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Ode{s} to the British birds -three

Updated on September 29, 2013


This is the third in a collection of poetry from archaic times about British birds. They are taken from various sources and are composed by various poets, some of which are unknown. I would like to think that sharing their work with you, they are being remembered by a wider audience, that would otherwise have missed out on some of the most charming poetry about birds.

Birds and nature in natural colours {1913-14}
Birds and nature in natural colours {1913-14}
Familiar wild birds Swaysland { 1883}
Familiar wild birds Swaysland { 1883}

Ode {s} to the Thrush-Song thrush

" A taste of winter in a murky town,

Drove me to seek for shelter in the fields,

But leafless trees and pastures damp and brown,

Gave little promise of what spring-time yields.

The lanes were rugged for the want of leaves,

And green things saw I not,, save one alone,

The generous ivy,that o're bareness weaves,

Its graceful wreath, to cover tree and stone.

Yet winter had expired: where yesterday

Keen snow-drift powder'd every way-side thing,

The balmy dew gleam'd in the sun's glad ray,

To scatter pearls where red-tipp'd woodbines cling.

It is spring! for, lo! unfolded yet-

Where pale- green buds, peep from the elm -tree boughs,

And where rich sulphur-tinted flowers are set,

Around the slight stalks of the first primrose.

It is spring! I hear her first glad song!

I see her earliest bird, the speckled thrush!

His descant rich swells sweet yet loud along,

And makes a vocal bower of every bush.

Oh, welcome spring! oh welcome vernal flowers!

Oh, welcomer than all, the merry bird,

Whose warbling music-earnest of bright hours,

Is the first hymn to Spring , by wandering poet heard".

{ Calder Campbell unpublished}.

Mistle thrush

" But hark ! from the top of the loftiest beech,

The Missel-cock's untuneful screech;

Not like the rich and varied note,

Melodious from the Throstle's throat,

But a distinct discordant scream,

As if for days departing beam

To mourn, or with sad presage meet,

The embryo storm of rain and sleet;

More tuneful when he takes his stand

'Mid the warm sunshine, where at hand

On hawthorn, elm, or maple grow,

The boughs of pale- green mistletoe,

And plucks its yellow flowers, or feeds,

On the dark ivy's berried seeds;

And sure I ne'er have heard a song

More clear, more full, more rich, more strong,

Though mix'd at times with harsher note,

Than issued from his evening throat,

What time I've seen the breezes blow,

His form all heedless to and fro,

And heard him, as beneath I stood,

Four forth his music's changeful flood"

Bishop Mant { explanatory notes--Throstle was the old name for the song thrush. The poem is about the variation in the song of the Missel thrush who likes to feed on the berries of the mistletoe}

Mistle thrush

Blackbird's nest

" The over arching boughs between

Of some selected evergreen,

Of laurel thick, or branching fir,

Or bed of pleasant Lavender,

To lodge secure their pendent home,

A well wove frame of moisten'd loam,

Within cemented: and without,

Rough but compactly, all about,

With moss and fibrous roots entwined,

And wither'd bent grass softly lined

Where may repose, in season due,

Their pregnant balls of chalky blue,

Besprent about the flatten'd crown,

With pallid spots of chestnut brown"

{Bishop Mant}


Courtesy of the BHL.
Courtesy of the BHL.

Ring ouzel

Meyer {1842-1850}
Meyer {1842-1850}

Ring Ouzel

" From stone to stone, the ouzel flits along,

Startling the linnet from the hawthorn bough;

While on the elm- tree, overshadowing deep

The low roof'd cottage white, the blackbird sits,

Cheerily hymning the awaken'd year"

The Fieldfare

" The hedger's toils oft scare the doves that browse

The chocolate berries on the ivy boughs;

Or flocking fieldfares, speckled like a thrush,

Picking the berry from the hawthorn bush,

That come and go on winter's chilling wing,

And seem to have no sympathy with spring"

{ John Clare}

Spring and nest building

" Bird, bee and butterfly-the favourite three,

That meet us ever on the summer path!

And what with all her forms and hues divine,

Would summer be without them? Though the skies,

Were blue, and the blue streams, and fresh the fields,

And beautiful as now, the waving woods,

And exquisite the flowers; and though the sun

Beame'd from its cloudless throne from day to day,

And with the breeze and shower more loveliness

Shed o,re this lovely world; yet all would want

A charm, if those sweet denizens of earth

And air, made not the great creation teem,

With beauty, grace, and motion! Who would bless,

The landscape if upon his morning walk

He greeted not the feathery nations, perch'd

For love or song, amid the dancing leaves;

Or wantoning in flight from bough to bough,

From field to field? Ah! who would bless thee, June,

If Silent,songless, were the groves,-unheard

The lark in heaven?"

{ unknown}

" The nightingale that dwelt in Adam's bower,

And pour'd his stream of music through his dreams;

The soaring lark, that led the eye of Eve,

Into the clouds, her thoughts into heaven

Of heavens, were larks nor eye can penetrate;

The dove that perch'd upon the tree of life,

And made her bed upon the thickest leaves;

All the wing'd habitants of Paradise,

Whose song once mingled with the songs of the angels,

Wove their nests as curiously and well,

As the wood minstrels in our evil day,

After the labours of six thousand years,

IN which their ancestors have fail'd to add,

To alter,or diminish anything,

In that of which love only knows the secret,

And teaches every mother for herself,

Without the power to impart it to her offspring"

{ unknown}

Courtesy of Ste Bond {not in the Public domain}
Courtesy of Ste Bond {not in the Public domain}

The wren nest

"But she who plann'd this mossy lodge,

Mistrusting her evasive skill,

Had to a primrose look'd for aid,

Her wishes to fulfil.

High on the trunk's projecting bough,

And fix'd an infant's span, above,

The budding flowers, peep'd forth a nest,

The prettiest of the grove"

{ William Wordworth}

Three days later he returned and could not see the nest, and thought it had been taken by some rude hand.

" Just three days after, passing by,

In clearer light, the moss-built cell,

I saw,espied its shaded mouth,

And felt that all was well.

The primrose for a veil had spread,

The largest of her upright leaves,

And thus for purposes benign,

A simple flower deceives"

Wren feeding her young

Birds through the year {1896-98}
Birds through the year {1896-98}


Chiffchaff's nest

"Well ! in my many walks Iv'e rarely found,

A place less likely for a bird to form

It's nest -close by the rut-gull'd wagon road,

And on the almost bare foot-trodden ground,

With scarce, a clump of grass to keep it warm!

Where not a thistle spreads it spears abroad,

Or prickly bush to shield it from harm's way;

And yet so snugly made, that none may spy,

It out, save peradventure, You and I,

Had surely pass'd it on our walk to-day,

Had chance not led us by it! Nay e'en now,

Had not the old bird heard us trampling by,

And flutter'd out, we had not seen it lie.

Brown as the road-way side,Small bits of hay,

Pluck'd from the old propt haystack's bleachy brow,

And wither'd leaves, made up its outward wall,

Which from the gnarl'd oak-dotterel yearly fall,

And in the old hedge bottom rot away.

Built like an oven,- through a little hole,

Scarcely admitting e'en two fingers in,

Hard to discern, the bird's snug entrance win.

'Tis lined with feathers, as warm as silken stole,

Softer than seats of down for painless ease,

And full of eggs, scarce bigger than peas!

Here's one most delicate, with spots as small

As dust and of a faint and pinky red.

Stop! here's the bird. That woodman at the gap

Frighten'd him from the hedge; 'tis olive green

Well! I declare,it is the petty-chap!

No bigger than the wren, and seldom seen.

I have often found her nest in chance's way,

When I, in pathless woods did idly roam;

But, never did I dream until to-day,

A spot like this would be her chosen home"

{John Clare} Explanatory note-- the name Pettychap was once commonly applied to the Chiffchaff.

And finally the Wood warblers nest

" So warm, so beautiful, withal,

In perfect fitness, for its aim:

That to the kind by special grace,

Their instinct surely came.

And when for their abodes they seek,

An opportune recess,

The hermit has no finer eye

For shadowy quietness.

Oft in sequester'd lanes they build,

Where,till the bird's return,

Her eggs within the nest repose,

Like relics in an urn"

{ William Wordsworth}

Wood warbler

Meyer { 1842 1850}
Meyer { 1842 1850}


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    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello,Deb - I am happy to have shared them with you. The plates are well worth reviving for any one who loves birds as you do. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Beautiful poetry and plates that needed to be shared and brought back to life. The dusty books spring forth life, once again...

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Devika, Thank you so much for your usual kind comments and for the vote and share. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Ode{s} to the British birds -three beautifully presented hub a useful, interesting and informative indeed. Voted up and Facebook sahred

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 4 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello Jamie, nice to meet you. Thank you so much for your encouraging words they are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 4 years ago from Reno NV

      Awesome hub with great photographs and a collection of some great poems. Jamie