About the Sonnet to the Nightingale

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THAT SONNET TO THE NIGHTINGALE which I wrote yesterday is the first time I’ve put pen to paper about him. Yet, I’ve always had a special affinity to this enchanting little bird. I never before felt worthy enough to put myself among those across the centuries who have composed an ode to the Nightingale. But last night I understood why he should so take my heart. First, he flies across the Sahara every April. Then, immediately after choosing a place to be in Europe, he sings out his soul in a tree while a succession of females comes nearby and tunes in to sample his song. After trying out the dulcet tones of several males, she makes her choice. In other words, she chooses the father of her children based on the quality of his song. Oh blessed tears! That is just so beautiful. But then my mind got working. What if there is one guy who doesn’t pass the audition. What happens to him? The average life-span of the songsmithing Nightingale is just two years; so half his life is wasted if he doesn’t get the girl one year. That is quite shocking when you think that scavenging baby-killers such as the Magpie can live up to thirty years! I can identify so well with the Nightingale. You sing from your soul in the hope some smart and gorgeous chick will hear who you are to such an extent that she will give her heart to you. But it’s a bit of a lottery. Not only may they all ignore you (yep, know that feeling too) but there simply may be no others of your species in the neighbourhood (yep, know *that* feeling too). Some years ago around midnight, I was walking down a lonely country lane at the foot of Mont Ventoux, near Orange in France, when I came upon an olive tree wherein a Nightingale was singing his seductive song. I hunkered down into the base of the tree and listened to him warble for the next hour or so. I must have been less than two metres from his beak. Yet, rather than be spooked by me, it was as if he sensed that I was paying him attention. His flourishes became increasingly intricate and so complex that I found myself cheering with delight. He didn’t flinch one bit, even though I was clapping and whooping and weeping and wowing – and his trills became more daring than ever. I swear he thought I was a female birdie and he was showing off. Under a bright, late April moon, it was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I remember it as if it was yesterday. For this reason, I always long for April…

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