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The Chimney-swallow's Idyl

by Elizabeth Drew Stoddard, 1895

From where I built the nest for my first young,
In the high chimney of this ancient house,
I saw the household fires burn and go down,
And know what was and is forever gone.
My dusky, swift-winged fledgelings, flying far
To seek their mates in clustered eaves or towers,
Would linger not to learn what I have learned,
Soaring through air or steering over sea—
These single, solitary walls must fade.
But I return, inhabiting my nest,
A little simple bird, which still survives
The noble souls now vanished from this hearth;
And none are here besides but she who shares
My life, and pensive vigil holds with me.
No longer does she mourn; she lives serene;
I see her mother's beauty in her face,
I see her father's quiet pride and power,
The linked traits and traces of her race;
Her brothers dying, like strong sapling trees
Hewn down by violent blows prone in dense woods,
Covered with aged boughs, decaying slow.
She muses thus: "Beauty once more abides;
The rude alarm of death, its wild amaze
Is over now. The chance of change has passed;
No doubtful hopes are mine, no restless dread,
No last word to be spoken, kiss to give
And take in passion's agony and end.
They cannot come to me, but in good time
I shall rejoin my silent company,
And melt among them, as the sunset clouds
Melt in gray spaces of the coming night."
So she holds dear as I this tranquil spot,
And all the flowers that blow, and maze of green,
The meadows daisy-full, or brown and sere;
The shore which bounds the waves I love to skim,
And dash my purple wings against the breeze.
When breaks the day I twitter loud and long,
To make her rise and watch the vigorous sun
Come from his sea-bed in the weltering deep,
And smell the dewy grass, still rank with sleep.
I hover through the twilight round her eaves,
And dart above, before her, in her path,
Till, with a smile, she gives me all her mind;
And in the deep of night, lest she be sad
In sleepless thought, I stir me in my nest,
And murmur as I murmur to my young;
She makes no answer, but I know she hears;
And all the cherished pictures in her thoughts
Grow bright because of me, her swallow friend!

Published in Poems

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