Dear bird, you are the voice of life itself,
A living melody that calls to us
With untaught ecstasy; that sings a joy
Inherited with being, glorious.
Like girls at play, like laughter of a boy,
Your song derides the tired and baffled brain
That thinks itself to death; you sing again
With the immortal freshness of a breath
From morning stars above the mist of pain
That clings to song about the fields of earth.
What dusty thresholds to what vacant ears
Your ecstasy might sweep with song; what dearth
Of music starves them through long, silent years,
Who are eclipsed from you by birth!
Now from this lonely moor you have sprung up
Beyond our need, to pour; pour higher yet
Your melody into that tilted cup
Which all about with clustered gems is set.
Now I can hear it spilling back again,
Melodious excess through my casement bars,
Oh, what delirious madrigals are these
To wither out to nothing twixt the stars!
Such perfect music, and no ideal ear?
Listen! It is the earth that needs to hear.
It is the skylark that has come again
To din his selfless-music through the brain
Of a self-studying, self-tired generation—
The lark, the lark! It is the lark again!
For our whole planetary nation,
Rising out of the grass away from night
To soar beyond earth’s shadow into light.
First, moonlight under wings, like poetry,
Shall lift him on bright pinions toward the sun,
Then brighter, clearer, rarer atmospheres,
Bear him to altitudes where dawn’s begun,
Until the light, the bird, the song are one.
Why this ethereal flight with loud elation
In the direction of a high escape?
Why is it more than pain a shibboleth
Upon the lips of time? Why is it not
As positive, perpetual a relation
As death is to the scheme? I ask, “Why not?”—
And will you call it an ethereal jape?
Whence is this music that gives hope to thought,
This song, this utter triumph of frail breath,
A pristine voice of life whose source is joy?
Oh, you are young in thought; too old for time,
Who think that bird is a mechanic toy.
We live too much within ourselves, and when
We turn without we seek the world of men,
Where souls wreck their anatomies to buy
The music that pours down out of the sky.
We leave the skylark to the shepherd boy,
And bird and boy are happy in each others’
Happiness that makes them happy brothers.
What rusty hinges break the mind in twain
That cannot open outward into joy!
How dull to shut the skylark from the brain!
It is as tho’ in everything that passes
No song was heard, no joyful voice of life;
Thought, the poor dustman, sits and sifts the ashes,
Or mutes some shadow’s dirge upon his fife;
Or lives a widower, and dies alone,
Remembering dead feeling, once his wife.
Life has a feeling music like the bird’s,
That leaps beyond the candlelight of words;
Leaves the dark moors of earth for whence it came;
Soars into heaven, and achieves the flame.
© Hervey Allen