Bird Language

Original Text: 
The Bird and the Bell, with Other Poems (Boston: James R, Osgood, 1875): 141-42. Internet Archive
1One day in the bluest of summer weather,
2    Sketching under a whispering oak,
3I heard five bobolinks laughing together
4    Over some ornithological joke.
5What the fun was I couldn't discover.
6    Language of birds is a riddle on earth.
7What could they find in whiteweed and clover
8    To split their sides with such musical mirth?
9Was it some prank of the prodigal summer,
10    Face in the cloud or voice in the breeze,
11Querulous catbird, woodpecker drummer,
12    Cawing of crows high over the trees?
13Was it some chipmunk's chatter, or weasel
14    Under the stone-wall stealthy and sly?
15Or was the joke about me at my easel,
16    Trying to catch the tints of the sky?
17Still they flew tipsily, shaking all over,
18    Bubbling with jollity, brimful of glee,
19While I sat listening deep in the clover,
20    Wondering what their jargon could be.
21'T was but the voice of a morning the brightest
22    That ever dawned over yon shadowy hills;
23'T was but the song of all joy that is lightest, --
24    Sunshine breaking in laughter and trills.
25Vain to conjecture the words they are singing;
26    Only by tones can we follow the tune
27In the full heart of the summer fields ringing,
28    Ringing the rhythmical gladness of June!
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire / Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: