Poem: Nightingale – Lockdown Poems 23

I wonder if this poem is more of an unLockdown Poem, written as it was after a short trip out to a small scrap of heath between wood and river so close to our house. I had been feeling too tired to walk for a few days, and this was the first short outing.  I am very glad I went.  Since I have understood and learned to hear the nightingales, I am aware that there are many near where we live – they appeared in the last poem, Night Music, and will again.

I have no photos of my own of nightingales, such illusive birds, who like to hide away, but here are a few things from the internet.  Perhaps, if you don’t already recognise the song, you’ll find you do hear them after listening.  If you haven’t had a chance to catch up with The Verb, from Radio 3, the episode on Birdsong begins with singing with nightingales, before my poem, The Blackbird. The tradition of poetry about nightingales is also touched on, and people’s responses to the sound over thousands of years.  It’s beautiful.


Photo from free sounds library


My local wood.



Nightingale  Lockdown Poems 23

It’s the quality of sound,
rather than any melody –
loud,  round embodied timbre,
rills and repeats
and variations, strange,
almost more than mechanical,
more than the ghost
in the machine,
the spirit and the flesh,

Stunning the air to silence.

There, in the thicket, in the
low grown oak,
overlooking the creek.
I stop, and let my heart
steady, and listen.

I have never been certain
of it before,
the nightingale’s song –
and I was expecting
more song,
more melody,
less strangeness,
less command of the evening
held by such a soft
brown and
hidden bird


Stunning me to silence.

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