Far Horizons

by Bliss Carman


 

ST. FRANCIS AND THE BIRDS


 

ST. FRANCIS preached a sermon once,
Not to dominie nor dunce,
Prince nor pauper,—to the birds
He addressed his loving words.

Flocking in from far and near

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One and all kept still to hear,
Robin, vireo, and wren
Sitting mute like decent men;

Tanager in scarlet coat,
Golden-wing and ruby-throat,

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Bobolink and chickadee,
Like children good as good could be.

From the catbird not a squawk,
Not a whistle from the hawk,
From the raven not a croak;

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Not a parrot cracked a joke.

Even the outrageous jay
Sat without a word to say,
And the oriole and thrush
Forced their golden throats to hush.

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Grosbeak, meadow-lark, and quail
Let their sliding woodnotes fail,
While the lonely whippoorwill
Ceased his grieving from the hill.

And the whitethroat from the wild

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With his music undefiled,
Even he put singing by
For the greater mystery,—

Some new phrase of being’s lore
He had never heard before,

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Which might turn his plaintive fall
Into triumph after all.

There they waited all intent
For the word the Lord had sent,
Hearing good St. Francis tell

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How life’s song of joy befell;

How they each must bear a part
In the chorus of the heart,
Keeping harmony alive,
Helping rapture to survive;

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For if any voice were dumb
Their Lord’s Kingdom could not come,
And the world must pass away
In a wreck at Judgment Day.

As he finished every tree

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Sounded like the Litany
When the people make response.
For the bird folk all at once,

With new reason to be glad
Such as they had never had,

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Lifted up with one accord
Heart and voice to praise the Lord.