Beau’s Reply.

A poem by William Cowper

Sir, when I flew to seize the bird
In spite of your command,
A louder voice than yours I heard,
And harder to withstand.

You cried—Forbear!—but in my breast
A mightier cried—Proceed!—
‘Twas nature, Sir, whose strong behest
Impell’d me to the deed.

Yet, much as nature I respect,
I ventured once to break
(As you perhaps may recollect)
Her precept for your sake;

And when your linnet on a day,
Passing his prison door,
Had flutter’d all his strength away,
And panting press’d the floor.

Well knowing him a sacred thing,
Not destined to my tooth,
I only kiss’d his ruffled wing,
And lick’d the feathers smooth.

Let my obedience then excuse
My disobedience now,
Nor some reproof yourself refuse
From your aggrieved bow-wow:

If killing birds be such a crime
(Which I can hardly see),
What think you, Sir, of killing time
With verse address’d to me!

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