Blackbird Evensong

On Friday the blackbirds opened their concert season. Here’s what I wrote about them four years ago.


Oh, still my heart — I just heard the year’s first blackbird serenade! I opened the kitchen window a crack and listened to it while having my evening sandwich and cup of rooibos. I love the blackbird. It sings at the most unsettling time of the year.

These spring and early summer evenings, when the light never really fades and the blackbird sings its heart out… They fill me with a nameless urgency, a desperate itch for something I can’t put words to. Watching myself dispassionately from outside, I can see that it’s just the spring rut. But from the inside of my little mammal brain, oh man, it feels like I’ll have to walk to Kamchatka to ever find peace again.

Turdus merula, “solitary thrush”. In Swedish it’s koltrast, “coal thrush”. I hope to hear it on my deathbed one day.

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Comments

  1. #1 Nick Williams
    March 28, 2010

    Martin, it seems that you and a musty, dead poet have an eye for the same kind of detail. These similarities are a bit freaky!“It sings at the most unsettling time of year”

    Thomas Hardy The Darkling Thrush

    I leant upon a coppice gate
    When frost was spectre-gray,
    And winter’s dregs made desolate
    The weakening eye of day.
    The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
    Like strings of broken lyres,
    And all mankind that haunted nigh
    Had sought their household fires.

    The land’s sharp features seemed to be
    The Century’s corpse outleant,
    His crypt the cloudy canopy,
    The wind his death-lament.
    The ancient pulse of germ and birth
    Was shrunken hard and dry,
    And every spirit upon earth
    Seemed fervourless as I.

    At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
    In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited ;
    An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

    So little cause for carolings
    Of such ecstatic sound
    Was written on terrestrial things
    Afar or nigh around,
    That I could think there trembled through
    His happy good-night air
    Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
    And I was unaware.

  2. #2 Martin R
    March 28, 2010

    I’ve never read Hardy, but thank you for the favourable comparison. Perhaps I’ve picked up other writers’ allusions to Hardy and kept them in the back of my mind.

  3. #3 Dennis
    April 5, 2010

    Oh how I agree! As a Danish/Scandinavian expat, this is one of the things I miss the very most of all! The long, light evenings; sitting outside, eating & drinking with friends, while the blackbird sits in the very highest tree around – and, yes, sings it heart out. H.C. Andersen can take his nightingale and stuff it…! Oh, and by the way, it’s called a “solsort” in Danish (literally ‘sunblack’, but I am not sure if that word has morphed from something else…).