O Jay

By George Parsons Lathrop

O jay —
Blue-jay! —
What are you trying to say?
I remember, in the spring
You pretended you could sing;
But your voice is now still queerer,
And as yet you’ve come no nearer
To a song.
In fact, to sum the matter,
I never heard a flatter
Failure than your doleful clatter.
Don’t you think it’s wrong?
It was sweet to hear your note,
I’ll not deny,
When April set pale clouds afloat
O’er the blue tides of sky,
And ‘mid the wind’s triumphant drums
You, in your white and azure coat,
A herald proud, came forth to cry,
“The royal summer comes!”

But now that autumn’s here,
And the leaves curl up in sheer
And the cold rains fringe the pine,
You really must
Stop that supercilious whine —
Or you’ll be shot, by some mephitic
Angry critic.

You don’t fulfill your early promise:
You’re not the smartest
Kind of artist,
Any more than poor Blind Tom is.
Yet somehow, still,
There’s meaning in your screaming bill.
What are you trying to say?

Sometimes your piping is delicious,
And then again it’s simply vicious;
Though on the whole the varying jangle
Weaves round me an entrancing tangle
Of memories grave or joyous:
Things to weep or laugh at;
Love that lived at a hint, or
Days so sweet, they’d cloy us;
Nights I have spent with friends; —
Glistening groves of winter,
And the sound of vanished feet
That walked by the ripening wheat;
With other things…. Not the half that
Your cry familiar blends
Can I name, for it is mostly
Very ghostly; —
Such mixed-up things your voice recalls,
With its peculiar quirks and falls.

Possibly, then, your meaning, plain,
Is that your harsh and broken strain
Tallies best with a world of pain.

Well, I’ll admit
There’s merit in a voice that’s truthful:
Yours is not honey-sweet nor youthful,
But querulously fit.
And if we cannot sing, we’ll say
Something to the purpose, jay!

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