Glimmers gray the leafless thicket
Close beside my garden gate,
Where, so light, from post to picket
Hops the sparrow, blithe, sedate;
Who, with meekly folded wing,
Comes to sun himself and sing.
It was there, perhaps, last year,
That his little house he built;
For he seems to perk and peer,
And to twitter, too, and tilt
The bare branches in between,
With a fond, familiar mien.
Once, I know, there was a nest,
Held there by the sideward thrust
Of those twigs that touch his breast;
Though 'tis gone now. Some rude gust
Caught it, over-full of snow,—
Bent the bush,—and stole it so.
Thus our highest holds are lost,
In the ruthless winter's wind,
When, with swift-dismantling frost,
The green woods we dwelt in, thinn'd
Of their leafage, grow too cold
For frail hopes of summer's mold.
But if we, with spring-days mellow,
Wake to woeful wrecks of change,
And the sparrow's ritornello
Scaling still its old sweet range;
Can we do a better thing
Than, with him, still build and sing?
Oh, my sparrow, thou dost breed
Thought in me beyond all telling;
Shootest through me sunlight, seed,
And fruitful blessing, with that welling
Ripple of ecstatic rest
Gurgling ever from thy breast!
And thy breezy carol spurs
Vital motion in my blood,
Such as in the sap-wood stirs,
Swells and shapes the pointed bud
Of the lilac; and besets
The hollow thick with violets.
Yet I know not any charm
That can make the fleeting time
Of thy sylvan, faint alarm
Suit itself to human rhyme:
And my yearning rhythmic word
Does thee grievous wrong, blithe bird.
So, however thou hast wrought
This wild joy on heart and brain,
It is better left untaught.
Take thou up the song again:
There is nothing sad afloat
On the tide that swells thy throat!