When Mavises began to build,
And lilac-twigs again were filled;
When buds had thickened in the glen,
And ducks in couples sought the fen;
When sticklebacks were rosy-gilled,
And blackthorn blanchèd petals spilled;
When frogs were stirring in the mud,
And chestnuts sticky in the bud;
Said I, when night shall equal day,
From winter-quarters I'll away.
When robins fed their spotted young,
And catkins from the hazels hung;
When warbler flaunting warbler sung,
And squirrels on the pine-trees hung;
When days were bright, and skies were blue,
And yokels ‘gan again to woo;
When thrush and blackbird early woke,
And leaves had bronzed upon the oak;
Said I, now cheerless days are done,
My pilgrimage shall be begun.
When swallows hawked in golden air,
And flowers were blooming everywhere;
When shores were gay with bathers bright,
And glowworms greenly shone at night;
When hay was mown, and cuckoos flown,
And Summer held her golden throne;
When cherries shone amidst their green,
And apples on the boughs were seen;
Said I, the time has come to start!
This home and I will shortly part.
When martlets left the cobwebbed eaves,
And russet corn was bound in sheaves;
When sunflowers bent their aureoled heads,
And spiders spun their migrant threads;
When skies were poems ready writ,
And morning mists were infinite;
When berries dazed the insect throng,
And leaves fell through the robin's song;
Said I, the season passeth by,
My luck upon the road I'll try.
When winds were wild, and roofs untiled,
And coloured leaves in corners piled;
When bat and dormouse went to sleep,
And bough and sky did frequent weep;
When nuts were plucked, and medlars sucked,
And pheasants shot, and furrows mucked;
When suns were dim and days were brief,
And winds re-howled their ancient grief;
Said I, the road now calleth me,
A pilgrim once again I'll be.
When pool and stream were frozen hard,
And cattle stayed within the yard;
When elms were red, and ash-trees black,
And sparrows robbed the farmer's stack;
When tilth and fallow changed to stone,
And hoodies fought around a bone;
When hands were numb and minds depressed,
When snow the naked trees had dressed;
Said I, I will away from here
In this hard season of the year.
Yet here I stay and years go by,
And Suffolk knows the reason why.