On a Goldfinch Starved to Death in His Cage

Time was when I was free as air,
The thistle’s downy seed my fare,
   My drink the morning dew:
I perch’d at will on ev’ry spray,
My form genteel, my plumage gay,
   My strains for ever new.

But gaudy plumage, sprightly strain,
And form genteel were all in vain
   And of a transient date;
For, caught and caged and starved to death,
In dying sighs my little breath
   Soon pass’d the wiry grate.

Thanks, gentle swain, for all my woes,
And thanks for this effectual close
   And cure of ev’ry ill!
More cruelty could none express,
And I, if you had shown me less,
   Had been your pris’ner still.

         —William Cowper (1731-1800)