Swallows on the river

specimen days

Swallows on the river

Cloudy and wet
           and wind due east
air without palpable fog
           but very heavy
with moisture
           a welcome change

           crossing the Delaware
I noticed unusual numbers
           of swallows in flight
graceful beyond description
           close to the water

Thick they flew around the bows
           of the ferry-boat
as she lay tied in her slip
           and as we went out
I watched beyond the pier-heads
           and across the broad stream
their swift-winding
           loop-ribands of motion
down close to it
           cutting and intersecting

Though I’d seen swallows
           all my life
it seemed as though
           I never before realized
their peculiar beauty and character
           in the landscape

Walt Whitman

Adapted from Specimen Days (1882) by John Lyons