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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

To the Mocking-Bird

By Albert Pike (1809–1891)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1809. Died in Washington, D.C., 1891. Hymns to the Gods, and Other Poems. Text of the Privately Printed Collection. 1881.]

THOU glorious mocker of the world! I hear

Thy many voices ringing through the glooms

Of these green solitudes; and all the clear,

Bright joyance of their song enthralls the ear,

And floods the heart. Over the spherèd tombs

Of vanished nations rolls thy music-tide:

No light from History’s starlit page illumes

The memory of these nations: They have died:

None care for them but thou; and thou mayst sing

O’er me, perhaps, as now thy clear notes ring

Over their bones by whom thou once wast deified.

Glad scorner of all cities! Thou dost leave

The world’s mad turmoil and incessant din,

Where none in others’ honesty believe,

Where the old sigh, the young turn gray and grieve,

Where misery gnaws the maiden’s heart within;

Thou fleest far into the dark green woods,

Where, with thy flood of music, thou canst win

Their heart to harmony, and where intrudes

No discord on thy melodies. Oh, where,

Among the sweet musicians of the air,

Is one so dear as thou to these old solitudes?

Ha! what a burst was that! The Æolian strain

Goes floating through the tangled passages

Of the still woods; and now it comes again,

A multitudinous melody, like a rain

Of glassy music under echoing trees,

Close by a ringing lake. It wraps the soul

With a bright harmony of happiness,

Even as a gem is wrapped, when round it roll

Thin waves of crimson flame; till we become,

With the excess of perfect pleasure, dumb,

And pant like a swift runner clinging to the goal.

I cannot love the man who doth not love,

As men love light, the song of happy birds;

For the first visions that my boy-heart wove,

To fill its sleep with, were that I did rove

Through the fresh woods, what time the snowy herds

Of morning clouds shrunk from the advancing sun,

Into the depths of Heaven’s blue heart, as words

From the Poet’s lips float gently, one by one,

And vanish in the human heart; and then

I revelled in such songs, and sorrowed, when,

With noon-heat overwrought, the music-gush was done.

I would, sweet bird, that I might live with thee,

Amid the eloquent grandeur of these shades,

Alone with Nature!—but it may not be:

I have to struggle with the stormy sea

Of human life until existence fades

Into death’s darkness. Thou wilt sing and soar

Through the thick woods and shadow-chequered glades,

While pain and sorrow cast no dimness o’er

The brilliance of thy heart; but I must wear,

As now, my garments of regret and care,

As penitents of old their galling sackcloth wore.

Yet, why complain? What though fond hopes deferred

Have overshadowed Life’s green paths with gloom?

Content’s soft music is not all unheard:

There is a voice sweeter than thine, sweet bird,

To welcome me, within my humble home;

There is an eye, with love’s devotion bright,

The darkness of existence to illume.

Then why complain? When Death shall cast his blight

Over the spirit, my cold bones shall rest

Beneath these trees; and from thy swelling breast

Over them pour thy song, like a rich flood of light.