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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Birds of Passage

Flight the First. Birds of Passage

  • … come i gru van cantando lor lai,
  • Facendo in aer di sè lunga riga.
  • DANTE.

  • This poem, originally published in The Seaside and the Fireside, afforded the poet a convenient title under which to group successively poems contributed to various periodicals, especially Putnam’s Monthly and The Atlantic Monthly; it has therefore been made the introductory poem. The several Flights were printed as the miscellaneous poems in volumes containing longer works. The first was contained in the volume which held The Courtship of Miles Standish.

  • BLACK shadows fall

    From the lindens tall,

    That lift aloft their massive wall

    Against the southern sky;

    And from the realms

    Of the shadowy elms

    A tide-like darkness overwhelms

    The fields that round us lie.

    But the night is fair,

    And everywhere

    A warm, soft vapor fills the air,

    And distant sounds seem near;

    And above, in the light

    Of the star-lit night,

    Swift birds of passage wing their flight

    Through the dewy atmosphere.

    I hear the beat

    Of their pinions fleet,

    As from the land of snow and sleet

    They seek a southern lea.

    I hear the cry

    Of their voices high

    Falling dreamily through the sky,

    But their forms I cannot see.

    Oh, say not so!

    Those sounds that flow

    In murmurs of delight and woe

    Come not from wings of birds.

    They are the throngs

    Of the poet’s songs,

    Murmurs of pleasures, and pains, and wrongs,

    The sound of wingèd words.

    This is the cry

    Of souls, that high

    On toiling, beating pinions, fly,

    Seeking a warmer clime.

    From their distant flight

    Through realms of light

    It falls into our world of night,

    With the murmuring sound of rhyme.