When the grey geese heard the Fool’s tread
Too near to where they lay,
They lifted neither voice nor head,
But took themselves away.
No water broke, no pinion whirred-
There went no warning call.
The steely, sheltering rushes stirred
A little that was all.
Only the osiers understood,
And the drowned meadows spied
What else than wreckage of a flood
Stole outward on that tide.
But the far beaches saw their ranks
Gather and greet and grow
By myriads on the naked banks
Watching their sign to go;
Till, with a roar of wings that churned
The shivering shoals to foam,
Flight after flight took air and turned –
To find a safer home;
And far below their steadfast wedge,
They heard (and hastened on)
Men thresh and clamour through the sedge
Aghast that they were gone!
And, when men prayed them come anew
And nest where they were bred,
“Nay, fools foretell what knaves will do,”
Was all the grey geese said.