There's a little bird with a wondrous song—
A little bird that every one knows—
(Though it sings for the most part
under the rose),
That is petted and pampered wherever it goes,
And nourished in bosoms gentle and strong.
This petted bird has a crooked beak
And eyes like live coals set in its head,
A gray breast dappled with glowing red—
Dabbled—not dappled, I should have said,
From a fancy it has of which I shall speak.
This eccentricity that I name
Is, that whenever the bird would sing
It darts its black head under its wing,
And moistens its beak in—darling thing!—
A human heart that is broken with shame.
Then this cherished bird its song begins—
Always begins its song one way—
With two little dulcet words,
Carolled in such a charming way
That the listener's heart it surely wins.
This sweetest of songsters sits beside
Every hearth in this Christian land,
Ever so humble or never so grand,
Gloating o'er crumbs which many a hand
Gathers to nourish it, far and wide.
Over each crumb that it gathers up
It winningly carols those two soft words
In the dulcet notes of the sweetest of birds,
Darting its sharp beak under its wing
As it might in a ruby drinking-cup.
A delicate thing is our bird withal
And owns but a fickle appetite,
So that old and young take a keen delight
In serving it ever, day and night,
With the last gay heart now turned to gall.
Thus, though a dainty dear, it sings
In a very well-conditioned way
A truly wonderful sort of lay,
Whose burden is ever the same—They Say—
Darting its dabbled beak under its wings.