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.