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bird-catching poems and poem-catching birds

A bird, catching a poem in flight

or the poem catching the bird, in type

reminding me of some wild swans

that William Butler Yeats once saw,


All I know is, he wrote a poem about them.

I know this because I JUST read it, from this book (on the left, the one on the right will have its role to play later in the play):

And here, the poem:

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty, The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky; Upon the brimming water among the stones Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me Since I first made my count; I saw, before I had well finished, All suddenly mount And scatter wheeling in great broken rings Upon their clamorous wings. I have looked upon those brilliant creatures, And now my heart is sore. All's changed since I, hearing at twilight, The first time on this shore, The bell-beat of their wings above my head, Trod with a lighter tread. Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold Companionable streams or climb the air; Their hearts have not grown old; Passion or conquest, wander where they will,

Attend upon them still. But now they drift on the still water, Mysterious, beautiful; Among what rushes will they build, By what lake's edge or pool Delight men's eyes when I awake some day To find they have flown away?


"Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold"


"But now they drift on the still water, Mysterious, beautiful;"

Reminds me of THE SWEETEST BOOK OF ALL TIME, which makes the swans a bit more relatable (this is where ‘the book on the right’ comes into play):

While looking up Yeats's swans in the book, my eye fell on some hermits. Three, to be precise. I, being at least part hermit, was intrigued. And lo and behold! More birds! A singing bird no less! But this time, and very significantly so, an unheard song.

Although, perhaps Siegfried Sassoon (the poet of the first poem, keep up please) also heard an unheard song. A song just below the surface, a song that is always there, wordless, and never done.

Anyway, back to the singing hermit bird, again, by Yeats:

The Three Hermits

Three old hermits took the air By a cold and desolate sea, First was muttering a prayer, Second rummaged for a flea; On a windy stone, the third, Giddy with his hundredth year, Sang unnoticed like a bird: 'Though the Door of Death is near And what waits behind the door, Three times in a single day I, though upright on the shore, Fall asleep when I should pray.' So the first, but now the second: 'We're but given what we have eamed When all thoughts and deeds are reckoned, So it's plain to be discerned That the shades of holy men Who have failed, being weak of will, Pass the Door of Birth again, And are plagued by crowds, until They've the passion to escape.' Moaned the other, 'They are thrown Into some most fearful shape. 'But the second mocked his moan: 'They are not changed to anything, Having loved God once, but maybe To a poet or a king Or a witty lovely lady.' While he'd rummaged rags and hair, Caught and cracked his flea, the third, Giddy with his hundredth year, Sang unnoticed like a bird. - And while googling the text of the Yeats poems, not wanting to transcribe, it appeared that 'The three hermits' is also a short story by Tolstoy. Connection? See for yourself, click here for a nice and short article on Tolstoy's story. Reminds me of a Rumi poemstory that I can't find right now. Oh well. For next time.

Back to the googly results then: there was more Yeats, more birds, and I couldn't resist. But I promise, these are the last birds of the night. White birds, again... but more of the sea loving kind, this time. Reminds me of a white bird I saw earlier, flying through a poem.

The White Birds

I would that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea! We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee; And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky, Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die. A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose; Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes, Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew: For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you! I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore, Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more; Soon far from the rose and the lily and fret of the flames would we be, Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea! - And so ends quite a birdy journey - happy paddling, flying or singing, and why not all three!


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