The Gift of the Birds, from the Harper's
No sweeter child could ever be
Than fair-haired, blue-eyed Cecily.
She loved all things on earth that grew;
The grass, the flowers, the weeds, she knew;
The butterflies around her flew,
That she might see their rainbowed wings.
The very bees and wasps would come
To greet her with a gentle hum,
And ne'er betray that they had stings.
But, most of all, the birds in throngs,
Where'er she went, with chirps and songs
Gave her glad welcome. Her first words
Had been, "I love the pretty birds;"
And ever since her baby hand
Could scatter seed and crumbs of bread,
Each day a waiting feathered band
The darling little maid had fed.
The loving, winsome Cecily—
No dearer child e'er lived than she—
One Christmas-eve (in crimson hood
And cloak she'd in her garden stood
That morn and fed a hungry brood)
In her white bed lay fast asleep,
The moonlight on her golden hair,
Her hands still clasped as in the prayer,
"I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep."
She slept, and dreamed of Christmas times,
Of Christmas gifts, and Christmas rhymes;
But in no vision did she see
The host that filled the cedar-tree—
The cedar-tree that, tall and straight,
Rose high above the garden gate,
And though the winds were cold and keen,
Wore berries blue and branches green.
A hundred birds or more were there;
Some—from the sunny Southland, where
The fragrant rose was blooming still,
And green grass covered field and hill,
And, free as ever, flowed the rill—
Had come in answer to the call
Of friends who at the North had staid,
By stern old Winter undismayed,
To see the dainty snow-flakes fall.
These kindly greeted, with small head
Held on one side, a sparrow said,
"To choose a gift for Cecily
We've met to-night. What shall it be?"
A flute-like trill, in graceful pride,
A thrush sang sweetly, then replied,
"What better than the gift of song?"
"None better," answered all the throng.
And when next dawn sweet Cecily—
No sweeter child could ever be—
Into the sunlight smiling sprang,
In wondrous notes a hymn she sang.
Exultant on the air it rang,
And waked the echoes all about.
Straightway the morning brighter grew,
The pale sky turned a deeper blue,
The merry Christmas bells pealed out.
And, from that day, whoever hears
The wee maid sing, sheds happy tears
(So potent is her power of song),
Forgetting pain and care and wrong,
Rememb'ring only heaven is nigh,
Where dwells the Christ who came to die
On earth, that we might live alway,
And who was born on Christmas-day.