Birds, Why Are Ye Silent?

A poem by John Clare

Why are ye silent, Birds?
Where do ye fly?
Winter's not violent,
With such a Spring sky.
The wheatlands are green, snow and frost are away,
Birds, why are ye silent on such a sweet day?

By the slated pig-stye
The redbreast scarce whispers:
Where last Autumn's leaves lie
The hedge sparrow just lispers.
And why are the chaffinch and bullfinch so still,
While the sulphur primroses bedeck the wood hill?

The bright yellow-hammers
Are strutting about,
All still, and none stammers
A single note out.
From the hedge starts the blackbird, at brook side to drink:
I thought he'd have whistled, but he only said "prink."

The tree-creeper hustles
Up fir's rusty bark;
All silent he bustles;
We needn't say hark.
There's no song in the forest, in field, or in wood,
Yet the sun gilds the grass as though come in for good.

How bright the odd daisies
Peep under the stubbs!
How bright pilewort blazes
Where ruddled sheep rubs
The old willow trunk by the side of the brook,
Where soon for blue violets the children will look!

By the cot green and mossy
Feed sparrow and hen:
On the ridge brown and glossy
They cluck now and then.
The wren cocks his tail o'er his back by the stye,
Where his green bottle nest will be made by and bye.

Here's bunches of chickweed,
With small starry flowers,
Where red-caps oft pick seed
In hungry Spring hours.
And blue cap and black cap, in glossy Spring coat,
Are a-peeping in buds without singing a note.

Why silent should birds be
And sunshine so warm?
Larks hide where the herds be
By cottage and farm.
If wild flowers were blooming and fully set in the Spring
May-be all the birdies would cheerfully sing.

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