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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Bluebird
By Alexander Wilson (1766–1813)
 
From ‘American Ornithology’

THE USUAL spring and summer song of the bluebird is a soft, agreeable, and oft-repeated warble, uttered with open quivering wings; and is extremely pleasing. In his motions and general character he has great resemblance to the robin-redbreast of Britain; and had he the brown-olive of that bird, instead of his own blue, could scarcely be distinguished from him. Like him, he is known to almost every child; and shows as much confidence in man by associating with him in summer, as the other by his familiarity in winter. He is also of a mild and peaceful disposition, seldom fighting or quarreling with other birds. His society is courted by the inhabitants of the country; and few farmers neglect to provide for him, in some suitable place, a snug little summer-house, ready-fitted and rent-free. For this he more than sufficiently repays them by the cheerfulness of his song, and the multitude of injurious insects which he daily destroys. Towards fall (that is, in the month of October) his song changes to a single plaintive note, as he passes over the yellow, many-colored woods; and its melancholy air recalls to our minds the approaching decay of the face of nature. Even after the trees are stript of their leaves, he still lingers over his native fields, as if loath to leave them. About the middle or end of November, few or none of them are seen; but with every return of mild and open weather, we hear his plaintive note amidst the fields or in the air, seeming to deplore the devastations of winter. Indeed, he appears scarcely ever totally to forsake us, but to follow fair weather through all its journeyings till the return of spring.  1
  Such are the mild and pleasing manners of the bluebird; and so universally is he esteemed that I have often regretted that no pastoral Muse has yet arisen in this western woody world, to do justice to his name, and to endear him to us still more by the tenderness of verse, as has been done to his representative in Britain, the robin-redbreast. A small acknowledgment of this kind I have to offer, which the reader I hope will excuse as a tribute to rural innocence.

    When winter’s cold tempests and snows are no more,
Green meadows and brown furrowed fields reappearing,
  The fishermen hauling their shad to the shore,
And cloud-cleaving geese to the lakes are a-steering;
  When first the lone butterfly flits on the wing,
When red glow the maples, so fresh and so pleasing,
  Oh then comes the bluebird, the herald of spring!
And hails with his warblings the charms of the season.
  
  Then loud-piping frogs make the marshes to ring;
Then warm glows the sunshine, and fine is the weather;
  The blue woodland flowers just beginning to spring,
And spicewood and sassafras budding together:
  Oh then to your gardens, ye housewives, repair;
Your walks border up, sow and plant at your leisure:
  The bluebird will chant from his box such an air,
That all your hard toils will seem truly a pleasure!
  
  He flits through the orchard, he visits each tree,
The red flowering peach, and the apple’s sweet blossoms;
  He snaps up destroyers wherever they be,
And seizes the caitiffs that lurk in their bosoms;
  He drags the vile grub from the corn it devours,
The worms from the webs, where they riot and welter:
  His song and his services freely are ours,
And all that he asks is—in summer a shelter.
  
  The plowman is pleased when he gleans in his train,
Now searching the furrows, now mounting to cheer him;
  The gardener delights in his sweet, simple strain,
And leans on his spade to survey and to hear him;
  The slow lingering schoolboys forget they’ll be chid,
While gazing intent as he warbles before them
  In mantle of sky-blue, and bosom so red,
That each little loiterer seems to adore him.
  
  When all the gay scenes of the summer are o’er,
And autumn slow enters so silent and sallow,
  And millions of warblers, that charmed us before,
Have fled in the train of the sun-seeking swallow,—
  The bluebird, forsaken, yet true to his home,
Still lingers, and looks for a milder to-morrow;
  Till, forced by the horrors of winter to roam,
He sings his adieu in a lone note of sorrow.
  
  While spring’s lovely season,—serene, dewy, warm,—
The green face of earth, and the pure blue of heaven,
  Or love’s native music have influence to charm,
Or sympathy’s glow to our feelings is given,—
  Still dear to each bosom the bluebird shall be:
His voice, like the thrillings of hope, is a treasure;
  For, through bleakest storms, if a calm he but see,
He comes to remind us of sunshine and pleasure!
  2
 
  The bluebird, in summer and fall, is fond of frequenting open pasture-fields; and there, perching on the stalks of the great mullein, to look out for passing insects. A whole family of them are often seen thus situated, as if receiving lessons of dexterity from their more expert parents, who can espy a beetle crawling among the grass at a considerable distance; and after feeding on it, instantly resume their former position. But whoever informed Dr. Latham that “This bird is never seen on trees, though it makes its nest in the holes of them,” might as well have said that the Americans are never seen in the streets, though they build their houses by the sides of them. For what is there in the construction of the feet and claws of this bird to prevent it from perching? Or what sight more common to an inhabitant of this country than the bluebird perched on the top of a peach or apple tree; or among the branches of those reverend broad-armed chestnut trees, that stand alone in the middle of our fields, bleached by the rains and blasts of ages?  3
 
 
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