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Or was it Christian charity,
And lowliness and humility,
The richest and rarest of all dowers?
Who shall tell us? No one speaks;
At the rude question we have asked;
By those who are sleeping at her side.
Hereafter? And do
think to look
On the terrible pages of that Book
To find her failings, faults, and errors?
Ah, you will then have other cares,
THE EMPEROR'S BIRD'S-NEST.
ONCE the Emperor Charles of Spain,
I forget in what campaign,
Long besieged, in mud and rain,
Some old frontier town of Flanders.
Up and down the dreary camp,
In great boots of Spanish leather, Striding with a measured tramp, These Hidalgos, dull and damp,
Cursed the Frenchmen, cursed the weather.
Thus as to and fro they went,
Over upland and through hollow, Giving their impatience vent, Perched upon the Emperor's tent, In her nest, they spied a swallow.
Yes, it was a swallow's nest,
Built of clay and hair of horses,
Mane, or tail, or dragoon's crest, Found on hedge-rows east and west,
After skirmish of the forces.
Then an old Hidalgo said,
As he twirled his gray mustachio,
"Sure this swallow overhead
Thinks the Emperor's tent a shed,
And the Emperor but a Macho!"
Hearing his imperial name
Coupled with those words of malice,
Half in anger, half in shame,
"Let no hand the bird molest,"
'T is the wife of some deserter!"
Swift as bowstring speeds a shaft,
At the Emperor's pleasant humor.
So unharmed and unafraid
Sat the swallow still and brooded,
Till the constant cannonade
Through the walls a breach had made,
And the siege was thus concluded.
Then the army, elsewhere bent,
Struck its tents as if disbanding, Only not the Emperor's tent,
For he ordered, ere he went,
Very curtly, "Leave it standing!
So it stood there all alone,
Loosely flapping, torn and tattered, Till the brood was fledged and flown, Singing o'er those walls of stone
Which the cannon-shot had shattered.