Sweet little bird in russet coat
The livery of the closing year
I love thy lonely plaintive note
& tiney whispering song to hear
While on the stile or garden seat
I sit to watch the falling leaves
The songs thy little joys repeat
My lonliness relieves
& many are the lonely minds
That hear & welcome thee anew
The nest is hid close at its mossy root
Composed of moss and grass and lined with hair
And five brun-coloured eggs snug sheltered there
And bye and bye a happy brood will be
The tennants of this woodland privacy.
Among the stubbles when the fields grow grey
And mellow harvest gathers to a close
The painful gleaner twenty times a day
Start up the partridge broods that glad repose
Upon the grassy slip or sunny land
Yet ever it would seem in dangers way
Where snufting dogs their rustling haunts betray
And tracking gunners ever seem at hand
Oft frighted up they startle to the shade
Of neighbouring wood and through the yellow leaves
Drop wearied where the brakes and ferns hath made
A solitary covert – that deceives
For there the fox prowls its unnoticed round
And danger dares them on every ground.
When shall I see the white-thorn leaves agen,
And yellowhammers gathering the dry bents
By the dyke side, on stilly moor or fen,
Feathered with love and nature’s good intents?
Rude is the tent this architect invents,
Rural the place, with cart ruts by dyke side.
Dead grass, horse hair, and downy-headed bents
Tied to dead thistles–she doth well provide,
Close to a hill of ants where cowslips bloom
And shed oer meadows far their sweet perfume.
In early spring, when winds blow chilly cold,
The yellowhammer, trailing grass, will come
To fix a place and choose an early home,
With yellow breast and head of solid gold.
The oddling bush, close sheltered hedge new-plashed,
Of which spring’s early liking makes a guest
First with a shade of green though winter-dashed –
There, full as soon, bumbarrels make a nest
Of mosses grey with cobwebs closely tied
And warm and rich as feather-bed within,
With little hole on its contrary side
That pathway peepers may no knowledge win
Of what her little oval nest contains –
Ten eggs and often twelve, with dusts of red
Soft frittered – and full soon the little lanes
Screen the young crowd and hear the twitt’ring song
Of the old birds who call them to be fed
While down the hedge they hang and hide along.