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Birds and poetry (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Kristina, an interesting poem from W S Merwin. The ‘adviser’ is, I assume, the poet John Berryman (1914-72)?

Winter Landscape

The three men coming down the winter hill
In brown, with tall poles and a pack of hounds
At heel, through the arrangement of the trees,
Past the five figures at the burning straw,
Returning cold and silent to their town,

Returning to the drifted snow, the rink
Lively with children, to the older men,
The long companions they can never reach,
The blue light, men with ladders, by the church
The sledge and shadow in the twilit street,

Are not aware that in the sandy time
To come, the evil waste of history
Outstretched, they will be seen upon the brow
Of that same hill: when all their company
Will have been irrecoverably lost,

These men, this particular three in brown
Witnessed by birds will keep the scene and say
By their configuration with the trees,
The small bridge, the red houses and the fire,
What place, what time, what morning occasion

Sent them into the wood, a pack of hounds
At heel and the tall poles upon their shoulders,
Thence to return as now we see them and
Ankle-deep in snow down the winter hill
Descend, while three birds watch and the fourth flies.

John Berryman



Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Andrew, you got it, John Berryman indeed! What a poem, "Winter Landscape', thank you for sharing it!

I hadn't intended to be, but it seems I am quite the advocate for American poets. Here is another, by William Carlos Williams...


Ecstatic bird songs pound
the hollow vastness of the sky
with metallic clinkings
beating color up into it
at a far edge, beating it, beating it
with rising, triumphant ardor,
stirring it into warmth,
quickening in it a spreading change,
bursting wildly against it as
dividing the horizon, a heavy sun
lifts himself is lifted
bit by bit above the edge
of things, runs free at last
out into the open ! lumbering
glorified in full release upward
songs cease.

William Carlos Williams
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Well-known member
Kristina, thank you for ‘Dawn’ from William Carlos Williams, and for opening up the thread to include poets with whom we are not so familiar on this side of the pond. This is another poem from Williams in the same vein.

The Birds

The world begins again!
Not wholly insufflated
the blackbirds in the rain
upon the dead topbranches
of the living tree,
stuck fast to the low clouds,
notate the dawn.
Their shrill cries sound
announcing appetite
and drop among the bending roses
and the dripping grass.

William Carlos Williams

After you had posted Merwin’s ‘Berryman’ on the writing of poetry, I came across this short poem by W H Davies, the Welsh ‘super-tramp’, whose nature poems are (deservedly) very popular on these pages:


My mind has thunderstorms,
That brood for heavy hours:
Until they rain me words,
My thoughts are drooping flowers
And sulking, silent birds.

Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
And brood your heavy hours;
For when you rain me words,
My thoughts are dancing flowers
And joyful singing birds.

William Henry Davies

Finally, with the death of Luciano Pavarotti, it seems to me that this extract from a poem by Schiller might be an apt tribute to that glorious voice?

from The Power Of Song

The foaming stream from out the rock
With thunder roar begins to rush,--
The oak falls prostrate at the shock,
And mountain-wrecks attend the gush.
With rapturous awe, in wonder lost,
The wanderer hearkens to the sound;
From cliff to cliff he hears it tossed,
Yet knows not whither it is bound:
'Tis thus that song's bright waters pour
From sources never known before.

Friedrich von Schiller



Well-known member
It's always lovely to come back to this thread. Some fine poetry here and also some new poets for me. Thanks for the contributions everyone. I haven't read everything properly yet but I particularly like "Strange Meeting" by Wilfrid Owen - wonderful poem, thanks naturistbird. Oh and Andrew, I do love that little one by W H Davies -"Thunderstorms". Thanks for that.



Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Andrew, thank you for those three lovely poems! I particularly enjoyed "Thunderstorms".

Just a quick one from me tonight (although technically it's morning!)...

Ornithology For Beginners

The bird that feeds from off my palm
Is sleek, affectionate, and calm,
But double, to me, is worth the thrush
A-flickering in the elder-bush.

Dorothy Parker



Well-known member
Kristina, lovely Dorothy Parker poem. Many thanks for the poetry you have shared with us. You have introduced some new poets to me!

I hope none of you mind another Edward Thomas. I love this one. It is thought that Edward Thomas wrote this poem after he had been watching his little daughter, Myfanwy, paddling in a brook. Whilst sitting on a stone and drying her feet, there was a wonderful silence all around which Myfanwy felt and she exclaimed: “No-one’s been here before.” Those words could have been the inspiration for this poem.

The Brook

Seated once by a brook, watching a child
Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled.
Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush
Not far off in oak and hazel brush,
Unseen. There was a scent like honeycomb
From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome
Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft
A butterfly alighted. From aloft
He took the heat of the sun, and from below.
On the hot stone he perched contented so,
As if never a cart would pass again
That way; as if I were the last of men
And he the first of insects to have earth
And sun together and to know their worth.
I was divided between him and the gleam,
The motion, and the voices, of the stream,
The waters running frizzled over gravel,
That never vanish and for ever travel.
A grey flycatcher silent on a fence
And I sat as if we had been there since
The horseman and the horse lying beneath
The fir-tree-covered barrow on the heath,
The horseman and the horse with silver shoes,
Galloped the downs last. All that I could lose
I lost. And then the child's voice raised the dead.
'No one's been here before' was what she said
And what I felt, yet never should have found
A word for, while I gathered sight and sound.

Edward Thomas



Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Nerine, Thank you, I very much enjoyed "The Brook" by Edward Thomas. It reminds me in a way of one of my most beloved poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I submit the first few verses of "Renascence", it is far too long to post in its entirety.

(Part one)

All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.

Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I'll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And -- sure enough! -- I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I 'most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

I screamed, and -- lo! -- Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Well-known member
Nerine, many thanks for ‘The Brook’, a lovely poem by Edward Thomas. 'No one's been here before' – ah, the wisdom of children!

Kristina, ‘Renascence’ is a tremendous poem from Edna St Vincent Millay, and to think it was written when she was only 19 or 20! She was a wonderful poet. Thanks also for the short poem from Dorothy Parker. Here is another of hers which I think is rather beautiful.

Song in a Minor Key

There's a place I know where the birds swing low,
And wayward vines go roaming,
Where the lilacs nod, and a marble god
Is pale, in scented gloaming.
And at sunset there comes a lady fair
Whose eyes are deep with yearning.
By an old, old gate does the lady wait
Her own true love's returning.

But the days go by, and the lilacs die,
And trembling birds seek cover;
Yet the lady stands, with her long white hands
Held out to greet her lover.
And it's there she'll stay till the shadowy day
A monument they grave her.
She will always wait by the same old gate, --
The gate her true love gave her.

Dorothy Parker

I am off to Venice for a week but will look forward to reading another selection of great poems on my return!

Cheers all,



Well-known member
Kristina, "Renascence" - a wonderful poem, thank you, and again a new poet for me. Lovely!

Andrew, your Dorothy Parker "Song in a Minor Key" (I love the title!) is, as you say, most beautiful. Oh yes I meant to say I did love that poem you shared with us by Schiller as a tribute to the amazing Luciano Pavarotti. Absolutely perfect.
And of course I loved Keats' "On The Grasshopper And Cricket". I very nearly submitted this myself today but checked Colin's magic list to find you have recently chosen this, I somehow missed it at the time!
Enjoy Venice!

I came across this little poem, written by the American poet, George Edward Woodberry, completely new to me, I rather like it.

The Secret

Nightingales warble about it,
All night under blossom and star;
The wild swan is dying without it,
And the eagle crieth afar;
The sun he doth mount but to find it,
Searching the green earth o’er;
But more doth a man’s heart mind it,
Oh, more, more, more!

Over the gray leagues of ocean
The infinite yearneth alone;
The forests with wandering emotion
The thing they know not intone;
Creation arose but to see it,
A million lamps in the blue;
But a lover he shall be it
If one sweet maid is true.

George Edward Woodberry



Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Nerine, I very muched enjoyed "The Secret", Thank you! George Edward Woodberry is a new one for me as well.

Andrew, Thank you for "Song in a Minor Key", I haven't come across that one before.
"Renascence" is indeed tremendous, I think she was even younger than 19, if you can believe it. I'd look it up, but I lent out my copy of "Savage Beauty", Nancy Milford's fascinating biography of the poetess...!

Here is one from Emily Dickinson, I'm not sure if it has been posted before.

I shall keep singing!
Birds will pass me
On their way to Yellower Climes--
Each--with a Robin's expectation--
I--with my Redbreast--
And my Rhymes--

Late--when I take my place in summer--
But--I shall bring a fuller tune--
Vespers--are sweeter than Matins--Signor--
Morning--only the seed of Noon--

Emily Dickinson

Have a wonderful time in Venice, Anrdrew!

All the best,


Well-known member
Hi, just got back fro sunny Greece, not many birds but the wine was both Red and Wet.

A warm welcome to you and thanks for an amusing poem.
great poems as usual, have a great time in Venice, it really is a special place!

What a superb selection of poems.
It's good to have you back!! Great poems as well

It's good to have you here as a 'regular' especially with a Wilfred Owen poem, ps I had an interesting walk at Coate Water this evening.

Thanks for some good poetry.

What a choice selection of poems from both old and new poets. I am an admirer of Sara Teasdale and Emily Dickinson.


What a return to some amazing poetry!


Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Welcome back to you Merlin.

Here is the second installment of "Renascence"...

(Part Two)

I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not, -- nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out. -- Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.

All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.

And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire, --
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each, -- then mourned for all!

A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.

No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.

Edna St. Vincent Millay



Well-known member
Thanks for the second part of "Renascence", Kristina. A fine poem!

Merlin, you mentioned John Betjeman's birthdate in August. I enjoyed your choice: "The Last Laugh." Here is one that I especially like; it has great atmosphere. Some parts of Cornwall are similar to our coastline here and I have experienced many of the things Betjeman speaks of. Wonderful!


We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted to the edge;
We saw the yellow foam flakes drift
In trembling sponges on the ledge
Below us, till the wind would lift
Them up the cliff and o’er the hedge.
Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea,
Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet,
Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea,
Fleas around the tamarisk, an early cigarette.

From where the coastguard houses stood
One used to see below the hill,
The lichened branches of a wood
In summer silver cool and still;
And there the Shade of Evil could
Stretch out at us from Shilla Mill.
Thick with sloe and blackberry, uneven in the light,
Lonely round the hedge, the heavy meadow was remote,
The oldest part of Cornwall was the wood as black as night,
And the pheasant and the rabbit lay torn open at the throat.

But when a storm was at its height,
And feathery slate was black in rain,
And tamarisks were hung with light
And golden sand was brown again,
Spring tide and blizzard would unite
And sea come flooding up the lane.
Waves full of treasure then were roaring up the beach,
Ropes round our mackintoshes, waders warm and dry,
We waited for the wreckage to come swirling into reach,
Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and I.

Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray,
And one against the other hurled
We struggled round to Greenaway.
Blesséd be St Enodoc, blesséd be the wave,
Blesséd be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Ask for our children all happy days you gave
To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.

John Betjeman



Well-known member
Thank you for Trebetherick Nerine.
I spent my schoolyears in Cornwall, and we retired back there-sadly not for long as we had to move last year. I miss it very much & your poem brought back wonderful memories.



Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Nerine, I truly enjoyed "Trebetherick". A new poem and poet to me, thank you!
This next one is from the former U.S. Poet Laureate, Billy Collins.


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
—Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Billy Collins



Well-known member
"Litany" - a most unusual and lovely poem, Kristina, the more I read it the more I like it. Your Emily Dickinson you posted a few back is also great to read, though puzzling as ever!!

Colin, I'm glad "Trebetherick" brought back happy memories.



Anarchism is order
Here are a couple of poems from the Lithuanian poet Eduardas Mieželaitis that I had forgotten had bird references.

It always seems miraculous to me that poetry survives translation at all. I wonder if this is because good poetry is more than the sum of its words. It must also be a heavy responsibility to the translator.

If any readers know these poems in their original language I would love to hear their views on the translations.


What's the sky?
What are stars? Aren't they simply blue eyes?
What's the moon? Not an eyebrow bent like a bow?
Not your features which in my poem arise
Drawn in space, then left in the heavens to glow?

I'm drawing in space
Your ephemeral face
Out of stars, out of air – with the sunset's hues,
With the nightingale's trills – a parody on
A cry-baby poet deep in the blues.

I draw
Your ephemeral face out of nothing,
Out of space, out of time, out of birds' sparkling ways,
Out of sounds, out of lightning, rain, wind and snowflakes
And the most abstract dots in the galaxies' maze.

I can feel
Your soft skin drawn with paints out of air,
My eye's caught by the blue of your glance.
My picture smells of your scent – the scent
Of lilac dancing a moonlight dance.

I have put up the portrait
Here, in my attic
And beg it to stay, like a dream growing faint.
No, those are not poets who don't rob the heavens,
No painters who don't mix the stars in their paint.

What's the sky
If the stars are your eyes and the moon – your eyebrow,
The sunset – your lips floating vision-like by.
Your enormous, enormous ephemeral portrait
Drawn out of nothing in space
Is my sky!

Eduardas Mieželaitis

Translated by Dorian Rottenberg


Anarchism is order

Have you seen a huge tree ride the wind in a storm?
Flinging all its green branches like wings to the skies,
Yet its breast in the fight with the wind holding firm,
Like a bird soaring over the puddles it flies...

It withstands all the lightning and soaks up the rain...
Then the moisture like sweat trickles down to the soil
From its rough rugged branches subdued by the strain
Like a man's drooping hands when exhausted from toil.

Soon those gnarled weary branches regain their old
And the tree starts to rustle again,
by and by,
Look, it rises and spreads its green arms at full length,
For it knows while it's working its sap will not dry.

Though it had to withstand the wind's rages and rain,
Now dispersing the clouds like black ravens it clings
To the sky,
to the sun the huge tree soars again
On its own leafy branches like feathery wings...

Have you seen such a tree
in its challenging flight?
Do its boughs not remind you
of these hands, my own,
When they rise against storm blast and thunder to fight?
It's a hardworking, free pair of hands that I own...

My two hands worship freedom.
They crave for its balm
When long furrows they turn and sow seed in the loam.
They enjoy being free to hold bread in their palm
And to bear every day a fresh loaf of it home.

My own hands,
like those branches and fluttering sprays,
Shield a bird from deep snowdrifts and piercing winds...
My own hands greet the sun when at dawn with its rays
Like a girl to a man's well-knit body it clings...

My own hands, I am saying...
But are they just mine?
Can I claim they belong but, to me?
They are dust of a mountain,
no matter how fine,
Or two drops
in the infinite sea...

Nonetheless, tiny drops
make the sum of an ocean,
And a mountain is simply
a heap of fine sand...
So to keep this magnificent world in motion
There must be a call for my working hands...

My two hands may belong
to the plough in the field,
To the scythe mowing grass
and the saw cutting lumber,
To the loom weaving cloth
and the hammer I wield,
To the far-ranging rocket, an atom-age wonder...

My two hands
may be fitted
for kneading crisp dough
Or for saving a tree from hard frost,
They can carry the flag in a clash with a foe
And sustain my own friend who is lost.

My two hands
are needed
to water a flower
And to save its fine blooms from becoming dry,
To let free a caged bird is within their power
Ant to lift you, my son, to the sun in the sky!

Now and then hands are needed
for brushing a tear
From my own and a stranger's cheek...
They are needed to give kindly warning, good cheer
To a baby whose own hands are weak...
Hands are needed
for stroking your loved one's soft hair
And for striking the foe who comes trampling your land...
They enfold a good man for whose friendship you care,
And in greeting you offer your hand...

Just two hands I possess...
Though I had seven score
I should still feel myself to be nought.
I despise metal gold,
but like gold I adore
Human hands and the things they have wrought.

Just two hands I posses...
Take them, Earth, in return
For your harvests, the fruit of your lands...
Take these hands –
they are muscular hands, broad and firm –
They belong to you. Come, take my hands...

Eduardas Mieželaitis
(1919 – 1997)

Translated by Lionginas Pažūsis


Bean Éanlaithe na Coillte
Rozinate, what beautiful poems from Eduardas Mieželaitis, a first (and only Lithuanian poet) for me! Thank you for the introduction!

I can't offer any help in regards to the translation, but I have often thought about that myself. For instance, I can't stand any transtlation of Rumi, other than that of Coleman Barks, even though I couldn't know the difference, I can't speak or read a word of Arabic.

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