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The Death Of The Bird -- A D Hope

Guest poem submitted by Vikram Doctor, who was
actually the person who first suggested the Australian theme to us:

With everyone's eyes turning to Sydney, why not do an Australian theme? I
can't think off-hand of too many Australian poems, but there are good poets
like Les Murray and Peter Porter. And there is this one, which has remained
with me ever since I first read it:
(Poem #571) The Death Of The Bird
 For every bird there is this last migration;
 Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
 With a warm passage to the summer station
 Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

 Year after year a speck on the map divided
 By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
 Season after season, sure and safely guided,
 Going away she is also coming home;

 And being home, memory becomes a passion
 With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest;
 Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart's possession
 And exiled love mourning within the breast.

 The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
 The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
 Down the long architrave of temple or palace
 Blows a cool air from moorland scraps of stone.

 And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger,
 The delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
 Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
 Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.

 A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
 Single and frail, uncertain of her place.
 Alone in the bright host of her companions,
 Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space.

 She feels it close now, the appointed season:
 The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
 Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
 The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

 Try as she will the trackless world delivers
 No way, the wilderness of light no sign,
 The immense and complex map of hills and rivers
 Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.

 And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
 And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
 And the great earth, with neither grief not malice,
 Receives the tiny burden of her death.
-- A D Hope
A simple poem, but one that has always impressed me for the quiet way it
builds up in force. Starting from the small presence of the bird getting the
migratory itch, it slowly expands to show her smallness against the
immensity of what she sets out to do.

Then suddenly, without any warning, the thread is terrifyingly cut and it is
our worst nightmare of being totally lost in a blind, indifferent world. And
the last verse is hugely impactful as the the immensity of the world rises
up to overwhelm the bird.

(There is something almost pagan about it, since this is literally as far as
you get from the Biblical "not a sparrow shall fall...").


[thomas adds]

Les Murray wrote 'An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow', a guest poem submitted by
Ron Heard (who's from Queensland, if I remember correctly): poem #387

Peter Porter has featured several times on the Minstrels (I happen to like
his work); check out
'Instant Fish', poem #64
'Japanese Jokes', poem #198
'Your Attention Please', poem #222

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