Two Chimney Swallows Said


Around a Quant old chimney top

I watch the swallows rise and drop—

Their queer gyrations through the air

How cleanly cut, how deft and fair!

Gossips are they, but full of glee—

A populous, world-wise colony.

They dip, they dart, they swim, they sail,

This way and that their wings prevail;

They chirp, and talk, chatter, and sing,

And keep forever on the wing;

Yet we, so full of household cares,

No busier are than they with theirs.

Today one of them chanced to meet

An alien swallow down the street,

Whose house a palace is in size—

I saw him from its chimney rise.

Then he who had the lowly nest

The courtlier swallow thus addressed:

"How happy you, whose home is placed

So high above the earth's dull waste;

Your walls are broad, and bright, and new,

You catch the heaven's serener hue,

While I, immured so far below,

But little of your comfort know."

The bird addressed turned round his head,

And to his cottage cousin said:

"Alas! How hard it is to tell

What happens where your neighbors dwell;

I should enjoy ray safe, high nest

But for some things you have not guessed.

The site is good, the air is free,

And with my brethren I agree;

But in the parlors down below

They storm, and scold, and quarrel so,—

That other race, the human folk,—

That, thicker than our soot and smoke,

Rise up their unforgiving words

In bitterness unknown to birds.

The soot and smoke are sweet and clear;

But rather than that atmosphere

Of querulous talk, which does not cease,

I'd choose a squalid hut—and peace!"

The swallow of the chimney old

Heard all; and when the tale was told,

Said: "Well, my home is plain, I know,

But peace and order reign below—

No discord comes its joy to mar,

There is no human tilt or jar,

And every word, I must confess,

Is touched with grace and tenderness.

I could not be a denizen

With scolding wives or brutal men;

My little birds would hear the din,

And they to quarrel might begin:

Better the outside cold and rain

Than such a purgatorial pain.

If you must dwell in this sad way,

Long live my chimney, old and gray! "

If what the swallows say is so,

How little of their lot we know

Who live in brick or wooden walls

Or whether grief or joy befalls.

So, where the chimney-swallows sing,

I only think of this one thing—

Does joy or discord yonder dwell?

But ah! You cannot always tell.



Joel Benton