Yet thus, within my garden dying,
Thy fate hath caused me less regret
Than that of all thy comrades, lying
Half dead and mangled in the net!
Where are they all, who crossed so gladly
The lofty Alps to seek the sun?
Still lives thy mate, to mourn thee sadly,
Or is her life-course also run?
Within the voiceless empyrean
No birds are passing on the breeze;
No songster lifts its joyous paean,
And silent stand my empty trees;
For at the base of every mountain,
Where southward-moving birds repose,
In every grove, at every fountain,
Lurk merciless, insatiate foes.
With cruel craft those foes surround them,
Ensnaring hundreds in a day,
Indifferent if they tear and wound them,
Proud only of the heaps they slay.
What care these brutes if songs of rapture
From thrush and lark are no more heard?
What matter if their modes of capture
Denude the land of every bird?
Whole regions, where they once abounded,
Are now as silent as the tomb;
The birds have vanished,—slain or wounded,
Pursued, by thousands, to their doom.
Meanwhile, since Earth itself is blighted,
The Nemesis of Nature wakes;
Her flawless balance must be righted;
If Ceres gives, ... she also takes!
Still worse, a moral degradation
Thus cradled, vitiates the race;
Among the rising generation
A lust for slaughter grows apace.
Even children kill the birds thus captured,—
And, since none censures or withstands,
They seize the tiny skulls, enraptured
To crush them in their blood-smeared hands!
See yonder lad with tethered linnet,
Its frail legs raw from rasping strings!
A carriage comes,—he flings within it
The tortured bird ... to sell its wings!
And oft as it may be rejected,
The little victim, mad with thirst,
Is jerked back, well-nigh vivisected,
Till pain and hunger do their worst.
Beware, harsh man and heartless woman!
Beneath you swells a threatening flood;
If you and yours remain inhuman,
It yet may drown you in your blood.
You smile, and call this sentimental;
You will not smile in later times!
For cruelty, so fundamental,
Already breeds the worst of crimes.
On the classic shore of Como,
’Neath a headland steep and bold,
Which, though leaden at the dawning,
In the sunset turns to gold,
Nestles beautiful Varenna,
Still invested with renown
By the legend that connects it
With the Lombards’ Iron Crown.
Far above it on the mountain
Stands the castle, old and gray,
With its battlements in ruin
And its towers in decay;
But a subtle charm still lingers
Round that residence sublime,
And the beauty of its story
Is triumphant over time.