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The Emperor's Bird's Nest
- ONCE the Emperor Charles of Spain,
- With his swarthy, grave commanders,
- 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,
- Forth the great campaigner came
- Slowly from his canvas palace.
- "Let no hand the bird molest,"
- Said he solemnly, "nor hurt her!"
- Adding then, by way of jest,
- "Golondrina is my guest,
- 'Tis the wife of some deserter!"
- Swift as bowstring speeds a shaft,
- Through the camp was spread the rumor,
- And the soldiers, as they quaffed
- Flemish beer at dinner, laughed
- 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.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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