The Bird-Catcher's Boy

" Father, I fear your trade:
Surely it's wrong!
Little birds limed and made
Captive life-long.

" Larks bruise and bleed in jail,
Trying to rise;
Every caged nightingale
Soon pines and dies."

" Don't be a dolt, my boy!
Birds must be caught;
My lot is such employ,
Yours to be taught.

" Soft shallow stuff as that
Out from your head!
Just learn your lessons pat,
Then off to bed."

Lightless, without a word
Bedwise he fares;
Groping his way is heard
Seek the dark stairs

Through the long passage, where
Hang the caged choirs:
Harp-like his fingers there
Sweep on the wires.

Next day, at dye of dawn,
Freddy was missed:
Whither the boy had gone
Nobody wist.

That week, the next one, whiled:
No news of him:
Weeks up to months were piled:
Hope dwindled dim.

Yet not a single night
Locked they the door,
Waiting, heart-sick, to sight
Freddy once more.

Hopping there long anon
Still the birds hung:
Like those in Babylon
Captive, they sung.

One wintry Christmastide
Both lay awake;
All cheer within them dried,
Each hour an ache.

Then some one seemed to flit
Soft in below;
" Freddy's come!" Up they sit,
Faces aglow.

Thereat a groping touch
Dragged on the wires
Lightly and softly — much
As they were lyres;

" Just as it used to be
When he came in,
Feeling in darkness the
Stairway to win!"

Waiting a trice or two
Yet, in the gloom,
Both parents pressed into
Freddy's old room.

There on the empty bed
White the moon shone,
As ever since they'd said,
" Freddy is gone!"

That night at Durdle-Door
Foundered a hoy,
And the tide washed ashore
One sailor boy.

21 November 1912
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