Thought for the Day: Wednesday, April 15
Do you know why the song thrush is the emblem of West Bromwich Albion? Apparently it is because the pub where the original team used to change back in the 19th century had a pet thrush in a cage, and long before they were called the Baggies, the team’s nickname was the Throstles, an old term for thrushes.
Tradition has it that as late as the 1930s, a caged thrush was placed on the touchline on match days and only used to sing if the Albion were winning.
Thrushes are, of course, renowned for their singing and their Latin name, philomelus, is linked to the story of a princess from Greek mythology, who was turned into a song bird. Philomelus means someone who loves to sing and thrushes certainly do – the male bird has a loud clear run of musical phrases and some individuals may have a repertoire of more than a hundred, most of which are learnt from parents and neighbouring birds.
Those who know about these things (and here’s a skill I’d love to have) say the thrush’s song sounds a bit like this: filip filip filip codidio codidio quitquiquit tittit tittit tereret tereret tereret. So now you know.
I can’t say for sure if that was the same song that I heard being sung yesterday in Pwllycrochan woods, but it was definitely a thrush singing it, because I could see him right there, not ten feet off the path, fearlessly refusing to budge as we neared and happy (in my imagination) simply to stay put and serenade us as we passed by, perhaps to lift our spirits during this period of lockdown.
Imagining what a thrush might have to tell us has a long and honourable poetic heritage. Most famously Thomas Hardy writes about a thrush that caught his attention as he walked at dusk right at the end of the year 1899.
His thrush was not a young specimen like mine nor in such good shape (blast-beruffled is such a wonderful description for anything not looking their best!). Hardy was also in a pessimistic mood as the 1900s were about to begin and the buoyant song of the bird questioned his melancholy feelings.
Was there something the bird knew about that he did not? A reason for blessed hope when all he could see around him made him want to despair?
I was reading yesterday about a registered nurse, Emily Fawcett, who had started holding “hope huddles” for workers in her hospital on the Upper East Side of New York. As you know things have been pretty bad in New York, but that doesn’t mean that every day doesn’t bring with it some small signs of hope and some reasons to be positive and that’s what these huddles are all about: a time for staff to come together and share good news stories that can keep them going when they feel like they have nothing left to give.
Her story reminds me that it’s not just about spotting hopeful signs that’s important, but sharing them with others. What things can you spot today that give us reason to be hopeful, to smile, to love life? And who will you share them with?
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.