Flying crows and coming fall

It's beginning to feel like fall here. There's a sharpness in the morning air. The leaves are yellowing, tall grass has turned tan and the last of the wildflowers are drying. Just the other evening, I watched a large flock of crows, 60 or 70 of them, fly just over our house on their way to their nighttime grounds. I could hear their wings rustle through the air. Their throaty calls were brash in the quiet twilight. And I remembered this poem. One of my favorites. I could write a bit about John Hay, or about the time when this poem was written, and maybe I'll do that later. For now, I think it's best to let the poem stand on its own. Enjoy.


The Crows At Washington

by John Hay


Slow flapping to the setting sun

By twos and threes, in wavering rows.

As twilight shadows dimly close,

The crows fly over Washington. 

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Under the crimson sunset sky

Virginian woodlands leafless lie,

In wintry torpor, bleak and dun.

Through the rich value of heaven, which shines

Like a warmed opal in the sun,

With wide advance in broken lines

The crows fly over Washington.


Over the Capitol's white dome,

Across the obelisk soaring bare

To prick the clouds, they travel home,

Content and weary, winnowing

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With dusky vans the golden air,

Which hints the coming of the spring,

Though winter whitens Washington.


The dim, deep air, the level ray

Of dying sunlight on their plumes,

Give them a beauty not their own;

Their hoarse notes fail and faint away;

A rustling murmur floating down

Blends sweetly with the thickening glooms;

They touch with grace the fading day,

Slow flying over Washington.


I stand and watch with clouded eyes

These dim battalions move along;

Out of the distance memory cries

Of days when life and hope were strong,

When love was prompt and wit was gay;

Even then, at evening, as today,

I watched while twilight hovered dim

Over Potomac's curving rim,

This selfsame flight of homing crows

Blotting the sunset's fading rose

Above the roof of Washington.

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