What a twitter! what a tumult! what a whirr of wheeling wings!
by Mathilde Blind
Birds of Passage hear the message which the Equinoctial brings.
Birds of Passage hear the message and beneath the flying clouds,
Mid the falling leaves of autumn, congregate in clamorous crowds.
Shall they venture on the voyage? are the nestlings fledged for flight;
Fit to face the fluctuant storm-winds and the elemental night?
What a twitter! what a tumult! to the wild wind's marching song
Multitudinous Birds of Passage round the cliffs of England throng.
And o'er tempest-trodden Ocean, cloud-entangled day and night,
Birds on birds, in corporate motion, wing a commonwealth in flight.
Waves, like hollow graves beneath them, hoarsely howling, yawn for prey;
And the welkin glooms above them shifting formless, grey in grey.
And across the Bay of Biscay on undaunted wing they flee,
Where mild seas move musically murmuring of the Odyssey;
Where the gurgling whirlpools glitter and by soft Circean Straits,
Fell Charybdis lies in ambush, and the ravenous Scylla waits;
Where a large Homeric laughter lingers in the echoing caves,
And in playful exultation Dolphins leap from dimpling waves;
Where, above the fair Sicilian, flock-browsed, flower-pranked meadows, looms
Ætna--hoariest of Volcanoes--ominously veiled in fumes;
Where the seas roll blue and bluer, high and higher arch the skies,
And as measureless as ocean new horizons meet the eyes;
Where at night the ancient heavens bend above the ancient earth,
With the young-eyed Stars enkindled fresh as at their hour of birth;
Where old Egypt's desert, stretching leagues on leagues of level land,
Gleams with threads of channelled waters, green with palms on either hand;
Where the Fellah strides majestic through the glimmering dourah plain,
And in rosy flames flamingoes rise from rustling sugar-cane;--
On and on, along old Nilus, seeking still an ampler light,
O'er its monumental mountains, Birds of Passage take their flight.
Where the sacred Isle of Philæ, twinned within the sacred stream,
Floats, like some rapt Opium-eater's labyrinthine lotos dream,
Birds on birds take up their quarters in each creviced capital,
In each crack of frieze and cornice, in each cleft of roof and wall.
And within those twilight-litten, holy halls of Death and Birth,
Even the gaily twittering swallows, even the swallows, hush their breath.
And they cast the passing shadows of their palpitating wings
O'er the fallen gods of Egypt and the prostrate heads of Kings.
Even as shadows Birds of Passage cast upon their onward flight
Have men's generations vanished, waned and vanished into night.