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How Did the Robin Get Its Red Breast??
A myth you may have missed.

      The Robin

My old Welsh neighbor over the way
Crept slowly out in the sun of spring,
Pushed from her ears the locks of gray,
And listened to hear the robins sing.

Her grandson, playing at marbles, stopped,
And, cruel in sport as boys will be,
Tossed a stone at the bird, who hopped
From bough to bough in the apple-tree.

"Nay!" said the grandmother, "have you not heard,
My poor, bad boy! Of the fiery pit,
And how, drop by drop, this merciful bird
Carries the water that quenches it?

"He brings cool dew in his little bill,
And lets it fall on the souls of sin:
You can see the mark on his red breast still
Of fires that scorch as he drops it in.

"My poor Bron rhuddyn! My breast-burned bird,
Singing so sweetly from limb to limb,
Very dear to the heart of Our Lord
Is he who pities the lost like Him!"

"Amen! I said to the beautiful myth;
"Sing, bird of God, in my heart as well:
Each good thought is a drop wherewith
To cool and lessen the fires of hell.

"Prayers of love like rain-drops fall,
Tears of pity are cooling dew,
And dear to the heart of Our Lord are all
Who suffer like Him in the good they do!"

- John Greenleaf Whittier


Source: J.D. McClatchy, ed., On Wings of Song - Poems About Birds, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 2000), pages 27-28.

Next -> Did You Know Most Blue Jays Out West Don't Have Crests?


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