Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
In the Cathedral Close
By Edward Dowden (1843–1913)
IN the Dean’s porch a nest of clay
  With five small tenants may be seen;
Five solemn faces, each as wise
  As if its owner were a Dean;
Five downy fledglings in a row,        5
  Pack’d 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,        10
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        15
  Deep talk of rood-screen and reredos.
Her hands with field-flowers drench’d, a child
  Leaps past in wind-blown dress and hair,
The swallows turn their heads askew—
  Five judges deem that she is fair.        20
Prelusive touches sound within,
  Straightway they recognize the sign,
And, blandly nodding, they approve
  The minuet of Rubinstein.
They mark the cousins’ schoolboy talk,        25
  (Male birds flown wide from minster bell),
And blink at each broad term of art,
  Binomial or bicycle.
Ah! downy young ones, soft and warm,
  Doth such a stillness mask from sight        30
Such swiftness? can such peace conceal
  Passion and ecstasy of flight?
Yet somewhere ’mid your Eastern suns,
  Under a white Greek architrave
At morn, or when the shaft of fire        35
  Lies large upon the Indian wave,
A sense of something dear gone by
  Will stir, strange longings thrill the heart
For a small world embower’d and close,
  Of which ye sometime were a part.        40
The dew-drench’d flowers, the child’s glad eyes
  Your joy unhuman shall control,
And in your wings a light and wind
  Shall move from the Maestro’s soul.

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