The Early Bird by George MacDonald

A little bird sat on the edge of her nest;
Her yellow-beaks slept as sound as tops;
Day-long she had worked almost without rest,
And had filled every one of their gibbous crops;
Her own she had filled just over-full,
And she felt like a dead bird stuffed with wool.

“Oh dear!” she sighed, as she sat with her head
Sunk in her chest, and no neck at all,
Looking like an apple on a feather-bed
Poked and rounded and fluffed to a ball,
“What’s to be done if things don’t reform?
I cannot tell where there is one more worm!

“I’ve had fifteen to-day, and the children five each,
Besides a few flies, and some very fat spiders:
Who will dare say I don’t do as I preach?
I set an example to all providers!
But what’s the use? We want a storm:
I don’t know where there’s a single worm!”

“There’s five in my crop,” chirped a wee, wee bird
Who woke at the voice of his mother’s pain;
“I know where there’s five!” And with the word
He tucked in his head and went off again.
“The folly of childhood,” sighed his mother,
“Has always been my especial bother!”

Careless the yellow-beaks slept on,
They never had heard of the bogy, Tomorrow;
The mother sat outside making her moan–
“I shall soon have to beg, or steal, or borrow!
I have always to say, the night before,
Where shall I find one red worm more!”

Her case was this, she had gobbled too many,
And sleepless, had an attack she called foresight:
A barn of crumbs, if she knew but of any!
Could she but get of the great worm-store sight!
The eastern sky was growing red
Ere she laid her wise beak in its feather-bed.

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Just then, the fellow who knew of five,
Nor troubled his sleep with anxious tricks,
Woke, and stirred, and felt alive:
“To-day,” he said, “I am up to six!
But my mother feels in her lot the crook–
What if I tried my own little hook!”

When his mother awoke, she winked her eyes
As if she had dreamed that she was a mole:
Could she believe them? “What a huge prize
That child is dragging out of its hole!”
The fledgeling indeed had just caught his third!
And here is a fable to catch the bird!

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