Where’er of old my Lady went
All art, all nature seemed to be
Attuned in soft accompaniment
To sing her praise to me.
With all her gentleness would move;
Her smile was life, her look was love.
Within her bonnet shone the rose,
A lily sheltered at her breast,
But now where’er my Lady goes
No human heart can rest;
The very stones beneath her feet
Cry “Murder! Murder!” down the street.
For in her bonnet is the plume
That waves above her head, to tell
She has, within her soul, no room
For Pity’s self to dwell;
That she can see, unmoved of pain,
Homes plundered, babes and mothers slain.
Lo! In the hall of dance and song,
The maiden, clad with snowy grace;
No more she glides like light along,
How changed and slow her pace;
Knee-deep she seems to wade through death
Of white-winged creatures cast beneath!
There at the altar kneels the bride,
Pure joy and spotless womanhood.
Ah, pluck that dainty veil aside!
Her hair is red with blood!
Hark! Through the hymn of raise, a cry
Of birds in bridal dress that die.
Beside the infant’s cot there stands
A mother robed for evening rout,
The fury in her jewelled hands
Would cast her own child out!
She has but killed, for fan and lace,
A heron’s offspring in its place.
There is the land of sun and flowers
With orange scent upon the air,
When Egrets build their bridal bowers,
They take the plumes to wear,
Such plumes as with true love in sight,
Will tell the fluttering heart’s delight.
They mate and happy is the breast
That feels one day its softness stirred
By that new life within the nest,
Loud calls the parent bird;
The very savage in the wood
Must share the joyance of the brood.
But hands, whom Fashion arms with greed
And hearts made cruel by the Chace,
These know our English ladies need
Some little borrowed grace.
The merchant unto murder dooms
A whole bird-nation for its plumes.
Fierce shouts are heard, and up there springs
A palpitating cloud of sound,
The shadows of ten thousand wings
Move trembling on the ground,
And seem in silence to entreat
For mercy, round the murderers’ feet.
Gun answers gun, the cloud that rose
Lies warm and wounded underneath,
In all the heart’s appalling throes
Of agony and death;
From quivering flesh the ruffians tear
The feathers for my Lady’s hair.
There falls a hush upon the wood
Where gun made echo unto gun,
But still the branches drip with blood,
And, fainting for the sun,
Unfed, unsheltered now by breast,
The children perish in the nest.
Wings, meant for flight, that could not fly
Are rotting, high above, in air;
Beneath, the carrion bodies lie
Where fault was being fair.
And Vanity that wrought this doom
Goes dancing off with egret-plume.
O English mother, maid, or bride,
Who seek for Fashion’s feathered grace,
Come in your beauty and your pride
And gaze upon the place:
Then say if Love can wear again
For Pity’s sake, such plumes of pain.
(Nature Notes, 1893, December, vol. IV, no. 48, pp. 225-227)