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  • By Paul Gallagher

Volare … Cantare

Figures in a Hudson River Landscape - Albert Bierstadt

Above in the trees, the birds are calling and replying, Their lively laughter moving the gentle evening air, The wrens gaily singing, the doves with quiet sighs. On the ground below a chick, thrown from the nest, is crying, Their gleanings were given to the stronger young ones there. At last its starving beak rests in the dirt, and there it dies. The night comes on so calm, the evening star so bright. The birds let fall their song at the fading of the light.

Workers in the wheat field, hot and evening-weary, Rise at last in spirit when the twilight songbirds sing To each other, sweet reminder of work done today. They turn, and the birds flee away at their coming, Racing to the dark of the woods on silent wing, Abandoning their young in the nest where they lay. To the weary laborers, ‘tis beautiful, that flight Of mute songbirds to the dark wood in fear and in fright.

A ragged man is standing, exhausted, in a passage, A crippled, wounded girl lies in his arms, he is alone; He has not even a voice left to ask a miracle. There within, a doctor is reading some old verses, To take his thoughts away from the sight of blood and bone -- She will live, and walk in strophes, and fill the verse-book full. Little bird they will call her, and listen in delight, To the verses she sings in the peace of the night.

Now they bind up the wounds from the war that is ended, They give life itself to a vision far away; The soldier serves in arms with a distance in his eyes. Swift up from Earth a craft now arises, The voyagers laugh as though their work were but play, And sing the others’ lands and airs across the skies.

Their craft is as free as their hearts are alight, It leaps to the sky like a great bird in flight!

Paul Gallagher is a poet, translator and also an economics journalist. He has spent much of his life fighting for the revival of classical poetry and classical culture. More of his writings on culture can be found here.

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