The Death of the Bird

For every bird there is this last migration;
Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
With a warm passage to the summer station
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

Year after year a speck on the map divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home;

And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest;
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scraps of stone.

And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger,
The delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.

A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
Single and frail, uncertain of her place.
Alone in the bright host of her companions,
Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space.

She feels it close now, the appointed season:
The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

Try as she will the trackless world delivers
No way, the wilderness of light no sign,
The immense and complex map of hills and rivers
Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.

And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
And the great earth, with neither grief not malice,
Receives the tiny burden of her death.

– A. D. Hope

Submitted by:

Tia, who says “We came across this poem at one of my poetry classes, as we were exploring the theme of life, and death, and a calling. What is brilliant about this poem is the underlying pull and calling towards death that possibly every living creature on this earth feels, once they know it is time. It elaborates on the ‘that something’ that is so deep, so primal and so basic, the connection between us and the earth. There may be thousands of us fying towards our deaths, but death must be faced by each of us alone, one our own, cold and lonely.”


I will freely admit to finding rigid rhyme and metre stifling unless done very well, and while I don’t unreservedly love this poem, I love some lines and some images.
“Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession/ And exiled love mourning within the breast.” This reminded me of the annual migration that expats make, and made the poem so more poignant when viewed in that light, though it’s moving in and of itself.
You can read about Alec Derwent Hope here.
Some of my favorite poems by Hope are his response to Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress, and Crossing The Frontier. We’ve also run The Invaders here on this site.

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