The Quarantine Quatrains: Birdsong for May Day

Blossom in Girton’s Orchard. Photo by Liliana Janek

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.

IV Birdsong

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.


Filed under imagination, Poems

28 responses to “The Quarantine Quatrains: Birdsong for May Day

  1. Richard Fergusson

    This reminded me of Hardy’s Darkling Thrush who “Had chosen thus to fling his soul Upon the growing gloom.” Thank you for all you are doing to make the Quarantine more bearable.

  2. Oh, that touched me, Malcolm. There’s a freshness in these quatrains that can catch the heart.

  3. Melanie Kerr

    Yet another of your poems I wish I had written! I loved the third verse, although I confess my longings were more for what was in the past rather than the future, Thanks for stirring my heart to look forward.


    Thanks Malcolm – the Quatrains are lovely and the times I’ve been invited into your sanctum. Thank you very much and love to you and Maggie,

    Mary XX

  5. That last verse. I believe my wings are beginning to crave the wind once more. Thank you Malcolm.

  6. You do so well at leaving the readers of your poetry nestled in truth. I am grateful.

  7. eleanor prugh

    You care about the beings I care about … birds, and humans … and much more, methinks.

  8. Hi Malcolm – would love to read this in our Sunday service if you will allow me? Marcia

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Karen L

    I heard bird song out in the forest just now, that “sudden thrill and ripple of true song”
    Thank you for all your lovely poetry and also for the spells in your library. It has been so delightful to hear you read from books new to me and also familiar ones. You are truly refreshing my spirit. I read this Scripture recently and thought that it describes you.
    Matthew 13:52 “And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” “

  10. Just lovely thank you. Couldn’t help but think how the birdsong of my garden has changed over these two months in quarantine. We said goodbye to the white throated sparrows as they moved north and enjoyed the passing visit of the towhee. I couldn’t help but envy them for I knew they or their relatives would be stopping to visit my father’s bird feeder a couple states to our north. My childhood home will be one of the first places we visit once we are free to travel. Until then I will enjoy the sounds of the newly arrived hummingbirds and wood thrushes and be grateful for the many gifts the Lord gives us each day. Blessings to you in your writing.

  11. Lovely, I shared it to our St Ursulas Church Facebook page. Hope you got my mail with the link before

  12. I enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Pingback: The Quarantine Quatrains: The Complete Poem | Malcolm Guite

  14. Reblogged this on Poetry Joy and commented:
    This beautiful celebration of the hopeful sound of birdsong and the way it lifts our hearts is part of Malcolm Guite’s contemplative Quarantine Quatrain series. Do check out the rest on his blog. His poetry is sublime… 😉💜

  15. 💗🌹🌳🐝🕊

  16. Pingback: Lockdown Anniversary: The Quarantine Quatrains | Malcolm Guite

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