Let the Poetry Begin!
We arrived home at 3 am on Easter Monday 18th April, this year, following a five- hour drive through the night from the ferry terminal at Caen.
As we unlocked the gate, to drive in, we heard that sound again. It was unmistakeable, the nightingale had returned!
We stopped in our tracks, amazed. All the tiredness of our drive evaporated, as we listened. Ruth recorded the song on her mobile phone. The church clock of St. Vincent Sterlanges, a mile away, can be heard faintly, striking three, through the birdsong, 2 mins 48 secs into the recording. We went to bed smiling very soon after.
What struck me during the next few weeks, was that the nightingale seemed to sing both night and day to attract a mate. Its song was always beautiful, but, after a few days of incessant singing, it began to sound desperate, and my heart went out to it. It was as if the bird was destined to sing until it found a mate or perish in the attempt. (The effort of singing through fifty per cent of the night causes it to lose much of its body weight, which has to be replenished by vigorous eating during the day, according to Wikipedia)
I was reminded of Moira Shearer in the 1948 film, ‘The Red Shoes’. Once the young girl tries on the beautiful red shoes, she dances sublimely, ferociously well. The problem is that she can’t stop dancing, nor can she take off the red shoes.
Day after day and night after night, we heard the singing, feeling a mixture of joy and sadness, until his voice became a background to other events in our lives. Finally, we didn’t hear it. It was like looking at a faint star in the night. Full on, we didn’t notice it, but caught in the periphery of our vision, knew that it was still there.
No doubt, our songster was successful in finding a mate, and has reared its chicks in our garden. Strangely, our human concentration span was so short that we quickly stopped noticing the nightingale’s very obvious presence.
I’ve called this poem ’Rossignol’ which is the French name for the nightingale. Incidentally, it is also an old Languedoc term for a singer or someone with a pleasant voice.
Footnote: As I finished writing this, I went outside into the garden to collect something from our Garden Room. Once again, I heard the song of the nightingale, less strident, less frequent, and more comfortable. Could it be that it has found love, at last?
You catch my breath
With your love song,
Rattling, chirping and fluting,
A capella, bravura, coloratura,
Guttural, chuckling, swooping
And sweeping centre stage.
Incognito, you bow and bob,
To hedge and tree and furrowed field,
Inimitable, indomitable, unconsolable,
Night and day you plead.
Such talent, such devotion, such élan!
Until, like dancing droplets
Trilling in some lonely stream,
Your voice becomes invisible,
Your misty song a distant dream.
For my daughter, Kate. And for my grandson, Alexander, born today.
I was born in England soon after the war. I moved , with my family to Australia in 1966, where I was a soldier (briefly), a public servant, an opera singer, and an English teacher.