Among the dwellings framed by birds
In field or forest with nice care,
Is none that with the little wren's
In snugness may compare.
No door the tenement requires,
And seldom needs a labored roof;
Yet is it to the fiercest sun
Impervious, and stormproof.
So warm, so beautiful withal,
In perfect fitness for its aim,
That to the kind by special grace
Their instinct surely came.
And when for their abodes they seek
An opportune recess,
The hermit has no finer eye
For shadowy quietness.
These find, 'mid ivied abbey walls,
A canopy in some still nook;
Others are penthoused by a brae
That overhangs a brook.
There to the brooding bird her mate
Warbles by fits his low clear song;
And by the busy streamlet both
Are sung to all day long.
Or in sequestered lanes they build,
Where, till the flitting bird's return,
Her eggs within the nest repose,
Like relics in an urn.
But still, where general choice is good,
There is a better and a best;
And, among fairest objects, some
Are fairer than the rest;
This, one of those small builders proved
In a green covert, where, from out
The forehead of a pollard oak,
The leafy antlers sprout;
For she who planned the mossy lodge,
Mistrusting her evasive skill,
Had to a primrose looked for aid
Her wishes to fulfill.
High on the trunk's projecting brow,
And fixed an infant's span above
The budding flowers, peeped forth the nest,
The prettiest of the grove!
The treasure proudly did I show
To some whose minds without disdain
Can turn to little things; but once
Looked up for it in vain:
'Tis gone—a ruthless spoiler's prey,
Who heeds not beauty, love, or song,
'Tis gone! (so seemed it) and we grieved
Indignant at the wrong.
Just three days after, passing by
In clearer light the moss-built cell
I saw, espied its shaded mouth;
And felt that all was well.
The primrose for a veil had spread
The largest of her upright leaves;
And thus, for purposes benign,
A simple flower deceives.
Concealed from friends who might disturb
Thy quiet with no ill intent,
Secure from evil eyes and hands
On barbarous plunder bent,
Rest, mother bird! and when thy young
Take flight, and thou art free to roam,
When withered is the guardian flower,
And empty thy late home,
Think how ye prospered, thou and thine,
Amid the unviolated grove,
Housed near the growing primrose tuft
In foresight, or in love.