You were forever finding some new play. So when I saw you down on hands and knees In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay, Trying, I thought, to set it up on end, I went to show you how to make it stay, If that was your idea, against the breeze, And, if you asked me, even help pretend To make it root again and grow afresh. But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day, Nor was the grass itself your real concern, Though I found your hand full of wilted fern, Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover. ’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground The cutter-bar had just gone champing over (Miraculously without tasting flesh) And left defenseless to the heat and light. You wanted to restore them to their right Of something interposed between their sight And too much world at once––could means be found. The way the nest-full every time we stirred Stood up to us as to a mother-bird Whose coming home has been too long deferred, Made me ask would the mother-bird return And care for them in such a change of scene And might our meddling make her more afraid. That was a thing we could not wait to learn. We saw the risk we took in doing good, But dared not spare to do the best we could Though harm should come of it; so built the screen You had begun, and gave them back their shade. All this to prove we cared. Why is there then No more to tell? We turned to other things. I haven’t any memory––have you?–– Of ever coming to the place again To see if the birds lived the first night through, And so at last to learn to use their wings.
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