by Robert William Service
Ten little brown chicks scattered and scuffled,
Under the blue-berries hiding in fear;
Mother-grouse cackling, feathers all ruffled,
Dashed to defend them as we drew near.
Heart of a heroine, how I admired her!
Of such devotion great poets have sung;
Homes have been blest by the love that inspired her,
Risking her life for the sake of her young.
Ten little chicks on her valour reliant,
Peered with bright eyes from the bilberry spray;
Fiercely she faced us, dismayed but defiant,
Rushed at us bravely to scare us away.
Then my companion, a crazy young devil
(After, he told me he'd done it for fun)
Pretended to tremble, and raised his arm level,
And ere I could check him he blazed with his gun.
Headless she lay, from her neck the blood spouted,
And dappled her plumage, the poor, pretty thing!
Ten little chicks - oh, I know for I counted,
Came out and they tried to creep under her wing.
Sickened I said: Here's an end to my killing;
I swear, nevermore bird or beast will I slay;
Starving I may be, but no more blood-spilling . . .
That oath I have kept, and I keep it to-day.