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The Cuckoo
by [?]

It is a dark and bewildering region that thus opens to the view. But one conclusion is to beware of seeming certainties, to keep the windows of the mind open to the light; not to be over-anxious about the little part we have to play in the great pageant, but to advance, step by step, in utter trustfulness.

Perhaps that is your message to me, graceful bird, with the rich joyful note! With what a thrill, too, do you bring back to me the brightness of old forgotten springs, the childish rapture at the sweet tunable cry! Then, in those far-off days, it was but the herald of the glowing summer days, the time of play and flowers and scents. But now the soft note, it seems, opens a door into the formless and uneasy world of speculation, of questions that have no answer, convincing me of ignorance and doubt, bidding me beat in vain against the bars that hem me in. Why should I crave thus for certainty, for strength? Answer me, happy bird! Nay, you guard your secret. Softer and more distant sound the sweet notes, warning me to rest and believe, telling me to wait and hope.

But one further thought! One is expected, by people of conventional and orthodox minds, to base one’s conceptions of God on the writings of frail and fallible men, and to accept their slender and eager testimony to the occurrence of abnormal events as the best revelation of God that the world contains. And all the while we disregard his own patient writing upon the wall. Every day and every hour we are confronted with strange marvels, which we dismiss from our minds because, God forgive us, we call them natural; and yet they take us back, by a ladder of immeasurable antiquity, to ages before man had emerged from a savage state. Centuries before our rude forefathers had learned even to scratch a few hillocks into earthworks, while they lived a brutish life, herding in dens and caves, the cuckoo, with her traditions faultlessly defined, was paying her annual visits, fluting about the forest glades, and searching for nests into which to intrude her speckled egg. The patient witness of God! She is as direct a revelation of the Creator’s mind, could we but interpret the mystery of her instincts, as Augustine himself with his scheme of salvation logically defined. Each of these missions, whether of bird or man, a wonder and a marvel! But do we not tend to accept the eager and childish hopes of humanity, arrayed with blithe certainty, as a nearer evidence of the mind of God than the bird that at his bidding pursues her annual quest, unaffected by our hasty conclusions, unmoved by our glorified visions? I have sometimes thought that Christ probably spoke more than is recorded about the observation of Nature; the hearts of those that heard him were so set on temporal ends and human applications, that they had not perhaps leisure or capacity to recollect aught but those few scattered words, that seem to speak of a deep love for and insight into the things of earth. They remembered better that Christ blasted a fig-tree for doing what the Father bade the poor plant do, than his tender dwelling upon grasses and lilies, sparrow and sheep. The withering of the tree made an allegory: while the love of flowers and streams was to those simple hearts perhaps an unaccountable, almost an eccentric thing. But had Christ drawn human breath in our bleaker Northern air, he would have perhaps, if those that surrounded him had had leisure and grace to listen, drawn as grave and comforting a soul-music from our homely cuckoo, with her punctual obedience, her unquestioning faith, as he did from the birds and flowers of the hot hillsides, the pastoral valleys of Palestine. I am sure he would have loved the cuckoo, and forgiven her her heartless customs. Those that sing so delicately would not have leisure and courage to make their music so soft and sweet, if they had not a hard heart to turn to the sorrows of the world.

Yet still I am no nearer the secret. God sends me, here the frozen peak, there the blue sea; here the tiger, there the cuckoo; here Virgil, there Jeremiah; here St Francis of Assisi, there Napoleon. And all the while, as he pushes his fair or hurtful toys upon the stage, not a whisper, not a smile, not a glance escapes him; he thrusts them on, he lays them by; but the interpretation he leaves with us, and there is never a word out of the silence to show us whether we have guessed aright.