The Bird in the Brain

IN a legend of the East there sits
A bird with never a mate:
Out of the dead man’s brain it flits,—
Too late for a prayer, too late,
Repeating all the sin
Which the beating heart shut in.
Little child of mine, that I kiss and fold,
With your flower-like hand at my breast,
Already within this head all gold
That bird is building a nest!
May it give but one brief cry,
Sweet, when you come to die.
My lord the king, that shadowy bird
Broods under your crown, I fear;
Take care, sir priest, lest you whisper a word
That Heaven were loath to hear:
Ermine nor lawn will it spare;
Ah, king, ah, priest, take care!
Oh, half-saint sister, so cloister-pale,
That bird will be at your bier!
Though you count your beads, though you wear your veil,
Though you hold your cross right dear,
When your funeral tapers come
Will the weird of wing be dumb?
Poor lover, beware of the bud of the rose
In the maiden’s hand at your side:
She has some secret, the dark bird knows,
Which her youth’s fair hair can hide;
Turn, maid, from your lover, too;
The bird knows more than you.
Mrs. S. M. B. Piatt.