Verse > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow > Complete Poetical Works
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).  Complete Poetical Works.  1893.
Birds of Passage
Flight the Fourth.
The Sermon of St. Francis
UP soared the lark into the air,
A shaft of song, a wingèd prayer,
As if a soul released from pain
Were flying back to heaven again.
St. Francis heard: it was to him        5
An emblem of the Seraphim;
The upward motion of the fire,
The light, the heat, the heart’s desire.
Around Assisi’s convent gate
The birds, God’s poor who cannot wait,        10
From moor and mere and darksome wood
Come flocking for their dole of food.
“O brother birds,” St. Francis said,
“Ye come to me and ask for bread,
But not with bread alone to-day        15
Shall ye be fed and sent away.
“Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds,
With manna of celestial words;
Not mine, though mine they seem to be,
Not mine, though they be spoken through me.        20
“Oh, doubly are ye bound to praise
The great Creator in your lays;
He giveth you your plumes of down,
Your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.
“He giveth you your wings to fly        25
And breathe a purer air on high,
And careth for you everywhere,
Who for yourselves so little care!”
With flutter of swift wings and songs
Together rose the feathered throngs,        30
And singing scattered far apart;
Deep peace was in St. Francis’ heart.
He knew not if the brotherhood
His homily had understood;
He only knew that to one ear        35
The meaning of his words was clear.

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