Nightingale Remembered


“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.

Leave a comment


  1. “Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
    Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?”

    • Thanks, Mira. My heart aches – and, for that matter, I seem to have this drowsy numbness, doctor.

      Thanks again. I suppose the answer is “both”.

      • “MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
        My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
        Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
        One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk”
        thanks for sprinkling Keat’s flavor over my night…

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