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Short poem

Mary Howitt (1799-1888)

The Sparrow's Nest

              1Nay, only look what I have found!
              2A Sparrow's nest upon the ground;
              3A Sparrow's nest as you may see,
              4Blown out of yonder old elm tree.

              5And what a medley thing it is!
              6I never saw a nest like this, --
              7Not neatly wove with decent care,
              8Of silvery moss and shining hair;

              9But put together, odds and ends,
            10Picked up from enemies and friends
            11See, bits of thread, and bits of rag,
            12Just like a little rubbish-bag!

            13Here is a scrap of red and brown,
            14Like the old washer-woman's gown;
            15And here is muslin, pink and green,
            16And bits of calico between;

            17O never thinks the lady fair,
            18As she goes by with mincing air,
            19How the pert Sparrow over-head,
            20Has robbed her gown to make its bed!

            21See, hair of dog and fur of cat,
            22And rovings of a worsted mat,
            23And shreads of silks, and many a feather,
            24Compacted cunningly together.

            25Well, here has hoarding been and hiving,
            26And not a little good contriving,
            27Before a home of peace and ease
            28Was fashioned out of things like these!

            29Think, had these odds and ends been brought
            30To some wise man renowned for thought,
            31Some man, of men a very gem,
            32Pray what could he have done with them ?

            33If we had said, "Here, sir, we bring
            34You many a worthless little thing,
            35Just bits and scraps, so very small,
            36That they have scarcely size at all;

            37"And out of these, you must contrive
            38A dwelling large enough for five;
            39Neat, warm, and snug; with comfort stored;
            40Where five small things may lodge and board."

            41How would the man of learning vast,
            42Have been astonished and aghast;
            43And vowed, that such a thing had been
            44Ne'er heard of, thought of, much less seen,

            45Ah! man of learning, you are wrong;
            46Instinct is, more than wisdom, strong;
            47And He who made the Sparrow, taught
            48This skill beyond your reach of thought.

            49And here, in this uncostly nest,
            50These little creatures have been blest;
            51Nor have kings known in palaces,
            52Half their contentedness in this --
            53Poor simple dwelling as it is!


15] muslin: plain-woven cotton fabric.

16] calico: heavy plain white cotton fabric.

22] rovings: twisted strands of fiber.
worsted: smooth yarn made from long wool fiber.

23] shreads: shreds, strips.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Mary Howitt, Sketches of Natural History (London: Effingham Wilson, 1834): 53-56. Facsimile Edition, introduction by Carolyn Whiteside (New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970). PR 4809 H2S55 1834a Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1834
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1999.
Recent editing: 2:2002/3/7

Rhyme: abcb

Other poems by Mary Howitt