Forget swimming with dolphins, April is the month for catching the song of the English nightingale. Somehow this feisty little bird manages to fly thousands of miles back from Africa to take up residence pretty much in the same tree of its birth. Impressive. Listening to its intricate song in the dead of night is a mysterious and moving experience. Perhaps because it has a brief period of time in which to impress a mate with its unique voice – then bed the bird before the romance pancakes! It then high tails back off to Africa in August. That’s musicians for you. However, it’s a convincing Romeo and one that has inspired many poets, including the famous poem by John Keats. I’ve written an extract of my encounter from last year. Lower down you will also see an extract from John Keats. So it’s been a regular residency the bird’s had for many centuries, though it doesn’t tour north, just southern England. I do hope you get to listen and enjoy this rare migrant’s song.
I have travelled far to smell of crushed bluebells and wood-smoke.
When the fire falls in, I go fox-walking. Treading through the crunched stubble where the stars are snared in black boughs and the breeze fingers the tops of trees.
Till throated capriccios slice the quiet, and the thousand mile passion of the nightingale is heard. Full, lush tropical fragments burst with double throated ardour.
Share this with me nightingale. Let me hear what you feel when you sing.
Love me here he says. This is my home. Come home to me.
Extract from an ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by John Keats
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,–
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.