Once on a time, a little bird
Within a wicker cage was heard,
In mournful tones, these words to sing:—
“In vain I stretch my useless wing;
Still round and round I vainly fly,
And strive in vain for liberty.
Dear liberty, how sweet thou art!”
The prisoner sings, with breaking heart:—
“All other things I’d give for thee,
Nor ask one joy but liberty.”
He sang so sweet, a little mouse,
Who often ran about the house,
Came to his cage; her cunning ear
She turned, the mournful bird to hear.
Soon as he ceased,—”Suppose,” said she,
“I could contrive to set you free;
Would you those pretty wings give me?”
The cage was in the window-seat,
The sky was blue, the air was sweet.
The bird with eagerness replied,—
“O, yes! my wings, and see, beside,
These seeds and apples, sugar, too,
All, pretty mouse, I’ll give to you,
If you will only set me free;
For, O, I pant for liberty!”
The mouse soon gnawed a hole; the bird,
In ecstasy, forgot his word;
Swift as an arrow, see, he flies,
Far up, far up, towards the skies;
But see, he stops, now he descends,
Towards the cage his course he bends.
“Kind mouse,” said he, “behold me now
Returned to keep my foolish vow;
I only longed for freedom then,
Nor thought to want my wings again.
Better with life itself to part,
Than, living, have a faithless heart;
Do with me, therefore, as you will,
An honest bird I will be still.”
His heart seemed full, no more he said,
He drooped his wings and hung his head.
The mouse, though very pert and smart,
Had yet a very tender heart;
She minced a little, twirled about,
Then thus her sentiments threw out:—
“I don’t care much about your wings,—
Apples and cakes are better things;
You love the clouds, I choose the house;
Wings would look queer upon a mouse.
My nice long tail is better far,
So keep your wings just where they are.”
She munched some apple, gave a smack,
And ran into her little crack.
The bird spread out his wings and flew,
And vanished in the sky’s deep blue;
Far up his joyful song he poured,
And sang of freedom as he soared.