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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

229. Birds—And a Caution

May 14.—HOME again; down temporarily in the Jersey woods. Between 8 and 9 A. M. a full concert of birds, from different quarters, in keeping with the fresh scent, the peace, the naturalness all around me. I am lately noticing the russet-back size of the robin or a trifle less, light breast and shoulders, with irregular dark stripes—tail long—sits hunch’d up by the hour these days, top of a tall bush, or some tree, singing blithely. I often get near and listen, as he seems tame; I like to watch the working of his bill and throat, the quaint sidle of his body, and flex of his long tail. I hear the woodpecker, and night and early morning the shuttle of the whip-poor-will—noons, the gurgle of thrush delicious, and meo-o-ow of the cat-bird. Many I cannot name; but I do not very particularly seek information. (You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness—perhaps ignorance, credulity—helps your enjoyment of these things, and of the sentiment of feather’d, wooded, river, or marine Nature generally. I repeat it—don’t want to know too exactly, or the reasons why. My own notes have been written off-hand in the latitude of middle New Jersey. Though they describe what I saw—what appear’d to me—I dare say the expert ornithologist, botanist or entomologist will detect more than one slip in them.)