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Featured Poem: Proud Songsters by Thomas Hardy

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 22nd April 2019


The Reader's Head of Learning and Quality, Clare Ellis, shares her thoughts on this week's Featured Poem, Proud Songsters by Thomas Hardy.

People talk about the beauty of the dawn chorus, and for a long time when thinking about birdsong I had mainly associated it with morning. I often feel frustrated that – living in a ground floor flat – I am not quite confident enough to go to sleep with my window open as we enter Spring, to be woken up by the birds rather than my cold alarm clock. But what I particularly like about Proud Songsters is its drawing attention to the birdsong that happens in the evening; how

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,

how the birds have the energy and will to throw themselves out there into the world just as many of us humans may be too work weary come five in the evening to do anything other than get home and get tea on!

There are several different types of birds making themselves heard in this poem, each adding its own note and linking to a particular part of the evening rhythm, but it is the nightingale that stands out to me. The nightgales who are ‘loud’ rather than quiet ‘as it gets dark’, who

Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

I’d like to be one of these nightingales for a time, to feel in possession of time, to be wholeheartedly alive in the moment, rather than feeling myself forever playing catch up or regretting time lost or running out.

The second stanza makes me think of the word miracle – the amazing wonder of life being in full flow when only twelve months previously it may never have existed, or rather, was not yet formed into an animate being but in the offing somewhere mysteriously, waiting in the elements.

We have ‘brand new birds’ here who are already in full swing, at home in life, claiming and making the most of it. I think the speed of life in nature, how quickly things come into being and grow up, is something that always amazes me, and I am grateful for the reminder here that a year before or even less these birds were ‘only particles of grain/ And earth, and air, and rain.’ How much potential there is in life, how waiting to come into being, and how grateful I am for the birds, our proud songsters indeed.

Proud Songsters

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand-new birds of twelve-months’ growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.

by Thomas Hardy

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