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[JUNE, 1793.] Founded on a fact reported in the Scottish newspapers, and copied into the Buckinghamshire Herald for June 1, 1793, where Cowper read it as follows:-“ Glasgow, May 3.- In a block or pulley, near the head of the mast of a gabart, now lying at the Broomielaw, there is a chaffinch's nest and four eggs. The nest was built while the vessel lay at Greenock, and was followed hither by both birds. Though the block is occasionally lowered for the inspection of the curious, the birds have not forsaken the nest. The cock, however, visits the nest but seldom, while the hen never leaves it but when she descends to the hull for food.”7
In Scotland's realm, where trees are few,
Nor even shrubs abound;
Some better things are found :
For husband there and wife may boast
Their union undefiled,
As hedge-rows in the wild,
In Scotland's realm, forlorn and bare,
The history chanced of late —
A chaffinch and his mate.
The spring drew near, each felt a breast
With genial instinct fillid;
But found not where to build.
The heaths uncover'd, and the moors,
Except with snow and sleet,
Could yield them no retreat.
Long time a breeding-place they sought,
Till both grew vex'd and tired ;
The good so long desired.
A ship!--could such a restless thing
Afford a place of rest ? Or was the merchant charged to bring
The homeless birds a nest ?
Hush silent hearers profit most
This racer of the sea Proved kinder to them than the coast,
It served them with a tree.
But such a tree! 'twas shaven deal,
The tree they call a mast, And had a hollow with a wheel,
Through which the tackle pass'd.
Within that cavity aloft
Their roofless home they fix’d, Form'd with materials neat and soft,
Bents, wool, and feathers mix'd.
Four ivory eggs soon pave its floor,
With russet specks bedightThe vessel weighs, forsakes the shore,
And lessens to the sight.
The mother-bird is gone to sea,
As she had changed her kind ; But goes the male ? Far wiser he
Is doubtless left behind ?
No--soon as from ashore he saw
The winged mansion move, He flew to reach it, by a law · Of never-failing love.
Then perching at his consort's side,
Was briskly borne along,
The seaman with sincere delight
His feather'd shipmates eyes Scarce less exulting in the sight
Than when he tows a prize.
For seamen much believe in signs,
And from a chance so new, Each some approaching good divines,
And may his hopes be true!
Hail, honour'd land! a desert where
Not even birds can hide, Yet parent of this loving pair
Whom nothing could divide.
And ye who, rather than resign
Your matrimonial plan, Were not afraid to plough the brine
In company with man;
For whose lean country much disdain
We English often show,
But wantonness and wo:
Be it your fortune, year by year,
The same resource to prove, And may ye, sometimes landing here,
Instruct us how to love!
WILLIAM HAYLEY, ESQ.
[JUNE 29, 1793.]
[This was addressed to Hayley, on his proposing to Cowper that they should write in “ literary partnership” a poem, to be called “ The Four Ages.”]
DEAR architect of fine chateaux in air, Worthier to stand for ever, if they could, Than any built of stone, or yet of wood,
For back of royal elephant to bear!
Oh, for permission from the skies to share,
A partnership of literary ware!
To drudge, in descant dry, on others' lays, -
But what is commentator's happiest praise ?
CALLED BEAU, KILLING A YOUNG BIRD.
[July 15, 1793.]
Each trifle that he sees.
But you have kill'd a tiny bird,
Which flew not till to-day,
Forbidding you the prey.
Nor did you kill that you might eat
And ease a doggish pain, For him, though chased with furious heat,
You left where he was slain.
Nor was he of the thievish sort,
Or, one whom blood allures, But innocent was all his sport
Whom you have torn for yours.
My dog! what remedy remains,
Since, teach you all I can, I see you, after all my pains,
So much resemble man ?
Sir, when I flew to seize the bird
In spite of your command,
And harder to withstand.
You cried Forbear but in my breast
A mightier cried, Proceed : 'Twas Nature, sir, whose strong behest
Impell’d me to the deed.
Yet much as Nature I respect,
I ventured once to break (As you, perhaps, may recollect)
Her precept for your sake ;
And when your linnet on a day,
Passing his prison door,
And panting press'd the floor,
Well knowing him a sacred thing,
Not destined to my tooth,
And lick'd the feathers smooth.