by William Howitt
When in my youth I traveled
Throughout each north country,
Many a strange thing did I hear,
And many a strange thing to see.
But nothing was there pleased me more
Than when, in autumn brown,
I came, in the depths of the pathless woods,
To the grey squirrels' town.
There were hundreds that in the hollow boles
Of the old, old trees did dwell,
And laid up store, hard by their door,
Of the sweet mast as it fell.
But soon the hungry wild swine came,
And with thievish snouts dug up
Their buried treasure, and left them not
So much as an acorn cup.
Then did they chatter in angry mood,
And one and all decree,
Into the forests of rich stone-pine
Over hill and dale to flee.
Over hill and dale, over hill and dale,
For many a league they went,
Like a troop of undaunted travelers
Governed by one consent.
But the hawk and the eagle, and peering owl,
Did dreadfully pursue;
When lo! to cut off their pilgrimage,
A broad stream lay in view.
But then did each wondrous creature show
His cunning and bravery;
With a piece of the pine-bark in his mouth,
Unto the stream came he;
And boldly his little bark he launched,
Without the least delay;
His busy tail was his upright sail,
And he merrily steered away.
Never was there a lovelier sight
Than that grey squirrels' fleet;
And with anxious eyes I watched to see
What fortune it would meet.
Soon had they reached the rough mild-stream,
And ever and anon
I grieved to behold some bark wrecked,
And its little steersman gone.
But the main fleet stoutly held across;
I saw them leap to shore;
They entered the woods with a cry of joy,
For their perilous march was o'er.