The first time
knowing freedom at last he fluttering flew,
From birth his wiry cage was all he ever knew.
I wonder was he happy in that prison long confined,
Where he jumped from perch to perch with none others of his kind?
What use could be his wings in that world that was so small,
Did this lone life oppress him or was he sad at all?
How could he ever long for Nature’s open spaces
When never had he known their dangers or their graces?
He would wake up early and his voice would make us thrill
And the rooms around the house his warbling tones would fill.
Not a merely senseless twitter but with his phrases choice
He would announce the day with sweet melodious voice.
In what high school of music such art was his to gain
That we should feel in heaven, borne by that rich refrain?
He joined our homely circle and kept us all spellbound,
‘Twas we who were the captives while freedom he had found.
‘Twas we who were bound down by earthly cares too strong,
While our blackbird soared aloft borne on the wings of song.
As guest of our own house full three months did he spend,
Beloved he was and cared for while his voice did high ascend.
In water he would bathe, then shake his feathers dry,
Then daintily would feed with a sharp discerning eye,
And peck at figs or grapes or some lettuce that he scanned
Held out by our son in the palm of his right hand.
On hearing our soft whistle he answered us with song
Showing that he knew us with notes both loud and long.
My son was of full of pity and would repeat to me
‘Twas shame to thus confine him, and we should set him free.
I feared much for his safety, lest he fall to the shot
Of some keen hunter’s gun or to claws of roving cat.
Winter was a-coming, so where was he to feed?
He’d never learnt from Nature, we’d supplied his every need.
To keep a blackbird captive means danger he will find
When out there in the wild he will join up with his kind.
He must use his own resources, none for him will care,
In those wide open spaces we wonder how he’ll fare.
Out there he has to sing and send his voice abroad
Not sing for people selfish, but to the glory of his Lord.
Now he’s left his cage but hesitates to fly
And holds on to the balcony, his outspread wings to try.
Now launching into space, he glides towards a tree
And contemplates the world where now at last he’s free.
‘Tis autumn and the olive tree is there for his delight,
In spring the almond bloom will bring enchantment to his sight.
The blackbird is a an avian rare, in a special way ‘tis bless’d,
The parents when the young are grown don’t chase them from the nest.
Likewise our friend around the fields would confidently roam
But also he remained attached to what had been his home;
He would return to my son Will although in his new-found space
He had come to congregate with others of his race.
From the window let Will call and whistle like a bird
Our little friend would come to him as soon as he had heard.
He voiced aloud his prayers and his canticles sublime,
Bearing holy messages come from a source divine.
We loved this little creature, each took him to his heart,
This little blackbird singing so all sadness would depart.
All day long we watched him as he jumped about his cage,
Answering our coaxing our affections to engage.
But freedom is a gift from God we cannot take away,
A gift supreme we must allow our little friend so gay.
Favorite of my son, you blessed for us those days,
We loved you for your lively song and all your charming ways.
Now go and find beneath the stars the freedom you had lost,
But there you face the many threats that are freedom’s cost.
Be brave and so with thrusting wings above the dangers soar
And let your voice all Nature fill with beauty more and more.
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Translated from French: K.J.Mortimer