This poem, A Song Of Home, is a poem written by a child age 12. Originally published in 1913 in the children’s magazine St. Nicholas it is a poem from another time. The poem starts, “Oh, pretty mate of the crimson breast,/Do you remember your little nest….” The poem goes on to speak of the robin living and loving in the cherry tree.
I think to better appreciate this poem it is helpful to recall that it was written when writers of natural history routinely wrote about animals, birds, and insects as if they were characters with human attributes. You can open nearly any natural history from the early decades of the 20th century to find engaging stories about the creatures being discussed. It isn’t science writing as we have come to think of it, but it is what makes even encyclopedic works like Dawson’s birds of California (1923) refreshing reading today. The engagement natural history writers had with the creatures they studied as characters in life dramas informs classic works of children’s literature such as Wind in the Willows (1908). I think it is in this literary context that a poem such as A Song of Home should be understood.
I realize that the language of this poem with its rhymes and its more ordered rhythm can be distancing. I suggest asking your students or your child to close their eyes when you read to them. Read it a couple times. Let the sound of the language speak for itself.
A SONG OF HOME
by Evadne Scott (age 12)
Oh, pretty mate of the crimson breast,
Do you remember your little nest,
Far o’er the fields for miles and miles,
Where the blue Pigeon River smiles?
Soon I know you’ll be on the wing,
To the old home, to build and sing;
To live and love in the cherry-tree,
With tiny birdlings, one, two, three.
Carry for me a message dear –
A song of home – and sing it near
The window where I used to play,
When you sing your song at break of day.
Take it back to the cherry-tree
Take it to your nestlings three;
In among the blossoms sing,
In among the flowers of spring.
Back to my loved ones, dear as ever,
Back to the old home by the river;
Let me burden your tiny wing
With the memories I long to bring.