what a nice, new coat is mine;
    Sure there was never a bird so fine.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Robert of Lincoln's Quaker wife,
      Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
    Passing at home a patient life,
      Broods in the grass while her husband sings,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Brood, kind creature, you need not fear
    Thieves and robbers while I am here.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Modest and shy as a nun is she;
      One weak chirp is her only note;
    Braggart, and prince of braggarts is he,
      Pouring boasts from his little throat,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Never was I afraid of man,
    Catch me, cowardly knaves, if you can.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
      Flecked with purple, a pretty sight:
    There as the mother sits all day,
      Robert is singing with all his might,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Nice good wife that never goes out,
    Keeping house while I frolic about.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Soon as the little ones chip the shell,
      Six wide mouths are open for food;
    Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
      Gathering seeds for the hungry brood:
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    This new life is likely to be
    Hard for a gay young fellow like me.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Robert of Lincoln at length is made
      Sober with work, and silent with care,
    Off is his holiday garment laid,
      Half forgotten that merry air,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    Nobody knows but my mate and I,
    Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
          Chee, chee, chee.

    Summer wanes; the children are grown;
      Fun and frolic no more he knows;
    Robert of Lincoln's a hum-drum drone;
      Off he flies, and we sing as he goes,
          Bob-o'-link, bob-o'-link,
          Spink, spank, spink,
    When you can pipe that merry old strain,
    Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
          Chee, chee, chee.