Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Oceanica
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Oceanica: Vol. XXXI.  1876–79.
 
Various Islands: Canary Islands
The Bird of the Canaries
Thomas Kibble Hervey (1804–1859)
 
          The canary, in its native woods, is of a greenish color, and is an inferior songster. It is said to acquire its beautiful yellow hue and rich song by domestication in colder latitudes.

THEY say that island-bird, that sings
Within our homes so rich a song,—
The little bird with golden wings,
That poureth, all day long,
A flute-like music, sweet and clear,        5
As if it were a spirit’s lay,
That brought the tones to mortal car
Of fay-land, far away,—
The small bright bird that cometh west,
From the blue islands of the blest,—        10
They say that, in its own warm bowers,
Where that fair songster floateth, free
As floats the breeze o’er all the flowers
That scent the tropic sea,
The sun it soars to, fails to fling        15
This golden gleam upon its wing.
That seemeth as it drew its dyes
From wandering through those burning skies;
The sun it sings to, shines in vain
To wake that wild and witching strain        20
That gushes forth to meet his smiles,
Like incense, from our colder isles,—
The sweet and swelling music calls
That answer where the daybeam falls,
As if its touch had power to start        25
Some spring within the minstrel’s heart,
And play those wingéd lyres of gold
As erst it played the Memnon old;
That these its fairy hues belong
To wing restrained and riper age,        30
And still it pours its sweetest song
Within its northern cage,—
And, in its gifts most precious, comes
To bless us, in our human homes!
 
O fairy from the far-off main!        35
Thou little flute with golden wings!
Thy spirit-hue and spirit-strain
Are types of fairer things,
And we have dearer gifts than these
Amid the mists of northern seas!        40
Bright forms that flutter in the sun,
With voices sweet as silver bells,
Whose tones along the spirit run
Like music’s very spells,—
And open, with their own sweet art,        45
Those inner chambers of the heart,
Within whose depths was never heard
The singing of the bird.
And if thy wing of gold or green
Be not to our beloved given,        50
Winged thoughts, within their dark eyes seen,
Take oft the soul to heaven,
But bring it surely back, to rest,
At eve, within an earthly nest.
Our fairies these,—while floating, free        55
As thou amid thy far-off sea,
And, like thy sisters, singing sooth,
In the bright island of their youth!
But years to our beloved bring
A richer song, with riper age,        60
When each is bound, with golden ring,
Within a golden cage,—
In whose sweet hush and holy rest
New sounds steal up along the breast,—
The angels playing soft and low,        65
As erst in Eden, long ago,
Rich harmonies, till then unheard,
Gush from our own bright human bird,
And hues come o’er its heart, whose dyes
Can have no fountain but the skies!        70
O, beauty haunteth everywhere,
For spirits that can see aright,
And music fills the common air
Of morn and noon and night;
But beauty wears no form on earth        75
Like that which sitteth by the hearth;
And, mid the music of the throng,
They never know, who always roam,
How sweeter far that sweetest song
That woman sings—at home.        80
 
 
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