TELL us, tell us whence thou comest,
Little thing of the rainbow wing;
Tell us if thou always hummest:
If thou canst not sing.
Tell us when thou fell’st in love
With the honey-suckle flower,
That thou comest every eve
To her fragrant bower.
Or art thou her guardian sprite,
Ever hearkening to her sigh,
And robed so bright with coloured light,
Droppest from the sky?
Take me to thy hidden nest
In the far off realm of Faery,
Where thou sinkest to thy rest
When thy wings are weary.
When a boy I oflen dreamed,
Wondering what thou wast and whence,
For thy quivering winglets seemed
Scarce like things of sense.
Darting here and darting there,
Now half-buried in a flower,
Now away, and none knew where,
By some mysterious power.
When the rosy twilight came
Softly down the slumbering sky,
Thy emerald wing and throat of flame
Flashed before my eye.
Round the lattice and the porch,
Ere the dew began to fall,
Kissing all the bashful buds
Clambering up the wall.
But like a suspected lover,
Darting off into the sky,
Ere we could with truth discover
Half thy brilliancy.
I’ll not blame thee, little thing,
That thou wast then a mystery,
When life and thought were in their spring,
And fancy wandered free.
For I was like thee, gentle bird,
As wild and gay, as strange and shy,
And all my hours were with the flowers,
Beneath a summer sky.
But now that I’ve become a man,
I’d have thee come and tell to me,
If the boyish dreams are true
I have had of thee.
Tell me why and whence thou comest,
On thy little rainbow wing;
Why unto the flowers thou hummest,
And dost never sing.
But I hear a sober spirit
Talking as unto a child;
I must leave my bird and listen
To its accents mild.
Question not all things thou seest;
Things there are thou canst not know,
Learn from thy own dreams of childhood
Not too far to go.
Thou canst seldom track THE SPIRIT,
Whence or how or why it is;
In its unseen deeps for ever
Are there mysteries.
Be content to see-and seeing,
On the threshold pause and bow
To the great all-loving Being
With an humble brow!
All Sub-Works of Poems (1844):
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