In Divers Tones

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by Tracy Ware


 

A BALLADE OF PHILOMELA


 

From gab of jay and chatter of crake
   The dusk wood covered me utterly.
And here the tongue of the thrush was awake.
   Flame-floods out of the low bright sky
   Lighted the gloom with gold-brown dye,
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Before dark; and a manifold chorussing
   Arose of thrushes remote and nigh,—
For the tongue of the singer needs must sing.

Midmost a close green covert of brake
   A brown bird listening silently

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Sat; and I thought—“She grieves for the sake
   Of Itylus,—for the stains that lie
   In her heritage of sad memory.”
But the thrushes were hushed at evening.
   Then I waited to hear the brown bird try,—
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For the tongue of the singer needs must sing.

And I said—“The thought of the thrushes will shake
   With rapture remembered her heart; and her shy
Tongue of the dear times dead will take
   To make her a living song, when sigh

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   The soft night winds disburthened by.
Hark now!”—for the upraised quivering wing,
   The throat exultant, I could descry,—
And the tongue of the singer needs must sing!

                                       L’ENVOI.

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But the bird dropped dead with only a cry.
   I found its tongue was withered, poor thing!
Then I no whit wondered, for well knew I
   That the heart of the singer will break or sing.