The Mission Swallows

By George Sterling

When the mating-time of the lark is near
    And down in the meadow the blackbirds swing,
They come with the music and youth or the year,
    Sure as the blossoms' tryst with spring.

When willow and alder don their leaves,
    Up from the cloudy south they fare,
To flit all day by the Mission eaves
    And build their nests in the shadow there.

O'er field and meadow, a restless throng,
 They dart and swoop till the west is red,
Swift of wing and chary of song,
That the eggs be hatched and the nestlings fed.

Serra sleeps within sound of the sea,
    And the flock he fathered is long since still,
Over their graves the wild, brown bee
    Prowls, and the quail calls over the hill.

Serra is dust for a hundred years.
    Dust are the ladies and lords of Spain—
Safe from sorrow and change and tears,
    Where the grass is clean with the springtide rain.

Meekly they slumber, side by side,
    Cross and sword to the furrow cast,
Done forever with love and pride,
    And Sleep, as ever, the best at last.

But over the walls that the padres laid,
    The circling swallows come and go,
Still by the seasons undismayed,
    Or the storms above or the dead below.

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