Sand Martins

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I passed an inland-cliff precipitate;
  From tiny caves peeped many a soot-black 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 heark’ning, 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 marvellously 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 slumberous azure pools, clear as the air,
Where rosy-winged flamingoes fish all day,
  Stalking amid the lotus blossom 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.  O, haply there
  Some dawn, white-winged 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 there withal
  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.’”

© Jean Ingelow