1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Butterfly's Birth-Day.

Gentleman's Magazine 87 (September 1817) 254.

William Roscoe


Twenty octosyllabic quatrains: William Roscoe's butterfly resembles Spenser's Clarion in his joy, though the poem presents a very different moral than Muiopotmos. "The Butterfly's Birth-Day" is a kind of sequel to Roscoe's popular "The Butterfly's Ball, and the Grasshopper's Feast" which had appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1806.



The shades of night were scarcely fled;
The air was mild, the winds were still;
And slow the slanting sun-beams spread
O'er wood and lawn, o'er heath and hill.

From fleecy clouds of pearly hue
Had dropp'd a short but balmy shower,
That hung, like gems of morning dew,
On every tree and every flower.

And from the Blackbird's mellow throat
Was pour'd so loud and long a swell,
As echoed with responsive note
From mountain side, and shadowy dell.

When, bursting forth to life and light,
The offspring of enraptur'd May,
The Butterfly, on pinions bright,
Launch'd in full splendour on the day.

Unconscious of a mother's care,
No infant wretchedness she knew;
But, as she felt the vernal air,
At once to full perfection grew.

Her slender form, ethereal, light,
Her velvet-textur'd wings unfold;
With all the rainbow's colours bright
And dropt with spots of burnish'd gold.

Trembling with joy, awhile she stood,
And felt the sun's enlivening ray;
Drank from the skies the vital flood,
And wonder'd at her plumage gay;

And balanc'd oft her broider'd wings,
Through fields of air prepar'd to sail;
Then on her ven'trous journey springs,
And floats along the rising gale.

Go, child of Pleasure, range the fields,
Taste all the joys that Spring can give,
Partake what bounteous Summer yields,
And live, while yet 'tis thine to live.

Go, sip the rose's fragrant dew,
The lily's honey'd cup explore.
From flower to flower the search renew,
And rifle all the woodbine's store;

And let me trace thy vagrant flight,
Thy moments too of short repose,
And mark thee then with fresh delight
Thy golden pinions ope and close.

But hark! while thus I musing stand,
Pours on the gale an airy note;
And, breathing from a viewless band,
Soft silvery tones around me float!

—They cease — but still a voice I hear,
A whisper'd voice of hope and joy,
"Thy hour of rest approaches near,
Prepare thee, mortal! — thou must die!

"Yet start not; — on thy closing eyes
Another day shall still unfold,
A sun of milder radiance rise,
A happier age of joys untold.

"Shall the poor worm that shocks thy sight,
The humblest form in Nature's train,
Thus rise in new-born lustre bright,
And yet the emblem teach in vain?

"Ah! where were once her golden eyes,
Her glittering wings of purple pride?
Conceal'd beneath a rude disguise,
A shapeless mass to earth allied.

"Like thee the hapless reptile liv'd,
Like thee he toil'd, like thee he spun,
Like thine his closing hour arriv'd,
His labours ceas'd, his web was done.

"And shalt thou, number'd with the dead,
No happier state of being know?
And shall no future morrow shed
On thee a beam of brighter glow?

"In this the bound of Power Divine,
To animate an insect frame?
Or shall not He who moulded thine,
Wake at his will the vital flame?

"— Go, mortal! — in thy reptile state,
Enough to know thee is given;
Go, and the joyful truth relate,
Frail Child of Earth! high Heir of Heaven!"

[p. 254]