The Song of the Birds – Guest Post by, Kevin Morris…

As a child, I spent a good deal of time with my grandfather. He was a lover of birds an I do, I believe derive my affection for our feathered friends from him. I recollect a nesting box attached to the garden shed, and my feeling of excitement when BlueTits where born. I also remember the bird table which attracted a great variety of birds. 

Of course birdsong acts as a means of attracting a mate or warning off other birds who might trespass on the teritory of the songster. Nonetheless we humans find in the song of the birds an answering call within our own hearts. Their singing can bring joy to mind, or they may speak to us of sadness. A wonderful instance of the latter, can be found in Robert Frost’s poem “A Late Walk”:  

“And when I come to the garden ground, 

The whir of sober birds 

Up from the tangle of withered weeds 

Is Sadder than any words”. (https://poets.org/poem/late-walk). 

“A Late Walk” is about growing old and the knowledge of the poet’s own mortality. “The sober birds” and “withered weeds” speak of approaching death. The weeds can, perhaps be compared to Frost’s graying hair, while the life of birds is brief and reminds us of death. 

Perhaps my favourite poem about birds, in which happiness and sadness mingle, is Thomas Hardy’s “Darkling Thrush”. I remember being captivated by this poem, which I first came across in “Palgrave’s Golden Treasury”, with which I spent many happy hours in the school library: 

“I leant upon a coppice gate

      When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

      The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

      Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be

      The Century’s corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

      The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

      Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among

      The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

      Of joy illimited;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

      In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings

      Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

      Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

      His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

      And I was unaware”. (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44325/the-darkling-thrush). 

In the above poem, we see a mixing of the melancholic and the joyous. “The bleak twigs”, “crypt”, “corpse” and “wind his death lament” all speak of Hardy’s profound sense of sadness and knowledge of his own mortality, a sense which is, perhaps heightened by the lack of other people who have “sought their household fires”. Again, the thrush is “aged” and not long for this veil of tears, yet he produces a joyful song which causes Hardy to wonder whether:  

“there trembled through

      His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

      And I was unaware”. Reading the poem, I am not convinced that the poet is any happier (having heard this little, gaunt bird sing it’s heart out), than he was prior to having heard the bird. Nonetheless the song of the thrush does produce within Hardy a sense that there is, perhaps something beyond the feeling of isolation and sadness which is now upon him. 

In my poem “The Evening Bird Has the Last Word”, I wonder whether the singing of the birds from which I derive so much pleasure, will be heard by me on the morrow: 

“The evening bird

Has the last word

Ere night closes.

In on virtue and sin.

The poet supposes

That another sun

Will come

and he will thrill

To birdsong once more.

Ere his day is o’er”. 

I will close with my poem “Autumn Bird which does, I believe say … well I shall leave it in the hands of you, my readers to put your own interpretation upon it: 

“I heard 

An Autumn bird 

Sing to me 

From a tree, 

As I took 

A short cut 

Through the grounds 

Of the doctors surgery”. 

(“Autumn Bird” can be found in “The Writer’s Pen and Other Poems” and is available here, https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GD1LBMV/)  

Links: 

Author’s website: https://kmorrispoet.com/ 

Author’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/drewdog2060_ 

Author’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kmorrispoet/ 

Author’s Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/kevin-stephen-morris 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6879063.K_Morris

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20 thoughts on “The Song of the Birds – Guest Post by, Kevin Morris…

  1. Those two poems really touched my heart. So beautiful these poems are, and though they speak to the future by way of the presence of gloom, when the feral bird sings all hope is thus renewed, for the sound of birdsong that brings back a moment of youth once more. Thank you so much for sharing. Beautiful.

    Liked by 3 people

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