Professor J's Place

16 April, 2010


This morning, on my way in from the parking lot, I saw a little bird in the distance. As I got closer, I saw it was a song sparrow. I don't have any photos of my own of song sparrows, so I thought I'd link you to this lovely bird lover.

Back to my random thoughts.
When I realized the bird was a sparrow, I remembered having breakfast at a diner in Iowa. One of the men in at the table asked about the birds in the parking lot. They're just house sparrows, I said. "They're really beautiful," the man replied. 

They are. If this tiny little creature weren't omnipresent, it would be a prized citing on any birder's life list. Instead, people shoo them away from bird feeders because they're too common. 

And I remembered a poem I used to love when I was a child.

Stephen Vincent Benét

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 a 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.

I have always loved sparrows. Not just because they're beautiful, but in large part, because of this poem. 

I identify with them.  Small, timid, plain, common. Just trying to stay out of the way and get enough sustenance. But as I reread this poem, I see the other things I want. The bravery, the doing what must be done, the joy, the humor. And the passion. "Yet keeps its small flesh full of heat and lightness." 

Yes please.

(ps. Thanks to Leslie, "liberrian" extarodinaire, for the text of this poem. I was not at home, and she looked it up for me.)

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Blogger Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

His rapid heart's so hot. That's love.

He endures . . . That's love over all else.

That's you.

April 16, 2010 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Mike Golch said...


April 16, 2010 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What lovely connections you've made.

April 17, 2010 at 12:59 AM  
Blogger phd in yogurtry said...

I'm with Stephen Vincent Benét. The life of a sparrow looks divine. "Taking life precisely as it comes," one breadcrumb at a time, sure beats worrying about paying the kids' college tuition.

I love to watch sparrows too and have often thought how adorable they are.

April 17, 2010 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Liberrian said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Karen! ~~ Leslie

April 19, 2010 at 10:27 AM  

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