The Forest Sanctuary, and Other Poems/The Messenger Bird
Some of the native Brazilians pay great veneration to a certain bird that sings mournfully in the night-time. They say it is a messenger which their deceased friends and relations have sent, and that it brings them news from the other world.
See Picart's Ceremonies and Religious Customs.
Thou art come from the spirits' land, thou bird!
Thou art come from the spirits' land!
Through the dark pine-grove let thy voice be heard,
And tell of the shadowy band!
We know that the bowers are green and fair
In the light of that summer shore,
And we know that the friends we have lost are there,
They are there—and they weep no more!
And we know they have quench'd their fever's thirst
From the Fountain of Youth ere now*,
For there must the stream in its freshness burst,
Which none may find below!
And we know that they will not be lur'd to earth
From the land of deathless flowers,
By the feast, or the dance, or the song of mirth,
Though their hearts were once with ours;
Though they sat with us by the night-fire's blaze,
And bent with us the bow,
And heard the tales of our fathers' days,
Which are told to others now!
But tell us, thou bird of the solemn strain!
Can those who have lov'd forget?
We call—and they answer not again—
—Do they love—do they love us yet?
Doth the warrior think of his brother there,
And the father of his child?
And the chief, of those that were wont to share
His wanderings through the wild?
We call them far through the silent night,
And they speak not from cave or hill;
We know, thou bird! that their land is bright,
But say, do they love there still?
- * An expedition was actually undertaken by Juan Ponce de Leon, in the 16th century, with the view of discovering a wonderful fountain, believed by the natives of Puerto Rico to spring in one of the Lucayo Isles, and to possess the Virtue of restoring youth to all who bathed in its waters.—See Robertson's History of America.