To A Bird At Dawn (Encore)

Just the other day,
on my way to work,
amid the wet and damp of Houston winter
Must have had my window cracked —
enough, that is, to hear …

I thank God for them.
By the 20s, the 50s,
hundreds or more,
they sit on the power lines and


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To A Bird At Dawn

O bird that somewhere yonder sings,
In the dim hour ‘twixt dreams and dawn,
Lone in the hush of sleeping things,
In some sky sanctuary withdrawn;
Your perfect song is too like pain,
And will not let me sleep again.

I think you must be more than bird,
A little creature of soft wings,
Not yours this deep and thrilling word —
Some morning planet ’tis that sings;
Surely from no small feathered throat
Wells that august, eternal note.

As some old language of the dead,
In one resounding syllable,
Says Rome and Greece and all is said —
A simple word a child may spell;
So in your liquid note impearled
Sings the long epic of the world.

Unfathomed sweetness of your song,
With ancient anguish at its core,
What womb of elemental wrong,
With shudder unimagined, bore
Peace so divine — what hell hath trod
This voice that softly talks with God!

All silence in one silver flower
Of speech that speaks not, save as speaks
The moon in heaven, yet hath power
To tell the soul the thing it seeks,
And pack, as by some wizard’s art,
The whole within the finite part.

To you, sweet bird, one well might feign —
With such authority you sing
So clear, yet so profound, a strain
Into the simple ear of spring —
Some secret understanding given
Of the hid purposes of Heaven.

And all my life until this day,
And all my life until I die,
All joy and sorrow of the way,
Seem calling yonder in the sky;
And there is something the song saith
That makes me afraid of death.

Now the slow light fills all the trees,
The world, before so still and strange,
With day’s familiar presences,
Back to its common self must change,
And little gossip shapes of song
The porches of the morning throng.

Not yours with such as these to vie
That of the day’s small business sing,
Voice of man’s heart and of God’s sky —
But O you make so deep a thing
Of joy, I dare not think of pain
Until I hear you sing again.

— Richard Le Gallienne

The poem, taken from Great Poems of the English Language (New York: Tudor, 1927), reposted from 12/05.

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