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  • By Paul Gallagher

Wild Birds

Across a still and perfect sky in Autumn

The geese come headlong, urgent, flying low

With no heed of guns or wind or weather,

As if brute prophets driven by what they know,

So straight their line, so boldly do they go.

All at once their loud calls to each other

Surprise like shouts of warning down below,

Awakening thoughts; perhaps the fierce formation

Betokens hope—or news of war and woe.

As swift as arrows do the wild birds go.

It is much colder than should be the season,

The light and warmth in every house are low.

Ice has bound the line of lakes already,

The boats lie beached and useless in a row.

But through the cold, how swift the wild geese go!

Looking up, the children hear the calling

And stand and watch the winged racers flow;

Eyes cast down, the people walk distracted

For what they will do next, they do not know.

And with wild purpose, on the swift birds go.

The stubble bears the look of meager harvest,

The people mourn their losses there below

And stand and wonder who will come and aid them,

For war and cold and price have brought them low.

How stretched and straight and fast the wild geese go!

Until now the afternoon was silent,

Impassive sit the vulture and the crow;

In the maple trees the sap is frozen,

A beating wind has started in to blow;

Across the sky they’re surging, row on row.

In their coverts in the fields the hunters,

Sighting with the rifle and the bow,

Struck with sudden thoughts let fall their weapons--

They chide each other for asleep and slow:

"You are not men! See how the wild birds go!"


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.

1 Comment

Mar 12, 2023

I love the musicality of the chosen meter and form. It flows melodically. I also appreciate the clarity of the language and its ease of reading -- which contributes much to the musical flow. As for the subject, this beautifully evokes the role of birds as bridges between the physical and spiritual world in folk myth. They are portending something in a world that seems to have lost all hope.

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