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“The Swallow”

Charlotte Turner Smith

As published in Charlotte Turner Smith, Beachy Head: With Other Poems, London:J. Johnson, 1807, pages 79-83.

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1The gorse is yellow on the heath,
2The banks with speedwell flowers are gay,
3The oaks are budding; and beneath,
4The hawthorn soon will bear the wreath,
5The silver wreath of May.
6The welcome guest of settled Spring,
7The Swallow too is come at last;
8Just at sun-set, when thrushes sing,
9I saw her dash with rapid wing,
10And hail’d her as she pass’d.
11Come, summer visitant, attach
12To my reed roof your nest of clay,
13And let my ear your music catch
14Low twittering underneath the thatch
15At the gray dawn of day.
16As fables tell, an Indian Sage,
17The Hindostani woods among,
18Could in his desert hermitage,
19As if ’twere mark’d in written page,
20Translate the wild bird’s song.
21I wish I did his power possess,
22That I might learn, fleet bird, from thee,
23What our vain systems only guess,
24And know from what wide wilderness
25You came across the sea.
26I would a little while restrain
27Your rapid wing, that I might hear
28Whether on clouds that bring the rain,
29You sail’d above the western main,
30The wind your charioteer.
31In Afric, does the sultry gale
32Thro’ spicy bower, and palmy grove,
33Bear the repeated Cuckoo’s tale?
34Dwells there a time, the wandering Rail
35Or the itinerant Dove?
36Were you in Asia? O relate,
37If there your fabled sister’s woes
38She seem’d in sorrow to narrate;
39Or sings she but to celebrate
40Her nuptials with the rose?
41I would enquire how journeying long,
42The vast and pathless ocean o’er,
43You ply again those pinions strong,
44And come to build anew among
45The scenes you left before;
46But if, as colder breezes blow,
47Prophetic of the waning year,
48You hide, tho’ none know when or how,
49In the cliff’s excavated brow,
50And linger torpid here;
51Thus lost to life, what favouring dream
52Bids you to happier hours awake;
53And tells, that dancing in the beam,
54The light gnat hovers o’er the stream,
55The May-fly on the lake?
56Or if, by instinct taught to know
57Approaching dearth of insect food;
58To isles and willowy aits you go,
59And crouding on the pliant bough,
60Sink in the dimpling flood:
61How learn ye, while the cold waves boom
62Your deep and ouzy couch above,
63The time when flowers of promise bloom,
64And call you from your transient tomb,
65To light, and life, and love?
66Alas! how little can be known,
67Her sacred veil where Nature draws;
68Let baffled Science humbly own,
69Her mysteries understood alone,
70By Him who gives her laws.