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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Sand Martins

By Jean Ingelow (1820–1897)

I PASSED an inland cliff precipitate;

From tiny caves peeped many a sooty poll;

In each a mother-martin sat elate,

And of the news delivered her small soul.

Fantastic chatter! hasty, glad, and gay,

Whereof the meaning was not ill to tell:

“Gossip, how wags the world with you to-day?”—

“Gossip, the world wags well, the world wags well.”

And hearkening, I was sure their little ones

Were in the bird-talk, and discourse was made

Concerning hot sea-bights and tropic suns,

For a clear sultriness the tune conveyed;

And visions of the sky as of a cup

Hailing down light on pagan Pharaoh’s sand,

And quivering air-waves trembling up and up,

And blank stone faces marvelously bland.

“When should the young be fledged, and with them hie

Where costly day drops down in crimson light?

(Fortunate countries of the firefly

Swarm with blue diamonds all the sultry night,

“And the immortal moon takes turn with them.)

When should they pass again by that red land,

Where lovely mirage works a broidered hem

To fringe with phantom palms a robe of sand?

“When should they dip their breasts again and play

In slumbrous azure pools clear as the air,

Where rosy-winged flamingoes fish all day,

Stalking amid the lotus blossoms fair?

“Then over podded tamarinds bear their flight,

While cassias blossom in the zone of calms,

And so betake them to a south sea-bight

To gossip in the crowns of cocoa-palms

“Whose roots are in the spray? Oh, haply there

Some dawn, white-wingèd they might chance to find

A frigate standing in to make more fair

The loneliness unaltered of mankind.

“A frigate come to water: nuts would fall,

And nimble feet would climb the flower-flushed strand,

While northern talk would ring, and therewithal

The martins would desire the cool north land,

“And all would be as it had been before:

Again at eve there would be news to tell;

Who passed should hear them chant it o’er and o’er,

‘Gossip, how wags the world?’—‘Well, gossip, well.’”