Saturday, 15 August 2015

King Harry Redcap

'King Harry Redcap' is a traditional name for the goldfinch - a most beautiful little bird. It also has a non-stop attractive song which made it popular as a cage bird in times which I trust are now past. King Harry is, of course, Henry VIII. Like some other smaller birds, for instance the wren, the goldfinch can sing very loudly, indeed it can keep going for minutes at a time without apparently exhausting itself. I have listened in astonishment on many occasions.


     With crimson face
     And golden wings
The goldfinch prinked on groundsel sings;      
     Its ruff of lace,
     Its toffee breast,
Ripple in the wind’s sun-hot zest.

     King Henry’s stuffs,
     Bejewelled and stiff,
Encased his pomping strut as if
     Grace were white cuffs
     And canting grin
And not this finch ablaze in whin.

     Yet once this bird
     Was caged for song
That prisoned it might thrill its tongue,     
     Make beauty heard
     Though wax unwell,       
A dismal, shabby Philomel.

     As sprinkling dew
     Its droplet call
Scatters on the wind’s busy maul;
     With a king’s hue
     And lively breath
Its freshets rinse the thistled heath.

© August 2013


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