Songbird in a Cage

Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird
He kept a starling in a wicker cage
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

So the creature echoed back what it heard
Singing while he scratched upon a blank page
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird

Outside the cottage a hungry cat purred
Number of worms and spiders John would gauge
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

If released, oh how the wings would have blurred
Always a look in its black eye of rage
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird

For every pair there is an unseen third
Together they’d recite as though on stage
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

Those who ever enchain the free have erred
Would he recall this bird in his old age?
Clare made a pet of a mimicking bird
Trained to repeat whistles and simple word

Cardinal Cox wrote this poem as part of a cycle of verse to mark the 150th anniversary of Clare’s death in 2014.