On This Best of Fridays

April 11, 2009

My childhood was literate but not ‘lettered.’ I had no Book.

Which is to say, no text: I was fourteen before a piece of ‘literature’ registered. But I did read ornithological field guides. I wonder how many mornings I woke early to stare at the Exemplars of their Species, taking in names and field marks.

Adults approve of birding. They find it a charming occupation for a boy: innocuous, a bit of a relief.

If they knew what a birder is searching for!

I had a teacher who knew, who gave me these words to tell me so:

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, 5
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.


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