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THE CRICKET AND THE POET
C. S. B. Adapted from the Epilogue
to the "Two Poets of Croisic," by Robert Browning.
By special permission of Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
THERE was, once upon a time, a poet who was able to
sing most wonderful songs and play most wonderful music
upon his lyre. It seemed as if there were
other, in the whole land, able to make such sweet
sounds. So, one day, the wisest judges met and sent
for the poet to bring his lyre and sing and play before
them, that they might know for themselves if he
deserved a prize.
It was out of doors, near the fields and meadows, where
he was to play for them, and there were a great many
judges there to listen:
"Judges able, I should mention,
To detect the slightest sound
Sung, or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!"
But the poet sang out boldly and played in time and
tune. It seemed as if one were listening to the sound
of bird-songs, and the wind in the trees, and the
rippling of brooks, and the slow flowing of rivers.
The judges shook their gray heads and leaned closer to
listen, but they could hear no discords. They were
ready to smile and say: "In vain one tries picking
flaws out; take the prize!"
But, who would have guessed such ill-luck was in store?
There were seven strings upon the lyre which the poet
touched so gently to make his wonderful music, and,
all at once, "one of those same seven strings snapped!"
"All was lost then! No! a cricket—
Some mad thing that left its thicket
For mere love of music—flew,
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre."
And when the poet felt for the poor broken string and
tried to play the note he wished, and could
"What does cricket else, but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?"
So the little cricket chirped on and on, to the very
ending. And the music was more wonderful than any the
poet had ever played or sung before. The cricket could
sing of the wild, out-of-door things in the fields and
the meadows; she knew the sound of the raindrops
pattering on the grass; the trill of the locust; she
could chirp a little dance tune which made the jerboa
come out of his hole to listen. All these things did
the music tell, and more; and the cricket, "with her
chirrup, low and sweet, saved the poet from defeat."
"The prize shall be yours," cried all the judges when
the poet ceased his playing. "We thought your lyre was
The cricket leaped down again to the bushes, and the
judges' eyes were too old for them to see, and their
ears had been, after all, too dull for them to know how
a little cricket had helped the poet. But the poet did
"Some record there must be," he said, "of this
cricket's help to me."
So he carved from beautiful white marble a statue of a
poet standing as he had stood before the judges, and it
was as large and as tall as a man. In its hand there
was a lyre with one broken string, and upon the string
perched the little cricket, "his partner in the prize."
"Nevermore apart you found
Her he throned, from him she crowned."