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Yellow Warblers
Katharine Lee Bates


The first faint dawn was flushing up the skies
When, dreamland still bewildering mine eyes,
I looked out to the oak that, winter-long,
— a winter wild with war and woe and wrong —
Beyond my casement had been void of song.

And lo! with golden buds the twigs were set,
Live buds that warbled like a rivulet
Beneath a veil of willows. Then I knew
Those tiny voices, clear as drops of dew,
Those flying daffodils that fleck the blue,

Those sparkling visitants from myrtle isles,
Wee pilgrims of the sun, that measure miles
Innumerable over land and sea
With wings of shining inches. Flakes of glee,
They filled that dark old oak with jubilee,

Foretelling in delicious roundelays
Their dainty courtships on the dipping sprays,
How they should fashion nests, mate helping mate,
Of milkweed flax and fern-down delicate
To keep sky-tinted eggs inviolate.

Listening to those blithe notes, I slipped once more
From lyric dawn through dreamland’s open door,
And there was God, Eternal Life that sings,
Eternal joy, brooding all mortal things,
A nest of stars, beneath untroubled wings.


This poem is in the public domain.



If Katharine Lee Bates’ (1859 - 1929) name sounds familiar, it should be. Her poem, "America the Beautiful," was set to music and became the patriotic anthem we all know and love. Daughter of a Congregationalist minister who died when she was a month old, Katharine was an English professor at Wellesley College for many years, as well as a noted scholar, poet, and writer of books for both children and adults. Serious-looking and somewhat awkward in movement, she was nonetheless very popular with her students because of her wicked sense of humor. Many of Katharine’s photographs show her with her collie, Hamlet, who was a beloved companion.


Post New Comment:
This lovely poem makes me wonder - how many yellow warblers are left as she wrote this many years ago... Judy
Posted 03/22/2015 01:26 PM
Thank you. How I wish my poems could soar away from the present pavement city. Back then it was a natural without so many encumbering entities. It is indeed lovely.
Posted 03/22/2015 10:58 AM
This is gorgeous! Thank you, Jayne, for introducing me to this amazing American poet. (She reminds me of Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet 'In vain mine eyes you labour to amend. . .', although he was pre-Shakespeare.) It is curious the way some words can disregard all time limits and sing off the page.
Posted 03/22/2015 05:53 AM

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