The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 14/Number 81/The Return of the Birds

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THE RETURN OF THE BIRDS.

I hear, from many a little throat,
A warble interrupted long;
I hear the robin's flute-like note,
The bluebird's slenderer song.

Brown meadows and the russet hill,
Not yet the haunt of grazing herds,
And thickets by the glimmering rill
Are all alive with birds.

O Choir of Spring, why come so soon?
On leafless grove and herbless lawn
Warm lie the yellow beams of noon;
Yet winter is not gone.

For frost shall sheet the pools again;
Again the blustering East shall blow,
Whirl a white tempest through the glen,
And load the pines with snow.

Yet, haply, from the region where,
Waked by an earlier spring than here,
The blossomed wild-plum scents the air,
Ye come in haste and fear.

For there is heard the bugle-blast,
The booming gun, the jarring drum,
And on their chargers, spurring fast,
Armed warriors go and come.

There mighty hosts have pitched the camp
In valleys that were yours till then,
And Earth has shuddered to the tramp
Of half a million men.

In groves where once ye used to sing,
In orchards where ye had your birth,
A thousand glittering axes swing
To smite the trees to earth.

Ye love the fields by ploughman trod;
But there, when sprouts the beechen spray,
The soldier only breaks the sod
To hide the slain away.

Stay, then, beneath our ruder sky;
Heed not the storm-clouds rising black,
Nor yelling winds that with them fly;
Nor let them fright you back,—

Back to the stifling battle-cloud,
To burning towns that blot the day,
And trains of mounting dust that shroud
The armies on their way.

Stay, for a tint of green shall creep
Soon o'er the orchard's grassy floor,
And from its bed the crocus peep
Beside the housewife's door.

Here build, and dread no harsher sound,
To scare you from the sheltering tree,
Than winds that stir the branches round
And murmur of the bee.

And we will pray, that, ere again
The flowers of autumn bloom and die,
Our generals and their strong-armed men
May lay their weapons by.

Then may ye warble, unafraid,
Where hands, that wear the fetter now,
Free as your wings shall ply the spade,
And guide the peaceful plough.

Then, as our conquering hosts return,
What shouts of jubilee shall break
From placid vale and mountain stern
And shore of mighty lake!

And midland plain and ocean-strand
Shall thunder: "Glory to the brave,
Peace to the torn and bleeding land,
And freedom to the slave!"

March, 1864.

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.