The red flamingo flew up from the South,
From the land all withered and parched with drouth.
He gleamed on the sky like a flaming brand
Blown from a burning prairie land.
He waded deep through the dark morass,
In the samphire beds, and the cool dank grass.
When the wind blew east, to the sea he went,
Red as the sun in the firmament,
And turned aside, with a look aslant,
At the deadly eye of the cormorant.
And the eagle, old with a hundred years,
From the height of his vaulted eyry peers.
When the wind blew west, to the fields he sped,
Where the blue-eyed gentian lifts its head;
And the dew flushed red to a scarlet dye
On the lily’s breast, as he floated by;
And here and there, in the silent dell,
From his wing a scarlet feather fell.
He sailed on his way as the mariner sails,
With stout heart fearing nor wind nor gales.
On and on through the land he went,
Like a fleet and royal messenger sent,
Till he came at last to an ancient town
Never on map or chart laid down.
His wearied wings beat soft and low,
For the dreary streets were of muffled snow.
The houses were counted by two and two,
And the footsteps numbered were faint and few.
The ships that had sailed to that silent shore
Were bound, snow-locked, without mast or oar.
The shrouds had vanished,—a dreary wreck,
With the tropic bird on the lonely deck.
His eye grew dim in the cold, wan light,
And his royal plumage blanched snow-white.
He strained his gaze to the farthest north,
And again on fluttering wings went forth,
And sailed away, with his plumage pale
Forever hid by a snowy veil.
Whether he drifted east or west,
And gazed on a mighty mountain crest,
Or a glorious sea with turrets high
Reaching far up to the polar sky,
Or drooped in death on a waste of snow,
His secret none shall ever know.
He lived his life on his errand sent,
And tracked the path of a continent.
Whoever has crossed to that silent strand
Has passed beyond to an unknown land.
Buried in snow, and under the gates,
Frozen and stark the sentinel waits
Till the snow shall be lifted from off his breast,
And the pathway cleared to the great Northwest!