Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
The Jackdaw
By William Cowper (1731–1800)
 
[From the Latin of Vincent Bourne]

THERE is a bird who by his coat,
And by the hoarseness of his note,
  Might be supposed a crow;
A great frequenter of the church,
Where bishop-like he finds a perch,        5
  And dormitory too.
 
Above the steeple shines a plate,
That turns and turns, to indicate
  From what point blows the weather;
Look up—your brains begin to swim,        10
’Tis in the clouds—that pleases him,
  He chooses it the rather.
 
Fond of the speculative height,
Thither he wings his airy flight,
  And thence securely sees        15
The bustle and the raree-show
That occupy mankind below,
  Secure and at his ease.
 
You think, no doubt, he sits and muses
On future broken bones and bruises,        20
  If he should chance to fall.
No; not a single thought like that
Employs his philosophic pate,
  Or troubles it at all.
 
He sees that this great roundabout,        25
The world, with all its motley rout,
  Church, army, physic, law,
Its customs, and its businesses,
Are no concern at all of his,
  And says—what says he?—‘Caw.’        30
 
Thrice happy bird! I too have seen
Much of the vanities of men;
  And sick of having seen ’em,
Would cheerfully these limbs resign
For such a pair of wings as thine,        35
  And such a head between ’em.
 
 
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