Soulful Swans

From Swans at Night

Within the night, above the dark,
I heard a host upon the air,
Upon the void they made no mark
For all that they went sailing there.

And from that host there came a cry,
A note of calling strange and high;
I heard it blown against the sky,
Till naught there seemed but it and I.

A long and lonely wraith of sound,
It floated out in distance wide,
As though it knew another bound,
A space wherein it never died.

I heard the swans, I heard the swans,
I heard the swans that speed at night;
That ever, where the starlight wans,
Fly on unseeen within the height.

I never knew how wide the dark,
I never knew the depth of space,
I never knew how frail its bark,
How small is man within his place,

Not till I heard the swans go by,
Not till I marked their haunting cry,
Not till, within the vague on high,
I watched them pass across the sky.

O trackless birds, far journeying,
What guide have you, or swift or slow
To give you trust in strength of wing
That must upbear you as you go?

What mark is set before your way?
What urging burns within the heart,
That bids you, at the close of day,
Uplift the wings of your depart?

What visions drawn from inner sight
Declare to you the way you go;
What power upholds you in your flight
To that unknown you cannot know?

I heard against the phantom sky
The swans their hollow music cry,
I felt the loneliness on high,
The dark where they went sailing by.

They say the swans sings but for death,
They say he wans in height to die;
Has he no more than that sharp breath
That whistles outward on his cry?

Is he but offspring of a vast
Where no hand shaped but gusty chance?
That draws no future from the past?
That move unconsious of advance?

Nay, though we were but shaken dust,
Nay, though in darkness still we went,
We still must measure by our trust
The Power that lifting o’er us bent;

And He Who held within His Hand
The trackless bird, by night and day,
Guided him out by sea and land
His hand will never cast away.

I never knew how vast the sky,
I never knew how small was I,
Until I heard, remote and high,
The distant swans’ far floated cry.

Mary Gilmore


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