The Unknown Bird

The Unknown Bird

BY EDWARD THOMAS

 

Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard

If others sang; but others never sang

In the great beech-wood all that May and June.

No one saw him: I alone could hear him

Though many listened. Was it but four years

Ago? or five? He never came again.

 

Oftenest when I heard him I was alone,

Nor could I ever make another hear.

La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off—

As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world,

As if the bird or I were in a dream.

Yet that he travelled through the trees and sometimes

Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still

He sounded. All the proof is—I told men

What I had heard.

 

I never knew a voice,

Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told

The naturalists; but neither had they heard

Anything like the notes that did so haunt me,

I had them clear by heart and have them still.

Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then

As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet:

Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say

That it was one or other, but if sad

‘Twas sad only with joy too, too far off

For me to taste it. But I cannot tell

If truly never anything but fair

The days were when he sang, as now they seem.

This surely I know, that I who listened then,

Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering

A heavy body and a heavy heart,

Now straightway, if I think of it, become

Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.

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