Mole Valley Poets, 26th April 2010
Sylvia Herbert: Poetry of Birds

Sylvia introduced Poetry of Birds with reference to Shakespeare. Birds are descended from the dinosaurs and have always been a neighbourly part of human existence. Birds are part of the ecology and birdsong has inspired many composers. Birds serve as metaphor for many emotions. There are biblical allusions to birds. There are superstitions and legends involving birds.

The Robin's Song by Rodney Bennett opened the reading. Trust, Curlews, Voices in which the language and dialect of birds is considered and The Corncrake were studied next, all by Kenneth Steven. The domesticity of birds followed with an outcry at being disturbed in On a cock at Rochester by Sir Charles Sedley.

The Yellowhammer by John Clare describes the building of a nest by the bird with yellow breast and head of gold.

February Afternoon by Edward Thomas talks of parleying starlings and time of war.

An anonymous poem Sweet Suffolk Owl talks of the owl call te whit, te whoo as a dirge for dying souls.

In Barn Owl by R S Thomas, the owl cry is the voice / of God in the darkness cursing himself / fiercely for his lack of love.

Repeat that-repeat by GM Hopkins brings the cuckoo's call to life while Short Ode to the Cuckoo by WH Auden celebrates that first call that is harbinger of spring.

Cock-crow by Edward Thomas contrasts twin trumpeters who are heralds of splendour with the milkers who lace their boots up at the farms.

The Eagle by Alfred Lord Tennyson depicts the great height from which the eagle watches - The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls and then like a thunderbolt he falls.

In Another Swan Poem by UA Fanthorpe a great swan demands to be fed in an uncomfortably close encounter.

The presentation was drawn to a close with the legend in St Kevin and the Blackbird by Seamus Heaney in which the blackbird builds a nest on the outstretched hand of St Kevin who is kneeling in prayer. He waits with great patience for the fledglings to leave.