The Quarantine Quatrains:nature’s return in lockdown

Here is the section of my Quarantine Quatrains in which I reflect on the natural process of ‘rewilding’ that seems to have taken place around us during lockdown: the reports of dolphins in the canals of venice, photos of cayotes by SanFrancisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the wild goats in Llandudno, and closer to home the general awareness of how wildlife steps back into the spaces we have vacated. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the poem to which mine is responding, has a passage, intended to rebuke human vanity and ambition, which makes just the same observation about the ruins of a Sultan’s court, so that is the starting point for my verses, and in the second half of this section I speculate about what we could learn from this, if we were willing. You can find the full text of the whole poem here.

As always you can hear me read this section by clicking on the ‘Play’ button or the Roman numeral




They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep

But now in every corner of the world

The wild things flourish whilst the cities sleep


For when they see our influence abate

The banished creatures soon resume their state:

Blithe dolphins sport along the grand canal,

Coyotes call across the golden gate.


The grass grows green in every city square,

The little foxes, once so shy and rare,

Saunter our streets and boulevards by day

Whilst birds and insects throng the cleaner air


How soon the tide of nature has returned

How soon renew the forests that we burned

How soon they seed and repossess our streets,

Those precious plants and animals we spurned.


Perhaps in all this crisis, all this pain,

This reassessment of our loss and gain

Nature rebukes our brief authority

Yet offers us the chance to start again


And this time with a new humility,

With chastened awe, and mutual courtesy;

To re-accept the unearned gift of life

With gratitude, with joy and charity.


Perhaps we’ll learn to live without so much

To nurture and to cherish, not to clutch,

And, if I’m spared, I’ll hold the years I’m given

With gentler tenure and a lighter touch.


Filed under imagination, Poems

20 responses to “The Quarantine Quatrains:nature’s return in lockdown

  1. Mary Ferris

    And as an example of ‘the lion and the lamb dwelling together’ my beloved cat follows me to my near allotment each morning and sits and watches me and doesn’t even attempt to chase the birds that hop near her – and she is not even old but just loved a lot by me. – I wonder if that Love is enough for her.

  2. molly lambert

    I look forward to reading more poems but I lack skills to reply.
    Facebook etc still confuse me greatly

  3. kcollinsart

    My sister just recommended I check out your work and I’m so glad I did!! Regards from Boston, Massachusetts
    Kathryn C

  4. wendyatinsideout


  5. Dennis Bruce

    Thank you Malcolm. Your poetry touches me deeply.

  6. Absolutely marvellous, Malcolm! I particularly love the perception of the last three quatrains. May it be so.

  7. Margaret1117

    My husband and I loved yesterday’s wine odyssey, but today you hit on something I noticed weeks ago. Even though I live in the heart of a city (Buffalo, NY), I have observed that the rabbits, groundhogs, and birds of prey who co-exist with us are making much more frequent appearances during daylight hours. Your Quarantine Quatrains are beautiful and oh so timely.

  8. Barbara Parry

    Like the return of the creatures of Narnia in hiding under Prince Caspian after Miraz!

  9. I think this is one of my favourite parts of whole.

  10. Liz Campbell

    Let’s hope that it is possible for humankind to live in harmony with this world God has given us and fulfil the mandate of Genesis 1:26.

  11. Marguerite

    Loved this poem, just right for our situation at present. I’m going to share it at our Zoom Life Group this evening. Thank you. Enjoy your coffee, or beer!

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