Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Belfry Pigeon
By Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806–1867)
ON the cross-beam under the Old South bell
The nest of a pigeon is builded well.
In summer and winter that bird is there,
Out and in with the morning air:
I love to see him track the street,        5
With his wary eye and active feet;
And I often watch him as he springs,
Circling the steeple with easy wings,
Till across the dial his shade has passed,
And the belfry edge is gained at last.        10
’Tis a bird I love, with its brooding note,
And the trembling throb in its mottled throat;
There’s a human look in its swelling breast,
And the gentle curve of its lowly crest;
And I often stop with the fear I feel,        15
He runs so close to the rapid wheel.
Whatever is rung on that noisy bell—
Chime of the hour or funeral knell—
The dove in the belfry must hear it well.
When the tongue swings out to the midnight moon,        20
When the sexton cheerly rings for noon,
When the clock strikes clear at morning light,
When the child is waked with “nine at night,”
When the chimes play soft in the Sabbath air,
Filling the spirit with tones of prayer,—        25
Whatever tale in the bell is heard,
He broods on his folded feet unstirred;
Or rising half in his rounded nest,
He takes the time to smooth his breast,
Then drops again with filmèd eyes,        30
And sleeps as the last vibration dies.
Sweet bird! I would that I could be
A hermit in the crowd like thee!
With wings to fly to wood and glen,
Thy lot, like mine, is cast with men;        35
And daily, with unwilling feet,
I tread like thee the crowded street:
But unlike me, when day is o’er,
Thou canst dismiss the world and soar;
Or at a half-felt wish for rest,        40
Canst smooth the feathers on thy breast,
And drop forgetful to thy nest.

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