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

Birds of Passage

Flight the First. The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz

  • May 28, 1857
  • Read by Mr. Longfellow at a dinner, at which he presided, given to Agassiz on the occasion.

  • IT was fifty years ago

    In the pleasant month of May,

    In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,

    A child in its cradle lay.

    And Nature, the old nurse, took

    The child upon her knee,

    Saying: “Here is a story-book

    Thy Father has written for thee.”

    “Come, wander with me,” she said,

    “Into regions yet untrod;

    And read what is still unread

    In the manuscripts of God.”

    And he wandered away and away

    With Nature, the dear old nurse,

    Who sang to him night and day

    The rhymes of the universe.

    And whenever the way seemed long,

    Or his heart began to fail,

    She would sing a more wonderful song,

    Or tell a more marvellous tale.

    So she keeps him still a child,

    And will not let him go,

    Though at times his heart beats wild

    For the beautiful Pays de Vaud;

    Though at times he hears in his dreams

    The Ranz des Vaches of old,

    And the rush of mountain streams

    From glaciers clear and cold;

    And the mother at home says, “Hark!

    For his voice I listen and yearn;

    It is growing late and dark,

    And my boy does not return!”