The Poet and the Nest

In Clare's 'Biographys of Birds', one of my favourite book titles and his 'Bird List' which he made for the tantalising 'Natural History of Helpstone', birds' nests stretch out like an ornithological city. The Large Wood Owle, by which Clare possibly means the tawny owl, 'attacks boys in a bold manner', the Raven builds where it is difficult to climb, the jackdaw in uninhabited houses, and as to magpies which sway about in nests filled with teaspoons, well they are apt to keep their loot. It horrifies him to see the overseers of Helpston rewarding boys who kill sparrows and he would give:

To tyrant boys a fee
To buy the captive sparrows liberty

As he wrote in his poem 'The Fate of Genius'. The fate of genius in the villages of his day could be quite terrifying. So hide away, hide away. Take Cover. Find cover on 'our plain':

Boys thread the woods
To their remotest shades
But in these marshy flats, these stagnant floods,
Security pervades.

From year to year
Places untrodden lie
Where man nor boy nor stock ventured near
-Naught gazed on but the sky

And fowl that dread
The very breath of man
Hiding in spots that never knew his tread
A wild and timid clan

In these thy haunts
I've gleaned habitual love
From the vague world where pride and folly taunts
I muse and look above

Thy solitudes
The unbounded heaven esteems
And here my heart warms into higher moods
And dignifying dreams

Excerpt from 'A Writer's Day-Book', by Ronald Blythe
Trent Editions, 2006.

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