Songs of the Swallow

by Marietta Holley

Marietta Holley


The sides of the hill were brown, but violet buds had started
 In gray and hidden nooks o'erhung by feathery ferns and heather,
And a bird in an April morn was never lighter-hearted
 Than the pilot swallow we saw convoying sunny weather,
And sunshine golden, and gay-voiced singing-birds into the land;
 And this was the song—the clear, shrill song of the swallow,
That it carolled back to the southern sun, and his brown winged band,
 Clear it arose, "Oh, follow me—come and follow—and follow.—

A tender story was in his eyes, he wished to tell me I knew,
 As he stood in the happy morn by my side at the garden-gate;
But I fancy the tall rose branches that bent and touched his brow,
 Were whispering to him, "Wait, impatient heart, oh, wait,
Before the bloom of the rose is the tender green of the leaf;
 Not rash is he who wisely followeth patient Nature's ways,
The lily-bud of love should be swathed in a silken sheaf,
 Unfolding at will to summer bloom in the warm and perfect days.—

So silently sailed the early sun, through clouds of fleecy white;
 So stood we in dreamy silence, enwrapped in a tender spell;
But the pulses of soft Spring air were quickened to fresh delight,
 For I read in his eye the story sweet, he longed, yet feared to tell;
It spoke from his heart to mine, and needed no word from his mouth,
 And high o'er our heads rang out the happy song of the swallow;
It cried to the sunshine and beauty and bloom of the South,
 Exultingly carolling clear, "Oh, follow me—oh, follow.—


Oh, the days are growing longer;
So rang the jubilant song of the swallow;
 I come a-bringing beauty into the land,
The sky of the West grows warm and yellow,
 Oh, gladness comes with my light-winged band,
And the days are growing longer

Oh, the days are growing longer,
The wavy gleam of fluttering wings,
 Touching the silent earth so lightly,
Will wake all the sleeping, beautiful things,
 The world will glow so brightly—brightly;
And the days are growing longer.

Oh, the days are growing longer,
All the rivulets dumb will laugh, and run
 Over the meadows with dancing feet;
Following the silvery plough of the sun,
 Will be furrows filled with wild flowers sweet:
And the days are growing longer.

Oh, the days are growing longer;
Over whispering streams will rushes lean,
 To answer the waves' soft murmurous call;
The lily will bend from its watch-tower green,
 To list to the lark's low madrigal,
And the days are growing longer.

Oh, the days are growing longer;
When they lengthen to ripe and perfect prime,
 Then, oh, then, I will build my happy nest;
And all in that pleasant and balmy time,
 There never will be a bird so blest;
And the days are growing longer.



Now sinks the Summer sun into the sea;
 Sure never such a sunset shone as this,
 That on its golden wing has borne such bliss;
Dear Love to thee and me.

Ah, life was drear and lonely, missing thee,
 Though what my loss I did not then divine;
 But all is past—the sweet words, thou art mine,
Make bliss for thee and me.

How swells the light breeze o'er the blossoming lea,
 Sure never winds swept past so sweet and low,
 No lonely, unblest future waiteth now;
Dear Love for thee and me.

Look upward o'er the glowing West, and see,
 Surely the star of evening never shone
 With such a holy radiance—oh, my own,
Heaven smiles on thee and me.


You will journey many a weary day and long,
 Ere you will see so restful and sweet a place,
As this, my home, my nest so downy and warm,
 The labor of many happy and hopeful days;
But its low brown walls are laid and softly lined,
 And oh, full happily now my rest I take,
And care not I when it lightly rocks in the wind,
 For the branch above though it bends will never break;
And close by my side rings out the voice of my mate—my lover;
Oh, the days are long, and the days are bright—and
  Summer will last forever.

Now the stream that divides us from perfect bliss
 Seems floating past so narrow—so narrow,
You could span its wave such a morn as this,
 With a moment winged like a golden arrow,
And the sweet wind waves all the tasselled broom,
 And over the hill does it loitering come,
Oh, the perfect light—oh, the perfect bloom,
 And the silence is thrilled with the murmurous hum
Of the bees a-kissing the red-lipped clover;
Oh, the days are long, and the days are bright—and
  Summer will last forever.

When the West is a golden glow, and lower
 The sun is sinking large and round,
Like a golden goblet spilling o'er,
 Glittering drops that drip to the ground—
Then I spread my lustrous wings and cleave the air
 Sailing high with a motion calm and slow,
Far down the green earth lies like a picture fair,
Then with rapid wing I sink in the shining glow;
A-chasing the glinting, gleaming drops; oh, a diver
Am I in a clear and golden sea, and Summer will last forever.

The leaves with a pleasant rustling sound are stirred
 Of a night, and the stars are calm and bright;
And I know, although I am only a little bird,
 One large serious star is watching me all the night,
For when the dewy leaves are waved by the breeze,
 I see it forever smiling down on me.
So I cover my head with my wing, and sleep in peace,
 As blessed as ever a little bird can be;
And the silver moonlight falls over land and sea and river,
And the nights are cool, and the nights are still, and  Summer will last forever.

I think you would journey many and many a day,
 Ere you so contented and blest a bird would see;
Not all the wealth of the world could lure my love away,
 For my brown little nest is all the world to me;
And care not I if brighter bowers there are
 Lying close to the sun—where tall palms pierce the sky;
Oh, you would journey a weary way and a far,
 Ere you would behold a bird so blest as I;
And singing close to my side is my mate—my kin—my lover;
Oh, the days are long, and the days are bright—and Summer will last forever.



Yes! yes! I dare say it is so,
And you should be pitied, but how could I know,
Watching alone by the moon-lit bay;
But that is past for many a day,
For the woman that loved, died years ago,
Years ago.

She had loving eyes, with a wistful look
In their depths that day, and I know you took
Her face in your hands and read it o'er,
As if you should never see it more;
You were right, for she died long years ago,
Years ago.

Had I trusted you—for trust, you know
Will keep love's fire forever aglow;
Then what would have mattered storm or sun,
But the watching—the waiting, all is done;
For the woman that loved, died years ago,
Years ago.

Yes; I think you are constant, true and good,
I am tired, and would love you if I could;
I am tired, oh, friend, tired out; and yet,
Can we make sweet morn of the dim sunset?
The woman that loved, died years ago,
Years ago.

Not a pulse of my heart is stirred by you,
No; even your tears cannot move me now;
So leave me alone, what is said is said,
What boots your prayers, she is dead! is dead!
The woman you loved, long years ago,
Years ago.


The sky is dark and the air is full of snow,
 I go to a warmer clime afar and away;
Though my heart is so tired I do not care for it now,
 But here in my empty nest I cannot stay;
Thus cried the swallow,
I go from the falling snow, oh, follow me—oh, follow.

One night my mate came home with a broken wing,
 So he died; and my brood went long ago;
And I am alone, and I have no heart to sing,
 With no one to hear my song, and I must go;
Thus cried the swallow,
Away from dust and decay, oh, follow me—oh, follow.

But I think I will never find so warm and safe a nest,
 As my home, in the pleasant days gone by, gone by,
I think I shall never fold my wings in such happy rest,
 Never again—oh, never again till I die;
Thus cried the swallow,
But I go from the falling snow, oh, follow me—oh, follow.

Last updated April 01, 2023