The song outside the window is familiar. There is only one tiny bird that can sustain such a long and complex song– after all it is the most complicated song performed by any bird. The females of the species must be complimented on their exceptionally high musical standard and the near impossibly perfect singing ability they seek for in their future mates.
The song of the winter wren brings back memories of another wren and a poet who once wondered, "is my... verse alive." Her poems not only breathe but are daring, original and melodic just like the song of the wren.
We have had a new visitor to our garden; the few pots on our second floor apartment for us are our ‘for the time being’ garden. Blue tits and great tits visit our bird feeder daily. And the chaffinches too come by to meditate upon life, universe and everything. While the blackbirds have occasionally felt compelled to put in a show. But this new visitor, diminutive with its tail cocked upwards, has recently started stopping by once every few days to skip up and down our Fuchsia ‘Mrs. Popple’. And without disturbing a twig leaves as it came - very quietly. For a bird that’s supposed to have an ‘astonishing loud song’ for its size this one for the time being seems, regretfully, to have nothing to sing about.
But I write about our honoured guest because it always symbolized for me someone who famously described herself as "I am small, like the wren, and my hair is bold, like the chestnut bur, and my eyes like the sherry in the glass that the guest leaves." Scholars have debated these few words ad nauseam. What did Emily mean by ‘like the wren’? Theories have filled many books lining the libraries of many colleges. Probably many scholarly careers have been celebrated and ruined just by ascribing some appropriate or erroneous characteristic to the bird of choice - the wren.
So, here I sit on an exceptionally cold December morning watching our little wren move from twig to twig and I too recall some more of Emily Dickinson’s words:
Shall I take thee, the Poet said
To the propounded word?
Be stationed with the Candidates
Till I have finer tried –
The Poet searched Philology
And then about to ring
For the suspended Candidate
There came unsummoned in –
That portion of the Vision
The Word applied to fill
Not unto nomination
The Cherubim reveal -
The Winter Wren's inimitable musical repertoire can be sampled here. It is magical!
First posted as The Wren, Mrs Popple and Emily Dickinson.