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Ode{s} to the British Birds {Four}

Updated on August 9, 2015

Birds are a lovely topic for poetry


This is the fourth and final article on the poetry attributed to British birds where Poets and writers such as, Wordsworth, Howitt and Shakespeare are featured. I have enjoyed collating these poems during the course of my research and would like to share them with along with some beautiful plates from days gone by. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.



" Aloft in mazy course the golden wren

Sports on the boughs; She who, her slender form,

Vaunting and radiant crest,half dares to vie

With those gay wanderers, whose effulgent wings

With insect hum still flutter o're the pride

Of Indian gardens"

{ from Gisborn's 'Walk in the Forest' } Explanatory note the Goldcrest was once referred to as the Golden Wren.


Southey describing an American bird.

" That cheerful one who knoweth all

The songs of all the wing choristers ;

And in one sequence of melodious sounds,

Pours all their music"


The nightingale

" If the quiet brooklet leaving,

Up the stony vale I wind;

Haply half in fancy grieving

For the shades I leave behind;

By the dusty roadside drear,

Nightingales,with joyous cheer,

Sing, my sadness to reprove,

Gladlier than in cultured grove.

Where the thickest boughs are twining

Of the greenest, darkest tree,

There they plunge-the light declining,

All may here and none may see;

Fearless of the passing hoof,

Hardly will they fleet aloof;

So they live in modest ways,

Trust entire, and ceaseless praise"

{ From the Christian Year.}

Gerden warbler

" The small birds how they fare,

When Mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,

Filch'd from the careless Amalthea's horn;

And how the wood berries and worms provide

Without their pains,when earth hath nought beside,

To answer their small wants"


Robin redbreast

" Sweet messenger of calm decay,

Saluting the sorrow as you may,

As one still bent to find or make the best;

In thee and in this quiet mead,

The lesson, of sweet peace I read,

Rather in all, to be resign'd than blest.

'Ti's a low chant according well,

With the soft solitary knell,

As homeward, from some grave beloved, we turn;

Or by some lowly death-bed dear,

Most welcome to the chasten'd ear,

Of her whom heaven is teaching how to mourn ".

{from The Christian Year}

Robin by Wordsworth

" Art thou the bird whom man love's best,

The pious bird with the Scarlet breast,

Our little English robin;

The bird that comes about our doors

When Autumn winds are sobbing ?

Art thou the Peter of Norway boors ?

Their Thomas in Finland

And Russia far in land ?

The bird that by some name or other

All men who know thee call thee brother"

And from earlier times this sad poem alluding to the tale of the Robin and the babes of the woods.

" Their pretty lips with blackberries

Were all besmear'd and dyed:

And when they saw the darksome night,

They sate them down and cried.

No burial of this pretty pair

Of any man receives;

Till robin redbreast, painfully,

Did cover them with leaves"

This tale seems to stem from even earlier times. For example John Webster between 1630-68,

" Call for the robin redbreast and the wren,

Since o'er shady groves they hover,

And with leaves and flowers do cover

The friendless bodies of unburied men"

Another such verse alludes to a girl asleep in a spring woodland--

" And thus sleeping thither flew;

A robin redbreast; who at view,

Not seeing her at all to stir,

Brought leaves and moss to cover her"

" The ruddock would,

With charitable bill,{ Oh bill, sore shaming

Those rich-left heirs, that let their fathers lie

Without a monument, } bring thee all this,

Yea and furr'd moss besides, when flowers are none,

To winter -ground thy corse"

{ from Cymbeline Shakespeare} ruddock is an old English name for the Robin.


The robins nest

" Most of all to haunts of men

Familiar, though to savage glen,

And woodland wild he oft may roam,

Seclude,oft, his wintry home;

No less the redbreast makes his bower,

For nestlings in the vernal hour;

In thatch or root of aged tree,

Moss- grown, or arching cavity

Of bank of garden's refuge heap;

Or where the broad-leaved tendrils creep,

Of ivy, and an arbour spread,

O're trellised porch or cottage shed"

{ Bishop Mant }

And finally one a about birds in general

" Come ye, come ye, to the green green wood,

Loudly the blackbird is singing:

The squirrel is feasting on blossom and beech,

And the curled fern is springing;

Here you may sleep in the wood so deep,

Where the moon is so warm and so weary;

And sweetly awake,when the sun, through the brake,

Bids the fauvette, and whitethroat singing cheery"

{ Howitt}



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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      old albion,

      hello.good to see a fellow Lancastrian,especially one that is so complimentary,thank you it is appreciated .Best wishes to you.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 3 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Dave. A delightful and interesting hub. I admire all your work greatly.

      voted up and all.


    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello,Mary, thank you so much for your appreciated comments and for the vote up,awesome and interesting it means a great deal to me. Best wishes to you.


      Hi Deb, your words are so true. Thank you for your welcomed visit. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Days may have passed,

      but the birds will still last.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Lovely words in tribute to four beautiful birds. We sometimes take them for granted but your lovely hubs have pushed them to the fore.

      Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello Devika, Thank you for your kind and appreciated words and for the vote up etc, you are very encouraging. Best wishes to you.


      hello Eddy, thank you too, for your kind comments they are appreciated. I know that you write and appreciate excellent poetry. Best wishes to you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Another brilliant hub by you DAL and voted up for sure. You are a wonderful teacher and here's to so many more lessons.


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Ode{s} to the British Birds {Four} beautiful four and so interesting about each. I simply loved this hub mentioned with such great thought, voted up useful and interesting.