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Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Birds of Passage

FLIGHT THE FIRST

. . come i gru van cantando lor lai,
Facendo in aer di se lunga riga. -- DANTE

BIRDS OF PASSAGE

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.

O, 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 winged 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.