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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Chimney Nest

By Mary Barker Carter Dodge

[Born in Bridgewater, Bucks Co., Penn.]

A DAINTY, delicate swallow-feather

Is all that we now in the chimney trace

Of something that days and days together

With twittering bird-notes filled the place.

Where are you flying now, swallow, swallow?

Where are you waking the spaces blue?

How many little ones follow, follow,

Whose wings to strength in the chimney grew?

Deep and narrow, and dark and lonely,

The sooty place that you nested in;

Over you one blue glimmer only,—

Say, were there many to make the din?

This is certain, that somewhere or other

Up in the chimney is loosely hung

A queer-shaped nest, where a patient mother

Brooded a brood of tender young;

That here, as in many deserted places,

Brimming with life for hours and hours,

We miss with the hum a thousand graces,

Valued the more since no more ours.

Ah! why do we shut our eyes half blindly,

And close our hearts to some wee things near,

Till He who granted them kindly, kindly

Gathers them back, that we see and hear,

And know, by loss of the same grown dearer,

Naught is so small of his works and ways,

But, holding it tenderly when ’twas nearer,

Has added a joy to our vanished days?

So, little, delicate swallow-feather,

Fashioned with care by the Master’s hand,

I’ll hold you close for your message, whether

Or not the whole I may understand.