How blue above our head the sky!
How brown below the path we tread,
By silent carpet overspread
From sombre larches standing by!
The berries in the hedge are red,
On which the birds should sure have fed,
Alas! they long ago have fled
Who feel the frost and die.
But hark! a foreign note I hear,
Along the fell, behind the wall,
A language I must needs recall,
Old talk made new with every year!
O’er northern seas, thro’ sleet and squall,
These birds have come from for festival,
And on the coral berries fall
To keep their Christmas cheer.
With ‘tsik-tsak’ high and ‘tsik-tsak’ low—
While perched far off their pickets stand—
These wandering birds possess the land
Our Norseman fathers used to know.
In voice, half quarrel, half command,
They wrangle on, the robber band—
Swift-wingéd Vikings from the strand
Of ice and winter snow.
I clap my hands, away they speed!
What matters where they rest to-night,
Beyond this vale are berries bright
And food where’er they wish to feed!
They know no law of tenant-right,
They only know they love the light;
One law alone can guide their flight—
The law of Nature’s need.
Ye red-backed rangers over sea,
Ye grey-winged rovers of the field,
Who, from what English roses yield,
Find life from lea to lea!
Those hearts must sure be hard and steeled
Who have no founts of faith unsealed
By your wild carelessness revealed,
This winter morn to me.
(Poems at Home and Abroad, pp. 74-5)