The Sparrow's Nest

Original Text: 
Mary Howitt, Sketches of Natural History (London: Effingham Wilson, 1834): 53-56. Facsimile Edition, introduction by Carolyn Whiteside (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970). PR 4809 H2S55 1834a Robarts Library.
1Nay, only look what I have found!
2A Sparrow's nest upon the ground;
3A Sparrow's nest as you may see,
4Blown out of yonder old elm tree.
5And what a medley thing it is!
6I never saw a nest like this, --
7Not neatly wove with decent care,
8Of silvery moss and shining hair;
9But put together, odds and ends,
10Picked up from enemies and friends
11See, bits of thread, and bits of rag,
12Just like a little rubbish-bag!
13Here is a scrap of red and brown,
14Like the old washer-woman's gown;
17O never thinks the lady fair,
18As she goes by with mincing air,
19How the pert Sparrow over-head,
20Has robbed her gown to make its bed!
21See, hair of dog and fur of cat,
24Compacted cunningly together.
25Well, here has hoarding been and hiving,
26And not a little good contriving,
27Before a home of peace and ease
28Was fashioned out of things like these!
29Think, had these odds and ends been brought
30To some wise man renowned for thought,
31Some man, of men a very gem,
32Pray what could he have done with them ?
33If we had said, "Here, sir, we bring
34You many a worthless little thing,
35Just bits and scraps, so very small,
36That they have scarcely size at all;
37"And out of these, you must contrive
38A dwelling large enough for five;
39Neat, warm, and snug; with comfort stored;
40Where five small things may lodge and board."
41How would the man of learning vast,
42Have been astonished and aghast;
43And vowed, that such a thing had been
44Ne'er heard of, thought of, much less seen,
45Ah! man of learning, you are wrong;
46Instinct is, more than wisdom, strong;
47And He who made the Sparrow, taught
48This skill beyond your reach of thought.
49And here, in this uncostly nest,
50These little creatures have been blest;
51Nor have kings known in palaces,
52Half their contentedness in this --
53Poor simple dwelling as it is!


15] muslin: plain-woven cotton fabric. Back to Line
16] calico: heavy plain white cotton fabric. Back to Line
22] rovings: twisted strands of fiber.
worsted: smooth yarn made from long wool fiber. Back to Line
23] shreads: shreds, strips. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1999.