Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “The Paradise of Birds.” III. In Praise of Gilbert White

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

William John Courthope b. 1842

From “The Paradise of Birds.” III. In Praise of Gilbert White

IF Transmigration e’er compel

A bird to live with human heart,

I pray that bird have choice to dwell

From human ills apart.

When swallows through the world went forth,

And watch’d affairs in every nation,

They found for ever, south and north,

Vanity and Vexation.

So let him dwell not in the Town—

There Trade and Penury roar and weep:

But ’neath the silence of a down

Disturb’d by grazing sheep.

There, like his brook, his life shall glide,

Far from State-party, plot, and treason,

Nor feel the flow of Fortuue’s tide,

Beyond the change of season.

There he shall Learning woo, and Art,

Without a rival to unthrone;

Nor seek to pain another’s heart,

Since he may please his own.

Books he shall read in hill and tree;

The flowers his weather shall portend,

The birds his moralists shall be,

And everything his friend.

Such man in England I have seen;

He mov’d my heart with fresh delight;

And had I not the swallow been,

I had been Gilbert White.