Crow and dove

In ash trees whipped by fierce, unspringlike weathers
A crow alights, hat-black and hungry-eyed.
Untroubled by the gale that frays his feathers,
Imperious and bold, no need to hide:
The buzzards do not come here, as he knows
Full well; the sparrowhawk inspires no dread
In one his size. Cocksure, his disdain shows
In every jaunty tilt of his sleek head.
And then, from nowhere, comes a flash of grey –
A collared dove, in fast and fearless flight
To drive the hated nest-robber away:
The great peace emblem spoiling for a fight.
When my dark terrors gather to attack
I’ll rouse my mild soul – and strike them back.

 

From our kitchen window, we watched this little commonplace drama being played out in our garden this morning. I found the idea of a big, wind-raggedy crow being angrily shooed out of the garden by the universal symbol of peace and reconciliation rather appealing – and felt there was a lesson there, too.

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11 thoughts on “Crow and dove

  1. Hi Nick, this is really great 🙂 It is nice to be able to see nature from your window. I find nature often horribly cruel, and beautiful as well. Maybe a scare crow would be nice, but it would probably scare the doves too?
    x

    • That little fat dove did a great job of scaring the crow away from her nest – maybe farmers have been getting it wrong all these years and just need to put fake doves in their fields instead of sticks dressed up in old clothes and hats! Although we live in town, we get plenty of birds in our (very small) garden, thanks to the row of ash trees on the other side of the back fence: as well as the aforementioned crows and doves, we get everything from magpies to goldcrests, and even the odd sparrowhawk. And you’re right, it’s a great treat to see nature from one’s own window; I love the fact that birds and animals generally make no concessions to the fact that they’re in a garden or street, but carry on fighting over food, territory and mates just as they would in the wild. N.xx

  2. This is a great, great sonnet, Nick. A lot of my sonnets tell little stories, exploring the nun’s convent room described by Wordsworth. Mostly I find stories told by poems the way of the poet that I am. You have a particular gift at that too.
    The metaphors in the poem are standard: Dove and crow and garden. Robert Graves always thought that poetry gains its strength from drawing from the old Celtic religion of the white goddess in order to make hair stand on the back of reader’s necks, but I suspect he was only half right. It is referring back to our collective memories from the past all humanity shared that creates poetry’s power. This poem certainly meets the latter requirement, though it comes pretty close to meeting Graves’ requirement too.
    What makes the poem so immediate, though, is not the symbols that contain the poem’s meanings, but the description of the encounter:
    A crow alights, hat-black and hungry-eyed.
    Untroubled by the gale that frays his feathers,
    Imperious and bold, no need to hide:

    Cocksure, his disdain shows
    In every jaunty tilt of his sleek head.

    But then, out of nowhere,
    comes a flash of grey –
    A collared dove, in fast and fearless flight
    To drive the hated nest-robber away:

    And then the magnificent line: “The great peace emblem spoiling for a fight.”
    relating back to humans who need to remember that in nature even the peaceful, cooing dove protects family and territory.
    And the language of this: “hat-black and hungry-eyed.” Ahh, what a sonnet! Tom

    This is just too great. Such creative ideas and language. Love Ethel

    • Thank you both, my dear friends. I was worried that the metaphors and images were in danger of straying beyond ‘standard’ into ‘hackneyed’, so I’m glad you saw something in them. It was the encounter itself that first drew me in; it was only afterwards that the notion of the dove, as the universal symbol of peace, fighting fiercely to protect its nest suddenly grabbed me and sent me scrabbling for pen and paper. We’ve been at war with town, district and council authorities on various fronts lately, as I’ve said elsewhere: orders forcing us to keep dogs on leads; 1,000 new houses on the fields around our woods; outlandish traffic management schemes for thr town – we seem to be embattled on every side. So I was inspired by the sight of the mild, peaceable dove suddenly rising up to fight off the arrogant crow, sitting there so confident in his own size, strength and power: something all our ‘leaders’ could learn from there, I think! N.

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