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“A Singing Lesson” by Jean Ingelow

"A Singing Lesson" by Jean Ingelow

A NIGHTINGALE made a mistake—
She sang a few notes out of tune—
Her heart was ready to break,
And she hid away from the moon.
She wrung her claws, poor thing,
But was far too proud to weep;
She tucked her head under her wing,
And pretended to be asleep.

A lark, arm-in-arm with a thrush,
Came sauntering up to the place;
The nightingale felt herself blush,
Though feathers hid her face.
She knew they had heard her song,
She felt them snicker and sneer;
She thought that life was too long,
And wished she could skip a year.

“O nightingale,” cooed a dove,
“O nightingale, what’s the use?
You, bird of beauty and love,
Why behave like a goose?
Don’t sulk away from our sight
Like a common, contemptible fowl;
You bird of joy and delight,
Why behave like an owl?

“Only think of all you have done—
Only think of all you can do;
A false note is really fun
From such a bird as you!
Lift up your proud little crest;
Open your musical beak;
Other birds have to do their best,
But you need only speak.”

The nightingale shyly took
Her head from under her wing,
And giving the dove a look,
Straightway began to sing.
There was never a bird could pass—
The night was divinely calm—
And the people stood on the grass
To hear that wonderful psalm.

The nightingale did not care—
She only sang to the skies;
Her song ascended there,
And there she fixed her eyes.
The people that stood below,
She knew but little about—
And this tale has a moral, I know,
If you’ll try to find it out.

Werner’s Readings and Recitations Edited by Edgar S. Werner (1891) | Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)


Online Poetry Anthology

Suggestions
  • Read the poem aloud.
  • Narrate the poem.
  • The poet encourages us to discover the moral of the poem. What do you think it is?