HENRY DAVID THOREAU CONTEMPLATES BEWICK'S NORTHUMBRIAN FISHERMAN ON THE CONCORD RIVER IN THE FALL OF 1839
An old brown-coated man
Walks wordless through the meadow,
With him his silent son,
The seaman, at his elbow.
As the yellow pinebark's
Reflection bent at the water's edge,
Or under grey willows, he lurks,
Rustling almost, like sedge.
Each calm afternoon
Still he haunts the river;
Wholly into nature grown,
He is the sun's familiar.
He has passed beyong the world of men
And whether the perch bite, or he
Labour home catchless, nothing can
Snap him out of his reverie.
I understand his sort,
His each, unspoken intent,
His fishing not a sport
But a solemn sacrament.
I, Thoreau, the pencil-maker,
Salute you from the heart,
Bewick, the wood-engraver,
Of the same mind and art.
When the child opened his hand
To show me the bird his father
Had sent me to copy
For my birds, I took it from him
And buried it in the garden.
There was no need for me
To study it: the purple-black
Cap, wings and tail, grey back,
White rump and rose-pink breast.
I stil remember that cold spring
When the fruit tree buds were stripped,
Cherry, gooseberry, plum.
Before the birds could flit to cover
With their soft indrawn 'teu-teu',
I'd picked up a stone and let fly.
A bird dropped to the ground.
I picked it up still alive;
Admired its plumage, felt its feet
And the short, rounded beak's sharp edge.
Then it closed its piteous eyes.
I was the last bird I killed,
That little Matthew Martin,
The bullfinch, though many since
Sadly have been killed on my account.
I cut him with care on the wood,
My concern to imitate
Nature. My reparation
Picks him out, in black, grey, white.