The Nightingale in the Study

“COME forth !” my cat-bird calls to me,
“And hear me sing a cavatina,
That, in this old familiar tree,
Shall hang a garden of Alcina.
“These buttercups shall brim with wine
Beyond all Lesbian juice or Massic;
May not New England be divine ?
My ode to ripening Summer, classic ?
“Or, if to me you will not hark,
By Beaver Brook a thrush is ringing,
Till all the alder-coverts dark
Seem sunshine-dappled with his singing.
“Come out beneath the unmastered sky,
With its emancipating spaces,
And learn to sing as well as I,
Unspoiled by meditated graces.
“What boot your many-volumed gains,
Those withered leaves forever turning,
To win, at best, for all your pains,
A nature mummy-wrapped in learning ?
“The leaves wherein true wisdom lies
On living trees the sun are drinking,
Those white clouds drowsing through the skies
Grew not so beautiful by thinking.
“Come out! with me the oriole cries,
Escape the demon that pursues you !
And, hark, the cuckoo weather wise,
Still hiding, further onward wooes you.”
“Ah, dear old friend, that, all my days,
Hast poured from that syringa thicket
The quaintly discontinuous lays
To which I hold a season ticket,—
“A season ticket cheaply bought
With a dessert of pilfered berries,—
And who so oft my soul hast caught,
With morn and evening voluntaries,—
“Deem me not faithless, if all day
Among my dusty books I linger,
Nor am, like thee, June’s pipe to play
With fancy-led, half-conscious finger.
“A bird is singing in my brain,
And bubbling o’er with mingled fancies.
Gay, tragic, rapt,∈right heart of Spain
Fed with the sap of old romances.
“I ask no ampler skies than those
His magic music vaults above me,
No falser friends, no truer foes,−
And does not Doña Clara love me?
“Cloaked shapes, a twanging of guitars,
A rush of feet, and rapiers clashing,
Then silence deep with breathless stars,
And overhead a white hand flashing.
“O, music of all moods and climes,
Vengeful, forgiving, sensuous, saintly,
Where still between the Christian chimes
The Moorish cymbal tinkles faintly!
“Bird of to-day, thy songs are stale
To his, my singer of all weathers,
My Calderon, my nightingale.
My Arab soul in Spanish feathers.
“Yes, friend, these singers dead so long,
And still, perhaps, in purgatory,
Give its best sweetness to all song,
To Nature’s self her better glory.”