Robert of Lincoln Is At It Again

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nature center tree bird pond

Though it is summer, we are continuing certain parts of our school days.  This includes reading a poem of the day, an aspect whose impact I had underestimated.  I had put off adding this as part of our morning routine for so long, assuming I would have to force the kids to listen to the poems.  As it turns out Jack really loves to hear them, usually.

Recently we finished the The Child’s Garden of Verses and moved onto the Oxford’s Book of Children’s Verse in America.  That is where we came across the following:

Robert Of Lincoln – Poem by William Cullen Bryant
Merrily swinging on briar and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountain-side or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name;
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe in that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln is gayly dressed.
Wearing a bright black wedding-coat;
White are his shoulders and white his crest,
Hear him calling his merry note:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Look, what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln’s Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet, with plain brown wings,
Passing at home a quiet life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings:
Bob-o’-l ink, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Brood, kind creatures; you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here.
Chee, chee, chee.
Modest and shy as a nun is she,
One weak chirp is her only note,
Braggart and prince of braggarts is he,
Pouring boasts from his little throat:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Never was I afraid of man;
Catch me, cowardly knaves, if you can.
Chee, chee, chee.
Six white eggs on a bed of hay,
Flecked with purple, a pretty sight!
There as the mother sits all day,
Robert is singing with all his might:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nice good wife, that never goes out,
Keeping house while I frolic about.
Chee, chee, chee.
Soon as the-little ones chip the shell
Six wide mouths are open for food;
Robert of Lincoln bestirs him well,
Gathering seed for the hungry brood.
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
This new life is likely to be
Hard for a gay young fellow like me.
Chee, chee, chee.
Robert of Lincoln at length is made
Sober with work, and silent with care;
Off is his holiday garment laid,
Half forgotten that merry air,
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
Nobody knows but my mate and I
Where our nest and our nestlings lie.
Chee, chee, chee.
Summer wanes; the children are grown;
Fun and frolic no more he knows;
Robert of Lincoln’s a humdrum crone;
Off he flies, and we sing as he goes:
Bob-o’-link, bob-o’-link,
Spink, spank, spink;
When you can pipe that merry old strain,
Robert of Lincoln, come back again.
Chee, chee, chee. 


I loved the mental imagery, as well as the inclusion of the various calls of the bobolink bird.  Learning bird calls makes knowing which birds are around a lot easier, as often they are hidden from sight or too far away to see clearly.  The children have learned a few birds, but there are many more to go.  Even I do not know as many as I should.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great site to hear the different calls of the Bobolink. They contain samples from the east, central, and west birds, as well as the ‘pink’, ‘buzz’, ‘see-yoo’, ‘zeep’, ‘quip’, and ‘chunk’ sounds.  They also have a flight song and a complex countersinging round.

Librivox’s recording of Chapter 25 of Through Fairy Halls of My Bookhouse also contains the first two stanzas of the much longer poem.