Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
VI. Animate Nature
The Nightingale’s Song
Richard Crashaw (c. 1613–1649)
 
From “Music’s Duel”

NOW westward Sol had spent the richest beams
Of noon’s high glory, when, hard by the streams
Of Tiber, on the scene of a green plat,
Under protection of an oak, there sat
A sweet lute’s-master, in whose gentle airs        5
He lost the day’s heat and his own hot cares.
  Close in the covert of the leaves there stood
A nightingale, come from the neighboring wood
(The sweet inhabitant of each glad tree,
Their muse, their siren, harmless siren she):        10
There stood she listening, and did entertain
The music’s soft report, and mould the same
In her own murmurs; that whatever mood
His curious fingers lent, her voice made good.
*        *        *        *        *
                        This lesson too        15
She gives them back; her supple breast thrills out
Sharp airs, and staggers in a warbling doubt
Of dallying sweetness, hovers o’er her skill,
And folds in waved notes, with a trembling bill,
The pliant series of her slippery song;        20
Then starts she suddenly into a throng
Of short thick sobs, whose thundering volleys float,
And roll themselves over her lubric throat
In panting murmurs, stilled out of her breast;
That ever-bubbling spring, the sugared nest        25
Of her delicious soul, that there does lie
Bathing in streams of liquid melody;
Music’s best seed-plot; when in ripened airs
A golden-headed harvest fairly rears
His honey-dropping tops ploughed by her breath        30
Which there reciprocally laboreth.
In that sweet soil it seems a holy quire,
Sounded to the name of great Apollo’s lyre;
Whose silver roof rings with the sprightly notes
Of sweet-lipped angel-imps, that swill their throats        35
In cream of morning Helicon, and then
Prefer soft anthems to the ears of men,
To woo them from their beds, still murmuring
That men can sleep while they their matins sing
(Most divine service), whose so early lay        40
Prevents the eyelids of the blushing day.
There might you hear her kindle her soft voice
In the close murmur of a sparkling noise;
And lay the groundwork of her hopeful song.
Still keeping in the forward stream so long,        45
Till a sweet whirlwind (striving to get out)
Heaves her soft bosom, wanders round about,
And makes a pretty earthquake in her breast,
Till the fledged notes at length forsake their nest,
Fluttering in wanton shoals, and to the sky,        50
Winged with their own wild echoes, prattling fly.
She opes the floodgate, and lets loose a tide
Of streaming sweetness, which in state doth ride
On the waved back of every swelling strain,
Rising and falling in a pompous train;        55
And while she thus discharges a shrill peal
Of flashing airs, she qualifies their zeal
With the cool epode of a graver note;
Thus high, thus low, as if her silver throat
Would reach the brazen voice of war’s hoarse bird;        60
Her little soul is ravished, and so poured
Into loose ecstasies, that she is placed
Above herself, music’s enthusiast.
 
 
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