Poem for a Thursday: William Barnes

Today seemed to be unintentionally bird-themed. On my morning cycle to work I said hello to them as I went past, even singing Blackbirdsinging in the dead of night as I went. Then the morning radio program I listen to had a bird-themed feature. And then during our morning meeting I spotted Poems For Birds on the shelf, so how could I resist picking a poem from it?

William Barnes was an English Victorian poet from Dorset. As you can see, he wrote in dialect. This is challenging to read, but I love that it reflects his passion for language. The Blackbird sums up my experience of spring in England and I hope you will like it too. There’s also a Youtube recording of this poem if you’re interested in hearing the dialect. It is a very thick West Country accent, and though Dorset is further south than I am here in Gloucestershire, the accent around here is quite similar.

The Blackbird by William Barnes

O V all the birds upon the wing
Between the zunny showers o’ spring,—
Vor all the lark, a-swingèn high,
Mid zing below a cloudless sky,
An’ sparrows, clust’rèn roun’ the bough,
Mid chatter to the men at plough,—
The blackbird, whisslèn in among
The boughs, do zing the gayest zong.

Vor we do hear the blackbird zing
His sweetest ditties in the spring,
When nippèn win’s noo mwore do blow
Vrom northern skies, wi’ sleet or snow,
But dreve light doust along between
The leäne-zide hedges, thick an’ green;
An’ zoo the blackbird in among
The boughs do zing the gaÿest zong.

‘Tis blithe, wi’ newly-opened eyes,
To zee the mornèn’s ruddy skies;
Or, out a-haulèn frith or lops
Vrom new-pleshed hedge or new-velled copse,
To rest at noon in primrwose beds
Below the white-barked woak-trees’ heads;
But there’s noo time, the whole däy long,
Lik’ evenèn wi’ the blackbird’s zong.

Vor when my work is all a-done
Avore the zettèn o’ the zun,
Then blushèn Jeäne do walk along
The hedge to meet me in the drong,
An’ stay till all is dim an’ dark
Bezides the ashen tree’s white bark;
An’ all bezides the blackbird’s shrill
An’ runnèn evenèn-whissle’s still.

An’ there in bwoyhood I did rove
Wi’ pryèn eyes along the drove
To vind the nest the blackbird meäde
O’ grass-stalks in the high bough’s sheäde;
Or climb aloft, wi’ clingèn knees,
Vor crows’ aggs up in swaÿèn trees,
While frightened blackbirds down below
Did chatter o’ their little foe.
An’ zoo there’s noo pleäce lik’ the drong,
Where I do hear the blackbird’s zong.

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