The first of May, that magical turn of the year, that full opening of spring which must always bring hope, seems like a good day to share an episode of my Quarantine Quatrains which celebrates the experience of listening to birdsong. I hear it when I am sitting, writing in my hut, and again drifting through the open window as I sit in my study, and always, as Hopkins says ‘my heart in hiding’ stirs for a bird’.
I have now completed the whole Quarantine Quatrain series, which consists, as the word Quarantine implies, of forty quatrains. These are arranged in to seven sections, one for each day of the week, and tomorrow, the 40th day of our lockdown, I will post the whole poem in its proper order. But here in a little May Day preview, is the little section that celebrates birdsong.
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As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘Play’ Button.
Here in my garden hut, just on the brink
Of making some new song of all I think,
A sudden thrill and ripple of true song
Makes mockery of my poor pen and ink.
Beyond my hut a vivid glimpse of red:
A bright-eyed robin by the garden bed
Sings his mellifluous and liquid notes,
That utter more than all I’ve ever said.
Three busy sparrows soon take up the song,
Chaffinches and blue tits join the throng,
A pattern of bright music nets the air
And catches me off guard and makes me long,
Long for the joys that I have yet to sing
Long for the sudden flight, the lifting wing,
Long for the songs of summers yet to come
Long for the freedom future days may bring.
Though sorrow runs so deep, and our brief songs
Are burdened still with all the ills and wrongs
Of this sad exile, something in us sings,
Sings from that garden where the soul belongs.