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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

On a Goldfinch Starved to Death in His Cage

William Cowper (1731–1800)

TIME was when I was free as air,

The thistle’s downy seed my fare,

My drink the morning dew;

I perched at will on every spray,

My form genteel, my plumage gay,

My strains for ever new.

But gaudy plumage, sprightly strain,

And form genteel were all in vain,

And of a transient date;

For, caught and caged, and starved to death,

In dying sighs my little breath

Soon passed the wiry grate.

Thanks, gentle swain, for all my woes,

And thanks for this effectual close

And cure of every ill!

More cruelty could none express;

And I, if you had shown me less,

Had been your prisoner still.