Poems by N. P Willis, Orange County, New York

The Belfry Pigeon

On the crossbeam under the Old South bell
The nest of a pigeon is built well,
In summer and winter that bird is there,
Out and in with the morning air;
I love to see him track the street,
With his wary eye and active feet;
And I often watch him as he springs
Circling the steeple with easy wings,
Till across the dial his shade has passed,
And the belfry edge is gained at last;
‘T is a bird I love, with its brooding note,
And the trembling throb in its mottled throat;
There’s a human look in its swelling breast,
And the gentle curve of its lowly crest;
And I so often stop with the fear I feel,
He runs so close to the rapid wheel.
Whatever is rung on that noisy bell,
Chime of the hour, or funeral knell,
The dove in the belfry must hear it well.
When the tongue swings out to the midnight moon,
When the sexton cheerily rings for noon,
When the clock strikes clear at morning light,
When the child is waked with “nine at night,”
When the chimes play soft in the Sabbath air,
Filling the spirit with tones of prayer,
Whatever tale in the bell is heard,
He broods on his folded feet unstirred,
Or, rising half in his rounded nest,
He takes the time to smooth his breast,
Then drops again, with filmed eyes,
And sleeps as the last vibration dies.
Sweet bird! I would that I could be
A hermit in the crowd like thee!
With wings to fly to wood and glen;
Thy lot, like mine, is cast with men;
And daily, with unwilling feet,
I tread, like thee, the crowded street,
But, unlike me, when the day is o’er,
Thou canst dismiss the world, and soar;
Or, at a half felt wish for rest,
Canst smooth the feathers on thy breast,
And drop, forgetful, to thy nest.
I would that in such wings of gold I could my weary heart up fold;
I would I could look down unmoved (Unloving as I am unloved,)
And while the world throngs on beneath,
Smooth down my cares and calmly breathe;
And never sad with others’ sadness,
And never glad with others’ gladness,
Listen, unstirred, to knell or chime, And, lapped in quiet, bide my time.


Oh, the merry May has pleasant hours,
And dreamily they glide,
As if they floated like the leaves
Upon a silver tide;
The trees are full of crimson buds,
And the woods are full of birds,
And the waters flow to music,
Like a tune with pleasant words.
The verdure of the meadow land
Is creeping to the hills,
The sweet, blue bosomed violets
Are blowing by the rills;
The lilac has a load of balm
For every wind that stirs,
And the larch stands green and beautiful
Amid the somber firs.
There’s perfume upon every wind
Music in every tree
Dews for the moisture loving flowers
Sweets for the sucking bee;
The sick come forth from the healing South,
The young are gathering flowers;
And life is a tale of poetry,
That is told by golden hours.
It must be a true philosophy,
That the spirit when set free
Still lingers about its golden home,
In the flower and the tree,
For, the pulse is stirr’d as with voices heard
In the depth of the shady grove,
And while lonely we stray through the fields away,
The heart seems answering love.

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