In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659
by Anne Bradstreet
1 I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,
2 Four Cocks were there, and Hens the rest.
3 I nurst them up with pain and care,
4 No cost nor labour did I spare
5 Till at the last they felt their wing,
6 Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.
7 Chief of the Brood then took his flight
8 To Regions far and left me quite.
9 My mournful chirps I after send
10 Till he return, or I do end.
11 Leave not thy nest, thy Dame and Sire,
12 Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.
13 My second bird did take her flight
14 And with her mate flew out of sight.
15 Southward they both their course did bend,
16 And Seasons twain they there did spend,
17 Till after blown by Southern gales
18 They Norward steer’d with filled sails.
19 A prettier bird was no where seen,
20 Along the Beach, among the treen.
21 I have a third of colour white
22 On whom I plac’d no small delight,
23 Coupled with mate loving and true,
24 Hath also bid her Dame adieu.
25 And where Aurora first appears,
26 She now hath percht to spend her years.
27 One to the Academy flew
28 To chat among that learned crew.
29 Ambition moves still in his breast
30 That he might chant above the rest,
31 Striving for more than to do well,
32 That nightingales he might excell.
33 My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone,
34 Is ‘mongst the shrubs and bushes flown
35 And as his wings increase in strength
36 On higher boughs he’ll perch at length.
37 My other three still with me nest
38 Until they’re grown, then as the rest,
39 Or here or there, they’ll take their flight,
40 As is ordain’d, so shall they light.
41 If birds could weep, then would my tears
42 Let others know what are my fears
43 Lest this my brood some harm should catch
44 And be surpris’d for want of watch
45 Whilst pecking corn and void of care
46 They fall un’wares in Fowler’s snare;
47 Or whilst on trees they sit and sing
48 Some untoward boy at them do fling,
49 Or whilst allur’d with bell and glass
50 The net be spread and caught, alas;
51 Or lest by Lime-twigs they be foil’d;
52 Or by some greedy hawks be spoil’d.
53 O would, my young, ye saw my breast
54 And knew what thoughts there sadly rest.
55 Great was my pain when I you bred,
56 Great was my care when I you fed.
57 Long did I keep you soft and warm
58 And with my wings kept off all harm.
59 My cares are more, and fears, than ever,
60 My throbs such now as ‘fore were never.
61 Alas, my birds, you wisdom want
62 Of perils you are ignorant.
63 Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
64 Sore accidents on you may light.
65 O to your safety have an eye,
66 So happy may you live and die.
67 Mean while, my days in tunes I’ll spend
68 Till my weak lays with me shall end.
69 In shady woods I’ll sit and sing
70 And things that past, to mind I’ll bring.
71 Once young and pleasant, as are you,
72 But former toys (no joys) adieu!
73 My age I will not once lament
74 But sing, my time so near is spent,
75 And from the top bough take my flight
76 Into a country beyond sight
77 Where old ones instantly grow young
78 And there with seraphims set song.
79 No seasons cold, nor storms they see
80 But spring lasts to eternity.
81 When each of you shall in your nest
82 Among your young ones take your rest,
83 In chirping languages oft them tell
84 You had a Dame that lov’d you well,
85 That did what could be done for young
86 And nurst you up till you were strong
87 And ‘fore she once would let you fly
88 She shew’d you joy and misery,
89 Taught what was good, and what was ill,
90 What would save life, and what would kill.
91 Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
92 And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
93 Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
94 I happy am, if well with you.