Thursday, February 26, 2009
Son of a Gun
As I continue to stalk the Far Ings bittern, just across the river from here, I am fascinated to learn from the RSPB site that the UK bittern population is estimated at just 75 nesting pairs. I tramp around the estuary suspecting the bittern is there, and perhaps it is, never showing itself, and think of Schrödinger’s cat in the box, both there and not there, alive and dead at the same time. I think of the Monty Python sketch on the importance of not being seen (no random explosions in Far Ings yet, though I look forward to hearing some booming). I think of ‘An Bonnán Buí’ by that son of a gun Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (best. poet’s. name. ever.):
A bhonnán bhuí, is é mo léan do luí,
Is do chnámha sínte tar éis do ghrinn,
Is chan easba bidh ach díobháil dí
a d'fhág i do luí thú ar chúl do chinn.
Is measa liom féin ná scrios na Traoi
Tú bheith i do luí ar leaca lom',
Is nach ndearna tú díth ná dolaidh sa tír,
Is nárbh fhearra leat fíon ná uisce poll...
Or in the English of that man who ‘shall not hear the bittern cry’ (after 1916), Thomas MacDonagh:
The yellow bittern that never broke out
In a drinking bout, might as well have drunk;
His bones are thrown on a naked stone
Where he lived alone like a hermit monk.
O yellow bittern! I pity your lot,
Though they say that a sot like myself is curst -
I was sober a while, but I'll drink and be wise
For I fear I should die in the end of thirst.
Far Ings bittern, show yourself.
Or maybe not.