Tag Archives: Gardens

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

A New Painting and an Interview

I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by all sorts of creative people here but a couple of my friends have each in their own way, come up with a some surprises for me that I’d like to share here, not least because the insights and skills of these two friends ended up giving me some new insights into who I am and what I’m meant to be doing.

The first of these surprises was unveiled in the course of my Birthday gig at the Blue Ball. Henri Schmitt is a painter and musician whom I first met at a talk I was giving on Bob Dylan. He sings and plays guitar, mandolin and bozouki, and has occasionally played at my gigs. I knew he also painted but I had no idea how well or powerfully until last Thursday night when he unveiled a beautiful painting inspired by my song The Green Man and just gave it to me. I was  amazed both by the generosity and by the power of he painting itself. you will be too, here it is:

malcolm as green man

The Green Man

The second surprise ‘unveiling’, was the publication on her Rawgarden Blog of an interview by my friend Karen Wells, whose lovely felts and friendship had inspired my song Lente Lente. She does an occasional series called “from where I’m sitting; tales from a garden bench”. She chose her questions so well that I ended up saying more than I knew I knew about my vocation as a poet. Reading the interview on her blog turned out to be another revelation, rather like Henri’s painting, of who I am and who I am meant to be. Karen illustrated the interview with a picture she took in my garden, she is a real garden spirit and I always feel relaxed and rooted when she is around, maybe that’s why both the photo and the interview have brought out things I hardly knew were there.

I am still  sifting through, and learning from the rich experiences and new friends I made in Texas, but watch this space, I will be reflecting a little more on that soon.

Malcolm brings 'tales from a garden bench'


Filed under imagination, paintings, Poems

Dancing Through The Fire (More Dante)

In my last post I talked about Ingrid’s wonderful account of her own contemporary encounters with Dante and it prompts me to post some of mine. I wrote this song a while back but never had the chutzpa to play it in public, but I finally did so at my CB2 gig last Saturday, and it went down well so I am going to be bold and post it. you might describe this song as “Joni Mitchell meets Dante in Woodstock after a Mystery Train gig”!

Dancing Through The Fire

You were born to be a pilgrim.
born to walk the dusty road
born to scan the changing skyline
born to haul a heavy load
you’ve got friends to walk the road with
you’ve got music to inspire
and you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

you have crossed through many rivers
left many memories behind
you have followed many footsteps,
gone down pathways you cant find
all the sirens on the sidewalks
cannot sell what you require
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

Br: And for all the hell you been thru
theres a mountain still to climb
and all that’s happened to you
can be seen there as a sign
at the summit is a garden
all encircled by the flame
where they burn away your burden
and they call you by your name

So you came out to the cross-roads
but you’ve got no-where to turn
you followed all the best roads
tried to read the signs and learn
theres an easy road goes down ward
but the true roads climbing higher
you will get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire

When you make it to the border
You’ll have nothing to declare
Just a heart that kept on beating
on the far side of despair
its time to give away your burden,
burn it on your funeral pire
so you can get back to the garden
by dancing through the fire.

When you finally climb the mountain
you’ll see the river through the flame
you’ll remember where you came from
you’ll hear the sound of your true name
on the other side of heart-ache
lies the heart of your desire
and you’ll get back to the garden
just by dancing through that fire


Filed under imagination, literature, Music, Poems