The Swallow

THE gorse is yellow on the heath,
The banks with speedwell flowers are gay,
The oaks are budding; and beneath,
The hawthorn soon will bear the wreath,
The silver wreath of May.
The welcome guest of settled Spring,
The Swallow too is come at last;
Just at sun-set, when thrushes sing,
I saw her dash with rapid wing,
And hail'd her as she pass'd.

Come, summer visitant, attach
To my reed roof your nest of clay,
And let my ear your music catch
Low twittering underneath the thatch
At the gray dawn of day.
As fables tell, an Indian Sage,
The Hindostani woods among,
Could in his desert hermitage,
As if 'twere mark'd in written page,
Translate the wild bird's song.
I wish I did his power possess,
That I might learn, fleet bird, from thee,
What our vain systems only guess,
And know from what wide wilderness
You came across the sea.

I would a little while restrain
Your rapid wing, that I might hear
Whether on clouds that bring the rain,
You sail'd above the western main,
The wind your charioteer.
In Afric, does the sultry gale
Thro' spicy bower, and palmy grove,
Bear the repeated Cuckoo's tale ?
Dwells there a time, the wandering Rail
Or the itinerant Dove ?
Were you in Asia ? O relate,
If there your fabled sister's woes
She seem'd in sorrow to narrate;
Or sings she but to celebrate
Her nuptials with the rose ?

I would enquire how journeying long,
The vast and pathless ocean o'er,
You ply again those pinions strong,
And come to build anew among
The scenes you left before;
But if, as colder breezes blow,
Prophetic of the waning year,
You hide, tho' none know when or how,
In the cliff's excavated brow,
And linger torpid here;
Thus lost to life, what favouring dream
Bids you to happier hours awake;
And tells, that dancing in the beam,
The light gnat hovers o'er the stream,
The May-fly on the lake ?

Or if, by instinct taught to know
Approaching dearth of insect food;
To isles and willowy aits you go,
And crouding on the pliant bough,
Sink in the dimpling flood:
How learn ye, while the cold waves boom
Your deep and ouzy couch above,
The time when flowers of promise bloom,
And call you from your transient tomb,
To light, and life, and love ?
Alas ! how little can be known,
Her sacred veil where Nature draws;
Let baffled Science humbly own,
Her mysteries understood alone,
By Him who gives her laws.

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Charlotte Smith

Charlotte Victoria Smith is one of two main presenters of BBC Radio 4's Farming Today. more…

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"The Swallow" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 19 Oct. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/5677/the-swallow>.

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