Verse > Anthologies > George Willis Cooke, ed. > The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology
George Willis Cooke, comp.  The Poets of Transcendentalism: An Anthology.  1903.
Ode to a Butterfly
By Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823–1911)
THOU spark of life that wavest wings of gold,
Thou songless wanderer ’mid the songful birds,
With Nature’s secrets in thy tints unrolled
Through gorgeous cipher, past the reach of words,
    Yet dear to every child        5
    In glad pursuit beguiled,
Living his unspoiled days ’mid flowers and flocks and herds!
Thou wingèd blossom, liberated thing,
What secret tie binds thee to other flowers,
Still held within the garden’s fostering?        10
Will they too soar with the completed hours,
    Take flight, and be like thee
    Irrevocably free,
Hovering at will o’er their parental bowers?
Or is thy lustre drawn from heavenly hues,—        15
A sumptuous drifting fragment of the sky,
Caught when the sunset its last glance imbues
With sudden splendor, and the treetops high
    Grasp that swift blazonry,
    Then lend those tints to thee,        20
On thee to float a few short hours, and die?
Birds have their nests; they rear their eager young,
And flit on errands all the livelong day;
Each fieldmouse keeps the homestead whence it sprung;
But thou art Nature’s freeman,—free to stray        25
    Unfettered through the wood,
    Sucking thine airy food,
The sweetness spiced on every blossomed spray.
The garden one wide banquet spreads for thee,
O daintiest reveller of the joyous earth!        30
One drop of honey gives satiety;
A second draught would drug thee past all mirth.
    Thy feast no orgy shows;
    Thy calm eyes never close,
Thou soberest sprite to which the sun gives birth.        35
And yet the soul of man upon thy wings
Forever soars in aspiration; thou
His emblem of the new career that springs
When death’s arrest bids all his spirit bow.
    He seeks his hope in thee        40
    Of immortality.
Symbol of life, me with such faith endow!

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.