The Golden Bird


for Angela,
who asked for something pretty


In the village they used to tell
of a man who in his old age
made a singing bird of gold
and kept it in a cage.

They’d never ever seen that bird,
he kept the cage inside,
but just to hear it sing they’d leave
their windows open wide.

Its song was sweet and wild and sad
and spoke of a life so free
it filled their sleep with restless dreams
of what could never be.

“Oh, it’s a shame!” they’d say, and sigh,
“It shouldn’t be shut away.
The old man ought to set it free to
roam the sky all day.

The old man worked the fields all day,
walked home in the fading light,
but one day he got back and found
his window open wide.

He gave a cry, he rushed inside,
the damage had been done.
He found the cage door open,
the golden bird was gone.

“They don’t know what it meant to me,
it was everything I owned.
Everything I ever loved.
Everything!” he moaned...

But suddenly his face lit up,
his eyes closed and he saw
the golden bird on a golden bough
singing for him once more.

It sang of man and destiny,
it sang of peace at last,
it sang of what could never be,
and of sunlight seen through glass.

Pavlos Andronikos

I have composed a melody for this poem. To hear it, go to YouTube.

Published in Antipodes 25/26 (Dec. 1989), 50-51.