Robert Graves

The Voice Of Beauty Drowned

Poem by Robert Graves

'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!'
The other birds woke all around;
Rising with toot and howl they stirred
Their plumage, broke the trembling sound,
They craned their necks, they fluttered wings,
'While we are silent no one sings,
And while we sing you hush your throat,
Or tune your melody to our note.'

'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!'
The screams and hootings rose again:
They gaped with raucous beaks, they whirred
Their noisy plumage; small but plain
The lonely hidden singer made
A well of grief within the glade.
'Whist, silly fool, be off,' they shout,
'Or we'll come pluck your feathers out.'

'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!'
Slight and small the lovely cry
Came trickling down, but no one heard;
Parrot and cuckoo, crow, magpie,
Jarred horrid notes, the jangling jay
Ripped the fine threads of song away;
For why should peeping chick aspire
To challenge their loud woodland choir?

Cried it so sweet, that unseen bird?
Lovelier could no music be,
Clearer than water, soft as curd,
Fresh as the blossomed cherry tree.
How sang the others all around?
Piercing and harsh, a maddening sound,
With 'Pretty Poll, Tuwit-tuwoo
Peewit, Caw Caw, Cuckoo-Cuckoo.'

How went the song, how looked the bird?
If I could tell, if I could show
With one quick phrase, one lightning word,
I'd learn you more than poets know;
For poets, could they only catch
Of that forgotten tune one snatch,
Would build it up in song or sonnet,
And found their whole life's fame upon it.