On First Hearing a Skylark Sing

by George Santayana (1922)

Too late, thou tender songster of the sky
Trilling unseen, by things unseen inspired,
        I list thy far-heard cry
That poets oft to kindred song hath fired,
As floating through the purple veils of air
        Thy soul is poured on high,
A little joy in an immense despair.

Too late thou biddest me escape the earth,
        In ignorance of wrong
To spin a little slender thread of song;
        On yet unwearied wing
        To rise and soar and sing,
        Not knowing death or birth
Or any true unhappy human thing.

        To dwell 'twixt field and cloud,
By river-willow and the murmurous sedge,
        Be thy sweet privilege,
To thee and to thy happy lords allowed.
My native valley higher mountains hedge
        'Neath starlit skies and proud,
And sadder music in my soul is loud.

        Yet have I loved thy voice,
Frail echo of some ancient sacred joy.
        Ah, who might not rejoice
Here to have wandered, a fair English boy,
And breathed with life thy rapture and thy rest
Where woven meadow-grasses fold thy nest?
        But whose life is his choice?
And he who chooseth not hath chosen best.

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