Listen

Listening (A2 charcoal 2017)

It’s nightingale time in Eastern England.

These shy creatures with their beautiful music are heard throughout the month of May, filling the evening woodlands with their magical song. I’ll never forget one springtime when my former partner and I took my daughter out into the woods of Snape Warren as the light began to fade. We wandered quietly through the trees for some time. Just when we thought there was nothing to hear, there was that unique music floating around us in the growing darkness.

Now there is a fashion for accompanying the nightingale. Suddenly, this lovely sound which has charmed poets and composers for centuries is no longer complete unless it can be used as a background for someone mooing along with a folk song or playing the flute or plucking a guitar. If there’s a better definition of gilding the lily, I can’t think of it at the moment.

The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                        The same that oft-times hath
         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
                Of perilous seas…
Dear old Keats was happy just to listen and, of course, contemplate Death. He found beauty and inspiration in its song and in the fleeting nature of its presence:
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
         Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
                        In the next valley-glades:
         Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
May I ask that if you feel the need to sing Spencer the Rover or play your pan-pipes along with a nightingale, that you use one of the many recordings of this bird and do so in your own home?

Let the rest of us just listen, in a twilight coppice, to that magical sound that inspired the likes of John Keats.

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14 thoughts on “Listen

  1. I quite agree … I love these magical (almost) summer evenings with the pure fluting, warbling joy bursting through the trees and I would be a trifle miffed if someone was also trying to sing along with them

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your soft charcoal drawing and how it conveys that quiet sense of listening. Also love listening to the audio link you provided of the nightengale’s song. We don’t have nightengales here in California, or at least not in my backyard, so it was quite lovely to hear it.

    Like

  3. Dear Michael, this is a .lovely, lovely mail, thank you very much. I do wish I had the chance of such a magical encounter. Being a hopelessly urban person, hearing the nightingale in its natural habitat is simply out of the question. I imagine that an experience like that would make you a better human being. Fondly, Bálint

    Like

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