Stephen Vincent Benet

The Sparrow

Lord, may I be 
A sparrow in a tree. 

No ominous and splendid bird of prey 
But something that is fearful every day 
Yet keeps its small flesh full of heat and lightness. 
Pigeons are better dressed and robins stouter, 
The white owl has all winter in his whiteness 
And the blue heron is a kingly dream 
At evening, by the pale stream, 
But, even in the lion s cage, in Zoos, 
You'll find a sparrow, picking up the crumbs 
And taking life precisely as it comes 
With the black, wary eye that marks the doubter; 
Squabbling in crowds, dust-bathing in the sun, 
Small, joyous, impudent, a gutter-child 
In Lesbia's bosom or December's chill, 
Full of impertinence and hard to kill 
As Queen Anne's lace and poppies in the wheat 
I won't pretend the fellow has a Muse 
But that he has advice, and good advice, 
All lovers know who've walked the city's street 
And wished the stones were bread. 
Peacocks are handsomer and owls more wise. 
(At least, by all repute.) 
And parrots live on flattery and fruit, 
Live to great age. The sparrow's none of these. 
The sparrow is a humorist, and dies. 
There are so many things that he is not. 
He will not tear the stag nor sweep the seas 
Nor fall, majestical, to a king's arrow. 
Yet how he lives, and how he loves in living 
Up to the dusty tip of every feather! 
How he endures oppression and the weather 
And asks for neither justice nor forgiving! 
Lord, in your mercy, let me be a sparrow! 
His rapid heart's so hot. 
And some can sing song-sparrows, so they say 
And, one thing, Lord the times are iron, now. 
Perhaps you have forgot. 
They shoot the wise and brave on every bough. 
But sparrows are the last things that get shot.