‘The Darkling Thrush’: so good he sang it twice


Since the death of Ten Blankets, Kemo Sabe’s morning stirrings have been a little later than usual. All I can ever remember is being woken as she climbs over our beds on her way to the range to boil the kettle. Whatever the time, no matter how dark the hour, on goes the radio and the latest farming news; then, once she’s rejoined Barnaby with her tea, the daily BBC bird bursts forth, just before six: a daily dose of ornithology courtesy of Radio 4. Lately, though loyal listeners since the slot began, we’ve missed many episodes because getting extra rest meant she hasn’t disturbed us as early. Today  – New Year’s Day – was different.  Up bright and early, tea made, soon the song began: the song of a special bird which those of you who have looked into the poems on my Favourites page will see represented there; a bird whose wintry song inspired an otherwise cynical wordsmith to pause and ponder on perceptible joy amidst the anguish of the 19th century’s end, as this last verse makes clear:

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.

Our cockles warmed by this happy happenstance, imagine my surprise when a little over an hour later, as a special festive treat, the daily tweet was repeated for those a-bed who might not usually hear it – a touch of irony which would not have been wasted on Mr Hardy himself. As the day wears on, as and when I can I regularly rush out the catflap, to help the birds clear fallen bread from the undergrowth, where their enthusiasm has scattered their seeds, nut and fat-balls bits. Their chatter is sometimes deafening: woodpigeons, starlings and rooks can all make a racket, as can the puff-balls which are the sweetest sparrows that I know. Christopher Wren has his own way of breaking through the cacophony; the blackbird, as we know, is the finest virtuouso of all. But the thrush is the one that perseveres, striving to rise above us all, at that time of the year when we have most need of a voice, and words, like his.

You will find Tweet of the Day at this page on the BBC website:


P.S. Tomorrow’s bird is the raven – Berry and I will be listening!

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