18 August 2009

Song of the Thrush in the North Woods - Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student

By Sandy Griswold.
Just this side of Silentland, the highway leading down
Rounds a bend beside a brook and winds through Dreamland town.
A place of mist and memories - where bare and there we see
Quaint, half-forgotten little scenes from days that used to be
Sweet pictures from long vanished dreams that swiftly fade away,
Dissolving in the misty sheets like stars at dawn of day.
If we try to catch and hold them, we may stretch a wistful hand,
But never stop along the road that leads to Silentland.

With sucre sentiment possessing me on this gentle late May morning there is a sound, a bit of a wild song, that comes with almost the same refreshing sweetness with which it filled my hearing, one glorious June sunset on the shores of a dimpled lake, way up in the north woods, "in one of those days that used to be."

Have You Ever Heard It?

Wonder if you ever have listened to the good night chanson of a vesper thrush on a heavenly May of June evening in the music halls of that favored state to the north of us - Minnesota? If you have been so fortunate than you have heard the goodnight arietta of the most gifted avian songster of this section of the world - an exquisite ecstasy as the twilight falls.

And if you have heard this touching little ditty, then so have you thrilled, by the pastoral passion of his rare lyrical achievement in the moonlight, or lain awake in tent or cottage, as I have, many's the time, on my summer fishing trips and enjoyed his are melodies that he is so fond of offering beneath the stars.

Often, too, I have heard the romance of those favored nooks, while skulking amidst their greeneries after the illusive black bass, made vocal with his sweet tunefulness, often no more than the whiff of a subtle fragrance in the nostrils, and which, with the Father's sanction, I hope to hear ere again the last of the present glorious month.

None Can Praise Too Highly.

I cannot be too lavish with my praise of this bird and his operatic power. All that love can hope and dare and dream of is melted into a harmony that but seldom greets the ear, and neither am I forgetful of our own sweet robin, our bluebird, brown thrasher ad our dazzling oriole, for the tenderest of all combined, is embodied, particularly in the vesper's evening spiritual carillon. In that low, sweet score echoes and re-echoes through the fading daylight over the quiet land of locust, crabapple, grape and dogwood, the rarest and clearest melody of all bird song; a silvery chime inimitable.

While the most of the bird lover's are familiar with the song of our commonest birds, there are comparatively few of them who get to hear, or recognize when they do hear it, the songs of the rarer ones, and in explaining the extraordinary character of the vesper thrush's song, I will say in the confusion of its range is the lonely, faraway call of the bluebird, the cooing of the turtle dove, and then, again outrivaling the most ecstatic flights of the grosbeak, catbird, oriole, meadow lark, redwing, chewink and robin, mingled with a delightful myriad of notes distinctly its own and which, in my humble esteem, has made it the leading musician of the American woods.

The True Woodland Minstrel.

The vesper thrush, I add, is the one true woodland minstrel in the opinion of many of the best know authorities and as anomalous as it might seem, has both the wildness and the sociability of the rarest of our birds.

It is called by many the hermit thrush, which is probably the preferable name, but I like that of vesper best, as on his lute he often warbles in arpeggios, or it might be said in different keys. As to voice, however, unless one would consider the certain tones of a high pitched silver bell, it is absolutely musically perfect, notwithstanding the claim of learned professors that there is no music in any bird song, which you will agree with me is highly absurd.

Neither the brown thrasher nor the white-throated sparrow, two of the most gifted troubadours of all our woodlands, sing in arpeggios, nor in different keys, yet the notes of both are wondrously sweet, and in the thrasher, but not in the white throat, the quality varies and is often guilty of some really harsh sounds. All of the ways of this lovely bird are gentle, graceful and tender, suggesting the ethereal sweetness of his song, almost an embodiment, may I say it, of visible melody.

Heard in No Other Voice.

There is an indescribable wild woodsy quality, particularly, in his evening hymn, heard in the notes of no other avian chorister, and heard as I heard it will rambling amidst the devious wilds of the north woods, there is really something that reaches the heart in the flutings of this matchless songster - a lyric overflowing with the rhythm of a prayer of ecstasy.

When the eggs are laid, he establishes his concert hall very near his setting mare, and keeps increasing watch over her, and the song he sings to her seems to express the spirit of heavenly peace, with which it is truly imbued. When the little ones come his whole menage revolves about the nursery; he never goes beyond the reach of the call of the little mother.

In closing, I will say, the inspiration of poets and the despair of musicians have in vain tried to write the elusive and mystic melody of this birds' song into technical score and failed, as they have invariably with commoner and easier subjects, but yet, I repeat, in my regard, this little chestnut-colored sprite is the peer of any in the whole realm of bird repertoire.

June 3, 1928. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 63(36): 5-B. Leaves from the Notebook of an Old Nature Student.

No comments:

Post a Comment