The Exposed Nest

YOU were forever finding some new play.  
So when I saw you down on hands and knees  
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,  
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,  
I went to show you how to make it stay,      
If that was your idea, against the breeze,  
And, if you asked me, even help pretend  
To make it root again and grow afresh.  
But ’twas no make-believe with you to-day,  
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,      
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,  
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.  
’Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground  
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over  
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)    
And left defenseless to the heat and light.  
You wanted to restore them to their right  
Of something interposed between their sight  
And too much world at once—could means be found.  
The way the nest-full every time we stirred    
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird  
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,  
Made me ask would the mother-bird return  
And care for them in such a change of scene  
And might our meddling make her more afraid.  
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.  
We saw the risk we took in doing good,  
But dared not spare to do the best we could  
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen  
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.  
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then  
No more to tell? We turned to other things.  
I haven’t any memory—have you?—  
Of ever coming to the place again  
To see if the birds lived the first night through,    
And so at last to learn to use their wings.
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