by Edwin Arnold (1832 - 1904)

Gallant and gay, in their doublets of...
Language: English 
Gallant and gay, in their doublets of grey
All at a flash -- like the dartings of flame, -- 
Chattering Arabic, African, Indian -- 
Certain of springtime, my swallows came!
Doublets of grey silk, and surcoats of purple,
And ruffs of russet round each white throat,
Garmented brave they had crossed the waters,
Mariners sailing with never a boat!
Sailing a sea than the bluest deep bluer,
Vaster to traverse than any which rolls
'Neath kelson of warship, or bilge of trader,
Betwixt the brinks of the frozen Poles;
Cleaving the clouds with their moon-edged pinions
High over city and vineyard and mart;
April to pilot them -- May tripping after;
And each bird's compass his small stout heart.
Meet it seemed such rovers to welcome,
Travellers lordly, and bold, and wise;
I doffed my hat on that golden morning
To the first of their band who met my eyes;
Saying, "Al sabah al khaireh, Swallow!
If you're from Egypt, of Nile what news?"
"Chitra! chitra!" he cheeped, quick flying;
"'Tis Hindi, then, that your worship would use," -- 
"Ap ki mihrban'" -- but he would not listen,
Scouring the daisies in headlong flight;
You'd want some breakfast, too, if you travelled
From Ebro to Thames in a single night!
Still I think that he held me civil,
For he came again; and my foreign friend,
Glossy, and plump, and familiar, and loving,
A fair she-swallow did then attend.
Ah! of the air what an Atalanta!
How should we fare if our mistresses flew
A mile in an eye-wink to mock a lover;
With bright Hippomenes chasing, too!
Yet all in good time they roved together,
Paired like a doubled lightning-flash,
Birds of one heart and one mind and one feather; -- 
Lastly, she sate on my window-sash,
Lord! such a Lady-Bird! eyes so shining,
Feet so dainty, and mien so proud!
Judging her Spanish -- some small Señora -- 
"La casa e sua!" I said, and bowed.
Yes! and forthwith at my word she took me;
Made a home of my house; surveyed
A sheltered nook in the porch; and entered
Into possession. There, unafraid,
Day after day her nest she moulded,
Building, with magic -- and love -- and mud -- 
A grey cup, made by a thousand journeys,
And the tiny beak was the trowel and hod.
Then, -- no more chatter, and no more twitter
Till Silence and Night saw the cup contain
Four pearls -- Love's treasures! 'tis "eggs" men call them,
Yet, if we would ponder a miracle plain,
Think on the speed, and the strength, and the glory,
The wings to be, and the jubilant life,
Shut in those exquisite secrets she brooded,
My Guest's small consort, the swallow's wife!
Nay, and no southern Lazzarone,
No lazy desert-bred Beddawee,
Was her glossy husband! five hundred forays
'Twixt morning and evening accomplished he,
Hawking the gnats, and raiding the midges,
And darting home from his dipping bath
With meat in his mouth for the wife and children;
A Lord more gentle no Lady hath!
A Lady more faithful no Lord could boast of;
But the full pride came when, above the nest,
Peeped four little birdlings, in purple and russet,
And the gleam of as many a white satin breast.
"A los niños que duermen," I sang, in her Spanish,
"Dios los bendice!" She flirted away
The better to show me her jewel-eyed darlings
Along the edge of the cup of clay.
Now, dawn after dawn, there are painstaking lessons
To teach sky-science, and wing's delight;
Soon will they follow the swift feet of Summer;
Oh! Señor Swallow! I envy your flight!
Ah! Golondrina! I grieve you are going!
Say greetings for me to my East so dear!
You have paid your rent with your silvery cheepings,
"La casa e sua!" Come back next year!

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Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

  • by Henry Kimball Hadley (1871 - 1937), "The swallows", published 1920 [duet for soprano and alto (or SA chorus) and piano], New York: Silver; in The Progressive Music Series, Book Four, enlarged edition [
     text not verified 

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

This text was added to the website: 2010-04-07
Line count: 84
Word count: 627