Celia Thaxter

Jun 29, 1835 - Aug 25, 1894


The Burgomaster Gull

by Celia Thaxter

The old-wives sit on the heaving brine,
White-breasted in the sun,
Preening and smoothing their feathers fine,
And scolding, every one.

The snowy kittiwakes overhead,
With beautiful beaks of gold,
And wings of delicate gray outspread,
Float, listening while they scold.

And a foolish guillemot, swimming by,
Though heavy and clumsy and dull,
Joins in with a will when he hears their cry
'Gainst the Burgomaster Gull.

For every sea-bird, far and near,
With an atom of brains in its skull,
Knows plenty of reasons for hate and fear
Of the Burgomaster Gull.

The black ducks gather, with plumes so rich,
And the coots in twinkling lines;
And the swift and slender water-witch,
Whose neck like silver shines;

Big eider-ducks, with their caps pale green
And their salmon-colored vests;
And gay mergansers sailing between,
With their long and glittering crests.

But the loon aloof on the outer edge
Of the noisy meeting keeps,
And laughs to watch them behind the ledge
Where the lazy breaker sweeps.

They scream and wheel, and dive and fret,
And flutter in the foam;
And fish and mussels blue they get
To feed their young at home:

Till hurrying in, the little auk
Brings tidings that benumbs,
And stops at once their clamorous talk, --
The Burgomaster comes!

And up he sails, a splendid sight!
With wings like banners wide,
And eager eyes both big and bright,
That peer on every side.

A lovely kittiwake flying past
With a slippery pollock fine, --
Quoth the Burgomaster, Not so fast,
My beauty! This is mine!

His strong wing strikes with a dizzying shock;
Poor kittiwake, shrieking, flees;
His booty he takes to the nearest rock,
To eat it at his ease.

The scared birds scatter to left and right,
But the bold buccaneer, in his glee,
Cares little enough for their woe and their fright, --
'T will be your turn next! cries he.

He sees not, hidden behind the rock,
In the sea-weed, a small boat's hull,
Nor dreams he the gunners have spared the flock
For the Burgomaster Gull.

So proudly his dusky wings are spread,
And he launches out on the breeze, --
When lo! what thunder of wrath and dread!
What deadly pangs are these!

The red blood drips and the feathers fly,
Down drop the pinions wide;
The robber-chief, with a bitter cry,
Falls headlong in the tide!

They bear him off with laugh and shout;
The wary birds return, --
From the clove-brown feathers that float about
The glorious news they learn.

Then such a tumult fills the place
As never was sung or said;
And all cry, wild with joy, The base,
Bad Burgomaster's dead!

And the old-wives sit with their caps so white,
And their pretty beaks so red,
And swing on the billows, and scream with delight,
For the Burgomaster's dead!


Poems For Children
Copyright 1883
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston
Illustrator: Miss A. G. Plymptom