‘Day’s most sacred hour’ unfurls.
Earth awakes to a new day with spring birdsong – voices of hope for our beautiful, yet so fragile planet.
The Song of the Earth
‘A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,From ‘The Eolian Harp’ by S.T.Coleridge
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.’
The air is still, the sky cloudless as light appears in the east. Earth has been ‘slumbering on her instrument’, but now it’s waking with the music of birdsong. It’s a delicious moment of stillness and quietness, with the noisy human world hushed. With the cool freshness of the morning, an unspoiled day lies ahead full of a new music, of life and possibilities. I’m an audience of one, waiting for the ‘orchestra’ to start tuning up.
As the sky lightens, the ‘concert’ begins pianissimo like a Mahler symphony in the first movement. Then a medley of growing elation of song, full of excitement, possibilities and promise fills the air. Sunlight is being distilled into music. The emotions expressed in this beautiful symphony are nature’s morning homage to the sun and, ultimately, a hymn of praise to the Creator. I feel unworthy to be here, an intruder in this, the birds’ special moment. Life is starting with their song. But I’m glad to have made the effort to be here. How can I remain untouched and unmoved by the joie de vivre of it all? In a moment like this it feels good to be alive on this beautiful planet.
‘What is all this juice and all this joy?From ‘Spring’ by G.M.Hopkins
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.‘
The song continues throughout the morning with the welcome return of missing friends – voices back with us after absence. The migrant Willow Warbler, the Song Thrush with his ‘first fine careless rapture‘, the chirp of a Sparrow and the unmistakable song of a Chaffinch.
Regular familiar songbirds are here too including the powerful trills of the diminutive Wren, the ever-present Robin and the melodious Blackbird. Then the music begins to fade – it’s time for breakfast for both birds and birdwatcher!
But there’s surprise also. A recent report on the Sussex bird watching site of a Hoopoe the other side of our village (photo below) raises the question, have I missed something I wonder?
Nature has its surprises, like that Hoopoe. It also has a sense of humour. We watch Greenfinches and Goldfinches at the feeder stuffing themselves with sunflower seeds, while dropping pieces for the eager Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons waiting below. Then an amusing Starling gives us his ‘rap’ on the neighbour’s rooftop:
..’And if you sampled sneaker-squeaksFrom ‘Starling Song’ in ‘Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane.
and car alarms and phone ringtones
you’d still come nowhere near the
Rooftop riprap street-smart
hip-hop of starling song.‘
This year’s International Dawn Chorus Day is on Sunday May 3rd. The BBC radio programme ‘Dawn Chorus’ with Brett Westwood in 2017 is worth hearing again. It follows the Dawn Chorus as it moves around the globe, beginning in the forests of India.
But the 50th anniversary of Earth Day last week reminds us there is a sad note to all the joy. There’s a hint of Mahler’s wistful ‘Das Leid von der Erde’ – ‘The Song of the Earth‘ here. Earth bears man’s smear, smudge and heavy footprint and we owe her an apology. But God has not finished with this world. His Spirit broods over the earth full of promise. As the new day starts with song it brings us voices of hope. The dawn may fade into an ordinary day, but God’s eternal sunrise brings healing in its wings forever. Something to sing about indeed.
Wishing you good listening and Spring joy, despite these troubled times.