First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Unknown Bird


Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard If others sang; but others never sang In the great beech-wood all that May and June. No one saw him: I alone could hear him Though many listened. Was it but four years Ago? or five? He never came again. Oftenest when I heard him I was alone, Nor could I ever make another hear. La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off--- As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world, As if the bird or I were in a dream. Yet that he travelled through the trees and sometimes Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still He sounded. All the proof is---I told men What I had heard.

            I never knew a voice,

Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told The naturalists; but neither had they heard Anything like the notes that did so haunt me, I had them clear by heart and have them still. Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet: Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say That it was one or other, but if sad 'Twas sad only with joy too, too far off For me to taste it. But I cannot tell If truly never anything but fair The days were when he sang, as now they seem. This surely I know, that I who listened then, Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering A heavy body and a heavy heart, Now straightway, if I think of it, become Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.

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