Paul Hamilton Hayne

A New Version of Why the Robinís Breast Is Red

KNOW you why the robin's breast
Gleameth of a dusky red,
Like the lustre mid the stars
Of the potent planet Mars?
'Tis--a monkish myth has said--
Owing to his cordial heart;
For, long since, he took the part
Of those hapless children, sent
Hadean-ward for punishment;
And, to quench the fierce desire,
Bred in them by ruthless fire,
Brought on tiny bill and wing,
Water from some earthly spring,
Which in misty droplets fell
O'er their dwelling of unrest,
While the sufferer's faces grew
Softer 'neath the healing dew!

But, too far within that hell
Venturing, some malicious fiend,
A small devil hardly weaned,
Seized bold Robin in his claw,
Striving thro' the flames to draw
His poor body, until fled
Sight of eyes and sense of head,
Scorched he lay and almost dead!

Then, a child whose tongue and brow,
Robin's help had cooled but now,
Clutched the baby-fiend in ire,
And in gulfs of his own fire
Soused the vile misshapen elf.

Fluttering upwards, scarce himself,
After all the pain and fear
Of his horrid sojourn there
In that realm of flame and smoke,
Lo! earth's happy sunlight broke
On the bird's dazed view at last;
But the ordeal he had passed
Left a flame-spot widely spread
Where the wind-blown feathers part
Just above his loyal heart.
So the robin's breast is red!

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