[Page 153]


1 IN these our days of sentiment
2 When youthful poets all lament
3 Some dear lost joy, some cruel maid;
4 Old friendship changed and faith betrayed;
5 The world's cold frown and every ill
6 That tender hearts with anguish fill;
7 Loathing this world and all its folly,
8 In lays most musical and melancholy,
9 Touching a low and homely string,
10 May poet of a Parrot sing
11 With dignity uninjured? say!
12 No; but a simple rhymester may.
[Page 154]
13 Well then, I see thee calm and sage,
14 Perched on the summit of thy cage,
15 With broad, hooked beak and plumage green,
16 Changing to azure in the light,
17 Gay pinions tipped with scarlet bright,
18 And, strong for mischief, use or play,
19 Thick talons, crisped with silver grey,
20 A gallant bird, I ween!
21 What courtly dame, for ball-room drest
22 What gartered lord in silken vest
23 On wedding morn what country bride
24 With groom bedizened by her side
25 What youngsters in their fair-day geer,
26 Did ever half so fine appear?
27 Alas! at ball, or, church, or fair,
28 Were ne'er assembled visions rare
29 Of moving creatures all so gay
30 As in thy native woods, where day
31 In blazing torrid brightness played
32 Through checkered boughs and gently made
33 A ceaseless morris-dance of sheen and shade!
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34 In those blest woods, removed from man,
35 Thy early being first began,
36 'Mid gay compeers, who, blest as thou,
37 Hopped busily from bough to bough,
38 Robbing each loaded branch at pleasure
39 Of berries, buds and kerneled treasure;
40 Then rose aloft with outspread wing,
41 Then stooped on flexile twig to swing,
42 Then coursed and circled through the air,
43 Mate chasing mate, full many a pair.
44 It would have set one's heart a dancing
45 To 've seen their varied feathers glancing,
46 And thought how many happy things
47 Creative Goodness into being brings.
48 But now how changed! it is thy doom
49 Within a walled and windowed room
50 To hold thy home, and (all forgot
51 The traces of thy former lot),
52 Clutching the wires with progress slow,
53 Still round and round thy cage to go.
[Page 156]
54 Or cross the carpet: altered case!
55 This now is all thy daily travel's space.
56 Yet here thou art a cherished droll,
57 Known by the name of Pretty Poll;
58 Oft fed by lady's gentle hand
59 With sops and sugar at command,
60 And sometimes too a nut or cherry,
61 Which in thy claws to beak and eye
62 Thou seemest to raise right daintily,
63 Turning it oft, as if thou still
64 Wert scanning it with cautious skill,
65 Provoking urchins near to laughter loud and merry.
66 See, gathered round, a rosy band,
67 With eager upcast eyes they stand,
68 Marking thy motions and withal
69 Delighting on thy name to call;
70 And hear, like human speech, reply
71 Come from thy beak most curiously.
72 They shout, they mowe, they grin, they giggle,
73 Clap hands, hoist arms, and shoulders wriggle;
[Page 157]
74 O here, well may we say or sing,
75 That learning is a charming thing!
76 For thou, beneath thy wire-wove dome,
77 A learned creature hast become;
78 And hast, by dint of oft repeating,
79 Got words by rote, the vulgar cheating
80 Which, once in ten times well applied,
81 Are to the skies with praises cried.
82 So lettered dunces oft impose
83 On simple fools their studied prose.
84 Aye; o'er thy round though unwigged head,
85 Full many a circling year has sped,
86 Since thou kept terms within thy college,
87 From many tutors, short and tall,
88 In braid or bonnet, cap or caul,
89 Imbibing wonderous stores of seeming knowledge.
90 And rarely Bachelor of Arts
91 Or Master (dare we say it?) imparts
92 To others such undoubted pleasure
93 From all his stores of classic treasure:
94 And ladies sage, whose learned saws
95 To cognoscenti friends give laws,
[Page 158]
96 Rarely, I trow, can so excite
97 A listening circle with delight.
98 And rarely their acquirements shine
99 Through such a lengthened course as thine.
100 The grannums of this group so gay,
101 Who round thee now their homage pay,
102 Belike have in such youthful glee,
103 With admiration gazed on thee;
104 And yet no wrinkled line betrays
105 The long course of thy lengthened days,
106 Thy bark of life has kept afloat
107 As on a shoreless sea, where not
108 Or change or progress may be traced;
109 Time hath with thee been leaden-paced.
110 But ah! proud beauty, on whose head
111 Some three-score years no blight hath shed,
112 Untoward days will come at length,
113 When thou, of spirit reft and strength,
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114 Wilt mope and pine, year after year,
115 Which all one moulting-time appear,
116 And this bright plumage, dull and rusty,
117 Will seem neglected shrunk and dusty,
118 And scarce a feather's rugged stump
119 Be left to grace thy fretted rump.
120 Mewed in a corner of thy home,
121 Having but little heart to roam,
122 Thou'lt wink and peer a wayward elf,
123 And croon and clutter to thyself,
124 Screaming at visitors with spite,
125 And opening wide thy beak to bite.
126 Yet in old age still wilt thou find
127 Some constant friend thy wants to mind,
128 Whose voice thou'lt know, whose hand thou'lt seek,
129 Turning to it thy feathered cheek;
130 Grateful to her though cross and froward
131 To all beside, and it will go hard
132 But she will love thee, even when life's last goal
133 Thou'st reached, and call thee still her Pretty Poll.
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134 Now from these lines, young friends,
* The above was written at the desire of a friend, to be inserted in a Collection of Pieces for Children or Young People.
I know
135 A lesson might be drawn to shew
136 How, like our bird, on life's vain stage,
137 Pass human childhood, prime and age:
138 But conned comparisons, I doubt,
139 Might put your patience to the rout,
140 And all my pains small thanks receive,
141 So this to wiser folks leave.


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Title (in Source Edition): LINES TO A PARROT.
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Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. 153-160.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

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