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Monday, 2 May 2011

W. H. Hudson: Nightingale or Thrush?


Varied Thrush (Zoothera naevia) (Male), Black Creek, Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia: photo by Elaine R. Wilson, 2011

He was a heath-cutter's child, the eldest of seven children! They were very poor, but he could earn nothing himself, except by gathering whortleberries in their season; then he said, all seven of them turned out with their parents, the youngest in its mother's arms. I questioned him about the birds of the district; he stoutly maintained that he recognised only four, and proceeded to name them.

"Here is another," said I, "a fifth you didn't name, singing in the bushes half a dozen yards from where we stand -- the best singer of all."

"I did name it," he returned, "that's a thrush."

It was a nightingale, a bird he did not know. But he knew a thrush -- it was one of the four birds he knew, and he stuck to it that it was a thrush singing.

Nachtigall [Nightingale] (Luscinia megarhyncos), Berlin: photo by J. Dietrich, 26 April 2008

W. H. Hudson: from A Surrey Village, in A Traveller in Little Things, 1921


Anonymous said...

Funny -- I posted something here, which appears to have disappeared. I guess all the virtual (for whom the) bell tolling yesterday disturbed the electronic atmosphere. I think I was just remarking on the beauty of the varied thrush and the lively spirit shown by the boy. I admire both.

TC said...


That's a mystery, and a shame.

Here's how Hudson got to know that lad, in his descent into Surrey:

"But the children were almost invariably too small for their years. The most stunted specimen was a little boy I met near Hindhead. He was thin, with a dry wizened face, and looked at the most about eight years old; he assured me that he was twelve. I engaged this gnome-like creature to
carry something for me, and we had three or four miles' ramble together.

"A curious couple we must have seemed--a giant and a pigmy, the pigmy looking considerably older than the giant."

ACravan said...

That's ok -- I stated the gist of it. What a great, great Hudson anecdote. Curtis