“Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird,
No hungry generations tread thee down”
But nightingales are begotten, born and die
Living a lifespan lesser than a dog.
I sing back not to the immortal song
But to the bird that might not last the summer.
Though fumbling in the enveloping folds of time
I hear what Spartans at Thermopylae
Recalled and what some thornscratched hunter heard
When humans first had wandered across sands
Into a colder, richer, trap-strewn land;
And when I smell salt water or top the ridge
Where treeless, manless, sweeps the unmarked waste
I am not the first, and clustering, unseen eyes
Share, and another mouth remembers taste
And lone and many, the nightingale’s notes rise.
The quote, of course, is John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”. I remind myself that actual nightingales are birds, beings with individualities and short lives – but join Keats in fining the nightingale’s song a link to other humans who heard it.