Birth-Night Of The Humming Birds.

A poem by Samuel Griswold Goodrich


I'll tell you a Fairy Tale that's new:
How the merry Elves o'er the ocean flew
From the Emerald isle to this far-off shore,
As they were wont in the days of yore;
And played their pranks one moonlit night,
Where the zephyrs alone could see the sight.


Ere the Old world yet had found the New,
The fairies oft in their frolics flew
To the fragrant isles of the Caribbee--
Bright bosom-gems of a golden sea.
Too dark was the film of the Indian's eye,
These gossamer sprites to suspect or spy,--
So they danced 'mid the spicy groves unseen,
And mad were their merry pranks, I ween;
For the fairies, like other discreet little elves,
Are freest and fondest when all by themselves.
No thought had they that in after time,
The Muse would echo their deeds in rhyme;
So gayly doffing light stocking and shoe,
They tripped o'er the meadow all dappled in dew.


I could tell, if I would, some right merry tales,
Of unslippered fairies that danced in the vales--
But the lovers of scandal I leave in the lurch--
And, beside, these elves don't belong to the church.
If they danced--be it known--'twas not in the clime
Of your Mathers and Hookers, where laughter was crime;
Where sentinel virtue kept guard o'er the lip,
Though witchcraft stole into the heart by a slip!
Oh no! 'twas the land of the fruit and the flower--
Where Summer and Spring both dwelt in one bower--
Where one hung the citron, all ripe from the bough,
And the other with blossoms encircled her brow;
Where the mountains embosomed rich tissues of gold,
And the rivers o'er rubies and emeralds rolled.
It was there, where the seasons came only to bless,
And the fashions of Eden still lingered, in dress,
That these gay little fairies were wont, as I say,
To steal in their merriest gambols away.
But dropping the curtain o'er frolic and fun,
Too good to be told, or too bad to be done,
I give you a legend from Fancy's own sketch,
Though I warn you he's given to fibbing--the wretch!
Yet I learn by the legends of breezes and brooks,
'Tis as true as the fairy tales told in the books.


One night, when the moon shone fair on the main,
Choice spirits were gathered from meadow and plain--
And lightly embarking from Erin's bold cliffs,
They slid o'er the wave in their moonbeam skiffs.
A ray for a rudder--a thought for a sail--
Swift, swift was each bark as the wing of the gale.

Yet long were the tale,
Should I linger to say
What gambol and frolic
Enlivened the way;
How they flirted with bubbles
That danced on the wave,
Or listened to mermaids
That sang from the cave;
Or slid with the moonbeams
Down deep to the grove
Of coral, where mullet
And goldfish rove:
How there, in long vistas
Of silence and sleep,
They waltzed, as if mocking
The death of the deep:
How, oft, where the wreck
Lay scattered and torn,
They peeped in the skull,
All ghastly and lorn;
Or deep, 'mid wild rocks,
Quizzed the goggling shark,
And mouthed at the sea-wolf,
So solemn and stark;
Each seeming to think
That the earth and the sea
Were made but for fairies,
For gambol and glee!


Enough, that at last they came to the Isle,
Where moonlight and fragrance were rivals the while.
Not yet had those vessels from Palos been here,
To turn the bright gem to the blood-mingled tear.
Oh no! still blissful and peaceful the land,
And the merry elves flew from the sea to the strand.
Right happy and joyous seemed now the fond crew,
As they tripped 'mid the orange groves flashing in dew,
For they were to hold a revel that night,
A gay fancy ball, and each to be dight
In the gem or the flower that fancy might choose,
From mountain or vale, for its fragrance or hues.


Away sped the maskers like arrows of light
To gather their gear for the revel bright.
To the dazzling peaks of far-off Peru,
In emulous speed some sportively flew,
And deep in the mine, or 'mid glaciers on high,
For ruby and sapphire searched heedful and sly.
For diamonds rare that gleam in the bed
Of Brazilian streams, some merrily sped,
While others for topaz and emerald stray,
'Mid the cradle cliffs of the Paraguay.


As these are gathering the rarest of gems,
Others are plucking the rarest of stems.
They range wild dells where the zephyr alone,
To the blushing blossoms before was known;
Through forests they fly, whose branches are hung
By creeping plants, with fair flowerets strung,
Where temples of nature with arches of bloom,
Are lit by the moonlight, and faint with perfume.
They stray where the mangrove and clematis twine,
Where azalia and laurel in rivalry shine;
Where, tall as the oak, the passion-tree glows,
And jasmine is blent with rhodora and rose.
O'er blooming savannas and meadows of light,
'Mid regions of summer they sweep in their flight,
And gathering the fairest, they speed to their bower,
Each one with his favorite brilliant or flower.


The hour is come, and the fairies are seen
In their plunder arrayed on the moonlit green.
The music is breathed--'tis a soft strain of pleasure,
And the light giddy throng whirl into the measure.

'Twas a joyous dance, and the dresses were bright,
Such as never were known till that famous night;
For the gems and the flowers that shone in the scene,
O'ermatched the regalia of princess and queen.
No gaudy slave to a fair one's brow
Was the rose, or the ruby, or emerald now,
But lighted with souls by the playful elves,
The brilliants and blossoms seemed dancing themselves.


Of all that did chance, 'twere a long tale to tell,
Of the dresses and waltzes, and who was the belle;
But each was so happy, and all were so fair,
That night stole away and the dawn caught them there!
Such a scampering never before was seen,
As the fairies' flight on that island green.
They rushed to the bay with twinkling feet,
But vain was their haste, for the moonlight fleet
Had passed with the dawn, and never again
Were those fairies permitted to traverse the main.
But 'mid the groves, when the sun was high,
The Indian marked with a worshipping eye,
The HUMMING BIRDS, all unknown before,
Glancing like thoughts from flower to flower,
And seeming as if earth's loveliest things,
The brilliants and blossoms, had taken wings:
And Fancy hath whispered in numbers light,
That these are the fairies who danced that night,
And linger yet in the garb they wore,
Content in our clime and more blest than before!

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