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THE EMPEROR'S BIRD'S-NEST.
With his swarthy, grave commanders,
Some old frontier town of Flanders.
In great boots of Spanish leather, Striding with a measured tramp, These Hidalgos, dull and damp,
Cursed the Frenchmen, cursed the weather. Thus as to and fro they went,
Over upland and through hollow, Giving their impatience vent, Perched upon the Emperor's tent,
In her nest they spied a swallow. Yes, it was a swallow's nest,
Built of clay and hair of horses, Mane or tail, or dragoon's crest, Found on hedgerows east and west,
After skirmish of the forces, Then an old Hidalgo said,
As he twirled his grey mustachio, “Sure this swallow overhead Thinks the Emperor's tent a shed,
And the Emperor but a Macho!”*
Coupled with those words of malice,
• "Macho" is Spanish for "mule."
“Let no hand the bird molest,”
nor hurt her!”
'Tis the wife of some deserter!"
Through the camp was spread the rumour,
At the Emperor's pleasant humour.
Sat the swallow still and brooded,
And the siege was thus concluded.
Struck its tents as if disbanding,
Very curtly, “Leave it standing."
Loosely flapping, torn and tattered,
Which the cannon-shot had shattered.
IN THE CHURCHYARD AT CAMBRIDGE.
In the village churchyard she lies,
No more she breathes, nor feels, nor stirs ;
• "Golondrina." A swallow is also a cant word for a deserter.
At her feet and at her head
But their dust is white as hers.
And foolish pomp of this world of ours;
The richest and rarest of all dowers ?
Either of anger or of pride,
By those who are sleeping at her side.
To find her failings, faults, and errors?
In your own secret sins and terrors !
THE TWO ANGELS. Two angels, one of Life and one of Death,
Passed o'er our village as the morning broke; The dawn was on their faces, and beneath,
The sombre houses hearsed with pluines of smoke. Their attitude and aspect were the same,
Alike their features and their robes of white; But one was crowned with amaranth, as with flame,
And one with asphodels, like flakes of light.
I saw them pause on their celestial way;
Then said I, with deep fear and doubt oppressed, “Beat not so loud, my heart, lest thou betray
The place where thy beloved are at rest !” And he who wore the crown of asphodels,
Descending, at my door began to knock, And my soul sank within me, as in wells
The waters sink before an earthquake's shock. I recognized the nameless agony,
The terror and the tremor and the pain, That oft before had filled or haunted me,
And now returned with threefold strength again. The door I opened to my heavenly guest,
And listened, for I thought I heard God's voice; And, knowing whatsoe'er he sent was best,
Dared neither to lament nor to rejoice. Then with a smile, that filled the house with light,
“My errand is not Death, but Life," he said ; And, ere I answered, passing out of sight,
On his celestial embassy he sped. 'Twas at thy door, O friend ! and not at mine,
The angel with the amaranthine wreath, Pausing, descended, and with voice divine,
Whispered a word that had a sound like Death. Then fell upon the house a sudden gloom,
A shadow on those features, fair and thin; And softly, from that hushed and darkened room,
Two angels issued, where but one went in. All is of God! If he but wave his hand,
The mists collect, the rain falls thick and loud, Till, with a smile of light on sea and land,
Lo! he looks back from the departing cloud.
Angels of Life and Death alike are his ;
Without his leave they pass no threshold o'er; Who, then, would wish or dare, believing this,
Against his messengers to shut the door?
Still is seen an ancient mill,
On the stone,
These words alone :
Ruined stands the old château;
Its vacant eyes
Stare at the skies,
Looked, but ah ! it looks no more,
Of the stream
Whose sunny gleam
To the water's dash and din,
Songs that fill
That ancient mill