Janet Hamilton

1795-1873 / Scotland

The Skylark--Caged And Free

Sweet minstrel of the summer dawn,
Bard of the sky, o'er lea and lawn
Thy rapturous anthem, clear and loud,
Rings from the dim and dewy cloud
That swathes the brow of infant morn,
Dame Nature's first and fairest born!
From grassy couch I saw thee spring,
Aside the daisy curtains fling,
Shake the bright dew-drops from thy breast,
Preen thy soft wing, and smooth thy crest-
Then, all the bard within thee burning,
Heaven in thine eye, the dull earth spurning,
Thou soar'dst and sung, till lost on high,
In morning glories of the sky!
Not warbling at thine own sweet will,
Far up yon 'heaven-kissing hill.'
With quivering wing, and swelling throat,
On waves of ambient air afloat-
Not so, I saw thee last, sweet bird:
I heard thee, and my heart was stirred,
Above the tumult of a street,
Where smoke and sulphurous gases meet,
Where, night and day, resounds the clamour
Of shrieking steam, of wheel, and hammer-
A Babel rude of many a tongue:
There, high o'erhead, thou blithely sung,
Caged, 'cribb'd, confin'd,' yet full and clear
As silver lute, fell on my ear
Thy joyous song: as void of sorrow
As when, to bid the sun good morrow,
Just rising from his couch of gold,
Thou sung, and soar'dst o'er mead and wold.
Thy prison song, O bird beloved,
My heart hath strangely, deeply moved.
In reverie, a waking dream
Steals o'er my senses, and I seem
The joyous girl that knew no care,
When fields were green and skies were fair:
And, sweetest of the warbling throng,
The thrilling, gushing, voice of song
I seem to hear.-Ah! 'tis the lark,
That, mounting, 'sings at heaven's gate;' hark
These rapturous notes are all his own;
Bard of the sky, he sings alone!
Sweet captive, though thy fate be mine,
I will not languish-will not pine;
Nor beat my wings against the wires,
In vain regrets and strong desires
To roam again, all blythe and free,
Through Nature's haunts-again to see
The blooming, bright, and beauteous things
That in her train each season brings:
Spring's bursting buds and tender leaves,
The summer flowers, the autumn sheaves,
The purple hills, the shining streams,
Where lingering memory broods and dreams;
But, never more-ah! never more
To climb the hill or tread the shore
With foot untiring, swift, and free-
It may not-nay, it cannot be.
Ah! cannot be! my eyes are dark-
A prisoner, too, like thee, sweet lark:
But I have sought and found content;
And so our songs shall oft be blent-
I, singing in my hermitage,
Thou, warbling in thy prison cage,
Aspire! thou to thine own blue sky,
I to a loftier sphere on high!
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