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

Birds of Passage

Flight the First. Oliver Basselin

IN the Valley of the Vire

Still is seen an ancient mill,

With its gables quaint and queer,

And beneath the window-sill,

On the stone,

These words alone:

“Oliver Basselin lived here.”

Far above it, on the steep,

Ruined stands the old Château;

Nothing but the donjon-keep

Left for shelter or for show.

Its vacant eyes

Stare at the skies,

Stare at the valley green and deep.

Once a convent, old and brown,

Looked, but ah! it looks no more,

From the neighboring hillside down

On the rushing and the roar

Of the stream

Whose sunny gleam

Cheers the little Norman town.

In that darksome mill of stone,

To the water’s dash and din,

Careless, humble, and unknown,

Sang the poet Basselin

Songs that fill

That ancient mill

With a splendor of its own.

Never feeling of unrest

Broke the pleasant dream he dreamed;

Only made to be his nest,

All the lovely valley seemed;

No desire

Of soaring higher

Stirred or fluttered in his breast.

True, his songs were not divine;

Were not songs of that high art,

Which, as winds do in the pine,

Find an answer in each heart;

But the mirth

Of this green earth

Laughed and revelled in his line.

From the alehouse and the inn,

Opening on the narrow street,

Came the loud, convivial din,

Singing and applause of feet,

The laughing lays

That in those days

Sang the poet Basselin.

In the castle, cased in steel,

Knights, who fought at Agincourt,

Watched and waited, spur on heel;

But the poet sang for sport

Songs that rang

Another clang,

Songs that lowlier hearts could feel.

In the convent, clad in gray,

Sat the monks in lonely cells,

Paced the cloisters, knelt to pray,

And the poet heard their bells;

But his rhymes

Found other chimes,

Nearer to the earth than they.

Gone are all the barons bold,

Gone are all the knights and squires,

Gone the abbot stern and cold,

And the brotherhood of friars;

Not a name

Remains to fame,

From those mouldering days of old!

But the poet’s memory here

Of the landscape makes a part;

Like the river, swift and clear,

Flows his song through many a heart;

Haunting still

That ancient mill

In the Valley of the Vire.