|Sidney Lanier composed this poem in August 1877 while he was living in Tampa, Florida. See also Lanier’s poem To Our Mocking-Bird.|
Superb and sole, upon a pluméd spray
That o’er the general leafage boldly grew,
He summ’d the woods in song; or typic drew
The watch of hungry hawks, the lone dismay
Of languid doves when long their lovers stray,
And all birds’ passion-plays that sprinkle dew
At morn in brake or bosky avenue.
Whate’er birds did or dreamed, this bird could say.
Then down he shot, bounced airily along
The sward, twitched in a grasshopper, made song
Midflight, perched, prinked, and to his art again.
Sweet Science, this large riddle read me plain:
How may the death of that dull insect be
The life of yon trim Shakespeare on the tree?
- According to notes from the collection published posthumously in 1884:
“...yon trim Shakespeare on the tree”
leads back, almost twenty years from its writing, to the poet’s college note-book where we find the boy reflecting: “A poet is the mocking-bird of the spiritual universe. In him are collected all the individual songs of all individual natures.”