Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 2 May 2011

W. H. Hudson: A Nightingale


Orange Billed Nightingale-Thrush (Catharus aurantilrostris), Finca Las Nieves, in the cloud forest above Puerto Escondido, Mexico: photo by Michael Shepherd, 19 February 2008

I did not see the cat at first, but have no doubt that the nightingale had seen and knew that it was there. High up on the tops of the thorn, a couple of sparrows were silently perched. Perhaps, like myself, they had come there to listen. After I had been standing motionless, drinking in that dulcet music for at least five minutes, one of the two sparrows dropped from the perch straight down, and alighting on the bare wet ground directly under the nightingale, began busily pecking at something eatable it had discovered. No sooner had he begun pecking than out leaped the concealed cat on to him. The sparrow fluttered wildly up from beneath or between the claws, as if by a miracle.The cat glared round, and, catching sight of me close by, sprang back into the hedge and was gone. But all this time the exposed nightingale, perched only five feet above the spot where the attack had been made and the sparrow had so nearly lost his life, had continued singing; and he sang on for some minutes after. I suppose that he had seen the cat before, and knew instinctively that he was beyond its reach; that it was a terrestrial, not an aerial enemy, and so feared it not at all; and he would, perhaps, have continued singing if the sparrow had been caught and instantly killed.

Quite early in June I began to feel just a little cross with the nightingales, for they almost ceased singing; and considering that the spring had been a backward one, it seemed to me that their silence was coming too soon. I was not sufficiently regardful of the fact that their lays are solitary, as the poet has said; that they ask for no witness of their song, nor thirst for human praise. They were all nesting now...

Nightingale (Luscinia megarhyncos), Istria
: photo by Orchi, 1998

W. H. Hudson: from Birds in Town & Village, 1920




Just back from all that whiteness, how good to see Orange Billed Nightingale against green leaf in cloud forest. . . .


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, silver of planet beside branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

including the physical work
after pause, appeared

on wall, picture horizontal,
each with one another

whiteness of peak in cloudless blue sky,
sunlit green branches to the left of it


Maybe a feathery version on whistling past a graveyard. I notice that all the backyard animals here seem to easily differentiate between the semi-wild predator cats and the fluffy pretenders. I've seen squirrels prancing directly across the path of a cat in stalking position, knowing full well the cat would at most put up a fake little charge. But same squirrels head for the branches when the hungry tomcats come around. And at the beginning of last winter the white tomcat was seen hastening to the open space of the local graveyard with a big dead squirrel in his mouth. No whistling was heard.

Tom I continued the great package discussion on the Equi thread.

manik sharma said...

the nightingale has poise here...both in your words and images(beautiful they are)..the ferocity of the 'ignored' cat is beautifully the news is popping in all kinds of 'catch your eye' colors ...the man so coveted..the only sparrow has been declared dead...i wonder if you are planning/or have planned to pen a post related to it...but it goes without saying..alive or dead..imaginations have been captured....

ACravan said...

I love reading Stephen's poem next to the Hudson and nightingale pictures. Vincent could be right about feathery whistling past the graveyard, but I take it (this is unlike me) more lightly and in a more hopeful mood than that. I wish I could be like Hudson's description of the nightingale -- unselfconsciously beautiful, sure of its position in space and confident. Curtis



and considering that the spring had been a backward one. . . . their silence was coming too soon. . . . they ask for no witness of their song . . . .


grey-white line of fog against invisible
top of ridge, shadowed black pine branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

recognized repetition, view
the field as painting

appear as it, that which is,
and may pass as being

grey-white of fog reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Such beautiful songs, as the sun breaks through the fog and the small invisible birds begin to celebrate, as though the world were good.

In the human sphere morning rush hour traffic streams past, radio reminds of "the man so coveted..." and one is left to wonder what is to come when what is so coveted is at last possessed.