The Strange Bird

By George Sterling

We are not done disputing yet
  Which of us heard its singing first-
A sorrow to a music set,
  Welcome as water is to thirst,
Tender as sleep to old regret.

It was a shy and nameless bird,
  And shy and nameless was the song,
By morning twilight often heard.
  It kept where shadows still were long
Ready to vanish at a word.

It sang, beside the quieter streams,
  Of beauty found perpetual-
No loveliness that only seems,
  But all that made love beautiful
And life more beautiful than dreams.
Unseen by darkness as by noon ,
   It slept, we thought, afar from fears;
Though once we heard, below the moon,
  A strain like gladness told in tears,
That rose, and sank, and died too soon.

We hoped to find that hidden place,
  But day's desertion foiled the sight:
Save of the song, we had no trace
  Of that cool secrecy of light,
Where silence had a purer grace.

It was not long ere we heard that tone,
  Unsolved, ethereal, rain-pure:
One of us killed it with a stone,
  The story goes. We are not sure.
Perhaps, we say, it has but flown.

Perhaps it sings in other lands,
  Where all of which it told is found,
As lovers clasp awaited hands
  And listen, dreaming, to the sound
Of waves that cease on twilight sands.

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