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 heardIn ancient days by emperor and clown:Perhaps the self-same song that found a pathThrough the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,She stood in tears amid the alien corn;The same that oft-times hathCharm’d magic casements, opening on the foamOf perilous seas…
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fadesPast the near meadows, over the still stream,Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deepIn the next valley-glades:Was it a vision, or a waking dream?Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
Let the rest of us just listen, in a twilight coppice, to that magical sound that inspired the likes of John Keats.