Traits and Trials of Early Life/The Prisoner

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For works with similar titles, see The Prisoner.


"Now come and see the linnet that I have caught to-day.
Its wicker cage is fastened, he cannot fly away.
All the morning I've been watching the twigs I lim'd last night;
At last he perch'd upon them—he took no further flight.
I wish he would be quiet, and sit him down and sing—
You cannot see the feathers upon his dark brown wing."

    He was her younger brother—she laid aside her book,
His sister with her pale soft cheek, and sweet and serious look—
"Alas," she cried, "poor prisoner, now, Henry, set him free,
His terror and his struggles I cannot bear to see."
But the eager boy stood silent, and with a darken'd brow,
Such pains as he had taken, he could not lose them now.

    "Poor bird! see how he flutters! and many a broken plume
Lies scatter'd in the struggle, around his narrow room.
His wings will soon be weary, and he will pine and die
For love of the green forest, and of the clear blue sky.
We read of giants, Henry, in those old books of ours,
Would you like to be a captive within their gloomy towers?

    "You said in our old ash-tree a bird had built its nest;
Perhaps this very linnet has there its place of rest.
Now who will keep his little ones when night begins to fall?
They have no other shelter, and they will perish all.
There'll be no more sweet singing within that lonely grove;
Now, Henry, free your prisoner, I pray you, for my love.

    "Our father is a soldier, and in some distant war
He too might be a prisoner in foreign lands afar."
Her dark eyes filled with tear-drops, and she could say no more—
But Henry had already unbarr'd the wicker door.
He threw the window open, and placed the cage below,
And to the ash-tree coppice he watch'd the linnet go.

    That evening when the sunset flung around its rosy light,
And the air was sweet with summer, and the many flowers were bright;
They took their walk together, and as they past along,
They heard from that old ash-tree the linnet's pleasant song.
It was like a sweet thanksgiving; and Henry, thus spoke he,
"How glad I am, my sister, I set the linnet free."