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Ode{s} to the British birds

Updated on September 10, 2013


This is the third in a series featuring a collection of poems about our feathered friends. Here are featured poetry from various sources by various poets, about British birds, and some of the verses are by authors unknown.

I can not claim any credit for the poetry, other than collated them, to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. {Dal}

The Blackbird

The Blackbird

" When snow-drops die-, and the green primrose leaves

Announce the coming flower, the Merle's note

Mellifluous, rich, deep- toned, fills all the vale,

And charms the ravished ear,. The hawthorn bush

New budded, is his perch; there the grey dawn

He hails; and there,with parting light, concludes

His melody. There, when the buds begin

To break, he lays the fibrous roots; and see,

His jetty breast embrowned; the rounded clay

His jetty breast has soiled; but now complete,

His partner and his helper in work,

Happy assumes possession of her home;

While he, upon a neighbouring tree, his lay,

More richly full, melodiously renews."

Explanatory note. Merle was an old name given to the blackbird, especially so in Scotland.

{ from Grahame's Birds of Scotland.}

Song Thrush

Familiar Wild Birds {1883}
Familiar Wild Birds {1883}

The song thrush

" The thrush's song

Is valued as his plumes; and has his plumes

Blend beauteous, each with each, so run his notes,

Smoothly, with many a rise and fall.

Sometimes below the never- fading leaves

Of ivy close,that, over twisting, binds

Some given rock, or nodding castle wall;

Securely there the dam sits all day long;

While from the adverse bank, on top most shoot

Of odour-breathing birch, her mates blythe chaunt,

Cheers her pent hours, and makes the wild woods ring."

{from Grahame's Birds of Scotland}

Mistle Thrush

Familiar wild birds { 1883}
Familiar wild birds { 1883}

About the Mistle thrush

" As patriots guard their country from the steps

Of some proud tyrant, and his lawless band

Who, on the broad arena of the world,

Like gladiators, fight for prize and plunder,

" And spread destruction o'er a smiling land;"

So dauntless guards the storm -cock his lov'd home,

His mate, his young, his nest, form prowling hawk"

{Explanatory notes-The mistle thrush, is often referred to as the storm cock because he tends to sing even during rain storms. he his also well known for defending its nest against hawks and other intruders with great bravery} The poet is unknown.

The European starling

Familiar Wild Birds { 1883}
Familiar Wild Birds { 1883}
Familiar Wild birds {1883}
Familiar Wild birds {1883}

The Starling

" I can't get out!; Poor bird! has man's hard heart

Not field enough to wreck its cruelty,

On fellow -man ?- but he, in wantonness

Of power, must seize on thee.-" I can't get out!"

Poor captive! No thy prison bars are hacked

With instinct { Nature's} efforts to escape;

While sweep the swallows past in airy rounds,

Brushing with sportive wing thy prison -grate;

The while thy little heart beats strong, and pants,

For Nature's, gracious boon-sweet liberty"

[ Explanatory notes--The starling is a great mimic and was once regularly kept as a cage bird}

Poet unknown.



" Now April starts, and calls around,

The sleeping fragrance from the ground:

Forgetful of their wintry trance,

The birds his presence greet.

But, chief,the Skylark warbles high

His trembling thrilling ecstasy;

And, lessening from the dazzled sight,

Melts into air and liquid light."

{By Gray}



" By winding Ayr or Lugar's stream,

Where thrush and merle the green woods throng,

Oft I have paused at day,s last beam,

To hear the Wood -lark's plaintive song;

Now swelling on the evening's breeze,

Now lost upon the list'ning ear,-

Soft mingling with the rustling trees,

Or with the streamlet murm'ring near.

It seem'd as if some dirge it sung

Of other times and happier hours;

So sad, so sweet, the cadence rung

Amid those wild and lonely bowers"

{Poet unknown}

Nightingale {Poetically known as the Philomel}

H.L.Meyer Coloured Illustrations of British birds and their eggs {1842}
H.L.Meyer Coloured Illustrations of British birds and their eggs {1842}

To the nightingale

" And shall ne're Scotia hail thee, Philomel,

Enchantress sweet! ne're hail thy vesper strain;

Or hear thy melting notes steal through her vales,

In mellow murmurs! say then, warbler, say,

Why her sequester'd glades, her flowr'y glens,

And briery breaks, for thee no charms display!

They smile as sweet as those in southern climes

Through which thy little pipe pours melody

Then, warbler come! it is a land of song,

And join thy minstrelsy, poor Scotia's sons,

Though rude their northern Harp, shall welcome thee

With strains as soft as breath of whisp'ring lute,

Or elfin magic lay on zephyr borne.

What though no myrtle loads, the air with fragrance,

The lowly violet scents the gale as sweet;

Then, Philomela, come! to Scotia come!

And, when the yellow moon beam steals along,

Pour through her woods thine own soft plaintive notes"

{Explanatory notes --This is by an unknown Scottish writer wishing the Nightingale occurred in Scotland which it does not}

The Blackcap

The Blackcap

" The gale brings music!, and, in strains of sorrow,

Stealing along the glen so sad, so sweet,

Some elfin harp is surely strung to sadness;

or ;'Tis' the requiem chaunt of holy men,

For knight or palmer-gone, or wailing dirge.

Of some brave minstrel for the brave and good,

Tho' mournful is the strain, no mourner sings,

It is the vesper hymn of some sweet bird,

Chaunting his evening lay, to yon bright star,

The while its plaintive cadence, soothes his mate"


And finally the Robin redbreast

" Some redbreasts love amid the deepest groves,

Retired to pass the summer days: Their song,

Among the birchen boughs, with sweetest fall

Is warbled,pausing-then resumed more sweet,

More sad, that, to an ear grown fanciful,

The babes, the wood, the men rise in review,

And robin still repeats the tragic line"

{Grahame's Birds of Scotland}

Meyer H.L.{!842}
Meyer H.L.{!842}


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello , nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to read and for leaving such encouraging comments. I am happy that you enjoyed the poetry and art work. Best wishes to you.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      5 years ago from Canada

      DAL, I'm excited to find this Ode to British Birds series. The artwork/poetry you've collected is much appreciated. Good work! Regards, snakeslane

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, many of these poems are in danger of becoming lost to the majority of readers so I feel I am doing my bit to give them an airing to a wide audience. Thank you for your very kind, and welcomed comments. I am hoping to do another article soon featuring more poetry about British birds. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      The poetry was exquisite, as I tend to favor the olde. The illustrations were perfect, drawing me into the quiet realm of your wonderful avian gifts...

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Eddy, I thought you would like this one, you being a fellow nature lover. Thank you so much for the vote up it is much appreciated. Best wishes to you and your little corner of Wales.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      Oh yes our beautiful British Birds and you have certainly done them justice here.

      Voted up and here's wishing you a wonderful evening my friend.



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