John Burroughs

(3 April 1837 – 29 March 1921 / Roxbury, New York)

The Downy Woodpecker


Downy came and dwelt with me,
Taught me hermit lore;
Drilled his cell in oaken tree
Near my cabin door.

Architect of his own home
In the forest dim,
Carving its inverted dome
In a dozy limb.

Carved it deep and shaped it true
With his little bill;
Took no thought about the view,
Whether dale or hill.

Shook the chips upon the ground,
Careless who might see.
Hark! his hatchet's muffled sound
Hewing in the tree.

Round his door as compass-mark,
True and smooth his wall;
Just a shadow on the bark
Points you to his hall.

Downy leads a hermit life
All the winter through;
Free his days from jar and strife,
And his cares are few.

Waking up the frozen woods,
Shaking down the snows;
Many trees of many moods
Echo to his blows.

When the storms of winter rage,
Be it night or day,
Then I know my little page
Sleeps the time away.

Downy's stores are in the trees,
Egg and ant and grub;
Juicy tidbits, rich as cheese,
Hid in stump and stub.

Rat-tat-tat his chisel goes,
Cutting out his prey;
Every boring insect knows
When he comes its way.

Always rapping at their doors,
Never welcome he;
All his kind, they vote, are bores,
Whom they dread to see.

Why does Downy live alone
In his snug retreat?
Has he found that near the bone
Is the sweetest meat?

Birdie craved another fate
When the spring had come;
Advertised him for a mate
On his dry-limb drum.

Drummed her up and drew her near,
In the April morn,
Till she owned him for her dear
In his state forlorn.

Now he shirks all family cares,
This I must confess;
Quite absorbed in self affairs
In the season's stress.

We are neighbors well agreed
Of a common lot;
Peace and love our only creed
In this charmèd spot.

Submitted: Monday, May 21, 2012

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