Chough Country

WHERE not a sound is heard
But the white waves, O bird,
And slippery rocks fling back the vanquish’d sea,
Thou soarest in thy pride,
Not heeding storm or tide;
In Freedom’s temple nothing is more free.

‘Tis pleasant by this stone,
Sea-wash’d and weed-o’ergrown,
With Solitude and Silence at my side,
To list the solemn roar
Of ocean on the shore,
And up the beetling cliff to see thee glide.

Though harsh thy earnest cry.
On crag, or shooting high
Above the tumult of this dusty sphere,
Thou tellest of the steep
Where Peace and Quiet sleep,
And noisy man but rarely visits here.

For this I love thee, bird.
And feel my pulses stirr’d
To see thee grandly on the high air ride,
Or float along the land,
Or drop upon the sand,
Or perch within the gully’s frowning side.

Thou bringest the sweet thought
Of some straw-cover’d cot,
On the lone moor beside the bubbling well,
Where cluster wife and child,
And bees hum o’er the wild:
In this seclusion it were joy to dwell.

Will such a quiet bower
Be ever more my dower
In this rough region of perpetual strife?
I like a bird from home
Forward and backward roam;
But there is rest beneath the Tree of Life.

In this dark world of din,
Of selfishness and sin,
Help me, dear Saviour, on Thy love to rest;
That, having cross’d life’s sea,
My shatter’d bark may be
Moor’d safely in the haven of the blest.

The Muse at this sweet hour
Hies with me to my bower
Among the heather of my native hill;
The rude rock-hedges here
And mossy turf, how dear!
What gushing song! how fresh the moors and still!

No spot of earth like thee,
So full of heaven to me,
O hill of rock, piled to the passing cloud!
Good spirits in their flight
Upon thy crags alight,
And leave a glory where they brightly bow’d.

I well remember now,
In boy-days on thy brow,
When first my lyre among thy larks I found,
Stealing from mother’s side
Out on the common wide,
Strange Druid footfalls seem’d to echo round.

Dark Cornish chough, for thee
My shred of minstrelsy
I carol at this meditative hour,
Linking thee with my reed,
Grey moor and grassy mead,
Dear carn and cottage, heathy bank and bower.

I was pleased to find this poem. It was written by a Cornishman – John Harris – who was born in 1820 in Bolenowe. Perhaps he was an ancestor? His father was a miner at Dolcoath Tin Mine where young John also started at the age of 10. He began writing poetry as a child, usually in the open air where he was inspired by nature. After 20 years working in the mine, one of his poems was eventually published in a magazine. It attracted notice, and he was encouraged to produce a collection, which was published in 1853. The Cornish Chough is taken from that collection.

Above – choughs over Rossbrin Cove. The wonderful header picture was kindly given to us to use in a previous piece on the birds by our friend and neighbour Oliver Nares. Oliver and Susie are fortunate to have choughs nesting on their property and keep a good eye out for the welfare of the chough families which are raised there. We don’t have choughs nesting at Nead an Iolair (which means Nest of the Eagle) but we often see and hear them over us: they are the most acrobatic and joyful of birds.

The reason I have returned to choughs today is that they were the subject of an early post which I published on Roaringwater Journal on 6 October 2013 – exactly five years ago! Choughs – Cornwall’s emblematic birds – left that county fifty years ago but returned very recently as migrants from Ireland. We consider ourselves very privileged to be living in abundant chough country.

12 thoughts

  1. yes aren’t they wonderful. Sometimes as many as 20 or so come streaming off the castle as I walk past . The ravens of course rule the roost at the top ! coastal grazing seems to be important for choughs, I seem to recall from your previous post 5 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m new to this comment file but known to our excellent “journal-builders”.
    We used to own a small bungalow on Rossbrin, now sold & rebuilt.
    **
    One Summer, a long tine ago, we were in W Cork on hols & went to Barley Cove with the little ones.
    (We always went there with the mission to dam the river with sand – hours of fun.
    (Now my eldest son is a Chartered Civil Engineer in Water Management – who knows)
    There we saw these splendid birds on the rocks above the beach, very tame & very distinctive.
    **
    On my return to Bristol & work where I shared an office with an exceptionally taciturn fellow, knowing that he was
    a “birder” I attempted to get a conversation going.
    “Just seen some very rare birds”, I opened with.
    “Oh, yes”, was his reply.
    “Yes, choughs”, I proudly offered.
    “Oh, choughs, yes very rare, except where they are very common”, he grumpily added.
    They weren’t all that common 30 years ago, even at Barley Cove.
    I’m so pleased to see them building eastwards to Rossbrin.
    Who knows, one day they’ll legitimise the coat of arms of Cornwall where they still appear.
    Thanks
    Tim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, they were a Cornish fixture in legend if not in reality. But they are back now – I saw them on the coast there before I left Cornwall 6 years ago. Did you know that King Arthur now returns to Cornwall in the guise of a Chough?

      Like

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