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A Birthday poem – Alfred Austin

I love to think, when first I woke

Into this wondrous world,

The leaves were fresh on elm and oak,

And hawthorns laced and pearled.

The earliest sound that greeted me,

Was the ousel’s ringing tone;

The earliest sight, lambs frisking free

Round barked oaks newly thrown.

The gray-green elder whitened slow

As in my crib I slept;

And merles to wonder stilled my woe,

When I awoke and wept.

When held up to the window pane,

What fixed my baby stare?

The glory of the glittering rain,

And newness everywhere.

The doe was followed by her fawn;

The swan built in the reeds:

A something whitened all the lawn,

And yellowed all the meads.

And thus it must have been I gained

The vernal need to sing,

And, while a suckling, blindly drained

The instinct of the Spring.

The cuckoo taught me how to laugh,

The nightingale to mourn:

The poet is half grief, and half

The soul of mirth and scorn.

My lullaby, the bees astir

Wherever sweetness dwells;

The dogwood and laburnum were

My coral and my bells.

My virgin sense of sound was steeped

In the music of young streams;

And roses through the casement peeped,

And scented all my dreams.

And so it is that still to-day

I cannot choose but sing,

Remain a foster-child of May,

And a suckling of the Spring:

That to Nurse-Nature’s voice and touch

I shape my babbling speech,

And still stretch feeble hands to clutch

Something beyond my reach:

That in my song you catch at times

Note sweeter far than mine,

And in the tangle of my rhymes

Can scent the eglantine;

That though my verse but roam the air

And murmur in the trees,

You may discern a purpose there,

As in music of the bees.

Hence too it is, from wintry tomb

When earth revives, and when

A quickening comes to Nature’s womb,

That I am born again.

I feel no more the snow of years;

Sap mounts, and pulses bound;

My eyes are filled with happy tears,

My ears with happy sound.

Anew I listen to the low

Fond cooing of the dove,

And smile unto myself to know

I still am loved and love.

My manhood keeps the dew of morn,

And what I have I give;

Being right glad that I was born,

And thankful that I live.


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