Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of the images.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bird Language

(Little Bird by Norval Morrisseau, 1931?-2007, Canadian
Ojibwa artist)

Birds, like the rest of us, speak in different languages, with varied accents.

The first time I heard a rooster crow, it did so in German, “Kikeriki!” — pronouncing it kikəˑriˈki. Then I learned English after I moved to Canada, where the roosters translated this cry into “Cock-a doodle-do.”


Trying to understand the words
Uttered on all sides by birds,
I recognize in what I hear
Noises that betoken fear.

Though some of them, I’m certain, must
Stand for rage, bravado, lust,
All other notes that birds employ
Sound like synonyms for joy.

~ W. H. Auden (1907-1973), English-born American poet and essayist


The old gentleman... said...

Chiefly sounds of joy,
yes,in an age of anxiety,
the wee birds do employ,
and, ah, in what variety!

Barbara Sullivan Mangogna said...

Love the bird, love Auden!

GretchenJoanna said...

What a gift the birds are - thank God! Yes, the picture and the poem, both new to me, and so vibrant.