Parliament of owls

Now as the new moon rises, they convene
Deep in the wood. Dark shapes in noiseless flight
Alight to watch and wait. Others, unseen,
Announce their presence with their haunting calls.
And now the beech-branch-vaulted meeting halls
Stand ready for the business of the night.

For motions of great moment fill the hours
When day is done, away from watching eyes.
The statutes of these stern nocturnal powers
Are handed down to every mouse and vole
That shivers in its nest and hidden hole.
No clemency, appeal or compromise.

This legislature, old as life and time,
Serves its own interests, not some common good.
And at the distant church-clock’s plangent chime
They will divide and pass their savage law,
To be enforced by talon, beak and claw –
Just as their hapless subjects knew they would.

 

When the language hands you a collective noun like ‘a parliament of owls’ it seems a shame not to use it. I often hear the twany owls’ debates down in the woods when I’m walking the whippet at night; as a child, I was terrified by their hooting in the trees behind our house, but now it gives me a real thrill.