Eos: An Epic of the Dawn, and Other Poems

By Nicholas Flood Davin


 

THE ROBIN AND THE WORM.


 

Time—the Queen’ s Birthday; Place—the hill,
I watch’d a robin ply his bill.
To see him operate I turned
From visions half-divine. I spurned
The sprayed white thunder of the falls,
5
The mountains robed in misty palls,
Quite Turneresque—that made them seem
Like things which rise up in a dream;
The circles of foam on the river’s breast
Hurrying on to its Ocean rest;
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The bowery green o’er the Lover’s Walk;
A curious, delicious, fortuitous talk
With a pretty girl, drest in print;
No critic had said: “There’s nothing in’t.”
Like May with apple blossoms crown’d,
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She was tall and fresh and slim and round;
Nor rose, nor rose bud—but just between;
The Venus de Milo at seventeen.
From her dainty hat—past the full white neck—
Down to her waist—like a mountain beck—
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Fell a stream of dark brown hair.
She had moreover a certain air
Of being a saint. She carried a missal,
And looked as demure as a Pauline epistle.
I talked of the greyish tint of the skies,
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But thought of the tint of her deep blue eyes. [Page 118]
I carelessly said: “The City of Hull
Looks empty of life;”— But my heart was full.
I noted the youth on her cheeks that shone,
And sighed to think my youth was gone.
30
I marked the cross on her heaving breast,
The emblem of suffering in beautiful rest.
Years ago in old St. Ouen,
The finest church in Norman Rouen,
I used to meet a girl like this;
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In the church we’d pray and outside we’d kiss.
She was deeply concern’d for my future state;
I was absorbed in a nearer date.
We visited the churches old and quaint,
And paused at the shrine of many a saint.
40
One day when leaving St. Maclou I told her,
For me to love her, and to behold her,
Were one and the same; she blushed and said
Nothing whatever, but hung her head.
We met so often! I drank her smiles,
45
While the organ roll’d thro’ the lonely aisles,
In hours of practice, when the artist’s hand
Made every nook of the building grand
Tremble with sonorous harmony,
Now sweet as streams and now strong as the sea.
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I saw her last behind the grill
Of a convent.
                       Now for that robin’s bill.
He moved about the level green,
As stately as some youthful queen,
Or some sweet dame at Rideau Hall,
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Who with His “Ex” leads off the ball. [Page 119]
He’d now retire, and now advance,
You’d think he practised some old dance.
At length he stood straight on the lawn,
And moved his head just like Sir John.
60

As the old Statesman eyes a paper,
Prepar’d by Blake to make him caper,
The robin eyed an opening where
A worm enjoyed the morning air.
“The question is shall this bill pass?”
65
He said, and drove it in the grass.
He drew it back, the prize was won.
Said I: “That’s not unlike Sir John.”
He tugged, and pulled, and strained about,
And now he had nine inches out,
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But still the twelve-inch worm profound,
Like bold debater held his ground.

The robin tugg’d and tugg’d; leaned back;
I thought his little thighs would crack.
A long, long pull, and I could see,
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Like some young fool of high degree,
The worm was done for—being free.
Said I: “The way you’ve drawn your worm,
Is not unlike the Premier’s form.”

But here it seems the likeness ends.
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If of the robin’s foes or friends
I cannot say, but can avow,
A little bird, from neighbouring bough,
Had watch’d the robin at his toil.
Silent he watch’d, nor did he spoil, [Page 120]
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By a distracting note, the will
With which that robin plied his bill.

But when the arduous job was over,
He darted quickly from his cover,
And, without a flutter of wings or pause,
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He took the worm from out the jaws
Of the tired robin, who look’d dazed,
And stood a moment quite amazed,
Then slowly, sadly flew away,
Said I: “Ah that’s not like John A.”
95

But ’tis like many a mother’s son;
We work, we strive; the prize is won;
But when we come to claim the promise,
Some Jacob’s ta’en the blessing from us.
The rythmic toiler earns his pay,
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Which watchful cunning bears away.

From musing thus, I turn’d to see
    A fellow, who’d been making a bobbin,
Had taken my girl, and treated me,
    As the sparrow had treated the robin.
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OTTAWA, May 28th, 1884.
[Page 121]