The Nest (Lowell)

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For works with similar titles, see The Nest.
The Nest
by James Russell Lowell
Featured in Vol 1., No.5 of The Atlantic Monthly.

The Nest

MAY.

  When oaken woods with buds are pink,
    And new-come birds each morning sing,—
  When fickle May on Summer's brink
    Pauses, and knows not which to fling,
  Whether fresh bud and bloom again,
  Or hoar-frost silvering hill and plain,—

  Then from the honeysuckle gray
    The oriole with experienced quest
  Twitches the fibrous bark away,
    The cordage of his hammock-nest,—
  Cheering his labor with a note
  Rich as the orange of his throat.

  High o'er the loud and dusty road
    The soft gray cup in safety swings,
  To brim ere August with its load
    Of downy breasts and throbbing wings,
  O'er which the friendly elm-tree heaves
  An emerald roof with sculptured eaves.

  Below, the noisy World drags by
    In the old way, because it must,—
  The bride with trouble in her eye,
    The mourner following hated dust:
  Thy duty, winged flame of Spring,
  Is but to love and fly and sing.

  Oh, happy life, to soar and sway
    Above the life by mortals led,
  Singing the merry months away,
    Master, not slave of daily bread,
  And, when the Autumn comes, to flee
  Wherever sunshine beckons thee!


  PALINODE.—DECEMBER.

  Like some lorn abbey now, the wood
    Stands roofless in the bitter air;
  In ruins on its floor is strewed
    The carven foliage quaint and rare,
  And homeless winds complain along
  The columned choir once thrilled with song.

  And thou, dear nest, whence joy and praise
    The thankful oriole used to pour,
  Swing'st empty while the north winds chase
    Their snowy swarms from Labrador:
  But, loyal to the happy past,
  I love thee still for what thou wast.

  Ah, when the Summer graces flee
    From other nests more dear than thou,
  And, where June crowded once, I see
    Only bare trunk and disleaved bough,
  When springs of life that gleamed and gushed
  Run chilled, and slower, and are hushed,—

  I'll think, that, like the birds of Spring,
    Our good goes not without repair,
  But only flies to soar and sing
    Far off in some diviner air,
  Where we shall find it in the calms
  Of that fair garden 'neath the palms.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.