Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
229. The Cardinal Bird
 
By William Davis Gallagher
 
 
A DAY and then a week passed by:
  The redbird hanging from the sill
Sang not; and all were wondering why
    It was so still—
When one bright morning, loud and clear,        5
Its whistle smote my drowsy ear,
Ten times repeated, till the sound
Filled every echoing niche around;
And all things earliest loved by me,—
The bird, the brook, the flower, the tree,—        10
Came back again, as thus I heard
    The cardinal bird.
 
Where maple orchards towered aloft,
  And spicewood bushes spread below,
Where skies were blue, and winds were soft,        15
    I could but go—
For, opening through a wildering haze,
Appeared my restless childhood’s days;
And truant feet and loitering mood
Soon found me in the same old wood        20
(Illusion’s hour but seldom brings
So much the very form of things)
Where first I sought, and saw, and heard
    The cardinal bird.
 
Then came green meadows, broad and bright,        25
  Where dandelions, with wealth untold,
Gleamed on the young and eager sight
    Like stars of gold;
And on the very meadow’s edge,
Beneath the ragged blackberry hedge,        30
Mid mosses golden, gray and green,
The fresh young buttercups were seen,
And small spring-beauties, sent to be
The heralds of anemone:
All just as when I earliest heard        35
    The cardinal bird.
 
Upon the gray old forest’s rim
  I snuffed the crab-tree’s sweet perfume;
And farther, where the light was dim,
    I saw the bloom        40
Of May-apples, beneath the tent
Of umbrel leaves above them bent;
Where oft was shifting light and shade
The blue-eyed ivy wildly strayed;
And Solomon’s-seal, in graceful play,        45
Swung where the straggling sunlight lay:
The same as when I earliest heard
    The cardinal bird.
 
And on the slope, above the rill
  That wound among the sugar-trees,        50
I heard them at their labors still,
    The murmuring bees:
Bold foragers! that come and go
Without permit from friend or foe;
In the tall tulip-trees o’erhead        55
On pollen greedily they fed,
And from low purple phlox, that grew
About my feet, sipped honey-dew:—
How like the scenes when first I heard
    The cardinal bird!        60
 
How like!—and yet … The spell grows weak:—
  Ah, but I miss the sunny brow—
The sparkling eye—the ruddy cheek!
    Where, where are now
The three who then beside me stood        65
Like sunbeams in the dusky wood?
Alas, I am alone! Since then,
They’ve trod the weary ways of men:
One on the eve of manhood died;
Two in its flush of power and pride.        70
Their graves are green, where first we heard
    The cardinal bird.
 
The redbird, from the window hung,
  Not long my fancies thus beguiled:
Again in maple-groves it sung        75
    Its wood-notes wild;
For, rousing with a tearful eye,
I gave it to the trees and sky!
I missed so much those brothers three,
Who walked youth’s flowery ways with me,        80
I could not, dared not but believe
It too had brothers, that would grieve
Till in old haunts again ’t was heard,—
    The cardinal bird.
 

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