We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
As a low moves up from the south into New England this afternoon, promising to bring a bit of snow and ice with it, the birds out my window are getting ready before darkness falls. I have rarely seen so much activity.
A small flock of around 10 robins are hitting the holly berries and the rose hips hard, and tossing leaves in a leaf pile around like crazy, looking for bugs. Juncos all around, and white-throated sparrows are scratching little pits in the garden mulch. A fat and handsome flicker came within two feet of my window, trying to get his beak into the half-frozen garden soil next to the foundation. Best of all, a Hermit Thrush. He was eating some of the holly berries, and generally poking around.
Except for robins, the Hermit is our hardiest thrush. His rusty tail diagnoses him and, in summer, his song.
Read about the Hermit Thrush here, (CLO) from which the image is borrowed.
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
Here's another birdsong poem, it seems to be about the Phoenix, so unless its intentional artifice offends (is the idea that only the observer is real?), it's a gift back to Phoenix, for the Hardy:
"Of Mere Being" by Wallace Stevens:
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
The balance of the Hardy is wonderful. That third stanza especially can stand alone and still do the job of the entirety. In fact, one line of it can:
"An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small"
all by itself raises love and sympathy and one-ness with nature (blah blah blah). The rhythm and sounds in that line, regardless of content & meaning (anagedthrush-long pause-frailgauntandsmall), are like birdsong itself.
This ranks up with my favorite of all time. I wrote a book in the late 90's about integrating the educational disciplines. Much too long to explain, but in the book (project) we had to gather poetry that spoke of humankind. "The Darkling Thrush" so blew me away that I had to include it. It is the masterpiece of man's existential nature put to rest by nature. How better to signify that than by the line you just quoted as the bird symbolizes man. Perfect poem is right.
I had my class do this poem in choral reading for the end of the year award ceremony. The guys did one verse, the girls another, and at the end, they all joined in one voice. It was amazing. Makes my hair stand up to think of it.