Tuesday, November 11, 2014

White-tailed Stonechat: a rare find

In the first instance I thought I got a Common Stonechat, closer examination and it turned out to be White-tailed Stonechat (Saxicola leucurus). These are found along the marshy patches of Central and Eastern part of India till lower Assam and Manipur, though quite common is difficult to spot. Caught up with this one at the reedy marshy part of Okhla Bird sanctuary, towards the watchtower.

 A E Housman: Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun are the quietest places under the sun!! 


On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams, 
Far I hear the steady drummer 
Drumming like a noise in dreams.


 A E Housman (1859-1936) was a 19th century English poet. He worked for a while as a clerk in a patent office, pursing his classical studies in his spare time. It was on the strength of the articles that he managed to get published, he was appointed Professor at Cambridge University, where he remained until his death. His most popular collection is A Shropshire Lad. It is a cycle, or series, of 63 poems –incidentally available at gutenberg.com. The haunting but leisurely quality is what attracted me to write about him. Several publishers turned the collection down, resulting in him having to publish the poems at his own expense in 1896. It's been in print ever since. His long-awaited second volume of verse, Last Poems (also available at gutenberg.com), was published after his death. 

The immortal part 

When I meet the morning beam,
Or lay me down at night to dream,
I hear my bones within me say,
“Another night, another day."
 
 "When shall this slough of sense be cast,
 This dust of thoughts be laid at last,
 The man of flesh and soul be slain
 And the man of bone remain?"
 
 "This tongue that talks, these lungs that shout,
 These thews that hustle us about,
 This brain that fills the skull with schemes,
 And its humming hive of dreams,-"
 
 "These to-day are proud in power
 And lord it in their little hour:
 The immortal bones obey control
 Of dying flesh and dying soul."
 
 " 'Tis long till eve and morn are gone:
 Slow the endless night comes on,
 And late to fulness grows the birth
 That shall last as long as earth."
 
 "Wanderers eastward, wanderers west,
 Know you why you cannot rest?
 'Tis that every mother's son
 Travails with a skeleton."
 
 "Lie down in the bed of dust;
 Bear the fruit that bear you must;
 Bring the eternal seed to light,
 And morn is all the same as night."
 
"Rest you so from trouble sore,
Fear the heat o' the sun no more,
Nor the snowing winter wild,
Now you labour not with child."
 
"Empty vessel, garment cast,
We that wore you long shall last.
-Another night, another day."
So my bones within me say.
 
Therefore they shall do my will
To-day while I am master still,
And flesh and soul, now both are strong,
Shall hale the sullen slaves along,
 
Before this fire of sense decay,
This smoke of thought blow clean away,
And leave with ancient night alone
The steadfast and enduring bone. 
 
Many of his poems didn’t have any titles… 
 
I 
When first my way to fair I took
Few pence in purse had I,
And long I
used to stand and look
At things I could not buy.

Now times are altered:  if I care
To buy a thing, I can;
The pence are here and here's the fair,
But where's the lost young man?

-To think that two and two are four
And neither five nor three
The heart of man has long been sore
And long 'tis like to be.
II 
Into my heart an air that kills 
From yon far country blows: 
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?  

That is the land of lost content, 
I see it shining plain, 
The happy highways where I went 
And cannot come again.  

III 
Now hollow fires burn out to black,
 And lights are guttering low: 
Square your shoulders, lift your pack, 
And leave your friends and go.  

Oh never fear, man, nought's to dread, 
Look not left nor right: 
In all the endless road you tread 
There's nothing but the night.  

From my scribble pad… 


Morning of the Blue tigers
Blue tigers cross my path
Not one, but two, but three, but four
wait there’s more.
Azure sky is bright blue tiger bloom
flicking like myriad thoughts
staining the heart here and there
some flying  high, some quite low
some an afterthought, some right away.
Ahoy here we marshal into the mountains.