Edward Dowden

(3 May 1843 - 4 April 1913 / Co. Cork / Ireland)

In the Cathedral Close


IN the Dean's porch a nest of clay
With five small tentants may be seen;
Five solemn faces, each as wise
As if its owner were a Dean.

Five downy fledglings in a row,
Packed close, as in the antique pew
The school-girls are whose foreheads clear
At the Venite shine on you.

Day after day the swallows sit
With scarce a stir, with scarce a sound,
But dreaming and digesting much
They grow thus wise and soft and round:

They watch the Canons come to dine,
And hear, the mullion-bars across,
Over the fragrant fruit and wine
Deep talk of rood-screen and reredos.

Her hands with field-flowers drenched, a child
Leaps past in wind-blown dress and hair,
The swallows turn their heads askew --
Five judges deem that she is fair.

Prelusive touches sound within,
Straightway they recognise the sign,
And, blandly nodding, they approve
The minuet of Rubinstein.

They mark the cousins' schoolboy talk,
(Male birds flown wide from minster bell),
And blink at each broad term of art,
Binomial or bicycle.

Ah! downy soft ones, soft and warm,
Doth such a stillness mask from sight
Such swiftness? can such peace conceal
Passion and ecstasy of flight?

Yet somewhere 'mid your Easter suns,
Under a white Greek architrave
At morn, or when the shaft of fire
Lies large upon the Indian wave,

A sense of something dear gone by
Will stir, strange longings thrill the heart
For a small world embowered close,
Of which ye sometime were a part.

The dew-drenched flowers, the child's glad eyes
Your joy inhuman shall control,
And in your wings a light and wind
Shall move from the Maestro's soul.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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