46. A Robin Redbreast in a cage puts all Heaven in a rage. ~William Blake, English poet, painter and printmaker

When father takes his spade to dig
then Robin comes along;
And sits upon a little twig
And sings a little song.
~Laurence Alma-Tadema

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The introductory line is from Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” a somewhat lengthy poem consisting of a series of paradoxes in which Blake juxtaposes innocence with evil and corruption. The word augury in the title means omen or token, and the robin is the poem’s first noted “augury of innocence.”  The robin’s song, personality, and countenance are such that it’s obvious why the poet saw the act of putting one in a cage as not only an enraging violation but also as a profound perversion of holiness.  The sweet song and colorful markings of a robin make the bird a delightful harbinger of spring’s infancy and innocence.  Looking forward to its coming is one of my favorite rites in spring’s passage, and like “all heaven” I’d be incensed if the bird’s freedom were taken away and its song silenced.  Below is a legend about the robin that again ties the bird to the blameless and sacred.  Although the truthfulness of legends is questionable, I’m fascinated that somehow, somewhere, and in some way the robin was connected to the Messiah.

The Legend of the First Robin

One day, long ago, a little bird in Jerusalem saw a large crowd gathered around a man carrying a heavy wooden cross.  On the man’s head was a crown made from a thorn branch.  The thorns were long and sharp.  The little bird saw that the thorns were hurting the man.  It wanted to help Him, so it flew down and took the longest, sharpest thorn in its tiny beak.  The bird tugged and pulled until the thorn snapped from the branch.  Then a strange thing happened.  A drop of blood fell onto the bird’s breast, staining it bright red.  The stain never went away.  And so today the robin proudly wears a red-breast, because it helped a man named Jesus.  

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. . .”  ~Job 12:7-10   ✝

34 thoughts on “46. A Robin Redbreast in a cage puts all Heaven in a rage. ~William Blake, English poet, painter and printmaker

  1. Pingback: 46. A Robin Redbreast in a cage puts all Heaven in a rage. ~William Blake, English poet, painter and printmaker | Sacred Touches

  2. Beautiful post, Natalie. I have heard of this legend somewhere before – I can’t think where! But, I have always loved it. In my garden, the robins are somewhat duller, but still very pretty. They are of a plain, pale brown with a red breast. Thank you for posting this, and the lovely William Blake excerpt. 🙂

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  3. Hi, Natalie. Thanks for sharing The Legend of the First Robin. Such a wonderful verse of scripture to accompany it. God continues to speak to us through the abundant beauty he has blessed us with and the people who highlight His beauty and bounty. Abundant blessings to you and yours, Bette

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    • Thanks, Bette. Interestingly enough, this post has been the most often read in the bunch so far. Yes, the Lord speaks to us all the time through all elements of Creation. I pray you and yours are abundantly blessed as well, Bette. Natalie 🙂

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  4. Hi Natalie. When I was much, much younger, I chucked a stone at a nondescript bird on a wire with my slingshot. To my dismay it fell to the ground, dead. That’s the last of God’s wonderful critters that I’v killed. While God gave his creatures to us for food, wanton killing was not his intent. Thanks for the beautiful post.

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    • I hit a cat one night when I was in college. I was going to fast and I didn’t even stop to see if it was alive or not. I’ve regretted that forever as well. I’m glad you liked my post. I believe in honoring God’s “critters” we are honoring God. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

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  5. That is such a beautiful story! I love to watch the robins. I remember a few years ago some robins built a nest on the electric meter on our house near the patio. My daughter and I would sit at the patio table and do school work, when the weather was nice. We got to observe the thme feeding the baby robins until they grew up and left the nest. It is one of my favorite memories.

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    • We’ve had several nests in our yard over the years, but sadly I haven’t seen a single robin this year. I read that robins like raisins and so one year I’d go out and call robby, robby, robin and scatter them in the grass . Then I’d go sit on my porch and watch them come and peck around on the ground eating their treats. Like yours, it’s one of my favorite memories. Thanks for visiting again. Blessings, Natalie 🙂

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  6. Natalie, that is one of my favorite verse. Thank you so very much for visiting my blog. I’ll be following yours and look forward to more delightful connections between nature and Scripture.

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  7. William Blake is one of my favorite poets and artists… The “Auguries of Innocence,” Is my favorite and one of the most prolific composition I have ever read. Thank you for sharing this and the reminder! William Blake’s works are somewhat hard to find in print at least in my area. 🙂

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