Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  On a Thrush Singing in Autumn

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

Sir Lewis Morris b. 1833

On a Thrush Singing in Autumn

SWEET singer of the Spring, when the new world

Was fill’d with song and bloom, and the fresh year

Tripp’d, like a lamb playful and void of fear,

Through daisied grass and young leaves scarce unfurl’d,

Where is thy liquid voice

That all day would rejoice?

Where now thy sweet and homely call,

Which from gray dawn to evening’s chilling fall

Would echo from thin copse and tassell’d brake,

For homely duty tun’d and love’s sweet sake?

The spring-tide pass’d, high summer soon should come.

The woods grew thick, the meads a deeper hue;

The pipy summer growths swell’d, lush and tall;

The sharp scythes swept at daybreak through the dew.

Thou didst not heed at all,

Thy prodigal voice grew dumb;

No more with song mightst thou beguile,

She sitting on her speckled eggs the while,

Thy mate’s long vigil as the slow days went,

Solacing her with lays of measureless content.

Nay, nay, thy voice was Duty’s, nor would dare

Sing were Love fled, though still the world were fair;

The summer wax’d and wan’d, the nights grew cold,

The sheep were thick within the wattled fold,

The woods began to moan,

Dumb wert thou and alone;

Yet now, when leaves are sere, thy ancient note

Comes low and halting from thy doubtful throat.

Oh, lonely loveless voice, what dost thou here

In the deep silence of the fading year?

Thus do I read answer of thy song:

“I sang when winds blew chilly all day long;

I sang because hope came and joy was near,

I sang a little while, I made good cheer;

In summer’s cloudless day

My music died away;

But now the hope and glory of the year

Are dead and gone, a little while I sing

Songs of regret for days no longer here,

And touch’d with presage of the far-off Spring.”

Is this the meaning of thy note, fair bird?

Or do we read into thy simple brain

Echoes of thoughts which human hearts have stirr’d,

High-soaring joy and melancholy pain?

Nay, nay, that lingering note

Belated from thy throat—

“Regret,” is what it sings, “regret, regret!

The dear days pass, but are not wholly gone.

In praise of those I let my song go on;

’T is sweeter to remember than forget.”