Tuesday, September 02, 2008
What a Hoot
Beckett Fact no. 92.
Ten Birds in Beckett.
1) The corncrake, as exulted in by Belacqua in ‘Walking Out’ (try finding a corncrake on the Irish east coast now): ‘It was at this moment that he heard with a pang, rattling away in the distance, crex-crex, crex-crex, crex-crex, the first corncrake of the season.’
2) ‘That fabulous bird, the mesozoic bird, addicted, though childless, to self-eviscerations’ (‘Recent Irish Poetry’). Cf. Lucien’s ‘poem’ ‘C’n’est au pélican’ in Dream.
3) Take your pick from the aviary on show in ‘Serena I’: ‘a weaver-bird is tangerine the harpy is past caring /the condor likewise in his mangy boa’.
4) ‘Birds of every kind abounded’ in the rest home for the bewildered which Sam finds himself sharing with Watt. ‘Robins in particular, thanks to their confidingness, we destroyed in great numbers. And larks’ nests, laden with eggs still warm from their mother’s breast, we ground into fragments, under our feet, with peculiar satisfaction, at the appropriate season of the year.’
5) ‘I hear the eagle-owl’, announces Moran at the start of his narration, ‘What a terrible battle-cry!’
6) A corvid pun and a carrion bird in Text 1: ‘Eye ravening in the haggard vulture face’, not to mention the poem on that same carrion bird, ‘The Vulture’, written ‘not without reference to Goethe’s Dem Geier gleich’.
7) Sapo in Malone Dies follows the flight of a hawk with rapt (if not raptor) ‘gull’s eyes’, ‘fascinated by such extremes of need, of pride, of patience, and solitude.’
8) An exotic bird of passage in How It Is: ‘the vast past near and far the old today of the extreme old even the humming-bird known as the passing moment all that’.
9) ‘April morning... face in the grass... nothing but the larks...’ (Not I).
10) Finches in Rough for Theatre II: ‘Look at that lovely little green rump! And the blue cap! And the white bars! And the gold breast! [Didactic.] Note moreover the characteristic warble, there can be no mistaking it. [Pause.] Oh you pretty little pet, oh you bonny wee birdie! [Pause. Glum.] And to think all that is organic waste! All that splendour!’
The vidua bird in Krapp’s Last Tape you will already know. The parrots I leave for another occasion.