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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI. 1876–79.

Various Islands: Canary Islands

The Bird of the Canaries

By Thomas Kibble Hervey (1804–1859)

  • The canary, in its native woods, is of a greenish color, and is an inferior songster. It is said to acquire its beautiful yellow hue and rich song by domestication in colder latitudes.

  • THEY say that island-bird, that sings

    Within our homes so rich a song,—

    The little bird with golden wings,

    That poureth, all day long,

    A flute-like music, sweet and clear,

    As if it were a spirit’s lay,

    That brought the tones to mortal car

    Of fay-land, far away,—

    The small bright bird that cometh west,

    From the blue islands of the blest,—

    They say that, in its own warm bowers,

    Where that fair songster floateth, free

    As floats the breeze o’er all the flowers

    That scent the tropic sea,

    The sun it soars to, fails to fling

    This golden gleam upon its wing.

    That seemeth as it drew its dyes

    From wandering through those burning skies;

    The sun it sings to, shines in vain

    To wake that wild and witching strain

    That gushes forth to meet his smiles,

    Like incense, from our colder isles,—

    The sweet and swelling music calls

    That answer where the daybeam falls,

    As if its touch had power to start

    Some spring within the minstrel’s heart,

    And play those wingéd lyres of gold

    As erst it played the Memnon old;

    That these its fairy hues belong

    To wing restrained and riper age,

    And still it pours its sweetest song

    Within its northern cage,—

    And, in its gifts most precious, comes

    To bless us, in our human homes!

    O fairy from the far-off main!

    Thou little flute with golden wings!

    Thy spirit-hue and spirit-strain

    Are types of fairer things,

    And we have dearer gifts than these

    Amid the mists of northern seas!

    Bright forms that flutter in the sun,

    With voices sweet as silver bells,

    Whose tones along the spirit run

    Like music’s very spells,—

    And open, with their own sweet art,

    Those inner chambers of the heart,

    Within whose depths was never heard

    The singing of the bird.

    And if thy wing of gold or green

    Be not to our beloved given,

    Winged thoughts, within their dark eyes seen,

    Take oft the soul to heaven,

    But bring it surely back, to rest,

    At eve, within an earthly nest.

    Our fairies these,—while floating, free

    As thou amid thy far-off sea,

    And, like thy sisters, singing sooth,

    In the bright island of their youth!

    But years to our beloved bring

    A richer song, with riper age,

    When each is bound, with golden ring,

    Within a golden cage,—

    In whose sweet hush and holy rest

    New sounds steal up along the breast,—

    The angels playing soft and low,

    As erst in Eden, long ago,

    Rich harmonies, till then unheard,

    Gush from our own bright human bird,

    And hues come o’er its heart, whose dyes

    Can have no fountain but the skies!

    O, beauty haunteth everywhere,

    For spirits that can see aright,

    And music fills the common air

    Of morn and noon and night;

    But beauty wears no form on earth

    Like that which sitteth by the hearth;

    And, mid the music of the throng,

    They never know, who always roam,

    How sweeter far that sweetest song

    That woman sings—at home.