On The Death Of Mrs. (Afterwards Lady) Throckmorton’s Bullfinch.

A poem by William Cowper

Ye nymphs! if e’er your eyes were red
With tears o’er hapless favourites shed,
O share Maria’s grief!
Her favourite, even in his cage,
(What will not hunger’s cruel rage?)
Assassin’d by a thief.


Where Rhenus strays his vines among,
The egg was laid from which he sprung;
And, though by nature mute,
Or only with a whistle blest,
Well taught he all the sounds express’d
Of flageolet or flute.


The honours of his ebon poll
Were brighter than the sleekest mole,
His bosom of the hue
With which Aurora decks the skies,
When piping winds shall soon arise,
To sweep away the dew.


Above, below, in all the house,
Dire foe alike of bird and mouse,
No cat had leave to dwell;
And Bully’s cage supported stood
On props of smoothest shaven wood,
Large-built and latticed well.


Well latticed—but the grate, alas!
Not rough with wire of steel or brass,
For Bully’s plumage sake,
But smooth with wands from Ouse’s side,
With which, when neatly peel’d and dried,
The swains their baskets make,.


Night veil’d the pole: all seem’d secure:
When, led by instinct sharp and sure,
Subsistence to provide,
A beast forth sallied on the scout,
Long back’d, long tail’d, with whisker’d snout,
And badger-colour’d hide.


He, entering at the study door,
Its ample area ‘gan explore;
And something in the wind
Conjectured, sniffling round and round,
Better than all the books he found,
Food chiefly for the mind.


Just then, by adverse fate impress’d,
A dream disturb’d poor Bully’s rest;
In sleep he seem’d to view
A rat fast clinging to the cage,
And, screaming at the sad presage,
Awoke and found it true.


For, aided both by ear and scent,
Right to his mark the monster went—
Ah, muse! forbear to speak
Minute the horrors that ensued;
His teeth were strong, the cage was wood—
He left poor Bully’s beak.


O had he made that too his prey;
That beak, whence issued many a lay
Of such mellifluous tone,
Might have repaid him well, I wot,
For silencing so sweet a throat,
Fast stuck within his own.


Maria weeps—the Muses mourn—
So when, by Bacchanalians torn,
On Thracian Hebrus’ side
The tree-enchanter Orpheus fell,
His head alone remain’d to tell
The cruel death he died.

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