To a Stray Fowl

       ⁠Poor bird! destined to lead thy life
          ⁠Far in the adventurous west,
⁠       And here to be debarred to-night
⁠          From thy accustomed nest;
Must thou fall back upon old instinct now—
Well-nigh extinct under man’s fickle care?
Did heaven bestow its quenchless inner light
So long ago, for thy small want to-night?
Why stand’st upon thy toes to crow so late?
The moon is deaf to thy low feathered fate;
Or dost thou think so to possess the night,
And people the drear dark with thy brave sprite?
And now with anxious eye thou look’st about,
While the relentless shade draws on its veil,
For some sure shelter from approaching dews,
And the insidious step of nightly foes.
I fear imprisonment has dulled thy wit,
Or ingrained servitude extinguished it—
But no—dim memory of the days of yore,
By Brahmapootra and the Jumna’s shore,
Where thy proud race flew swiftly o’er the heath,
And sought its food the jungle’s shade beneath,
Has taught thy wings to seek yon friendly trees,
As erst by Indus’ bank and far Ganges.

From Poems of Nature (The Bodley Head, 1895) by Henry David Thoreau. Copyright © 1895 by Henry David Thoreau. This poem is in the public domain.