The Branchers.*


I sat to bask, one sunny morn,1
Beneath a silvery blooming thorn,2
All near a pebbly rill :3
The yellow whins perfumed the ground,4
In all their golden splendour round,5
On side of rising hill ;6
Aloft in air were lav’rocks singing,7
Hid far in bluest sky,8
And all around their notes were ringing,9
Themselves concealed on high ;10

* Birds which have just left the nest, to betake themselves for the first time to
the trees, are in Scotland called “ Branchers.”
Till stopping, and dropping,11
With sottly-bending fight,12
They try there, to spy there,13
Some daisied turf to light.14


A little linnet there was seen,15
Alighting glad on grassy green,16
To wash its breast in dew,17
Or seeking near some rose to perch,18
For glittering drops the leaves to search,19
And quench the thirst that grew,20
Then swift with chirrup clear she went,21
Again to gather food,22
For all the happy hours she spent,23
To feed her growing brood,24
And near her, to cheer her,25
Her mate sung sweet and kind,26
And aided and guided,27
The best of food to find.28


And hid secure on leafy bough,29
Where hawthorn’s lilied flowerets blow,30
I saw her younglings fair,31
With down their plumage still was white,32
And all too weak their wings for flight,33
Along the bristling air ;34
Their arbour’s opening gave to view,35
The little timid row,36
Now shaking off the dropping dew,37
Now pecking blossomed bough.38
Now flitting, now sitting,39
Now trimming little feather40
Now sleeping, now cheeping,41
Now calling on their mother.42


The mother came, and each in turn,43
Glad shook its wings for share of corn,44
Forth stretching little bill,45
Again she went, again she came,46
And I was pleased to see the same,47
Scene innocent and still ;48
But all beneath the branch the while,49
Where chirping younglings sat,50
I noticed not the traitor wile,51
Of mischief-footed cat,52
Slow creeping, and peeping,53
With close and steady eye,54
Still higher and nigher,55
She marked them for her, prey.56


And now the nearest branch is gained,57
And now her traitor limbs are strained,58
For fierce and greedy spring,59
The younglings close are chirping low,60
All huddled soft on flowery bough :61
Undreading treacherous thing :62
With villain force I saw her dart,63
The tender group to seize64
She snatched their lives with sudden start,65
And hurried through the trees ;66
Bereft now, and left now,67
Their mother came with food,68
And madly, and sadly,69
She cried to miss her brood.70


I saw her wildly circling round,71
I saw her madly skim the ground,72
With hurried plaintive scream,73
But now for all her parent care,74
Is left but blank of sad despair,75
A dark and bitter dream ;76
And such the scene to me is left,77
Amid this life of woe,78
And such the deeds of watchful craft,79
That forced my tears to flow ;80
Unheeding, undreading,81
I careless played around,82
Till wrapped, entrapped,83
Their fangs were o’er me bound.84