Skylarking about

24 04 2022

You cannot easily photograph skylarks. Magicians of the air, they fly too fast and too high for my fumbling human fingers to capture. Not much to look at with their curious flat bodies when spread on the ground, Skylarks are birds of the ear. They visit the horses’ meadow every spring and this year I am noticing them more. Or maybe there are more of them because the meadow is so full of song.

The birds have always proved difficult to pin down. Wordsworth devoted two poems to the skylark and like many who wanted to understand the lark’s secrets, addresses the bird itself.

“Ethereal minstrel! Pilgrim of the sky!”

There is a hint of envy in Wordsworth’s delicate portrait of the bird who gives him the run around by being simultaneously out all the time, partying in the wild air, and snuggled close in his comfy ground nest. Only poets believe nests which are mere hollows of clay earth are enviable, but I sense a joyousness in skylarks and even a kind of mischief.

I was using less poetic language as I dived about with my camera trying to find a way to creatively frame a bird who is essentially invisible. As I was thinking of various compositions, a few paces ahead a skylark felt my approach and flew up from under me, whistling into the sky. I watched ‘him’ (always him in 18th century poetry) go. Here he is a perfect metaphor for my life. While I am planning what to do when I find him, he is already waiting. He is way ahead.

Tennyson sums it up with these sublime lines. “How far he seems, how far with the light upon his wings. Is it a bird, or star that shines and sings?

A star of the sky that sings his little heart out. He won’t let me photograph him, but he will let me into his world of exquisite sound if I can be bothered to listen. He sings as he climbs, his notes like ascending scales. His song doesn’t need to be this glorious, and yet, impossibly, and unmistakably it is.

Described by the poet James Hogg as an “emblem of happiness,” the skylark has taught me something. Hold nothing back. Sing with all your heart. Follow him and pour your heart into unpremeditated art. Shelley has the last word.


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One response

25 04 2022
Ann davey

Never consciously seen a skylark strangely someone else talked to me about skylarks yesterday.

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