The Bird's-Nest in the Moon,

from the, New England Magazine

I love to go to the Moon. I never shake off sublunary cares and sorrows so completely as when I am fairly landed on that beautiful island.[A] A man in the Moon may see Castle Island, the city of Boston, the ships in the harbor, the silver waters of our little archipelago, all lying, as it were, at his feet. There you may be at once social and solitary,—social, because you see the busy world before you; and solitary because there is not a single creature on the island, except a few feeding cows, to disturb your repose.

I was there last summer, and was surveying the scene with my usual emotions, when my attention was attracted by the whirring wings of a little sparrow, that, in walking, I had frightened from her nest.

This bird, as is well known, always builds its nest on the ground. I have seen one, often, in the middle of a cornhill, curiously placed in the centre of the five green stalks, so that it was difficult, at hoeing time, to dress the hill without burying the nest.

This sparrow had built hers beneath a little tuft of grass more rich and thickset than the rest of the herbage around it. I cast a careless glance at the nest, saw the soft down that lined it, the four little speckled eggs which enclosed the parents' hope. I marked the multitude of cows that were feeding around it, one tread of whose cloven feet would crush both bird and progeny into ruin.

I could not but reflect on the dangerous condition to which the creature had committed her most tender hopes. A cow is seeking a bite of grass; she steps aside to gratify that appetite; she treads on the nest, and destroys the offspring of the defenceless bird.

As I came away from the island, I reflected that this bird's situation, in her humble, defenceless nest, might be no unapt emblem of man in this precarious world. What are diseases, in their countless forms, accidents by flood and fire, the seductions of temptation, and even some human beings themselves, but so many huge cows feeding around our nest, and ready, every moment, to crush our dearest hopes, with the most careless indifference, beneath their brutal tread?

Sometimes, as we sit at home, we can see the calamity coming at a distance. We hear the breathing of the monster; we mark its great wavering path, now looking towards us in a direct line, now capriciously turning for a moment aside. We see the swing of its dreadful horns, the savage rapacity of its brutal appetite; we behold it approaching nearer and nearer, and it passes within a hairbreadth of our ruin, leaving us to the sad reflection that another and another are still behind.

Poor bird! Our situations are exactly alike.

The other evening I walked into the chamber where my children were sleeping. There was Willie, with the clothes half kicked down, his hands thrown carelessly over his head, tired with play, now resting in repose; there was Jamie with his balmy breath and rosy cheeks, sleeping and looking like innocence itself. There was Bessie, who has just begun to prattle, and runs daily with tottering steps and lisping voice to ask her father to toss her into the air.

As I looked upon these sleeping innocents, I could not but regard them as so many little birds which I must fold under my wing, and protect, if possible, in security in my nest.

But when I thought of the huge cows that were feeding around them, the ugly hoofs that might crush them into ruin, in short, when I remembered the bird's-nest in the Moon, I trembled and wept.

But why weep? Is there not a special providence in the fall of a sparrow?

It is very possible that the nest which I saw was not in so dangerous a situation as it appeared to be. Perhaps some providential instinct led the bird to build her fragile house in the ranker grass, which the kine never bite, and, of course, on which they would not be likely to tread. Perhaps some kind impulse may guide that species so as not to tread even on a bird's-nest.

There is a merciful God, whose care and protection extend over all his works, who takes care of the sparrow's children and of mine. The very hairs of our head are all numbered.

 Moon Island, in Boston harbor.