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3, C; Saul Collection 


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English literature 

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He clasps the crag with crooked hands. 





Of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-Law, Member of the British 
Ornithologists' Union 









London: Printed by John Bjtle, Sons and Danielsson, Ltd. 































'T'HIS book, as the title implies, is intended to 
collect and explain the many references to 
birds made in the poems of the late Poet Laureate. 
Tennyson exhibits a knowledge of birds and their 
ways which is considerably greater than that dis- 
played by the majority of British Poets, and which 
entitles him to take a place in this respect by 
the side of Chaucer, Wordsworth and Shakespeare. 

The idea of doing for Tennyson what has already 
been done for Shakespeare by Mr. Harting, was 
first suggested to me by my friend Mr. J. R. V. 
Marchant, and in the work thus undertaken I have 
for nearly three years found happy occupation during 
my leisure hours. 

My thanks are due to Messrs. Macmillan and Co. 
for kindly permitting the quotations of many passages 
from the poems of Tennyson, to my wife for her 
encouragement and assistance, to my mother for 
much advice, to my friend, Mr. Howard Saunders, for 
some most valuable notes, to Mr. G. E. Lodge for 
his skilful and spirited drawings, and lastly to my 
friend, Mr. J. R. V. Marchant, not only for suggest- 
ing the idea of the work, but for having during its 
progress, given me the constant advantage of kindly 
criticism and wise advice. 


1. "He clasps the crag with crooked hands " . . Frontispiece 

2. "The wild Hawk stood with the down on To face page 21 

his beak, 
And stared, with his foot on the prey." 

3. "In the Spring the wanton Lapwing gets ,, 39 

himself another crest." 

4. "When three gray Linnets wrangle for the ,, 75 


5. " And you my Wren with a crown of gold ,, 81 

You my Queen of the Wrens ! " 

6. "Look how they tumble the blossom, the 114 

mad little Tits ! " 

7. "Our Falcon ... ,, 139 
. . . . Lost the Hern we slipt her at, 

and went 
To all the winds." 

8. "The Sparrow spear'd by the Shrike." . . ,, 149 

9. "The Ptarmigan that whitens ere his hour ,, 153 
Woos his own end," 

Page 50, last line, for "pipit" read "tree-pipit." 


ONE of the "chief merits of Tennyson as a poet 
is his power of presenting minutely faithful 
pictures of natural objects. Being, as Mr. Warde 
Fowler calls Virgil, " the genuine poet of the 
country," he attracted the admiration of Charles 
Kingsley by his " handling of everyday sights 
and sounds of nature," of Mr. Lecky by his 
" minutely accurate observation," and of the 
late Duke of Argyll by his " imagery from 
natural things." 

The scenes which Tennyson describes are 
almost entirely drawn from English country 
life. Except his classical pieces almost all his 
poems deal with England and its scenery, and 
the political, social, scientific and religious pro- 
blems of the English people, either in his day or 


in the past. It has been pointed out that while 
his great contemporary, Robert Browning, takes 
many of the subjects of his poems from Italy 
and foreign countries, Tennyson always keeps 
near at home ; hence it is that his pictures of 
home life are vivid and accurate, his style is 
more direct and his influence among his own 
people greater than that of his obscurer rival. 
Tennyson's intimate knowledge of the facts of 
country life is shown by the many marvellous 
bits of detail which adorn his poems. It is said 
that a Lincolnshire farmer confessed that, although 
he had lived all his life in the country, he had 
never noticed what was the colour of ashbuds 
in early March till he read Tennyson's lines in 
The Gardener's Daughter : 

that hair 

More black than ashbuds in the front of March. 
A still more beautiful natural figure on the 
same subject is to be found in the lines from 
The Brook : 


her hair 

In gloss and hue the chestnut, when the shell 
Divides threefold to show the fruit within. 

The change in the colour of trees is admirably 
described in the lines from In Memoriam : 

Autumn laying here and there 
A fiery finger on the leaves. 

Other instances of minute accuracy of detail 
might be given, such as the line from The May 
Queen : 

And by the meadow-trenches blow the faint 
sweet cuckoo-flowers ; 

or the lines from The Brook : 

I make the netted sunbeams dance 
Against my sandy shallows. 

A charming description of sea -life is to be 
found in the poem on the sea-shell, which re- 
deems the dreary melodrama of Maud : 

See what a lovely shell, 
Small and pure as a pearl, 
Lying close to my foot, 
Frail, but a work divine, 


Made so fairily well 
With delicate spire and whorl, 
How exquisitely minute, 
A miracle of design ! 

Few poets have had such opportunities of 
acquiring a knowledge of nature as Tennyson, 
whose whole life was with rare intervals passed 
in the country. His early years were spent in his 
home at Somersby in a " land of quiet villages, 
large fields " and " gray hillsides on the lower 
slope of a Lincolnshire wold." The North Sea, 
" where the seamew pipes or dives," was not far 
off, and in the summer he often stayed at Mable- 
thorpe with " an immense sweep of marsh in- 
land " on the one side, and on the other " an 
immeasurable waste of sand and clay at low 
tide." The Lincolnshire scenery stamped itself 
indelibly on his imagination, and forms the back- 
ground of many of his poems ; The May Queen 
is "all Lincolnshire inland," while " Locksley 
Hall is its seaboard " (E. Fitzgerald, in " Life 


of Tennyson," I. 192). Lincolnshire pictures 
abound in Tennyson's poems ; for instance, the 
following passage from The Gardener's Daughter : 

A league of grass, wash'd by a slow broad 


That, stirr'd with languid pulses of the oar, 
Waves all its lazy lilies, and creeps on, 
Barge-laden, to three arches of a bridge 
Crown'd with the minster-towers. 

Many of the different aspects of Lincolnshire 
scenery are to be found described in the Ode to 
Memory, where reference is specifically made to 
the poet's early home, e.g. : 

The woods that belt the gray hill-side, 
The seven elms, the poplars four 
That stand beside my father's door ; 


the brook that loves 
To purl o'er matted cress and ribbed sand ; 


the livelong bleat 

Of the thick-fleeced sheep from wattled folds, 
Upon the ridged wolds ; 



The high field on the bushless Pike, 

Or even a sand-built ridge 

Of heaped hills that mound the sea ; 


a garden bower'd close 
With plaited alleys of the trailing rose, 
Long alleys falling down to twilight grots, 
Or opening upon level plots 
Of crowned lilies, standing near 
Purple-spiked lavender. 

Tennyson lived in Lincolnshire from his birth 
in 1809 till 1828, when he went up to Cambridge ; 
after leaving Cambridge in 1831 he returned Jto 
Somersby, and, except while making visits abroad 
and to various parts of England, remained there 
till 1837. From 1837 to 1840 ne li ye d at High 
Beech in Epping Forest, and from 1840 to 1851 
at Tunbridge Wells, Boxley, Eastbourne and 
Cheltenham. In 1851 he married and lived first 
at Warninglid and then at Twickenham ; in 
1853 he moved to Farringford, near Freshwater, 


" close to the ridge of a noble down." In 1867 
he acquired a second home (Aid worth) at Black- 
down, near Haselmere ; this was the house with 

the view 

Long-known and loved by me, 
Green Sussex fading into blue 
With one gray glimpse of sea. 

(To General Hamley.) 

Here the poet escaped in the summer from the 
tourists who overran his lawn at Farringford. 
London he knew well, but rarely lived in for 
long. During the whole of his life his perma- 
nent home was in the country ; he always lived 
in the presence of nature (Jowett, in "Life," II. 
134). We may apply to him the lines in which 
he himself describes the life of old Sir Thomas 
Wyatt ; he loved 

Plain life and letter' d peace, 
To read and rhyme in solitary fields, 
The lark above, the nightingale below. 
And answer them in song. 

(Queen Mary.) 


Tennyson thus had exceptional opportunities 
of observing natural objects. He also had keen 
powers of observation. Though extremely short- 
sighted he could see objects close at hand 
with great clearness ; one night he saw " the 
moonlight reflected in a nightingale's eye, as 
she was singing in the hedgerow." For distances 
beyond the range of his limited sight he used 
at Farringford a field-glass to watch "the ways 
and movements of the birds in the ilexes, cedars, 
and fir-trees." Few poets have been more in 
sympathy with and have better understood the 
life and ways of birds. From his mother he 
inherited a love for animals. He was " wise in 
winged things " and knew " the ways of nature." 
In his boyhood he used to blow 

Mimic hootings to the silent owls 
That they might answer him. 

(Wordsworth, Poems of the Imagination.) 

One night when sitting by the open window in 
his own particular attic at Somersby, he heard 


and answered the cry of a young owl, which 
thereupon came nestling up to him, fed out of 
his hand, and finally took up its abode with the 
family ("Life," I. 19). We may say of him in 
the words of Coleridge, that he 

Knew the names of birds and mocked their 

And whistled, as he were a bird himself. 

During his boyhood Tennyson would soon 
learn to notice the " peal of the hundred-throated 
nightingale," the " sightless song " of the sky- 
lark, the "flute-notes" of the blackbird, the 
" hum " of the " dropping snipe," the weird 
boom of the bittern (the " butter-bump " of the 
" Northern Farmer "), the caw of the " building 
rook," the " pipe " of the " tufted plover," the 
" human whistle " of the great plover, the " caU " 
of the curlew, the " sudden scritches of the jay," 
and " the moan of doves from immemorial elms." 
In the neighbourhood of Somersby he would 
explore the " haunts of hern and crake," whence 


came the brook which he has celebrated in song, 
and notice the 

Cries of the partridge like a rusty key 
Turned in a lock. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

Sounds such as these he would be familiar with 
before he had the power to describe them, while 
the poetic passion lay dormant 

As the music of the moon 
Sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale. 
(Aylmer's Field.) 

It was probably from Lincolnshire that the 
poet gained most of his knowledge of birds, 
although both Farringford and Aldworth afforded 
excellent opportunities for continuing his observa- 
tions. As the late Earl of Selborne said of him, 
" he never forgot the influences which surrounded 
him in childhood, and never lost the habit of 
observing and sympathising with nature which 
colours much of his poetry" ("Life," II. 458). 
Of course the Lincolnshire of Tennyson's youth, 


that is, of the first part of the nineteenth century, 
was a very different county from the Lincoln- 
shire of to-day. As Mr. J. Cordeaux writes in 
his notes on " Lincolnshire and its Birds," pub- 
lished in 1874, " No county has undergone greater 
change in less than seventy years than Lincoln- 
shire. It has been transformed from a land of 
wood, heath, mere and marsh into the most 
flourishing agricultural district in England. Its 
fens and marshes have given place to dry and 
sound pasture, its great heaths and barren wolds 
to fruitful turnips and waving corn ; the large 
woodlands, once the haunt of the kite and the 
buzzard, under the exigencies of time, have been 
greatly restricted or altogether removed. Could 
those who knew the county a century ago see 
it in its present altered state, they would cer- 
tainly fail to recognise the face of the country, 
so completely have the old natural features and 
landmarks been removed." Tennyson himself 
saw the beginning of the change, and he describes 


it in the words which he has put into the mouth 
of the dying Northern Farmer who " stubb'd 
Thurnaby waaste " : 

Dubbut loook at the waaste : theer warn't not 

feead for a cow ; 
Nowt at all but bracken an' fuzz, an 5 loook at 

it now 
Warn't worth nowt a haacre, an' now theer's 

lots o' feead, 
Fourscoor yows upon it an' some on it down 

i' seead. 

The work begun by the Northern Farmer has 
been carried on by the scientific agriculturist : 

wi' 'is kittle o' steam 

Huzzin' an' maazin' the blessed fealds wi' the 
Divil's oan team ; 

and the result is that now Lincolnshire, " except 
its lonely and unchanged sea-coast, offers scarcely 
any special attraction for resident and migratory 
birds." The kite which Tennyson mentions 
(" The stock-dove coo'd till a kite dropt down "), 
and which is now almost extinct in England, he 


may often have seen wild in Lincolnshire in his 
boyhood. Lincolnshire was a former stronghold 
of the kite (H. Saunders, " British Birds," 335), 
but the last nest known there was taken in 1870. 
Lord Lilford writing in 1875 says : " The last 
kites I saw alive and wild in England were three 
which rose together from the side of the railway 
as we passed in a train, almost two miles south 
of Lincoln, in September, 1850." Mr. Cordeaux 
saw a pair sailing over the Humber marshes in 

Signs of the influence on Tennyson of his 
country bringing-up are to be seen in his com- 
mand of dialect and his frequent use of the 
homely provincial or archaic names of English 
birds, such as the dor-hawk (nightjar), yaffingale 
(woodpecker), glimmer-gowk (owl), windhover 
(kestrel), wood-dove (stock-dove), culver (ring- 
dove), redcap (goldfinch), lintwhite (linnet), mavis 
(song-thrush), ouzel (blackbird), merle (black- 
bird), stag-turkey (turkey-cock). The knowledge 


of bird life which Tennyson unconsciously ac- 
quired during his early years was cultivated and 
developed in later life. The biography of the 
poet by his son, the present Lord Tennyson, 
shows signs of an intimate acquaintance with 
and constant affection for the " wild little poets." 
His brother speaks of "his tremendous excite- 
ment when he got hold of Bewick for the first 
time, how he paced up and down the lawn for 
hours studying him." Morris's " British Birds " 
(bought in 1867) became a great favourite with 
him. But his best teacher was Nature herself. 
We are told that he learnt from his own observa- 
tion the fact which he afterwards found recorded 
in Morris, that " starlings in June, after they 
have brought up their young ones, congregate 
in flocks in a reedy place for the sake of socia- 
bility." " However absorbed Tennyson might 
be in earnest talk, his eye and ear were always 
alive to the natural objects around him. I have 
often known him stop short in a sentence to 


listen to a blackbird's song, to watch the sun- 
light glint on a butterfly's wing, or to examine 
a field flower at his feet " (Mrs. Richard Ward 
in " Life of Tennyson," II. n). To use the 
poet's own words : 

A rustle or twitter in the wood 
Made dull his inner, keen his outer eye 
For all that walk'd or crept or perch'd or flew. 
(The Last Tournament.) 

The diaries and letters of the poet and his 
wife are full of allusions to bird-life, and contain 
references to the " snap-snap " of the wings of 
the fern owl, to the finding of a young cuckoo 
in a sparrow's nest, to " leaden-backed mews 
wailing on a cliff," to woodpeckers in the New 
Forest, kingfishers and oyster-catchers on the 
Freshwater downs, and a heron flying over the 
Solent. Close to his home at Aid worth were 
" groves of oak," while the more distant slopes 
were clothed with larch and chestnut, " haunts 
of woodpecker, jay, wood-pigeon, and turtle- 


dove," while on the summit of Blackdown the 
poet would watch " owls of all sorts, nightjars, 
sparrow-hawks, hobby-hawks, pheasants and par- 
tridges," or in the evening, " when wandering by 
the stone-diggers' cart tracks," would hear the 
" swish " of a flock of wild duck passing over- 
head, or the " wail of a plover winging its way 
to the chain of solitary pools " (" Life," II. 413). 
In the " careless-ordered garden " at Farringford 
the poet observed with pleasure the appearance 
of rarer birds such as the rough-legged buzzard 
and the crossbill, the latter of which was the 
subject of a letter to the Duke of Argyll in 1887. 
He noticed " the birds that made their home in 
the chalk-ledges ; the peregrine falcons, the ravens 
with their iron knell, the kestrels, the carrion 
crows, the different kinds of sea-bird, from the 
cormorants drying themselves on the pinnacles 
of rocks in heraldic attitudes to the sea-gull sun- 
ning himself among the tufts of samphire and 
of thrift, were ever a fresh interest " (" Life," II. 


370). He tells us how the sight of a robin watch- 
ing him while he was digging one day in his 
garden at Farringford gave birth to the lines 
twice repeated in Geraint and Enid : 

As careful robins eye the delver's toil. 

At Farringford he was fond of sitting in his 
kitchen-garden summer-house and listening to 
the turtle-doves " purring " or to the notes of 
the thrush ; there it was that in his 8oth year 
he finished his song of The Throstle, which he 
had begun in the same garden years before 
(" Life," II. 353). 

To the love of Tennyson for birds we owe 
the beautiful allusions to them of which his poems 
are full. No poet is so satisfying to the ornitho- 
logist, for no poet had a more accurate know- 
ledge of birds or had a happier power of describ- 
ing their peculiarities. Mr. Phil Robinson, while 
accusing British poets of being " inadequately 
informed as to the ordinary objects in nature," 


and " unfair towards those which they profess to 
understand," excepts Tennyson from the charge 
and admits that he is always tender and true to 

The author of an article, in the Spectator of 
August 18, 1900, on " The Ornithology of Tenny- 
son," says that " in Tennyson's ornithology no 
flaws can be detected," and he quotes a number 
of passages in justification of the statement. The 
Rev. J. E. Tuck, in an article on the same sub- 
ject, which appeared in the Naturalist of February, 
1893, writes that Tennyson, if not a scientific 
ornithologist, was " a keen observer of Nature 
and a lover of birds, especially of the song-birds 
which can be seen and heard around such an 
English country home as the Lincolnshire rec- 
tory in which he was born." Mr. Tuck justifies 
the statement by a number of quotations from 
the poet's works. Mr. J. E. Harting, in review- 
ing the last-mentioned article in the Zoologist for 
1893 (p. 145), dissents from the writer's conclu- 


sions and strikes a discordant note. His remarks 
are as follows : " Picturesque enough are these 
allusions, no doubt, and poetical, but too often, 
alas ! inaccurate. The expressions in many cases 
which are intended to be descriptions of notes 
and flights are neither the best which could be 
employed, nor are they sometimes sufficiently 
correct to satisfy the critical ornithologist. In 
my opinion, they tend to prove that the laureate 
had neither a good eye for colour nor a good ear 
for bird music, while occasionally want of close 
observation has led to his attributing certain 
habits which they do not possess." Mr. Harting 
quotes in support of his remarks two references, 
one to the swallow, the other to the sea-gull. 
These references will be considered later on (see 
pp. 95, 173). He also mentions with praise a " few 
happy allusions " to birds in the poems of Tenny- 
son, but concludes that they " do not of them- 
selves entitle the departed laureate to be regarded 
as more than an ordinary lover of birds, while 


as an ornithologist, in the proper sense of the 
term, he shows himself, in my humble judgment, 
inferior to many English poets who have pre- 
ceded him." The opinion of such an eminent 
ornithologist as Mr. Harting is entitled to every 
respect, but it is hoped that the following pages 
will show that his judgment in this case was a 
little hasty. 

The poems of Tennyson contain several bird- 
passages of great beauty. One of the best is 
in the Progress of Spring : 

Up leaps the lark, gone wild to welcome her, 
About her glance the tits and shriek the jays, 
Before her skims the jubilant woodpecker, 
The linnet's bosom blushes at her gaze, 
While round her brows a woodland culver flits, 
Watching her large light eyes and gracious looks, 
And in her open palm a halcyon sits 

Patient the secret splendour of the brooks. 

* * * * * 

Now past her feet the swallow circling flies, 

A clamorous cuckoo stoops to meet her hand ; 

* * * * * 


The blackcap warbles, and the turtle purrs, 

The starling claps his tiny castanets. 

Still round her forehead wheels the woodland 

And scatters on her throat the sparks of dew. 

Another notable bird-passage is from the Poet's 

Song : 

A melody loud and sweet 
That made the wild swan pause in her cloud, 
And the lark drop down at his feet. 

The swallow stopt as he hunted the fly, 
* * * * * 

The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak, 

And stared, with his foot on the prey, 

And the nightingale thought, ' I have sung many 

But never one so gay.' 

The gradual " tuning-up " of the bird chorus 
in early dawn is described in many passages, e.g. : 

Till notice of a change in the dark world 
Was lisped about the acacias, and a bird 
That early woke to feed her little ones 
Sent from a dewy breast a cry for light. 

(The Princess). 


When the first low matin-chirp hath grown 

Full quire. 

(Love and Duty.) 


Listen how the birds 

Begin to warble in the budding orchard trees ! 

(The Flight.) 

O birds that warble to the morning sky, 
O birds that warble as the day goes by, 

Sing sweetly. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again 
So loud with voices of the birds. 

(In Memoriam, st. 99.) 

Sadder in tone but far more beautiful are the 
lines from The Princess : 

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering 

The references in Tennyson to the nesting 


of birds are particularly tender. Few " baby 
songs " have ever been written so sweet as : 

What does little birdie say 
In her nest at peep of day ? 
Let me fly, says little birdie ; 
Mother, let me fly away. 
Birdie, rest a little longer, 
Till the little wings are stronger ; 
So she rests a little longer, 
Then she flies away. 

A beautiful picture of home illustrated by 
scenes taken from bird life is to be found in 
two passages from Becket. One is of a cheerful 
tone and describes the feeding of the " yellow- 
throated nestling in the nest " (Lancelot and 
Elaine) : 

The pretty gaping bills in the home-nest 
Piping for bread the daily want supplied 
The daily pleasure to supply it. 

(Act II., sc. 2.) 
The other is sadder : 

We came upon 
A wild fowl sitting on her nest, so still 


I reach'd my hand and touch'd ; she did not stir ; 
The snow had frozen round her, and she sat 
Stone-dead upon a heap of ice-cold eggs. 
Look ! how this love, this mother, runs thro' all 
The world God made even the beast, the 

bird ! * 

(Becket, act v., sc. 2.) 

The interest that Tennyson took in wild birds 
is shown by the number of different kinds to 
which he refers in his poems. Of all poets of 
established reputation he heads the list for the 
number of birds which he mentions. The wild 
birds of the English Parnassus number less than 
100, while the wild birds of the latest ornitho- 

* A similar incident is described at greater length by 
Ethel Coxhead in a poem called The Mother Duck, 
which appeared in a book called Birds and Babies 
published in 1883, the year before the publication of 
Becket. The last lines are as follows : 

On her nest the duck lay frozen, 
With her eyes shut cold and dead. 

Just a little common wild-duck 

Lying stiff, without a breath, 
But whose heart was brave and faithful. 

And whose love had conquered death. 


logical authority (Howard Saunders) number 
384. Of course, many of the birds that appear 
in ornithological treatises are rare visitors, and 
the ornithological list is swollen by the insertion 
of a large number of different varieties, while 
the poets deal more with genera than with species, 
and probably with the most important and 
characteristic kinds. Mr. Phil Robinson, in his 
book on " The Poets' Birds," gives the number of 
the poets' birds as seventy-six, but his quota- 
tions refer to a larger number. A comparison of 
the works of such poets as Shakespeare, Milton, 
Spenser, Chaucer, Drayton, Cowper, Wordsworth, 
Scott, Burns, Coleridge, Southey, Keats, Shelley, 
and Tennyson, shows that the aggregate number 
of wild British birds mentioned by one or other 
of these poets amounts to ninety-seven. The list 
would be considerably increased in number if we 
took into account the works of such minor poets 
as Hurdis, Bishop Mant, Grahame, Clare, Gis- 
borne, Leyden, Annette F. C. Knight, Sewell, 


Stokes and Gilbert White, many of whom are 
little more than rhyming ornithologists. It is 
perhaps better to compare poets who are not 
ornithologists with ornithologists who are not 
poets, than to take those who are half ornitholo- 
gists and half poets. The poetic list as com- 
pared with the ornithological is as follows : Of 
the^ order . Passer es, which contains all the song- 
sters and fim^JjnJ3^f]}p nrnifhnlngWIJist r.on- 
tains 132, the poets' 36, namely, the song-thrush, 
field-fare, blackbird, stonechat, robin, nightin- 
gale, blackcap, golden-crested and common wren, 

% to 

hedge-sparrow, tomtit, nuthatch, wagtail, shrike, 
swallow, martin, greenfinch, goldfinch, siskin, 


house-sparrow, chaffinch, mountain-finch, linnet, 
bullfinch, common bunting, yellow-hammer, star- 
ling, chough, jay, magpie, jackdaw, raven, crow, 
rook, skylark and wood-lark. Of the 16 Picarig, 
the poets' list contains 5, the swift, nightjar, 
green-woodpecker, kingfisher and cuckoo ; of 
the 10 Striges, the poets' list contains _3, the 


white, tawny and eagle-owls ; of the 25 
pitres, the poets' list contains rr, the vulture, 
buzzard, golden eagle, white-tailed eagle, gos- 
hawk, sparrow-hawk, kite, peregrine - falcon, 
merlin, kestrel, and osprey ; of the 3 Steganofiodes, 
the poets' list contains 2, the cormorant and gan- 
net ; of the 14 Herodiones, the poets' list contains 
3, the heron, bittern, and stork ; of the 42 An- 
seres, the poets' list contains 5, the goose, swan, 
wild duck, shoveller, and teal ; of the 5 Columba, 
the poets' list contains 3, the ring-dove, stock- 
dove and turtle-dove ; of the 8 Gallina. the poets' 
list contains 6, the grouse, ptarmigan, black- 
cock, pheasant, partridge, and quail ; of the n 
Grallcz, the poets' list contains 5, the landrail, 
moorhen, coot, crane, and bustard ; of the 53 
Limicolcz, the poets' list contains 10, the stone- 
curlew, dotterel, grey plover, lapwing, oyster- 
catcher, woodcock, snipe, godwit, knot, and 
curlew ; of the 31 Gavicz, the poets' list contains 
i, the seagull ; of the 9 Pygopodes, the poets' list 


contains 2, the loon and the dabchick. Tennyson 
mentions 60 birds, viz., the song-thrush, black- 
bird, robin, nightingale, blackcap, golden-crested 
and common wren, hedge-sparrow, tit, shrike, 
swallow, martin, greenfinch, house-sparrow, lin- 
net, starling, jay, magpie, jackdaw, raven, crow, 
rook, skylark, swift, nightjar, green woodpecker, 
kingfisher, cuckoo, white, tawny and eagle owls, 
vulture, buzzard, golden and white-tailed eagle, 
sparrow-hawk, kite, peregrine-falcon, kestrel, 
heron, bittern, stork, goose, swan, ring-dove, 
stock-dove, turtle-dove, ptarmigan, pheasant, 
partridge, quail, landrail, coot, crane, stone- 
curlew, lapwing, woodcock, snipe, curlew and 
seagull. Chaucer, who comes next in the list, 
mentions 51 birds, Shakespeare mentions 49, 
Scott 46, Wordsworth 39, Burns 37, Keats 18, 
Milton 16, Coleridge 15, and Shelley 13. Virgil 
mentions about 20 birds, but he deals much more 
with genera than with species (Warde Fowler, 
A Year with the Birds, p. 216). The favourite 


bird of Tennyson is the lark, which is also the 
favourite of Shakespeare, Scott, Burns, Words- 
worth and Coleridge, in the sense that it is men- 
tioned by them more than any other bird. 
Tennyson mentions it 33 times ; next to the 
lark comes the nightingale, to which there are 
23 references in Tennyson, the swallow with 21, 
the owl with 15, and the linnet with 12. In the 
following pages will be found detailed references 
to all the passages in which Tennyson makes 
specific reference to any English wild bird. 

Tennyson's references to domestic and caged 
birds are few and unimportant, and may be dis- 
posed of in a few lines. He mentions several 
times the tame " villatic fowl," cocks and hens, 
guinea fowl, geese and turkeys. One of the best 
of these references is a passage from the Princess, 
where King Gama's impotent efforts to check the 
princes from fighting are well compared to the 
helpless alarm of a hen that has reared a brood 
of ducklings when she sees them take to their 
native element : 


' Boys ! ' shriek'd the king, but vainlier than 

a hen 
To her false daughters in the pool ; for none 


In the Churchwarden and the Curate the indig- 
nant keeper is represented as turning as red as 
" a stag-tuckey's wattles," i.e., the red flesh that 
hangs under the neck of a turkey-cock. 

The poet's references to the birds of the dove- 
cote will be dealt with hereafter. He makes 
several allusions to 

The peacock in his laurel bower, 
The parrot in his gilded wires. 

(The Daydreams.) 
His allusion to 

Long-tail'd birds of paradise 

That float thro' heaven and cannot light, 


embodies the old mistaken belief that birds of 
paradise had no legs. 



Causes of the song of birds Lark Nightingale 
Thrush Blackbird Linnet Greenfinch 

Robin Wren Blackcap Starling Spar- 

Few passages in Tennyson are more beautiful 
than the well-known lines from The Gardener's 
Daughter, describing the chorus of birds on a 
bright spring day : 

From the woods 

Came voices of the well-contented doves. 
The lark could scarce get out his notes for joy, 
But shook his song together as he near'd 
His happy home, the ground. To left and right 
The cuckoo told his name to all the hills ; 
The mellow ouzel fluted in the elm ; 
The redcap whistled, and the nightingale 
Sang loud, as tho' he were the bird of day. 


In the same context the poet lightly touches 
on the interesting question of the causes that 
provoke the song of birds : 

And Eustace turn'd and smiling said to me, 
Hear how the bushes echo ! by my life, 
These birds have joyful thoughts. Think you 

they sing, 

Like poets, from the vanity of song ? 
Or have they any sense of why they sing ? 
And would they praise the heavens for what 

they have ? 

And I made answer, 'Were there nothing else 
For which to praise the heavens but only love, 
That only love were cause enough for praise ! ' 

In several passages Tennyson connects the 
music of birds with their love-making in spring, 
e.g. : 

Nightingales warbled and sang 
Of a passion that lasts but a day. 

(In the Garden at Swainston.) 

And again 

They love their mates, to whom they sing ; or 
else their songs, that meet 


The morning with such music, would never be 
so sweet ! 

(The Flight.) 


' I'll never love any but you ' the morning song 

of the lark ; 
' I'll never love any but you ' the nightingale's 

hymn in the dark. 

(The First Quarrel.) 

And again 

For that day 
Love, rising, shook his wings and charged the 

With spiced May-sweets from bound to bound, 

and blew 

Fresh fire into the sun, and from within 
Burst thro' the heated buds, and sent his soul 
Into the song of birds. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 


But listen overhead 

Fluting and piping and luting, ' Love, love,' love,' 
Those sweet tree-Cupids half-way up in heaven, 

The birds. 

(The Foresters.) 




A song on every spray, 
Of birds that piped their Valentines. 

(The Princess.) 

One of the latest, but sweetest of the poet's 
songs, The Throstle, is not only a beautiful and 
successful imitation of the bird's note, but a poetic 
explanation of the motives of its song prompted 
by the approach of the pairing time and warmer 
weather : 

* Summer is coming, summer is coming, 
I know it, I know it, I know it. 

Light again, leaf again, life again, love again,' 
Yes, my wild little poet. 

Sing the new year in under the blue, 
Last year you sang it as gladly, 

* New, new, new, new ! ' Is it then so new 
That you should carol so madly ? 

* Love again, song again, nest again, young 


Never a prophet so crazy ! 
And hardly a daisy as yet, little friend, 
See, there is hardly a daisy. 


* Here again, here, here, here, happy year ! ' 
O warble unchidden, unbidden. 
Summer is coming, is coming, my dear, 
And all the winters are hidden. 

With this beautiful poem should be compared 
Macgillivray's imitation of the thrush's song : 

Dear, dear, dear 

Is the rocky glen ; 
Far away, far away, far away 

The haunts of men. 
Here shall we dwell in love 
With the lark and the dove, 
Cuckoo and corn-rail ; 
Feast on the banded snail, 

Worm and gilded fly : 
Drink of the crystal rill 
Winding adown the hill," 

Never to dry. 

With glee, with glee, with glee, 
Cheer up, cheer up, cheer up ; here 

Nothing to harm us ; then sing merrily, 
Sing to the lov'd ones whose nest is 

Qui, qui, qui, kweeu, quip, 


Tiurru, tiurru, chipiwi, 
Too-tee, too-tee, chiu choo, 
Chirri, chirri, chooee, 
Quiu, qui, qui. 

The delight of birds at the sun and the approach 
of warm weather is referred to in Gareth and 
Lynette as one of the causes of the songs of lark, 
mavis, merle, linnet 

When they utter forth 
May-music growing with the growing light, 
Their sweet sun-worship. 

With these passages might be compared the lines 
from Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose 

The briddes, that han left hir song, 
Whyl they have suffred cold so strong 
In wedres grille, and derk to sighte, 
Ben in May, for the sonne brighte, 
So glade, that they shewe in singing, 
, That in hir herte is swich lyking 
That they mote singen and be light. 

To the same effect is Coleridge's Answer to a 
Child's Question : 


Do you ask what the birds say ? The sparrow, 

the dove, 

The linnet and thrush say, ' I love and I love ! ' 
In the winter they're silent the wind is so 

strong ; 
What it says, I don't know, but it sings a loud 

But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm 


And singing and loving all come back together. 
But the lark is so brimful of gladness and love, 
The green fields below him, the blue sky above, 
That he sings and he sings ; and for ever sings 

' 1 love my love and my love loves me.' 

Compare, too, the] passage from Tennyson's 
Lucretius : 

The all-generating powers and genial heat 
Of Nature, when she strikes through the thick 


Of cattle, and light is large, and lambs are glad, 
Nosing the mother's udder, and the bird 
Makes his heart voice amid the blaze of flowers. 


A similar strain of thought accompanied by a 
warning note is to be found in Early Spring : 

O follow, leaping blood, 

The season's lure. 
O heart, look up and down 

Serene, secure, 
Warm as the crocus cup, 

Like snow-drops, pure! 

Of a graver tone still are the following lines on 
the same subject : 

The songs, the stirring air, 
The life re-orient out of dust, 
Cry thro' the sense to hearten trust 

In that which made the world so fair. 

(In Memoriam, st. cxvi.) 

Compare the lines from Akbar's Dream : 

Shadow-maker, shadow-slayer, arrowing light 

from clime to clime, 
Hear thy myriad laureates hail thee monarch 

in their woodland rhyme. 
Warble bird, and open flower, and men below 

the dome of azure 
Kneel adoring him the Timeless in the flame 

that measures time. 


The approach of the pairing-time not only 
prompts "birds' love and birds' song" but leads 
to the putting on of the nuptial plumage : 

Birds make ready for their bridal-time 
By change of feather. 

(The Sisters.) 

The same idea is worked out in greater detail 
in the well-known passage in Locksley Hall : 

In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the 

robin's breast ; 
In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself 

another crest ; 
In the spring a livelier iris changes on the bur- 

nish'd dove, 
In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns 

to thoughts of love. 

The reverse side of the picture is to be found 
in the lines : 

Some birds are sick and sullen when they moult, 

(The Sisters.) 

where the reference is to the period in late 
summer when birds cease their song. 


Compare the passage with Becket (act i., 
sc. 3) : 
The bird that moults sings the same song again. 

The subject of the causes that provoke the 
song of birds is discussed by Mr. Warde Fowler 
in an interesting chapter in his Summer Studies 
of Birds and Books, and he comes to the con- 
clusion that Darwin's suggestion that all birds' 
songs are love songs does not square satisfac- 
torily with the facts. He points out that there 
are other causes which prompt the song of birds, 
particularly of those that sing in autumn, and 
that song is often the expression of high spirits 
and happiness, abundance of food and pure en- 
joyment of life. He also points to the remark- 
able fact that the song of a bird may even be 
" an expression of anger at some intrusion or 
calamity. It is well know that you may make 
a sedge warbler sing by poking a stick or throwing 
a stone into the bush in which he happens to be. 
I have even known the bird sing vociferously its 


regular song, though somewhat loudly and 
harshly, while one of its young brood was being 
killed close by ; for unknown to me my dog had 
seized this tender fledgeling, and it was not till 
I discovered this that I discovered the meaning 
of the song. I have some reason to think that 
the nightingale's song, which is of the same highly 
emotional type, is also sometimes used in this 

way ; for Mr. tells me that he has known 

a nightingale sing loudly in a tree overhead 
while he was examining its nest in the under- 
growth below." 

By the light of these remarks one should look 
at the lines from In Memoriam (st. xxi.) : 

I do but sing because I must 
And pipe but as the linnets sing. 

And one is glad ; her note is gay, 
For now her little ones have ranged ; 
And one is sad, her note is changed, 

Because her brood is stol'n away. 

Probably the passage is also partly inspired 


by the beautiful lines of Virgil on the nightingale 

whose nest has been robbed : 
Qualis populea moerens philomela sub umbra 
Amissos queritur foetus, quos durus arator 
Observans nido implumes detraxit ; at ilia 
Flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile carmen 
Integrat, et moestis late loca questibus implet. 

This passage from Virgil has been imitated by 
Phineas Fletcher : 

As a nightingale, whose callow young 

Some boy hath markt, and now half nak'd hath 


Which long she closely kept, and foster'd long, 
But all in vain ; she now, poor bird, forsaken, 
Flies up and down, but grief no place can 

shaken ; 

All day and night her loss she fresh doth rue, 
And when she ends her plaints, then soon begins 



Thomson has also imitated more diffusely the 
same passage of Virgil : 
Oft, when returning with her loaded bill, 
The astonished mother finds a vacant nest, 


By the hard hand of unrelenting clowns 
Robbed ; to the ground the vain provision falls, 
Her pinions ruffle, and, low drooping, scarce 
Can bear the mourner to her poplar shade, 
Where, all abandoned to despair, she sings 
Her sorrows through the night, and on the bough 
Sole-sitting, still at every dying fall 
Takes up again her lamentable strain 
Of winding woe, till wide around the woods 
Sigh to her song, and with her wail resound. 
(The Seasons Spring.) 

It should be observed that it is the male 
nightingale and male linnet that sing, not the 
female. As Mr. Warde Fowler puts it, "True 
song is always a male character ; if female birds 
sing at all, they sing, so far as seems to be known, 
a feebler and inferior song." The female bird 
that sings is a greater rarity even than a female 
poet. Tennyson sometimes makes the singing 
linnet female, as in the passage just quoted, and 
again in Claribel : 

Her song the lint white swelleth. 


It is the male in Sir Lancelot and Queen Guine- 
vere : 

Sometimes the linnet piped his song. 

The female nightingale is represented as the 
songster in : 

No nightingale delighteth to prolong 
Her low preamble all alone. 

(The Palace of Art.) 
The male bird is the songster in : 

The nightingale 
Sang loud, as tho' he were the bird of day. 

(The Gardener's Daughter.) 
Also in : 

The living airs of middle night 
Died round the bulbul as he sung. 

(Arabian Nights.) 

In other cases the male bird is the songster ; e.g. : 

The lark could scarce get out his note for joy. 
(The Gardener's Daughter.) 

Theer wur a lark a-singin' 'is best of a Sunday 
at murn. 

(Northern Cobbler.) 



The lark flys out o' the flowers wid his song to 

the sun and the moon. 


The bird that pipes his lone desire. 

(After reading a Life and Letters.) 

In the line from The Northern Cobbler, where 
two lovers are represented singing a hymn 
together in chapel, " like birds on a beugh," 
Tennyson seems to be referring to a duet of the 
male and female birds which is not altogether 
true to nature. 

The chief English poets exhibit considerable 
difference of expression on the question on the 
sex of singing birds. Most of them in the case 
of the nightingale ascribe the gift of song to the 
female. This is probably the result of the in- 
fluence of the classical legend of Philomela. 
Almost the only exceptions are to be found in 
Milton, Cowper, Byron, Coleridge, and Tenny- 
son, but most even of these poets vary and some- 


times write of the singing nightingale as female 
and sometimes as male. Thus Milton writes : 

The night-warbling bird that, now awake, 
Tunes sweetest his love-laboured song. 

In other passages such as : 

Thee, chauntress, oft the woods among 
I woo to hear thy evensong, 

Milton writes of the songtser as female. 
Cowper, who writes, 

The nightingale that all day long 
Had cheered the village with his song, 

also has 

The nightingale she pours 

Her solitary lays. 

(Olney Hymns.) 

Byron, under the influence of the Eastern 
legend, that makes the rose the mistress and the 
nightingale the lover, wiites : 

For there the rose o'er crag or vale, 
Sultana of the nightingale, 
The maid for whom his melody 
His thousand songs, are heard on high. 

(The Giaour.) 


So, too, in the Bride of Abydos : 

A bird unseen but not remote, 
Invisible his airy wings, 
But soft as harp that houri strings 
His long entrancing note. 

Coleridge makes the singing nightingale male : 

Tis the merry nightingale 
That crowds and hurries and precipitates 
With fast thick warble his delicious notes. 

(Sibylline Leaves The Nightingale.) 

In the case of the lark the variation between 
the male and female is more general. Shakes- 
peare, who writes ; 

Lo ! here the gentle lark, weary of rest, 
From his moist cabinet mounts upon high 
And wakes the morning. 

(Venus and Adonis.) 
also has, 

Doth welcome daylight with her ditty. 
(Passionate Pilgrim . ) 

Milton makes the songster male in 

And now the herald lark 
Left his ground nest, high tow'ring to descry 


The morn's approach, and greet her with his 

(Paradise Lost.) 
and also in 

To hear the lark begin his flight 
And singing startle the dull night. 

(L 9 Allegro.) 

The female lark is mentioned in Comus in a pas- 
sage where there is no specific reference to song : 

Ere morning wake, or the low-roosted lark 
From her thatched pallet rouse. 

In Gay, Thomson, Cowper, Rogers, Keats, 
Coleridge, the singing lark is the male ; in Chaucer, 
Spenser, Phineas Fletcher, Beaumont, Waller, 
Parnell and Shenstone, the singing lark is the 
female ; in Scott and Burns the singing skylark 
is the female and the woodlark the male. 

The singing blackbird in the poets is generally 
represented as the male, as in Shakespeare 

The throstle with his note so true ; 
and in Drayton, 


The throstle with shrill sharps, as purposely he 

T' awake the rustless sun ; 


and in Skelton 

The throstle with his warbling. 

So the song-thrush is generally the male, as in 

Upon his dulcet pipe the merle doth only play ; 

and in Burns, 

The merle in his noontide bower 
Makes woodland echoes ring ; 

(Queen of Scots.) 

and in Butler 

And understood as much of things 
As the ablest blackbird what he sings. 


The robin by virtue of its name is always spoken 

of as male, and the same is the case with the 

bullfinch, chaffinch and hedge sparrow. The 

singing linnet is generally the male except in 



Tennyson, where, as it has already been pointed 
out, it is sometimes male, sometimes female. 

It is now proposed to deal in greater detail 
with the songsters mentioned by Tennyson, that 
is, the lark, nightingale, thrush, blackbird, linnet, 
goldfinch, greenfinch, robin, wren, blackcap, 
starling, sparrow. 

The Lark. The skylark is the favourite bird 
of Tennyson, as of most poets, and is men- 
tioned by him oftener than any other bird. The 
features in the lark which attract the attention 
of poets, as of all observers of nature, are its 
song and its flight. The lark is one of the 
few birds that make melody "in mid air,"* most 
bird-songsters make melody " in branch," whence 
the lines in Becket : 

These tree-towers, 
Their long bird-echoing minster aisles. 

Almost alone of birds, except the" pipit and 

* Gareth and Lynette. 


the meadow pipit, the lark sings while it is 
flying, and rarely while it is at rest ; flight and 
song seem inextricably connected with one 
another in the lark and indicate an excitement 
and joyous vitality which are most noticeable in 
the early morning, but which continue through 
the day, and are made more remarkable by the 
contrast between the height to which it soars 
and the lowly situation of its " thatched pallet " 
on the ground. The joyousness of the lark's song 
is referred to in the lines : 

The lark could scarce get out his notes for joy. 

(The Gardener's Daughter.) 

Up leaps the lark, gone wild to welcome her. 
(The Progress of Spring.) 

Be merry in heaven, O larks; 

(The Window.) 


Could live as happy as the larks in heaven ; 

(The Foresters.) 



Gamesome as the colt, 
And livelier than the lark. 

(Talking Oak.) 
The elaboration of its song and the clearness 

of its note are thus described 

The quick lark's closest-car olTd strains; 


Lavish carol of clear-throated larks ; 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

Then would he whistle rapid as any lark. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

The morning song of the bird is a frequent 
topic with the poet : 

' I'll never love any but you,' the morning song 
of the lark. 

(The First Quarrel.) 

Each morn my sleep was broken thro' 
By some wild skylark's matin song. 

(The Miller's Daughter.) 
But ere the lark hath left the lea 

I wake. 

(In Memoriam.) 


The lark has past from earth to heaven upon 

the morning breeze. 


They love their mates to whom they sing ; or 

else their songs, that meet 
The morning with such music, would never be 

so sweet ! 

(The Flight.) 

The lark first takes the sunlight on his wing. 

(The Cup.) 

Three noticeable characteristics of the bird 
its early song, clear note and peculiar, circular, 
up-springing flight, are well described in the 
lines : 

And morn by morn the lark 

Shot up and shrill'd in flick'ring gyres. 

(The Princess.) 

The ease and swiftness of its movements are 
proverbial, as in the line : 

An' Molly Magee kem flyin' acrass me, as light 
as a lark. 



The great height to which it ascends is referred 
to in the lines : 

Clear as a lark, high o'er me as a lark. 

(The Holy Grail.) 

And drown'd in yonder living blue 
The lark becomes a sightless song. 

(In Memoriam.) 

The shadow of a lark 
Hung in the shadow of a heaven ; 

(In Memoriam.) 

I lose it, as we lose the lark in heaven ; 

(Lancelot and Elaine.) 


Theer wur a lark a-singin' 'is best of a Sunday 

at murn, 
Couldn't see 'im, we 'eard 'im a-mountin' oop 

'igher and 'igher; 

(The Northern Cobbler.) 


And while the lark flies up and touches heaven ; 

(The Foresters.) 



Thou that can'st soar 
Beyond the morning lark. 

(The Falcon.) 
The last line bears a strong resemblance to 


Thou hast hawks will soar 
Above the morning lark. 

(Taming of the Shrew.) 
The contrast between its lowly nest and the 

height to which it rises is the motive of such 
passages as : 

O happy lark, that warblest high 
Above thy lowly nest ; 

(The Promise of May.) 

The lark has past from earth to heaven upon 

the morning breeze ! 

(The Flight.) 

The male lark when it is making love to its mate 
hovers in the air and " flutters " to the ground. 
Hence the lines from The Day Dream : 

His spirit flutters like a lark. 

He stoops to kiss her on his knee. 


The sudden descent of the " low-roosted lark " 
to its " thatcht pallet " is referred to in the 
lines : 

And the lark dropt down at his feet. 

(The Poet's Song.) 

The song of the lark in its descent to its nest is 
well described in the passage from The Gardener's 
Daughter that has been already quoted : 

But shook his song together as he near'd 
His happy home, the ground. 

One of the achievements of faith is thus de- 
scribed by the poet in a beautiful passage in The 

Ancient Sage : 

She hears the lark within the songless egg. 

In Harold the contrast is beautifully drawn 
between the horror of an underground prison and 
the life in the open-air, to which the lark con- 
tributes one of its attractions : 

And over thee the suns arise and set, 

And the lark sings, the sweet stars come and go, 

And men are at their markets, in their fields, 


And woo their loves and have forgotten thee ; 
And thou art upright in thy living grave, 
Where there is barely room to shift thy side. 

In The Voyage of Maeldune one of the charac- 
teristics of the Silent Isle is thus described : 

High in the heaven above us there flicker'd a 
songless lark. 

More prosaic references are to be found in such 
passages as : 

When heaven falls, I may light on such a lark ; 

(The Foresters.) 

My master, Charles, 

Bad you go softly with your heretics here, 
Until your throne had ceased to tremble. Then 

Spit them like larks. 

(Queen Mary.) 

The Nightingale. If joy is the prevailing 
characteristic of the lark, the " hundred-throated 
nightingale" is, according to Tennyson, still 
more remarkable for the force and passion of 
its song. Tennyson alludes to the passionate 
nature of the bird's song in these lines : 


Mad for thy mate, passionate nightingale 


Their anthems of no church, how sweet they 

are ! 

Nor kingly priest nor priestly king to cross 
Their billings ere they meet. 


The nightingales in Havering-atte-Bower 
Sang out their loves so loud, that Edward's 

Were deafen'd. 


' I'll never love any but you,' the nightingale's 
hymn in the dark. 

(The First Quarrel.) 

Nightingales warbled and sang 
Of a passion that lasts but a day. 

(In the Garden at Swainston.) 

Tennyson records in his diary that one night 
when he saw the moonlight reflected in a nightin- 
gale's eye, and she was singing in the hedgerow, 
the bird's voice vibrated with such passion that 
the leaves trembled around her ; this may be 


the source of the passage in the Gardener's 
Daughter : 

In whispers, like the whispers of the leaves 
That tremble round a nightingale. 

The power of the bird's song is referred to in 
the following lines : 

How far thro' all the bloom and brake 
That nightingale is heard ! 
What power but the bird's could make 
This music in the bird ? 

(The Ancient Sage.) 

And all about us peal'd the nightingale. 

(The Princess.) 
The variety of its song is described in the 

following passage : 

The nightingale, full-toned in middle May, 
Hath ever and anon a note so thin 
It seems another voice in other groves. 

(Balin and Balan.) 

This " thin note " is imitated in the Grand- 
mother : 

And whit, whit, whit in the bush beside me 
chirrupt the nightingale. 


In the already-quoted passage from the Gar- 
dener's Daughter, Tennyson shows that he had 
noticed the fact that the nightingale does not 
limit its performance to the hours of darkness : 

And the nightingale 
Sang loud, as tho' he were the bird of day. 

This should be contrasted with Shakespeare's : 

I think 

The nightingale, if she should sing by day, 
When every goose is cackling, would be thought 
No better a musician than the wren. 

(The Merchant of Venice.) 

The following lines from Queen Mary refer to 
Elizabeth's sojourn at Ashridge in Buckingham- 
shire, one of the counties of England most famous 
for nightingales : 

You have sent her from the court, but then 

she goes, 

I warrant, not to hear the nightingales, 
But hatch you some new treason in the woods. 

One of Tennyson's most beautiful similes de- 
picts the contrast between the unmarked and 


unadorned eggs of the nightingale and the passion 
and elaboration of the song of the birds which 
are hatched from them : 

But where a passion yet unborn perhaps 
Lay hidden as the music of the moon 
Sleeps in the plain eggs of the nightingale. 

(Ay Inter' s Field.) 

The resources of language are exhausted to 
describe the song of the nightingale, which in 
one place is said to " bubble," in another to 
" peal," in another to " warble." 

The pleasure that the bird takes in its own 
performance is referred to in the Palace of Art : 

No nightingale delighteth to prolong 
Her low preamble all alone, 
More than my soul to hear her echo'd song 
Throb thro' the ribbed stone. 

A more prosaic reference is to be found in The 

Foresters : 

You see, they are so fond o' their own voices 
that I cannot sleep o' nights by cause on 'em. 


Tennyson in some passages speaks of the song 
of the nightingale as a cheerful one, e.g. : 

A sudden nightingale 
Saw thee, and flashed into a frolic of song 
and welcome. 

(Demeter and Persephone.) 


So Shelley in Prince Athanase recognises the 
gladness of the nightingale's song : 

O summer eve! with power divine bestowing 
On thine own bird the sweet enthusiasm 

Which overflow in notes of liquid gladness 
Filling the sky with light ! 

Coleridge, too, writes (Sybilline Leaves, The 
Nightingale) : 

'Tis the merry nightingale 
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates 
With fast thick warble his delicious notes. 

Keats in his matchless Ode calls it 
Too happy in thy happiness ; 
but in the same poem speaks of its " plaintive 

In a passage in which the nightingale, though 


not mentioned by name, seems referred to, Tenny- 
son speaks of the mixture of joy and grief in its 
song : 

Fierce extremes employ 
Thy spirits in the darkening leaf, 
And in the midmost heart of grief 
Thy passion clasps a secret joy. 

(In Memoriam.) 

With this might be compared the lines from 
The Birds of Montgomery 

Minstrel, what makes thy song so sad yet sweet ? 
Love, love, where agony and rapture meet. 

To a similar effect is the passage from Tenny- 
son's Recollections of the Arabian Nights : 

The living airs of middle night 
Died round the bulbul as he sung ; 
Not he ; but something which possess'd 
The darkness of the world, delight, 
Life, anguish, death, immortal love, 
Ceasing not, mingled, unrepress'd, 
Apart from place, withholding time. 

The passage from Tennyson's Poet's Song 


And the nightingale thought, ' I have sung 

many songs, 
But never one so gay ' 

seems meant as a confession by the nightingale 
that gaiety is not its strong point. 

The sadness of the nightingale's song is one 
of the conventions of poetry. Mr. Warde Fowler, 
one of the most accurate and sympathetic of 
observers, says : " I never yet heard a nightingale 
singing dolefully, as the poets will have it sing ; 
its various phrases are all given out con brio, and 
even that marvellous crescendo, which no other 
bird attempts, conveys to the mind of the listener 
the fiery intensity of the high-strung singer." 
(" A Year with the Birds," p. 163). Probably the 
passion and the intensity of the nightingale's 
song justify the poetic convention which repre- 
sents it as plaintive or melancholy, for ardent 
passion is never gay or mirthful. 

Song-thrush. The thrush is one of the five 
birds that Tennyson mentions for their mirth : 


O merry the linnet and dove 
And swallow and sparrow and throstle. 

(The Window.) 

Joy is the prevailing tone in the note of the 
bird as described in the poem which has already 
been quoted in full : 

Sing the new year in under the blue, 
Last year you sang it as gladly. 

The song-thrush is one of our earliest songsters. 
Mr. T. Southwell, in a paper on " Marsham's In- 
dications of Spring " (Transactions of the Norfolk 
and Norwich Naturalists Society, ii., 33), states 
as the result of observations taken over a period 
of sixty-six years that the average time for the 
commencement of its song is January 16. The 
bird is fond of singing from the bough of some 
high tree such as Wordsworth's tall ash-tree : 

To whose topmost twig 
A thrush resorts. 

(The Excursion.) 

So too Tennyson in The Foresters writes : 


The topmost tree that shoots 
New buds to heaven, whereon the throstle rock'd 
. . sings a new song to the new year. 

And again in In Memoriam : 

When rosy plumelets tuft the larch 
And rarely pipes the mounted thrush ; 

where " rarely " means " finely," as in the Owl's 

And rarely smells the new-mown hay ; 
and " mounted " means perched on the high 
branch of some tree. 

The thrush is in full song in March, as Tenny- 
son writes in his Ode to the Queen : 

And thro' wild March the throstle calls. 

The song of the thrush in spring is again re- 
ferred to : 

The blackbirds have their wills, 
The throstles, too. 

(Early Spring.) 

In the last verse of the same poem, Tennyson 


varies these lines by substituting " poets " for 
" throstles " : 

The blackbirds have their wills, 
The poets too. 

The variation is, perhaps, to show the close con- 
nection between human poetry and the ' sweeter 
music ' of the wild little bird-poet. 

To the whistling note of the song-thrush, which 
has hence received the name of whistling thrush, 
or whistling Dick (Swainson, " Provincial Names 
of British Birds," 3), Tennyson refers in the line 
from Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere : 

Sometimes the throstle whistled strong. 

It should be noticed that in writing of this 
bird Tennyson prefers the homelier and more 
beautiful name of the " throstle" ; he only once 
uses the name " thrush," namely, in the passage 
from In Memoriam which has been quoted above. 
He twice uses its other name of " mavis," as in 


Gareth and Lynette, when he writes of the lark, 
mavis, merle, linnet, uttering forth : 

May-music growing with the growing light. 
And in the lines from The Foresters : 

The lusty life of wood and underwood, 
Hawk, buzzard, jay, the mavis and the merle. 

In the lines from Claribel : 

The clear- voiced mavis dwelleth, 
The callow throstle lispeth. 

The poet, if he is not referring to the same bird 
under different names, seems to draw a distinc- 
tion between the song-thrush and the missel- 
thrush. Perhaps " clear- voiced mavis " refers to 
the piercing note of the missel-thrush, which is 
called " storm-cock " from its singing loud in 
defiance of rough weather, or " big mavis " from 
its size ; while " throstle," as elsewhere in Tenny- 
son, and apparently always in the older poets, 
means the song-thrush. Compare Skelton's : 

The threstell with his warblynge, 
The mavis with his whistell, 


where "threstell" means the song-thrush and 
4 * mavis" the missel-thrush. There is, how- 
ever, a passage in Spenser's Epithalamion where 
" mavis " and " thrush " are both used, and, if 
separate birds are meant, " mavis " must refer 
to the song- thrush and " thrush " to the missel- 
thrush : 

The thrush replyes, the mavis descant playes. 

Here the word " descant," i.e., "the altering the 
movement of an air by additional notes and 
ornaments," is an exact description of the music 
of the song- thrush (Swainson, " Provincial Names 

of British Birds," 3). 

The Blackbird. Along with the " throstle 
with his note so true " naturally comes . 

The ouzel-cock so black of hue, 
With orange-tawny bill. 

The blackbird appears in Tennyson under the 
three names of the "blackbird," the "ouzel," 
and the " merle." In the already-quoted passage 


from Gareth and Lynette, Tennyson mentions it 

under the name of the " merle," along with the 

lark, the mavis, and the linnet, as uttering forth 

May music growing with the growing light ; 

he also mentions it under the same name along 
wrfh the hawk, the buzzard, the jay, and the 
thrush, as forming part of 

The lusty life of wood and underwood. 

(The Foresters, Act I., sc. 3.) 

Under the name of the " ouzel " it appears in 
the beautiful bird-passages in the Gardener's 
Daughter, where, among the other sounds of 
May : 

The mellow ouzel fluted in the elm. 
The reference here is clearly to the blackbird, 
for the ring-ouzel is a rare mountain bird, with a 
brief and monotonous song (Howard Saunders, 
p. 16), while " mellow " exactly describes the 
rich notes of the blackbird, whose clearness of 
note is well described by the word " fluted," an 


expression which is used of the blackbird by 
Hurdis in his Favourite Village : 

Ouzel fluting with melodious pipe ; 
and, again, by Phillips in his Pastorals : 

Fluting through his yellow bill.-- 
Its attacks on fruit are referred to in the passage : 

And while the blackbird on the pippin hung. 

(Audley Court.) 

The " flute notes " of the bird are heard from the 
middle of February, but cease or degenerate on 
the approach of hot weather in June. To this 
and its ravages among the fruit with the " gold 
dagger " of its " orange-tawny bill," Tennyson 
alludes in his poem on The Blackbird : 

O blackbird ! sing me something well : 
While all the neighbours shoot thee round, 
I keep smooth plats of fruitful ground 

Where thou may'st warble, eat and dwell. 

The espaliers and the standards all 

Are thine ; the range of lawn and park ; 


The unnetted black-hearts ripen dark 
All thine, against the garden wall. 

Yet, tho' I spared thee all the spring, 
Thy sole delight is, sitting still* 
With that gold dagger of thy bill 

To fret the summer jenneting. 

O golden bill ! the silver tongue 

Cold February loved, is dry : 

Plenty corrupts the melody 
That made thee famous once, when young. 

And in the sultry garden-squares, 

Now thy flute-notes are changed to coarse, 
I hear thee not at all, or hoarse, 

As when a hawker hawks his wares. 

Take warning ! he that will not sing 
While yon sun prospers in the blue, 
Shall sing for want, ere leaves are new, 

Caught in the frozen palms of spring. 

The Linnet. The linnet is mentioned by 
Tennyson oftener than any bird after the lark, 
the nightingale, the swallow and the owl. It is 


remarkable for two points, its song and its 
plumage. Tennyson mentions it twice as one 
of the joyful birds : 

O merry the linnet and dove, 

And swallow and sparrow and throstle. 

(The Window.) 

The merry linnet knew me. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

The rising cadence of its song is described in 
the lines : 

Her song the lintwhite swelleth, 

(Claribel.) j! 

where the female is represented as the songster. 
More ornithologically correct is the line : 

Sometimes the linnet piped his song. . 

(Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere.) 

The sweetness and irregularity of its notes 
(Howard Saunders, 188) are perhaps a justifica- 
tion for the lines from In Memoriam : 


I do but sing because I must, 
And pipe but as the linnets sing : 

And one is glad ; her note is gay, 
For now her little ones have ranged ; 
And one is sad ; her note is changed, 

Because her brood is stol'n away. 

In this passage the line : 

I pipe but as the linnets sing, 

bears a remarkable resemblance to Carlyle's trans- 
lation of Goethe's song in Wilhelm Meister : 

I sing but as the linnet sings. 
The fondness of the linnet for singing in rough 
windy weather is thus alluded to : 

The women sang 

Between the rougher voices of the men, 
Like linnets in the pauses of the wind. 

(The Princess.) 

The linnet because of its sweet song and from 
its " capacity for learning the notes of other 
species " (H. Saunders, 188) is valued as a cage- 
bird. To this Tennyson refers in the lines : 

'When three gray Linnets wrangle for the seed. 


The linnet born within the cage 
That never knew the summer woods. 

(In Memoriam.) 

As regards the linnet's plumage, Tennyson 
notices the fact that its breast, which is brown 
or dull chestnut in winter, is bright red in spring 
(Morris, II., 268), when he describes the effect of 
the advent of spring : 

The linnet's bosom blushes at her gaze. 

(The Progress of Spring.) 

The plumage changes in the autumn, when the 
crimson feathers are concealed by wide grey mar- 
gins (Howard Saunders, p. 188). Hence the bird, 
which is called from its spring plumage the red 
or brown linnet, receives from its autumn plumage 
the name of " grey linnet." Thus Tennyson, des- 
cribing an autumn picture, writes : 

As the thistle shakes 

When three grey linnets wrangle for the seed. 


This passage shows Tennyson's power of ob- 
servation, for the seeds of the thistle as of other 


plants are its favourite food. Hurdis had already 
observed this, as appears from these lines in the 
Favourite Village : 

The linnet spare and finch of crimson face, 
That twitter each the none-offending song 
Of quiet prettiness, and pluck the down 
Of the prolific thistle for their bread. 

Towards the winter it feeds on hips and haws 
and mountain-ash berries. This fact Tennyson 
has noticed in the lines : 

Hoary knoll of ash and haw 
That hears the latest linnet trill. 

(In Memoriam.) 

The Goldfinch. The goldfinch, or, as Burns 
calls it, " the gowdspink, Nature's gayest child," 
is once mentioned by Tennyson under its pro- 
vincial name of " redcap," a name which it has 
received from its crimson head. It is one of the 
birds in the beautiful passage in the Gardener's 
Daughter : 

The redcap whistled. 
This passage puzzled the Duke of Argyll, who 


wrote and asked the poet to what bird it referred. 
Tennyson answered, " Redcap is, or was when I 
was a lad, provincial for goldfinch ; had I known 
it was purely provincial, I should probably not 
have used it. Now the passage has stood so 
long that I am loth to alter it." 

According to Swainson, " redcap " and " King 
Harry " or " King Harry redcap " are provincial 
names for the goldfinch in Shropshire, Suffolk, 
and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Mr. Cor- 
deaux (" Birds of the Humber District," 54) refers 
to the " redcap " as its provincial name in Lincoln- 

The Greenfinch. The greenfinch, or green 
linnet, a frequenter of gardens and shrubberies, 
is once referred to by Tennyson in the 
passage : 

Started a green linnet 
Out of the croft. 

(Minnie and Winnie.) 

It is one of the most attractive of English birds, 


but is rarely mentioned by poets. Shakespeare 
never refers to it, but it is the subject of one of 
the most beautiful of Wordsworth's smaller 
poems : 

My dazzled sight he oft deceives ; 
A brother of the dancing leaves ; 
Then flits, and from the cottage-eaves 
Pours forth his song in gushes, 
As if by that exulting strain 
He mock'd and treated with disdain 
The voiceless form he chose to feign 
While fluttering in the bushes. 

The Robin. The allusions which Tennyson 
makes to the robin, " the darling of children and 
men," show his accurate observation of the 
habits of the bird. The nuptial plumage which 
it puts on in the breeding season is described 
in the line : 

In the spring a fuller crimson comes upon the 

robin's breast. 

(Locksley Hall.) 

The fact that the melancholy note of the robin 
is almost the only song of English birds heard 


during the dull time between autumn and winter 
is noted in the lines : 

On the nigh-naked tree the robin piped 

(Enoch Arden.) 

The same fact is referred to by Hurdis in his 

Village Curate : 

Alone the solitary robin sings, 

And, perch'd aloft, with melancholy note 

Chants out the dirge of autumn. 

And by Burns : 

The robin pensive autumn cheers 
In all her locks of yellow. 

(Humble Petition of Bruar Water.) 

And by Wordsworth : 

The pensive warbler of the ruddy breast 
This moral sweetens by a heaven-taught lay, 
Lulling the year with all its cares to rest. 

(The Trossachs.) 

The more cheerful side of the robin's nature is 
referred to by Tennyson in a passage in The 
Foresters (Act III.), where Maid Marian says : 


If my man Robin were but a bird-Robin, 
How happily would we lilt among the leaves ; 
* Love, love, love, love ' what merry madness 

The fondness of the robin for the company of 
men and the interest that it takes in gardening 
operations which give rise to the hope of worms, 
were observed by Tennyson himself one day 
when digging in his garden at Farringford, and 
were recorded in a line which appears twice in 
the Marriage of Geraint : 

And glancing all at once as keenly at her 
As careful robins eye the delver's toil. 

With that he turn'd and look'd as keenly at her 
As careful robins eye the delver's toil. 

The Wrens. Tennyson perhaps makes refer- 
ence to all three varieties of the wren, namely, 
the common, the fire-crested and the gold- 
crested. In his poem of The Windows, or the 
Song of the Wrens, Tennyson perhaps dis- 


tinguishes between the fire-crested wren and the 
golden crest. The lines : 

Look, look, how he flits, 

The fire-crown'd king of the wrens, from 
out of the pine ! 


And flit like the king of the wrens with a crown 
of fire ; 

may refer to the rare fire-crested wren, which is 
distinguished from the golden-crested wren by 
the black bands on the sides of the crest meeting 
across the forehead. Both the fire-crest and the 
gold-crest are frequenters of fir and pine woods. 
The following passage seems intended for the 
gold-crest : 

And you, my wren, with a crown of gold, 
You my queen of the wrens ! 

You the queen of the wrens 
We'll be birds of a feather ; 

I'll be King of the Queen of the wrens, 

And all in a nest together. 


With the last line should be compared a similar 
sentiment from Geraint and Enid : 

And we will live like two birds in one nest. 

The wrens are the smallest of British birds. 
The contrast between the eagle, the largest of 
British birds, and the wren which is the smallest, 
and yet which, according to the legend, defrauded 
the eagle of its royal rights, is perhaps referred 
to in the line from the Golden Year : 

Shall eagles not be eagles ? Wrens be wrens ? 

A reference to the diminutive size of the com- 
mon wren as well as to its pugnacity is to be 
found in the Marriage of Geraint, where, in allusion 
to the mobbing of the sparrow-hawk by small 
birds, appear the lines : 

Tits, wrens, and all wing'd nothings peck him 
dead ' 

The Blackcap. This charming songster, with 
its "full, sweet, deep, loud and wild pipe" 


(Gilbert White) is rarely mentioned in poetry. 
Tennyson has one allusion to it : 

The thicket stirs, 

The fountain pulses high in summer jets, 
The blackcap warbles. 

(The Progress of Spring.) 

The only other reference to it in the poets is 
to be found in the works of another Lincolnshire 
poet, Jean Ingelow, who alludes in one of her 
poems to its depredations among the fruit : 

The blackcaps in an orchard met 
Praising the berries while they ate. 

The blackcap is now a rare bird in Lincoln- 
shire (Cordeaux, " Birds of the Humber Dis- 
trict,") though it is common enough in the 
orchard districts of Middlesex. 

The Starling. The starling is only once men- 
tioned by Tennyson, namely, in the Progress 
of Spring : 

The starling claps his tiny castanets. 
The allusion probably is to the bird's habit of 


trembling as it sings. According to Seebohm, 
his song is warbled forth as he " ruffles the 
feathers of his head and throat and shakes and 
droops his wings, as though full of nervous 
excitement." The diary of Mrs. Tennyson con- 
tains a reference to the Idylls which the writer 
has not been able to trace ; it is under the date 
November 8, 1870, and is as follows : "At night 
he " (i.e., the poet) " repeated some of The Last 
Tournament which he had just written. We read 
about starlings in Morris ; I did not know (what 
A. had put into his Idyll from his own observa- 
tion) that the starlings in June, after they have 
brought up their young ones, congregate in flocks 
in a reedy place for the sake of sociability." 
("Life," vol. II., 100.) 

The Sparrow. The sparrow is too common- 
place to lend itself to poetic treatment. In the 

O merry the linnet and dove, 

And swallow and sparrow and throstle, 

(The Window.) 


Tennyson may be referring to the welcome notes 
of the dunnock or hedge-sparrow, though the 
bird can hardly be considered as lively as the 
common house-sparrow. 

The dunnock, or hedge-sparrow, is perhaps 
referred to in the lines, 

The very sparrows in the hedge 
Scarce answer to my whistle ; 

The sparrow spear'd by the shrike ; 


O wretched set of sparrows, one and all, 
Who pipe of nothing but of sparrow-hawks. 
(The Marriage of Geraint.) 

The commonplace house-sparrow is referred to 
in the line, 

The sparrow's chirrup on the roof ; 

and again in In Memoriam (st. 119), 

I hear a chirp of birds ; I see 
Betwixt the black fronts long-withdrawn 
A light-blue lane of early dawn. 




Birds of Passage Nightingale Swallow Swift 
Martin Cuckoo . 

THE flight of b^rds is a topic which specially 
engaged the attention of Tennyson, whose eyes 

were : 

keen to seek 

The meanings ambush'd under all they saw. 


In particular his poems contain a great number 
of references to the phenomena of the migration 

The happy birds that change their sky 
To build and brood ; that live their lives 

From land to land. 

(In Memoriam.) 

Thus in the Holy Grail, 

Chatterers they, 

Like birds of passage piping up and down, 
That gape for flies ; 


or in the Passing of Arthur, 

Like wild birds that change 
Their season in the night and wail their way 
From cloud to cloud ; 

or in The Ring, 

How the birds that circle round the tower 
Are cheeping to each other of their flight 
To summer lands ! 

or in Demeter and Persephone, 

Faint as a climate-changing bird that flies 
All night across the darkness, and at dawn 
Falls on the threshold of her native land, 

or in Becket : 

Bar the bird 

From following the fled summer a chink he's 

Gone ! 

or in The Princess, 

and he could not see 

The bird of passage flying south but long'd 
To follow ; 

and again, 

These birds of passage come before their time. 

(Queen Mary.) 


The fatal attractions that the lights in light- 
houses have for migratory birds is alluded to in 
two passages, one from The Princess : 

Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves 
Of tempest, when the crimson-rolling eye 
Glares ruin, and the wild birds on the light 
Dash themselves dead. 

Another from Enoch Arden : 

As the beacon-blaze allures 
The bird of passage, till he madly strikes 
Against it, and beats out his weary life. 

The migrants to whose change of climate 
Tennyson specifically refers are the nightingale, 
swallow and cuckoo. 

The finest of Tennyson's allusions to the 
migration of the nightingale is perhaps the 
passage from The Marriage of Geraint which 
describes the arrival of the nightingale in 
England in the month of April : 

So the sweet voice of Enid moved Geraint, 
And made him like a man abroad at morn 
When first the liquid note beloved of men 


Comes flying over many a windy wave 

To Britain, and in April suddenly 

Breaks from the coppice gemm'd with green 

and red, 

And he suspends his converse with a friend, 
Or it may be the labour of his hands, 
To think or say, ' There is the nightingale.' 

The departure of the nightingale in August and 
September is referred to in Harold : 

They are but spring . . . they fly the 
winter change. 

Queen Eleanor in Becket says : 

My voice is harsh here, not in tune, a nightingale 
out of season. 

The Swallow. The swallow is one of Tenny- 
son's favourites and is mentioned by him oftener 
than any bird except the lark and the nightin- 
gale. The two features in the life of the bird 
which chiefly attract the attention of the poet 
are its migration and the beauty of its flight. 
The migration of the swallow, which arrives 
here at the end of March or the beginning of 


April and leaves us in October, is referred to 
in the following passages : 

And the swallow 'ill come back with summer 
o'er the wave. 

(The May Queen.) 
Hubert brings me home 
With April and the swallow. 

(The Ring.) 

Where they like swallows coming out of time 
Will wonder why they came. 

(The Princess.) 
Yet will I be your swallow and return. 

(Queen Mary.) 

Its arrival is mentioned as one of the signs of 
spring in the Promise of May, 

Wi' the butterflies out and the swallers at 
plaay ; 

and again in the Milkmaid's song in Queen Mary, 

Swallows fly again, 
Cuckoos cry again. 

The first appearance of the swallow and the first 
song of the cuckoo in eacl year are close to one 


another. In Marsham's " Indications of Spring" 
the average date for the appearance of the swallow 
is given as the I3th April, and for the song of 
the cuckoo as the 23rd April (Transactions of 
the Norfolk, &c. } Naturalists' Society, II., 44). 

The stay of the swallow in England and its 
return every year are referred to in the lines 
in which Mary Tudor is complaining of the cold- 
ness of her Spanish husband : 

Why, nature's licensed vagabond, the swallow, 
That might live always in the sun's warm heart, 
Stays longer here in our poor north than you : 
Knows where he nested ever comes again. 

The departure of the swallow " flying south " 
is referred to in the following passages : 

Sick as an autumn swallow for a voyage. 


What time I watch'd the swallow winging south 
From mine own land. 

(The Princess.) 

The swallow, from its dislike for cold weather 
and fondness for warmth, is used by Tennyson 


in Becket to describe dependents who leave their 
master on the approach of ruin : 

Farewell, friends ! farewell, swallows ! I wrong 
the bird ; she leaves only the nest she built, 
they leave the builder. 

The same idea is found in Shakespeare's Timon 
of Athens (Act III, sc. 6) : 

2ND. LORD. The swallow follows not summer 
more willing than we your lordship. 

TIMON. Nor more willingly leave master ; 
such summer birds are men. 

So Crabbe to the same effect : 

Chief to the prosperous side the numbers sail. 
Fickle and false, they veer with every gale, 
As birds that migrate from a freezing shore, 
In search of warmer climes, come skimming 


So, on the early prospect of disgrace, 
Fly in vast troops this apprehensive race. 
Instinctive tribes ! their failing food they dread, 
And beg, with timely change, their future 


(The Newspaper.) 


The flight of the " skimming " swallow, one 
of its most attractive features, is thus alluded 
to by Tennyson : 

Now past her feet the swallow circling flies. 
(The Progress of Spring.) 

While the swallows skim along the ground. 

(The Foresters.) 

Above in the wind was the swallow, 
Chasing itself at its own wild will. 

(The Dying Swan.) 

The fondness of the swallow for dipping in the 
water is frequently alluded to by Tennyson, e.g. : 

Nor dare she trust a larger lay, 
But rather loosens from the lip 
Short swallow-flights of song, that dip 

Their wings in tears, and skim away. 

(In Memoriam.) 

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, 
Among my skimming swallows. 

(The Brook.) 

She moves among my visions of the lake, 
While the prime swallow dips his wings 

(Edwin Morris.) 


For knowledge is the swallow on the lake 
That sees and stirs the surface-shadow there, 
But never yet hath dipt into the abysm. 

(The Ancient Sage.) 

The ferocious side of the nature of swallows, 
the " mordrer of the flyes smale," as Chaucer 
calls it, is referred to by Tennyson in the line : 

The may-fly is torn by the swallow. 


The following lines from the Holy Grail : 

Birds of passage piping up and down 
That gape for flies 

probably refer to the swallows. The late Mr. 
Ruskin, writing of the swallows (Love's Meinie, 
46), says : " It belongs to a family of birds called 
4 fissi - rostres ' or ' split - beaks.' ' Split - heads ' 
would be a better term, for it is the enormous 
width of mouth and power of gaping which the 
epithet is meant to express. . . . The bird 
is most vigilant when its mouth is widest, for it 
opens as a net to catch whatever comes in its 
way," The same writer says, " From 700 to 


1,000 flies a day are a moderate allowance for 
a baby swallow." Compare Virgil's description 
of the swallow : 

" Pabula parva legens, nidisque loquacibus escas." 
Mr. Harting objects to the line from the Poet's 

The swallow stopt as he hunted the bee, 
and says that it attributes to the bird a habit 
which it does not possess (Zoologist, 1893, 146). 
On the other hand, the line is defended in the 
Spectator of August i8th, 1900. The writer 
says : " Some doubt having been suggested as to 
whether the swallow does or does not catch bees, 
the practical evidence of Dixon (always an 
accurate observer) deserves consideration. Writ- 
ing of the bee-eater he says : " They were busy 
hawking for insects and mingling with the swifts 
and swallows." Mr. Charles Home, writing to 
the Zoologist (1845, p. 1,137) under the heading 
" Do swallows eat the honey bee ? " notes the 
following interesting fact : "On the i6th of this 


month I observed several swallows mobbed by 
hive-bees, as hawks and owls occasionally are 
by smaller birds ; they amused themselves by 
flying close to a range of hives, but I could not 
see that they devoured any of the bees, who 
appeared to be the assailants." 

It is perhaps worth noticing that Virgil, in the 
Georgics (IV. 13), mentions the swallow along 
with the bee-eater as one of the many enemies 
of bees : 

Absint et picti squalentia terga lacerti 

Pinguibus a stabulis meropesque aliaeque 

Et manibus Procne pectus signata cmentis. 

Omnia nam late vast ant ipsasque volantes 

Ore ferunt dulcem nidis immitibus escam. 

In later editions of Tennyson's works the 
criticised line was altered, and reads : 
The swallow stopt as he hunted the fly. 

The active movements of the swallow and its 
lively twitter justify its being placed by Tenny- 
son among the merry birds : 


O merry the linnet and dove, 

And swallow and sparrow and throstle. 

(The Window.) 

Shelley speaks of "the blithe swallow." So 
Chaucer, in his description of the Carpenter's 
Wife in the Miller's Tale, says : 

But of hir song, it was as loude and yerne* 
As any swalwe sitting on a berne. 

The Swift. With Tennyson's solitary reference 
to the swift 

The swallow and the swift are near akin 
(The Coming of Arthur.) 

many modern ornithologists might disagree. The 
swallow and the swift in outward appearance 
have many points of resemblance, the pointed 
wings, the forked tail, the little bill. Some 
naturalists consider that the swift is akin to the 
humming bird, others to the goat-sucker, and 
others to the birds of the passerine order. Tenny- 

* "Eager, brisk, lively" (Skeat, Glossarial Index to the 
Student's Chaucer). 



son's opinion is in agreement with that of Lin- 

The Martin. Along with the swift and the 
swallow naturally comes that universal favourite, 
the house-martin, which builds its nest under 
the eaves of our houses when it is not driven 
away by that domestic pest the house-sparrow. 
Hence in Aylmer's Field the reference to 
the martin-haunted eaves. 

The martin's nest of plastered mud is alluded 
to by Tennyson in a passage in Launcelot and 
Elaine : 

Down to the little thorpe that lies so close, 
And almost plaster'd like a martin's nest 
To these old walls. 

The passage from The Daydream : 

Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs, 
brings to mind the beautiful and oft-quoted lines 

from Macbeth : 

This guest of summer, 
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve, 
By his loved mansionry, that the heaven's breath 


Smells wooingly here ; no jutty, frieze, 
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird 
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle. 

The Cuckoo. The migration of the cuckoo is 
referred to in the lines from Queen Mary that 
have already been quoted : 

Swallows fly again, 
Cuckoos cry again. 

When the poet reproaches Mary Boyle with 
breaking her promise to come with the spring 
flowers, he writes : 

Be truer to your promise. There ! I heard 
Our cuckoo call. 

The persistent note of the cuckoo is treated 
as one of the signs of spring in the line : 

A clamorous cuckoo stoops to meet her hand. 
(The Progress of Spring.) 

The weakness of the cuckoo for repeating its 
name is thus referred to : 

The cuckoo told his name to all the hills. 

(The Gardener's Daughter.) 


We loved 

The sound of one another's voices more 
Than the gray cuckoo loves his name. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

' Gray cuckoo " (cf. Shakespeare's " plain-song 
cuckoo gray ") here means the adult bird, which 
does not put on its gray plumage till the second 

So seldom is the bird seen that there seems 
something unsubstantial about its cry : 

Far off a phantom cuckoo cries 
From out a phantom hill. 
(Prefatory Poem to my Brother's Sonnets.) 

The note of the bird is first heard in April and 
is at its best in May : 

" Cuckoo ! cuckoo ! " was ever a May so fine. 

(The Window.) 

It continues but with a great falling off through 
June and July; hence the beautiful lines from 
Shakespeare, Henry IV. (Part I., Act in., sc. 2) : 

He was but as the cuckoo is in June, 
Heard, not regarded. 


Its fondness for singing even in the dark is 
noticed by Tennyson : 

Midnight in no midsummer tune 
The breakers lash the shores : 
The cuckoo of a joyless June 
Is calling out of doors : 

Midnight and joyless June gone by, 
And from the deluged park 
The cuckoo of a worse July 
Is calling thro' the dark. 
(Prefatory Poem to my Brother's Sonnets.) 

It is a well-known fact that the cuckoo places 
its eggs in the nests of other birds, particularly 
of the hedge-sparrow, and leaves the bringing-up 
of its offspring to the foster-parents whose own 
nestling^ are often expelled by the young intruder. 
Tennyson twice alludes to this evil habit, once 
in a passage in the Princess : 

6 The plan was mine. I built the nest,' she 

' To hatch the cuckoo.' 

And again in the prologue to Harold, where the 


allusion to the Norman supplanting the native 
prince is obvious : 

The cuckoo yonder from an English elm 
Crying ' With my false egg I overwhelm 
The native nest.' 

Chaucer in the Parlement of Fowles (1. 612) goes 
farther and represents it as killing the foster- 
parent itself. 

So too Shakespeare in King Lear : 

" For you know, nuncle, the hedge-sparrow 
fed the cuckoo so long, that it had its head bit 
off by its young " (Act i., sc. 4). 

One other fact relating to the cuckoo is noticed 
by the poet, namely, the mobbing of the cuckoo 
by small birds : 

I have seen the cuckoo chased by lesser fowl, 
And reason in the chase. 

(The Coming of Arthur.) 

What the " reason in the chase " is ornithologists 
are not agreed. Some say that the cuckoo is 
chased by smaller birds because it is very like 


a hawk and is mistaken by them for a hawk, 
which little birds are often in the habit of mob- 




Rook Crow Jackdaw Magpie Jay 
Tits Doves Owls Nightjar Woodpeckers. 

The Rook. The rook is a favourite with 
Tennyson, whose poems contain many references 
to its habits. The fondness of the rook for 
the elm is referred to in the May Queen : 

The building rook '11 caw from the windy tall 
elm- tree. 

And again in The Ring : 

And in yon arching avenue of old elms, 
Tho' mine, not mine, I heard the sober rook 
And carrion crow cry, ' Mortgage ; ' 

and in The Princess : 

A shout rose again, and made 

The long line of the approaching rookery swerve 

From the elms ; 


and in Aylmer's Field : 

As dawn 
Aroused the black republic on his elms. 

With the last passage should be compared the 
line from Dryden's Hind and Panther : 
Choughs and daws, and such republic birds. 

The habit of rooks to leave their rookery and 
resort on the approach of winter to woods is 
referred to in In Memoriam : 

And autumn, with a noise of rooks 
That gather in the waning woods. 

The line from the same poem, 

The rooks are blown about the skies, 
may refer to the force of autumnal winds against 
which even the strong flight of the rook cannot 
make headway, or to the antics in which rooks 
indulge as the wind is rising in the latter part 
of the year, when they dive down in a frantic, 
frolicsome manner from a great height in the 
air, with closed wings, sweeping out when 
approaching a tree or the ground, as if to save 


themselves from being dashed to pieces (Morris, 
I., 292). 

The noise which they make in the evening as 
they are preparing for the night's rest is described 
in the Marriage of Geraint : 

Or like a clamour of the rooks 
At distance, ere they settle for the night. 

And in Locksley Hall : 

As the many-winter 'd crow that leads the 
clanging rookery home. 

In the line last quoted, as in the passage quoted 
above from the Princess, the word " rookery," 
which properly means the place where the rooks 
build, is by a figure of speech used for the com- 
pany of rooks wending their way home. 

In this passage " crow " is probably used instead 
of " rook " ; compare the similar passage in Shake- 
speare's Macbeth (Act III., sc. 2, 1. 51) : 

Light thickens ; and the crow 
Makes wing to the rooky wood. 

In the line from Maud, 

Maud, Maud, Maud, Maud, 


the poet, we are told, intended to represent the 
cawing of the rooks, " the birds in the high hall 
garden ; " while in the line, 

Maud is here, here, here, 

he intended to represent the call of the small 
birds of the wood. (" Life," I., 403.) 

The Crow. The carrion crow is several times 
mentioned by Tennyson : its bad reputation as 
a gallows bird is referred to in Merlin and 
Vivien : 

And many a wizard brow bleach' d on the walls : 
And many weeks a troop of carrion crows 
Hung like a cloud above the gateway towers. 

And again in The Foresters : 

You ought to dangle up there among the crows. 
The foul feeding of the crow and its gloating 
on the approaching death of its victims are 
referred to in the lines from The Last Tourna- 
ment : 

Round whose sick head all night, like birds of 

The words of Arthur flying, shriek'd. 


And again in Queen Mary : 

James, didst thou ever see a carrion crow 
Stand watching a sick beast before he dies ? 

(Act iv., sc. 3.) 

With this passage should be compared the 
lines from Julius Cczsar : 


Fly o'er our heads and downward look on us 
As we were sickly prey. 

The straightness of the crow's flight has passed 
into a proverb, and Tennyson shows his accus- 
tomed skill in putting a commonplace expression 
into poetic form when he contrasts the flight of 
a crow with the meanderings of a stream : 

There runs a shallow brook across our field 
For twenty miles, where the black crow flies 

(Queen Mary.) 

The crowsfeet at the corner of the eye, which 
are the signs of approaching age, are said to be 
so called from the resemblance which they have 
to the impression of a crow's foot on the ground. 


Tennyson expands the expression in Will Water- 
proof : 

Live long, ere from thy topmost head 

The thick-set hazel dies ; 
Long, ere the hateful crow shall tread 

The corners of thine eyes. 

A similar passage is to be found in Chaucer 
(Troilus and Criseyde, II., 402) : 

So longe mote ye live, and alle proude 
Till crowes feet be growe under your ye. 

In Sea-Dreams Tennyson seems to connect the 
" crowsfeet " not only with age but also with 
cunning : 

Whose pious talk, when most his heart was dry, 
Made wet the crafty crowsfoot round his eye. 

The expression picking or plucking a crow 
with some one else, in the sense of quarrelling or 
finding fault, is one the origin of which is by no 
means clear. The expression is used once by 
Tennyson in the Northern Farmer : 

Theer's a craw to pluck wi' tha, Sam. 


The phrase is also found in Shakespeare : 

We'll pluck a crow together. 

(Comedy of Errors, III., i.) 

The crow is generally a solitary bird, but it 
is sometimes found in the company of rooks. 
A reference to the consorting of rooks and crows 
is to be found in The Ring : 

I heard the sober rook 
And carrion crow cry, ' Mortgage.' 

And perhaps in Locksley Hall, where there may 
be an allusion to the great age of the annosa 

cornix : 

As the many-winter'd crow that leads the 
clanging rookery home. 

But it may be that in this passage the poet is 
only using the word " crow " for " rook " (see ante, 
p. 106). 

Burns in the lines, 

k The blackening train of crows 
Winging their way to their repose ; 

and Scott in the lines, 


Hoarse into middle air arose 

The vespers of the roosting crows, 

use the word "crow" instead of "rook." In 
Scotland, and in some parts of England, the word 
"crow" is generally used for the rook as well 
as for the carrion crow (Swainson, p. 86). 

The Jackdaw. The " active, bustling, cheer- 
ful, noisy jackdaw " is a universal favourite. 
Tennyson describes its clamour and haunts in 
the following passages : 

Quarry trench'd along the hill 
And haunted by the wrangling daw. 

(In Memoriam.) 

But she, remembering her old ruin'd hall 
And all the windy clamour of the daws 
About her hollow turret. 

(Geraint and Enid.) 

And the daws flew out of the Towers and 
jangled and wrangled in vain. 

(The Voyage of Maeldune.) 

Few places come amiss to the daw, who is as 
much at home in the holes and hollows of an old 


forest tree or in quarries and chalkpits as in old 
towers, the chimneys of a dwelling-house, or in 
the spires of cathedrals and churches. For he 
is : 

A great frequenter of the church, 
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch 
And dormitory too. 


The Magpie. The magpie's " harsh chatter " 
has made it the type of a gossip : 

Peace, magpie. 

(The Foresters.) 
When Tennyson speaks of 

The magpie gossip 
Garrulous under a roof of pine, 

(To the Rev. F. D. Maurice.) 

he is probably referring to the fact that one of 
its favourite haunts is in or near fir-trees, on the 
top of which the nest may often be found. 

In the days of falconry the magpie afforded 
good sport, but Lancelot in praising his falcon 
speaks disdainfully of the magpie as a quarry : 



4 She is too noble,' he said, ' to check at pies ' ; 

(Merlin and Vivien.) 

" To check " means to fly. 

The Jay. The " termagant " jay, a bird 
" exclusively addicted to woods and their im- 
mediately surrounding trees " (Morris) is occa- 
sionally referred to by Tennyson. The lines : 

And thro' damp holts new-flush'd with may, 
Ring sudden scritches of the jay, 


well describe its home in the woods and its 
" harsh " and " almost startling " note. It is 
again mentioned as a frequenter of the woods 
in the lines : 

The lusty life of wood and underwood, 
Hawk, buzzard, jay, the mavis and the 

(The Foresters.) 
Its cry is again referred to in the line : 

About her glance the tits, and shriek the jays. 
(The Progress of Spring.) 

The Tits. Few birds are so charming in their 



fantastic motions as those of the tit tribe. Their 
ravages among the blossoms, which probably 
they search in quest of insects, gained them 
an evil name in by-gone times, and they were 
reckoned as devourers of the " blowth of fruit " 
on whose heads a reward was placed by a 
Statute of Henry VIII. Morris refers to an 
entry in Churchwardens' accounts of payments 
"for seventeen dozen of tomtits' heads." 

Tennyson refers to their acrobatic perform- 
ances in the fruit trees : 

Look how they tumble the blossoms, the mad 
little tits. 

(The Window.) 

Compare with this the beautiful lines of Words- 
worth : 

Where is he that giddy sprite, 
Bluecap, with his colours bright, 
Who was blest as bird could be 
Feeding in the apple-tree ; 
Made such wanton spoil and rout 
Turning blossoms inside out, 

"Look how they tumble the blossom, the mad little Tits!" 


Hung head pointing towards the ground, 
Fluttered, perched, into a round 
Bound himself, and then unbound ; 
Lithest, gaudiest harlequin ! 
Prettiest tumbler ever seen! 

The restless movements of the birds of this 
tribe are referred to by Tennyson : 

About her glance the tits. 

(The Progress of Spring.) 

The watchfulness and loquacity of the tits 
have made them proverbial in the nursery as 
tell-tales, and are perhaps referred to by Tenny- 
son in the lines : 

Kiss in the bower, 
Tit on the tree ! 
Bird mustn't tell, 
Whoop he can see. 


The comical note of the blue tit is perhaps 
intended in the lines : 

And the tit-mouse hopes to win her, 
With his chirrup at her ear. 



Its insignificant size is referred to in the lines 
from Geraint and Enid : 

Tits, wrens and all wing'd nothings peck him 

And again in the Falcon, where " half a tit and a 
hern's bill " appear in the bill of fare of the 
needy count. 

The Doves. Tennyson refers by name to 
three members of the dove tribe, besides the 
domestic pigeon, namely, the ring-dove, the 
stock-dove, and the turtle-dove. 

The wood-pigeon or ring-dove, which has 
received the latter name from the patch of white 
on each side of its neck, is the largest and com- 
monest of all the wild doves. The coo of this 
bird when courting is mentioned in the milk- 
maid's song in Queen Mary as one of the signs 
of spring : 

Ring-doves coo again, 
All things woo again. 

Ring-doves begin to coo in some years as early 


as the 25th December, while in other years they 
are as late as April 15 th ; the average date is 
February i8th, according to Marsham's " Indica- 
tions of Spring" (Norfolk Nat. Soc. Trans., II., 
44). The dark hue of its plumage is referred to 
in the passages from The Talking Oak, which 
contain an allusion to the prophetic doves in 
the oak-grove of Dodona : 

That Thessalian growth 

In which the swarthy ringdove sat, 

And mystic sentence spoke. 

The lines in The Progress of Spring : 

While round her brows a woodland culver flits, 
* * * * 

Still round her forehead wheels the woodland 

seem to apply to the ring-dove, which is known 
in some parts of England as the culver (Swain- 
son's "Provincial Names of British Birds"). 
Compare Spenser's : 

All comfortless upon the bared bow 
Like wofull culvers doo sit wayling now. 

(The Teares of the Muses.) 


The stock-dove or wood-dove, which is so 
called from its habits of building in the stocks 
of trees, is several times referred to ; it appears 
twice in the Promise of May : 

The stock-dove coo'd at the fall of night 

And the stock-dove coo'd till a kite dropt down. 
And again in the Leonine Elegiacs : 
Deeply the wood-dove coos. 
The turtle-dove, which is a spring visitor to 
our shores, is mentioned as one of the signs of 
the approach of spring : 

The turtle purrs. 

(The Progress of Spring.) 

In Becket it is used figuratively of Fair Rosa- 
mund : 

Up from the salt lips of the land we two 
Have track'd the King to this dark inland wood ; 
And somewhere hereabouts he vanish'd. Here 
His turtle builds." 

Several of Tennyson's references to the doves 


in general are equally applicable to all three 
varieties, such as those in the following passages : 
And oft I heard the tender dove 
In firry woodlands making moan. 

(The Miller's Daughter.) 
From the woods 
Came voices of the well-contented doves. 

(The Gardener's Daughter.) 
'The dove may murmur of the dove. 

(The Princess.) 

The line from Locksley Hall : 

In the spring a livelier iris changes on the 
burnish'd dove 

is perhaps most suitable to the ring-dove, with 
its metallic hue and the mixed gleam of blue, 
green, and purple on its neck. The line from 
The Princess : 

r The moan of doves in immemorial elms 
is perhaps a reminiscence of Virgil's : 

Nee gemere aeria cessabit turtur ab ulmo ; 
and if so, seems meant of the turtle-doves. The 
contrast between the demonstrative affection that 


the turtle-doves or doves of Venus display to 
one another, and their frequent quarrels, is re- 
ferred to in the lines : 

They that loved 
At first like dove and dove were cat and dog. 

(Walking to the Mail.) 
And again : 

But since the fondest pair of doves will jar. 
(Becket, Act IV., sc. 2.) 

The " tender eye " (Maud) of the dove has 
become as proverbial as its gentleness, whence 
the " meek unconscious dove " of In Memoriam. 

The tame pigeon of the dove-cote is several 
times referred to by Tennyson. Thus the two 
lovers in The Gardener's Daughter : 

Coursed about 

The subject most at heart, more near and near, 
Like doves about a dove-cote, wheeling round 
The central wish. 

The " patient range of pupils" in the Princess : 

Sat along the form, like morning doves 
That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch. 


The flight of the Princess Ida and her com- 
panions in the same poem, when the sex of the 
intruders was discovered, is compared to that 


A troop of snowy doves athwart the dusk, 
When some one batters at the dove-cote doors. 

(The Princess.) 

The quaint habit that pigeons have of bowing 
is referred to in the Brook, when old Philip is 
represented as praising 

His pigeons, who in session on their roofs 
Approved him, bowing at their own deserts. 

In the poem to E. Fitzgerald there is a beau- 
tiful picture describing pet doves flocking round 
their master : 

And while your doves about you flit, 
And plant on shoulder, hand and knee, 
Or on your head their rosy feet. 

Less pleasing is the picture in the following 
line : 

An he work, 
Like any pigeon will I cram his crop. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 


In a beautiful passage in In Memoriam the 
soul of the mourner is compared to a carrier- 
pigeon : 

Lo, as a dove when up she springs 
To bear thro' Heaven a tale of woe, 
Some dolorous message knit below 

The wild pulsation of her wings ; 

Like her I go ; I cannot stay. 
The carrier-pigeon as the bearer of bad news 
is also referred to in Harold : 

And thou, my carrier-pigeon of black news, 
Cram thy crop full. 

In the lines from In Memoriam, 

There flew in a dove 
And brought a message from the sea, 

(St. 103) 

is perhaps another reference to the carrier-pigeon, 
which is again referred to in the same poem : 
As light as carrier-birds in the air. 

The Owl. Tennyson refers to three varieties 
of the owl,^namely, the barn, or white, or screech 


owl, the wood, tawny, or brown owl, and the 
eagle owl. The barn owl differs from the wood 
owl in note, colour and haunts ; the barn owl 
screeches and only occasionally hoots, if at all ; 
the wood owl hoots or whoops ; the barn owl is 
white, the wood owl is brown. The barn owl 
haunts towers and belfries ; the wood owl, as its 
name shows, lives in trees. 

In the two poems of Tennyson which are 
called The Owl, and both of which betray marks 
of the influence of Shakespeare, one seems appli- 
cable to the barn owl, the other to the wood owl. 
The first song, which ends, 

Alone and warming his five wits 
The white owl in the belfry sits, 

is clearly meant for the barn owl. The exact 
meaning of the expression " warming his five 
wits " is not clear. Mr. Harting (" The Ornith- 
ology of Shakespeare," p. 95) quotes Chaucer and 
Shakespeare to show that the five wits mean 


the five senses ; he also quotes from Shakespeare's 
Much Ado about Nothing : 

If he have wit enough to keep himself warm. 

The second song of Tennyson to the owl is, it 
seems, intended for the wood owl : 

Thy tuwhits are MPd, I wot 

Thy tuwhoos of yesternight, 

I would mock thy chaunt anew ; 
But I cannot mimick it ; 

Not a whit of thy tuwhoo, 
Thee to woo to thy tuwhit, 
Thee to woo to thy tuwhit, 

With a lengthen'd loud halloo 

Tuwhoo, tuwhit, tuwhit, tuwhoo-o-o. 

These lines, as Mr. Harting points out, are an 
obvious adaptation from the song in Love's 
Labour Lost : 

Then nightly sings the staring owl, 

To-who ; 

Tu-whit, to-who, a merry note, 
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot. 

The wood owl's hoot is like a loud hoo-hoo-hoo, 


and both its note and its haunts are well described 
in the north-country lines quoted from Nuttall 
by Harting (" Ornithology of Shakespeare ") : 

Oh 666, oo 
I was once a king's daughter and sat on my 

father's knee, 
But now I am a poor howlet and hide in a hollow 


The brown owl is again referred to by Tenny- 
son in the lines : 

I drown'd the whoopings of the owl with sound 
Of pious hymns and psalms. 

(St. Simeon Stylites.) 
Shrilly the owlet halloes. 

(Leonine Elegiacs.) 
Bats wheeled and owls whooped. 

(The Princess.) 

When the bat comes out of his cave and the 
owls are whooping at noon. 

Owl- whoop and dorhawk- whirr. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

The following lines contain references to the 
barn owl : 


A home for bats, in every tower an owl. 

(Balin and Balan.) 

The owls 
Wailing had power upon her. 

(Lancelot and Elaine.) 

The night 
When the owls are wailing. 

The line 

And thrice as blind as any noon-day owl 

(The Holy Grail.) 

is more applicable to the barn owl than the wood 
owl, as the former owl spends its day in deeper 
darkness than the latter. The line in The Village 

While 'e set like a great glimmer-gowk wi' 'is 
glasses athurt 'is noase, 

is also probably intended for the barn-owl, which 
with the great hollow round its eyes bears a strong 
resemblance to a spectacled face. 

The barn or white owl is intended in the line : 

An screead like a howl gone mad. 

(Owd Roa.) 


Its unearthly screech has caused it to be regarded 
as a bird of evil omen. Hence the passage from 
The Foresters : 

The scritch-owl bodes death. 

The same belief is to be found in Chaucer : 

The oule eek, that of dethe the bode bringeth. 
(The Parlement of Foules, 1. 343.) 

Also in Shakespeare : 

The screech-owl, screeching loud, 
Puts the wretch, that lies in woe, 
In remembrance of a shroud. 

(Mids. Night's Dream, V. 2.) 


Out on ye, owls ! nothing but songs of death. 

(Rich. III., IV., 4.) 

Tennyson makes one reference to the eagle- 
owl : 

A mere 

Round as the red eye of an eagle-owl 
Under the half-dead sunset glared. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

The lines bear witness to the accuracy of his 


observation, for the iris of the eagle-owl is of 
a bright orange hue and is a vivid contrast to 
the sombre background of dark brown feathers 
which encircle the eye. The eagle-owl is rarely 
to be seen in the British Isles except in captivity, 
but Tennyson had exceptional opportunities for 
observing it, for Mr. Cordeaux "Birds of the 
Humber District " 12) says that a relative of the 
poet, Mr. D'Eyncourt, of Bayon's Manor, not 
far from Somersby, " kept several of these birds 
in a semi-wild state in an old castellated building 
near his house." Tennyson is the only poet 
who mentions the eagle-owl. 

The Nightjar. The nightjar, under the name 
of dor-hawk, the name under which it also 
appears in Wordsworth, is once mentioned by 
Tennyson : 

Owl-whoop and dorhawk-whirr 
Awoke me not. 

(Lover's Tale.) 

This bird is called " dorhawk " from its fondness 


for beetles, the word " dor" referring to the dor- 
beetle. The whirr of the dorhawk refers probably 
to the curious long-drawn churr which the bird 
makes in its throat. Compare the passage from 
Wordsworth : 

The burring dor-hawk round and round is 

The Woodpecker. Tennyson in his references 
to the green woodpecker shows signs of careful 
observation. The curious cry of the bird, re- 
sembling the laugh of a human being, is referred 
to in the following lines : 

Her rapid laughters wild and shrill, 
As laughters of the woodpecker 
From the bosom of a hill. 

An echo like a ghostly woodpecker. 

(The Princess.) 

Tennyson also refers to the woodpecker's in- 
creased activity as a sign of spring : 

Before her skims the jubilant woodpecker. 

(The Progress of Spring.) 


One of the provincial names of the woodpecker 
is the yaffingale (or yaffler, Cordeaux, " Birds of 
the Humber District,") and this name is used 
by Tennyson in the Last Tournament : 

I am woodman of the woods 
And hear the garnet-headed yaffingale 
Mock them. 

(The Last Tournament.) 

The epithet " garnet-headed " is a reference to 
the scarlet border to the feathers of the crown 
and nape of this bird. " The note most fre- 
quently heard is the loud laughing, pleu, pleu, 
pleu " (Howard Saunders, 274). Hurdis writes 

The golden woodpecker, who, like the fool, 
Laughs loud at nothing. 



Eagle Vulture Buzzard Falcon Sp arrow- 
Hawk Kite Kestrel Raven Shrike. 

THE eagle is a bird with which Tennyson 
could have had but little acquaintance ; hence 
his references to it are commonplace or con- 
ventional. The fondness of an eagle for build- 
ing in lofty resorts is several times referred to. 
Thus in (Enone : 

The snowy peak and snow-white cataract 
Fostered the callow eaglet. 

And again in Gareth and Lynette : 

For this an Eagle, a royal Eagle, laid 
Almost beyond eye-reach, on such a palm 
As glitters gilded in thy Book of Hours. 

And again in the Last Tournament : 


A stump of oak half-dead, 

From roots like some black coil of carven snakes, 
Clutch'd at the crag, and started thro' mid air 
Bearing an eagle's nest. 

The last-mentioned poem also contains a 
reference to the conventional legend appearing 
in so many shapes of babies being taken up by 
eagles to their nests. 

The other allusions in Tennyson to the eagle 
are either to its flight or its swoop, as : 

When he rose as it were on the wings of an 
eagle beyond me. 

(The Wreck.) 

They rose to where their sovran eagle sails. 

At such an eagle-height I stand. 


Until she let me fly discaged to sweep 
In ever-highering eagle-circles up 
To the Great Sun of Glory. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

And eagle-like 

Stoop at thy will on Launcelot and the Queen. 

(Balin and Balan.) 


He clasps the crag with crooked hands ; 
Close to the sun in lonely lands, 
Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls ; 
He watches from his mountain walls, 
And like a thunderbolt he falls. 

(The Eagle.) 

Hope, a poising eagle, burns 
Above the unrisen morrow. 


Follow'd a rush of eagle's wings. 

(The Last Tournament.) 

I found Him not in world or sun, 
Or eagle's wing or insect's eye. 

(In Memoriam, st. 124.) 

Other allusions are to its cry : 
Again their ravening eagle rose 
In anger, wheel'd on Europe-shadowing wings, 
And barking for the thrones of kings. 
(Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.) 

Let the wild 
Lean-headed eagles yelp alone. 



But I 
An eagle clang an eagle to the sphere. 

The keenness of its vision is referred to in 

Harold : 

My sight is eagle's. 

Its ravening habits are thus referred to : 
Must their ever-ravening eagle's beak and talon 

annihilate us ? 


The story that eaglets are driven out of their 
nests is used by Tennyson in his reference to the 
War of the American Independence : 

Unprophetic rulers they 
Drove from out the mother's nest 
That young eagle of the West 
To forage for herself alone. 
(Ode on the Opening of the Indian and Colonial 


The poet is not at his best in such lines as : 
Shall eagles not be eagles ? wrens be wrens ? 
If all the world were falcons, what of that ? 
The wonder of the eagle were the less, 
But he not less the eagle. 

(The Golden Year.) 


All the passages quoted above probably refer 
to the golden eagle. Tennyson has one allusion 
to the sea or white-tailed eagle : 

Many a carcass 

Left for the whit e-t ail' d eagle to tear it. 
(Battle of Brunanburh.) 

In the Dead Prophet Tennyson uses the ex- 
pression " the red blood-eagle of liver and heart," 
and explains in a note that '* blood-eagle " is an old 
Viking term for lungs, liver, &c., when torn by 
the conqueror out of the body of the conquered. 
The expression " blood-eagle " is unknown in this 
sense to the dictionaries, and it would be interest- 
ing to know from what source the poet obtained it. 

The Vulture. The vulture is not a British 
bird, and Tennyson's references to it are purely 
conventional, as in the passage : 

For whom the carrion vulture waits 
To tear his heart before the crowd ! 
(To after reading a Life and Letters.) 



The vulture, beak and talon, at the heart. 

(The Princess.) 

In another passage from The Princess, Tenny- 
son uses the expression " vulture throat," ap- 
parently to mean a long and lean or scraggy 

The line in the Battle of Brunanburh : 
Gave to the garbaging war-hawk to gorge it 
probably refers to the vulture. 

The Buzzard. The buzzard is referred to in 
The Foresters along with the hawk, jay, mavis 
and merle as forming part of the " lusty life of 
wood and underwood." The only other reference 
to it in Tennyson is in Queen Mary, where Eliza- 
beth expresses her dread of Gardiner's " buzzard 
beak," i.e., aquiline nose ; the curve of the buz- 
zard's beak having a strong resemblance to that 
of the eagle. 

In the lines of the Northern Farmer, 


A bummin' awaay loike a buzzard-clock, 

the reference is not to the bird but to the cock- 

Falcons. The Idylls of the King contain a 
number of references to falcons and falconry. 
There is a passage in Merlin and Vivien which 
describes how Launcelot and Queen Guinevere 
rode a-hawking to prove a " fair falcon " which 
Launcelot had trained and given to the Queen. 
The passage is full of technical terms from fal- 
conry which are familiar to readers of Shake- 
speare and most of which are probably taken 
from that poet : 

Yet while they rode together down the plain, 
Their talk was all of training, terms of art, 
Diet and seeling, jesses, leash and lure. 
' She is too noble,' he said, ' to check at pies, 

Nor will she rake : there is no baseness in her.' 

. . . . and unhooded casting off 

The goodly falcon free ; she tower'd ; her bells 

Tone under tone, shrilTd ; and they lifted up 


Their eager faces, wondering at the strength, 
Boldness and royal knighthood of the bird 
Who pounced her quarry and slew it. 

(Merlin and Vivien.) 

The word seel is explained by Harting (" Ornith- 
ology of Shakespeare," 69) as meaning " to sew a 
thread through the upper and under eyelids of 
a newly-caught hawk to obscure the sight for a 
time and accustom her to the hood."' Jesses are 
the narrow strips of leather fastened to the legs 
of the bird, the ends of the jesses being fastened 
to the leash by which the bird was held (/&., 58). 
The lure was a piece of iron or wood to which 
were fastened the wings of some bird with a 
piece of raw meat fixed between them ; it was 
used to recall a hawk (/&., 55). To check at 
means to fly at (/&., 60) ; to rake, to fly too far 
from the bird after which the falcon is sent. To 
unhood is to remove the cap or cover which was 
kept on the falcon till the prey was in sight. 
To cast off is to throw the hawk off the wrist ; 

c lu 

O t- 

o 01 




to tower is to rise spirally to a height (Ib., 51) ; 
the bells were fastened on to the hawk's legs 
and their use was to guide the falconer by their 
sound to the places where the falcon was. Quarry 
means the game at which the falcon was flown. 

Other references to " the pastime of hawk and 
hound " are in the following passages : 

and prove 

No surer than our falcon yesterday, 
Who lost the hern we slipt her at, and went 
To all the winds. 

(Lancelot and Elaine.) 

Earl, wilt thou fly my falcons this fair day ? 
They are of the best, strong-wing'd against the 


My Rosalind, my Rosalind, 
My frolic falcon, with bright eyes, 
Whose free delight, from any height of rapid 


Stoops at all game that wing the skies ; 
My Rosalind, my Rosalind, 
My bright-eyed, wild-eyed falcon, whither, 


Careless both of wind and weather, 
Whither fly ye, what game spy ye, 

Up or down the streaming wind ? 


Too long you keep the upper skies ; 
Too long you roam and wheel at will ; 
But we must hood your random eyes, 

That care not whom they kill. 


When we have lured you from above, 
And that delight of frolic flight, . ... 
We'll bind you fast in silken cords. 


In the last -quoted passage the word stoop is 
a technical term in falconry used by Shakespeare, 
and means to make a rapid descent on the quarry. 

The brightness of the falcon's eye is again 
alluded to in Gareth and Lynette : 

A damsel of high lineage, and a brow 
May-blossom and a cheek of apple-blossom, 

Again in the Princess : 

A quick brunette, well-moulded, falcon-eyed. 


The praises of the falcon are again sung in the 
poem of that name : 

My princess of the cloud, my plumed purveyor, 
My far-eyed queen of the winds thou that 

canst soar 

Beyond the morning lark, and howsoe'er 
Thy quarry wind and wheel, swoop down upon 

Eagle-like, lightning-like strike, make his 

Glance in mid heaven. 

The lines in italics bear a curious resemblance 
to the passage from the Induction in scene 2 of 

the Taming of the Shrew : 

Thou hast hawks will soar 
Above the morning lark. 

Tennyson makes one specific allusion to the 
peregrine falcon : 

And hear my peregrine and her bells in heaven. 
All these references are to the female bird, which 
" from her greater size and strength was always 
considered superior to the male, stronger in 


flight, and more easily trained " (Harting, 54). 
To the female alone was the name of " falcon " 
given, the male being known as the " tiercel " or 
" tercel." 

The peregrine falcon is found both in Lincoln- 
shire and the Isle of Wight, and some of 
Tennyson's references to it may be based on 
personal observation. 

The Sparrow-Hawk. Of the other birds of 
prey, the " hedgerow thief," the sparrow-hawk, 
appears frequently in the Marriage of Geraint, 
it being the name assumed by Earl YnioFs 
nephew, v/hose insult to Queen Guinevere 
was avenged by Geraint. It also appears in 
Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere : 

Sometimes the spar-hawk wheePd along, 
Hush'd all the groves from fear of wrong. 

The last-quoted passage well describes the silence 
which falls upon birds on the appearance of the 
" hedgerow thief." 

There is a similar passage in Pelleas and 
Ettarre : 


And all talk died, as in a grove all song 
Beneath the shadow of some bird of prey. 

The lines from the Poet's Song, 

The wild hawk stood with the down on his beak 
And stared, with his foot on the prey, 

apply equally well to any of the Falconidae. 

The Kite. The kite, now the rarest of British 
birds of prey, is twice mentioned by Tennyson ; 
once in Boadicea : 

Blacken round the Roman carrion, make the 

carcass a skeleton, 
Kite and kestrel, wolf and wolfkin, from the 

wilderness wallow in it. 

And again in The Promise of May : 

And the stock-dove coo'd till a kite dropped 

The Kestrel. The reference in the passage 
just quoted from Boadicea is a little unfair on 
the kestrel, which is not a bird that feeds on 
carrion but prefers a diet of field mice, cater- 
pillars and frogs. In the only other passage in 


Tennyson where the kestrel is referred to it is 
mentioned under the local name of windhover : 

For about as long 
As the windhover hangs in balance. 

(Aylmer's Field.) 

The reference here is to the bird's habit of 
hanging seemingly motionless in the air, whence 
it has derived the name of " windhover." 
The line in the Foresters, 

To fright the wild hawk passing overhead, 

may be intended for the kestrel. 

The practice of all hawks to throw up pellets 
like the owl is referred to in Aylmer's Field : 

And where the two contrived their daughter's 

Lies the hawk's cast. 

The Raven. The raven, though a rare bird in 
many parts of England, was not an unfamiliar 
sight in the neighbourhood of Tennyson's home 
at Farringford. However, the references to the 
raven in Tennyson's poems are purely conven- 


tional. One of its chief features is the intense 
blackness of its plumage, which made the 
magpie in the Provencal legend say to it, " My 
goodness, how black you are " (Swainson, p. 88). 
The poet refers to this feature in the following 
passages : 

Night, as black as a raven's feather. 

Let darkness keep her raven gloss. 

(In Memoriam.) 

The black hue of the raven, its foul feeding 
and its dismal croak, have given it a bad reputa- 
tion as a bird of evil omen. It is quick to scent 
out the approach of death ; hence the passage 

in Guinevere : 

A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high, 
Croak'd, and she thought, ' He spies a field of 


Seebohm says, " Should a lamb fall sick or a 
sheep in browsing too near a cliff lose its footing 

and be dashed to pieces on the rock below, the 


raven is perhaps the first bird to discover the 
prize. Nothing ever escapes his prying vision." 
According to another authority (Zoologist, vol. i.), 
" When they search in waste places for provision, 
they hover at a great height, and yet a sheep 
will not be dead twenty minutes before they find 
it." As a raven hovers round a dying sheep, so 
in legend he is thought to shadow the house of 
a dying man and to make his presence felt by 
flapping his wings against the window-pane or 
giving vent to his unearthly laugh or croak which 
forbodes death. Hence the passages in Tenny- 
son : 

For a raven ever croaks, at my side 
Keep watch and ward, keep watch and ward. 


Why do you vex me 
With raven-croaks of death ? 

(The Foresters.) 

Once at the croak of a raven who crost it 
A barbarous people 
Blind to the magic 


And deaf to the melody 
Snarl'd at and cursed me. 

(Merlin and the Gleam.) 

A person who brings bad news is often com- 
pared to the raven ; thus : 

I am the raven who croaks it. 

(The Foresters.) 

A line which is perhaps a reminiscence of the 
passage from Macbeth : 

The raven himself is hoarse 

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan 

Under my battlements. 

The presence of the raven on the battlefield 
is thus referred to in Boadicea : 

Bark an answer, Britain's raven ! bark and 

blacken innumerable, 
Blacken round the Roman carrion, make the 

carcass a skeleton. . . . 

And again in the translation of the Battle of 
Brunanburh : 

Many a carcass they left to be carrion 

Left for the horny-nibb'd raven to rend it. 


With the expression " horny-nibb'd " in the last 
line may be compared Milton's " ravens with 
their horny beaks " (Paradise Regained). 

Other references to the raven as a feeder on 
carrion are to be found in Rizpah : 

The hell-black raven and horrible fowls of the 

In the following passage from Harold the 
reference is to the raven standard of the Norse 
Vikings : 

And therefore have we shatter'd back 
The hugest wave from Norseland ever yet 
Surg'd on us, and our battle-axes broken 
The raven's wing and dumb'd his carrion croak 
From the gray sea for ever. 

The Shrike. The ferocious shrike, or butcher- 
bird, is hardly perhaps a suitable subject for 
poetic treatment. Tennyson has one allusion to 

The may-fly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow 

spear 'd by the shrike, 



The shrike sometimes preys upon small birds, 
which it kills with its hooked beak and then 
impales on thorns in places near its nest, so that 
it has a kind of larder which it can draw upon 
for supplies of food. The bodies of hedge- 
sparrows, tits, robins, and thrushes, have been 
found in the shrike's larder. It is not a bird 
with which Tennyson could have had much 
acquaintance in his boyhood, for, though 
common in the southern counties, it is a very 
rare bird in Lincolnshire (Cordeaux, "Birds of 
the Humber District," 17). 



Quail Woodcock Pheasant Partridge Corn- 
crake Snipe Ptarmigan Lapwing. 

TENNYSON had but little sympathy with the 
world of sport, and his allusions to game-birds are 
few and casual. He knows the quail only as one 
of the ingredients of : 

A pasty costly made, 

Where quail and pigeon, lark and leveret lay, 
Like fossils of the rock, with golden yolks 
Imbedded and injellied. 

(Audley Court.) 

His one reference to the woodcock : 

We hold our Saxon woodcock in the springe, 
But he begins to flutter, 


is probably inspired by Shakespeare's 
Springes to catch woodcocks. 

(Hamlet, Act I., sc. 3.) 



If the springe hold, the cock's mine. 

(Winter's Tale, Act IV., sc. 2.) 

His references to the pheasant are contemp- 
tuous, as in Aylmer's Field, where he expresses his 
scorn of : 

These old pheasant-lords, 
These partridge-breeders of a thousand years, 
Who had mildewed in their thousands doing 

Since Egbert. 

So in Becket : 

A doter on white pheasant flesh at feasts. 

Tennyson is more at home in his description 
of the cries of the partridge : 

Like a rusty key 
Turn'd in a lock. 

(The Lover's Tale.) 

Seebohm describes the call-note as " clear, loud 
and pitched very high " ; it can be heard at a 
great distance and is constantly uttered during 
the breeding season as well as during the shoot- 


ing season ; the note resembles a sort of " kir-r- 

rick." Hurdis writes of : 

The cur 
Of the night-long partridge. 

(The Village Curate.) 

The Corn-crake. The corn-crake is twice re- 
ferred to by Tennyson ; once in In Memoriam, 
when its fondness for the grass and low meadow- 
land bordering streams is referred to : 

And flood the haunts of hern and crake. 
It is again mentioned in The Princess : 

The meadow-crake 
Grate her harsh kindred in the grass. 

The reference in the last passage is to the 
peculiarly harsh note of the male bird most fre- 
quently uttered after his first arrival in this 
country, when he is wandering about in search 
of a residence and trying to inform the other 
sex of his whereabouts. 

The Snipe. Tennyson's reference to 

The swamp, where humm'd the dropping snipe, 

(On a Mourner.) 

IV --,%! 



is remarkable as an instance of his accuracy of 
observation of natural objects. Chapman " Bird 
Life on the Borders " tells us that " snipe only 
drum head to wind and when falling." The drum- 
ming or humming of the snipe is a curious sound 
which the bird makes with its wings, and is only 
heard when it takes a downward course. Its 
flight is well described by Wordsworth, who 
in The Excursion speaks of the " darting snipe." 
The Ptarmigan. Tennyson, in a beautiful 
passage in The Last Tournament : 

The ptarmigan that whitens ere his hour 
Woos his own end, 

makes reference to the protective changes in the 
plumage of the ptarmigan, the colour of which in 
summer is dark brown and harmonises so well with 
the hues of the mountain sides which are its home 
that it is difficult to detect the crouching bird, 
while the plumage gradually changes during 
autumn till in winter it assumes the pure white 
colour which is just as much a protection amongst 


the snow as the brown plumage was in summer. 
The ptarmigan that gets white before winter 
naturally attracts the sportsman's eye and so 
" woos his own end." 

The Lapwing. Tennyson's references to the 
lapwing, or green plover, are copious. He 
refers to the plaintive wail or cry which has 
given the bird its other name of " peewit " : 

Why wail you, pretty plover ? and what is it 
that you fear ? 

And again : 

There let the wind sweep and the plover cry. 

(The Eagle.) 

The same bird is also referred to in The May 
Queen : 
And the tufted plover pipe along the fallow lea. 

It is called here the tufted plover because alone 
of all the plovers it has at the end of the crown 
of its head a big crest of black feathers mixed 
with a few of metallic green ; both male and 
female have the crest, but that of the female is 


smaller. In the breeding season in the spring 
the greenish-black of the crest of the adult male 
bird is brighter and more noticeable ; hence in 
the line from Locksley Hall : 

In the spring the wanton lapwing gets himself 
another crest. 

The movements of the peewit backwards and 
forwards afford the poet a simile to describe the 
frequent coming and going of a waiter : 

To come and go, and come again, 
Returning like the pewit. 

(Will Waterproof.) 

Mr. E. Selous, in his book " Bird Watching," 
thus describes the flight of the peewit. " One 
settles, the other skims on, then makes a great 
upward sweep, turns, sweeps down and back 
again, again rises, turns and sweeps again, and 
so on, rising and falling over the same wide space 
with the regular motions and long" rushing swing 
of a pendulum." 

It is a well-known fact in natural history that 


the peewit with intent to deceive affects to show 
concern about a place where his nest is not. 
Hence Chaucer speaks of " The false lapwing full 
of treachery." Tennyson refers to this in Queen 
Mary : 

What is weak must lie ; 
The lion needs but roar to guard his young ; 
The lapwing lies, says ' here ' when they are 

With this should be compared the passages 
quoted by Mr. Harting ("The Ornithology of 
Shakespeare ") from the Comedy of Errors : 

Far from her nest the lapwing cries away ; 
and from Ben Jonson's Underwoods 

Where he that knows will like a lapwing flie 
Far from the nest and so himself belie. 

The fact that the peewit frequents moorlands 
is referred to in Becket : 

HENRY Nay, I remember it well 

There on the moor. 

ROSAMUND And in a narrow path 
A plover flew before thee. 


The Great Plover. A passage from Geraint 
and Enid 

Till the great plover's human whistle amazed 

Her heart, 

refers to the bird which, besides being called the 
great plover, is also called the Norfolk plover or 
stone curlew. This human whistle may be ex- 
plained by the following passages from Yarrell : 
"In the vicinity of Scarborough they breed on 
the fallows and often startle the midnight traveller 
by their shrill and ominous whistle." This is 
supposed to be the note alluded to by Sir Walter 
Scott in his poem of the Lady of the Lake 

And in the plover's shrilly strain 
The signal whistle's heard again ; 

for it certainly sounds more like a human note 
than that of a bird. Mr. Selous, in describing 
the notes of the bird, says, " They swell and sub- 
side and swell again as they are caught up and 
repeated in different places from one bird to 
another, and often swell into a full chorus of 


several together. The note on the wing is not 
the same as that uttered whilst running over the 
ground. The ground-note is much more drawn 
out, and a sort of long, wailing twitter called the 
' clamour ' often pervades and leads up to the 
final wail." 

The Curlew. Closely allied with the lapwing is 
the curlew, the sound and sight of which must 
have been familiar to Tennyson in his boyhood. 
It appears in Locksley Hall, the scenery in which 
is that of Lincolnshire : 

'Tis the place, and all around it, as of old the 

curlews call, 
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over 

Locksley Hall. 

It is curious that " gleam " is an old Lincoln- 
shire word meaning the cry of the curlews, and 
it seems to have been thought by some of his 
admirers that he used the word in that sense, but 
being asked once if he knew of this sense of the 
word, he said " I never heard it, I wish I had," 


and explained that he meant " flying gleams of 

The same reference to the curlew reappears in 
Locksley Hall sixty years after : 

Wander'd back to living boyhood while I heard 
the curlews call. 

The call of the curlew is wild and striking, and 
harmonises well with the rugged scenery of the 
moorland and the sea-coast. 




Coot Heron Bittern Goose Stork Swan 
Crane Kingfisher Seamew . 

FROM his bringing up in Lincolnshire Tenny- 
son had exceptional opportunities for the observa- 
tion of the habits of the birds of the marshes and 
inland waters ; the poet might say of himself 
what he says of the Brook : 

I come from haunts of coot and hern. 

The Heron. The heron, which is mentioned 
along with the coot in the passage just quoted 
and along with the crake in In Memoriam 
(" haunts of hern and crake "), is a bird with 
which Tennyson was familiar from his boyhood. 
The " Life " of the poet contains occasional refer- 
ences to the heron ; the poet's honeymoon was 
spent on Coniston Water, and boating excur- 


sions " by the islands where the herons built " 
are mentioned in his diary. On the first visit 
of the poet and his wife to Farringford we are 
told that they crossed the Solent in a rowing- 
boat on a still November evening and " one 
dark heron flew over the sea, backed by a 
daffodil sky." The frequent references to the 
heron in his poems shows an intimate knowledge 
of its haunts and habits. 

The heron is fond of fishing on the flats and 
of following the receding tide to feed on various 
crustaceans and small fish left in pools of salt 
water. Thus we have in Geraint and Enid : 

Grey swamps and pools, waste places of the 

All lovers of country life will acknowledge the 
accuracy of the following passage from Gareth 
and Lynette : 

Nigh upon that hour 

When the lone hern forgets his melancholy, 
Lets down his other leg, and stretching, dreams 

Of goodly supper in the distant pool, 


The reference is to the habit of the heron of 
resting in meditative silence on one leg, the 
other being drawn up to its body and lost to 
sight amongst its feathers. It is in the evening 
that it seems principally to feed ; its " goodly 
supper " comprises, besides fish, of which they 
are great destroyers, insects of all sorts, frogs, 
lizards and other unconsidered trifles. It is called 
the " lone heron " because the families, which 
keep together for many months after the young 
ones are fledged, break up on the approach of 
winter, during which season each bird generally 
keeps to itself. 

A similar reference is found in Happy : 
The heron rises from his watch beside the mere. 

The watch is thus described by Graham 
(Grey's " Birds of the West of Scotland ") : " For 
a while the heron stands motionless, as if he 
were a bundle of withered sticks .... 
when an almost imperceptible motion of the 
head, a levelling of the bill for aim, and a moment 


of extreme tension and suspense, precedes a 
lightning dart of head and bill under water, 
which emerges again holding some small writh- 
ing object." 

The use of the heron as a quarry in falconry 
is referred to in a passage from Lancelot and 
Elaine : 

No surer than our falcon yesterday, 

Who lost the hern we slipt her at, and went 

To all the winds. 

The long horny bill of the heron is not an 
appetising subject for digestion ; herein it 
appears along with half a tit in the " jokes and 
jerks " of the needy count's servitor in The 
Falcon as one of the contents of an almost 
empty larder. 

The Bittern. The bittern, which is now extinct 
in the British Isles as a breeding species, was 
once not uncommon in Lincolnshire, and Tenny- 
son in his boyhood may have heard its boom 
sounding from some undrained marsh. Hence his 


one allusion to the bird in the Northern Farmer, 
under the name of " butter-bump," which is 
the Lincolnshire name for the bird (Cordeaux, 
" Birds of the Humber District," p. 104). 

D'ya moind the waast, my lass ? naw, naw, tha 

was not born then ; 

Theer wur a boggle in it, I often 'eard 'urn mysen ; 
Moast loike a butter-bump, fur I 'eard 'um about 

an' about, 
But I stubb'd 'um oop wi' the lot, an raaved an' 

rembled 'um out. 

The " boggle " is the bogey, or Jock of the mire, 
who was supposed to haunt the morasses ; the 
boom of the bittern uttered at night and coming 
from some dreary swamp might easily give to 
the waste the reputation of being haunted by a 
"boggle." The popular belief that the bittern 
uttered its boom by blowing through its beak 
under the water is referred to by Chaucer : 

And, as a bitore bombleth in the myre, 
She leyde hir mouth unto the water down. 
Dray ton, in his description of the " Birds of 


Lincolnshire" in the Polyolbion, gives a descrip- 
tion of the sound of the bittern : 

The buzzing bitter sits, which through his hollow 

A sudden bellowing sends, which many times 

doth fill 
The neighbouring marsh with noise, as though a 

bull did roar. 

The drainage of the fens and marshes and 
agricultural improvements completely broke up 
the old haunts of the bittern. In the early part 
of the nineteenth century the bittern was of 
common occurrence in Lincolnshire, and a par- 
ticular bend of the River Hull was formerly 
called the " butter bump " Hall, from the boom- 
ing of these birds that lived around it (Boulton, 
quoted by Cordeaux, " Birds of the Humber 
District," p. 105). The name butter-bump also 
occurs in the name of one of the hamlets of 
Willoughby in Lincolnshire (Cordeaux, 105). 

The Wild Goose. The wild goose is probably 


another bird which the poet may have seen in 
his boyhood, but he only refers to it, namely, 
in Geraint and Lynette, where, on Gareth asking 
his mother, 

Sweet mother, do you love the child ? 
She answers, 

Thou art but a wild-goose to question it. 

As the wild-goose is one of the wariest of 
birds, the reference probably here is not to the 
bird but to the phrase " wild-goose chase." which, 
according to Mr. Hart ing (" Ornith. of Shakes- 
peare," p. 200), means " a reckless sort of horse- 
race, in which two horses were started together 
and the rider who first got the lead compelled 
the other to follow him over whatever ground 
he chose." 

The Stork. The stork, which is only an occa- 
sional visitor to our shores, is once mentioned 
by Tennyson, namely, in The Talking Oak : 


And all that from the town would stroll, 
Till that wild wind made work 

In which the gloomy brewer's soul 
Went by me, like a stork. 

The reference is to the storm of September 3rd, 
1658, in the midst of which Oliver Cromwell died ; 
but it is not clear whether the poet means to 
describe the soul as rushing past and making a 
noise as of wings or stalking past with a slow 
and solemn gait. 

The Swan. Tennyson is especially happy in 
his reference to the swan, and to the beauty of 
its movements and plumage. He speaks of the 
" swan-like stateliness " of Eleanore, and repre- 
sents Cardinal Pole admiring the flocks of 
Thames swans : 

As fair and white as angels. 

(Queen Mary.) 

Extravagant compliment could go no further 
than the lines in which Lancelot, addressing 
Queen Guinevere, draws a contrast between the 


pure white of the adult swan and the grey-brown 
of the cygnet : 

A neck to which the swan's 
Is tawnier than her cygnet's. 

A beautiful picture, not unfamiliar to those 
who know the banks of the Thames, is presented 
in the following passage from Balin and Balan : 

Such a sound 

as makes 

The white swan-mother, sitting, when she hears 
A strange knee rustle thro' her secret reeds, 
Made Garlon, hissing. 

To the long life of the swan, which is said to 
attain the age of forty years, Tennyson alludes 
in the line : 

And after many a summer dies the swan. 


The wild swan, which does not breed in the 
British Isles, but visits them on migration, is 
twice specifically mentioned by Tennyson. One 


reference is to the height at which it flies, in 
The Poet's Song : 
That made the wild swan pause in her cloud. 

The other reference, from the Palace of Art, is to 
the wide range of its flight : 

Far as the wild swan wings 

Wild swans fly, like wild geese, in an arrow- 
headed formation, with a leader in front (Cor- 
deaux, " Birds of the Humber District," p. 156) ; 
hence the reference in The Princess : 

The leader wild swan in among the stars 
Would clang it. 

The legend of the wild swan " dying in music " 
is referred to in Morte d' Arthur, in one of Tenny- 
son's finest passages : 

And the barge, with oar and sail, 
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted 


That, fluting a wild carol ere her death, 
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood 
With swarthy webs. 


Equally beautiful is the description of the 
death-hymn in The Dying Swan, which, though 
one of the earliest, is perhaps one of the best 
of his poems. 

The Crane. The crane has long been extinct 
as a breeding species among us. Tennyson 
refers to it in a passage describing foreign 
scenery : 

I saw beyond their silent tops 
The steaming marshes of the scarlet cranes. 
(The Progress of Spring.) 

In this passage the crane is called scarlet because 
of the scarlet warty patch on its crown. 

Tennyson makes reference to its long thin 
legs : 

Now mocking at the much ungainliness 

And craven shifts and long crane-legs of Mark. 

(The Last Tournament.) 

The note of the crane is described as a " loud 
trumpet-like note " (H. Saunders, p. 522), but 
Tennyson writes : 


The crane may chatter of the crane. 

(The Princess.) 

Beattie (Pigmies and Cranes) has the same 
expression : 

The proud crane her nest securely builds, 
Chattering amid the desolated fields. 

The Kingfisher. The most brilliant in plumage 
of our resident-birds (Cordeaux) is referred to 
under its classical name of "halcyon" in The 
Progress of Spring : 

And in her open palm a halcyon sits 
Patient the secret splendour of the brooks. 

These lines well describe the kingfisher, which 
loves retired spots, such as are to be found along 
the well-wooded banks of our brooks and rivers. 
Rarely can one get more than a hurried view of 
this rustic beauty as it flits past, " an indistinct 
gleam of bluish light." Hence it is referred to 
in the lines from In Memoriam : 

Underneath the barren bush 
Flits by the sea-blue bird of March. 


Tennyson makes but few references to sea- 
birds. The only one that he refers to is the mew 
or sea-mew, which, according to Swainson (" Pro- 
vincial Names of British Birds ") is the name of 
the common gull. Tennyson describes the cry 
of the gull sometimes as a wail, sometimes as a 
pipe, sometimes as a laugh, sometimes as a scream 
or shriek ; e.g. : 

Here it is only the mew that wails. 

(Sea Fairies.) 
Our sea-mew 
Winging their only wail. 


Or like a spire of land that stands apart, 
Cleft from the main, and wail'd about with mews. 

(The Princess.) 

Where now the sea-mew pipes, and dives 
In yonder greening gleam. 

(In Memoriam.) 
The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean-fowl. 

(Enoch Arden.) 

Nor mark the sea-bird rouse himself and hover 
Above the windy ripple, and fill the sky 

With free sea-laughter. 



Rough wives, that laugh'd and scream'd against 

the gulls. 

(Pelleas and Ettane.) 

The gull is taken as a type of loneliness in 
some of the passages already quoted and in the 
lines : 

And the lonely sea-bird crosses 
With one waft of wing. 

(The Captain.) 

The last passage also contains a reference to 
the great power of the flight of a sea-gull, which 
seems to carry itself a great distance by the 
slightest motion of its wings. 

The line from The Voyage of Maeldune, 

A hundred ranged on the rock like white 
sea-birds in a row, 

describes with great accuracy the assemblage of 
young sea-birds not yet able to fly, which may 
be seen any summer in the breeding haunts on 
and off our coasts. 

Mr. Harting (Zoologist, 1893, 146) takes excep- 
tion to Tennyson's lines, 


Where now the sea-mew pipes, or dives 
In yonder greening gleam ; 

and says that no species of sea-gull possesses 
either of these attributes that is, either pipes 
or dives. This criticism, it is submitted, is a 
little unjust. Mr. H. Saunders, one of the greatest 
authorities on gulls, speaking of the kittawake 
gull, writes that it "dives freely" ("British 
Birds," 684). When the poet writes that the sea- 
mew pipes, he probably refers to the shrill, wail- 
ing cry which both sea-gull and plover utter, 
though in different notes. Mr. Harting himself 
praises the line of the poet : 

And the tufted plover pipe along the fallow lea. 

The meaning to be found in " Johnson's Diction- 
ary" for to pipe is "to have a shrill sound," and 
to say that no sea-gull " has a shrill sound " 
is surely far from being accurate. 




The poems of Tennyson have many passages 
which seem as if they were intended to test the 
intelligence or try the patience of readers. Tenny- 
son, some of whose songs are admirable speci- 
mens of simplicity and clearness, seems to have 
occasionally had a fondness for what is hard and 
involved ; his style is sometimes as obscure as 
that of his contemporary Browning. For in- 
stance, take such a passage as the following : 

Rose of Lancaster, 

Red in thy birth, redder with household war, 
Now reddest with the blood of holy men, 
Redder to be, red rose of Lancaster 
If somewhere in the North, as Rumour sang, 
Fluttering the hawks of this crown-lusting line 
By firth and loch thy silver sister grow. 

(Sir John Oldcastle.) 


This may be a poetic, but it is certainly a 
roundabout way of saying that the rumour that 
Richard II. was alive in Scotland alarmed the 
ambitious house of Lancaster. 

The foregoing pages contain, it is believed, all 
the passages in which Tennyson makes reference 
by name to any bird. But there are several pas- 
sages in which some bird or other is referred to 
without name, and in which the poet seems to 
delight in setting his readers riddles to which they 
have to find an answer. In some of these pas- 
sages it is not difficult to say with some degree 
of certainty what bird is intended, but in others 
the riddle is too hard to answer. To the former 
class belong the lines from In Memoriam : 

Wild bird, whose warble, liquid sweet, 
Rings Eden thro' the budded quicks, 
O tell me where the senses mix, 

O tell me where the passions meet, 

Whence radiate : fierce extremes employ 
Thy spirits in the darkening leaf, 


And in the midmost heart of grief 
Thy passion clasps a secret joy. 

Here it is plain that the poet is writing of the 
passionate song of the nightingale. 
So in the same poem the lines : 

And wheel' d or lit the filmy shapes 
That haunt the dusk with ermine capes 
And woolly breasts and beaded eyes, 

clearly refer to the barn or white owl. 

The passage from Aylmer's Field : 

As dawn 

Aroused the black republic in his elms 
is obviously intended for the gregarious rooks 
and jackdaws. A similar expression is to be 
found in Dryden (The Hind and the Panther) : 

Choughs and daws and such republic birds, 
that is, birds that build together in large com- 

The passage from a Dream of Fair Women 

And singing clearer than the crested bird 
That claps his wings at dawn 

seems intended for the skylark. 


The line from Sea Dreams, 

Returning, as the bird returns, at night, 
probably refers to the rooks or jackdaws, that 
are often to be seen wending their way home- 
wards in the evening. 

The passage from In Memoriam, 

Underneath the barren bush 
Flits by the sea-blue bird of March. 

has given rise to some discussion and puzzled 
some of the poet's readers. Mr. Cordeaux iden- 
tifies it with the wheatear (" Birds of the Humber 
District," p. 36) ; but the poet himself, in a letter to 
the Duke of Argyll (" Life," II., 4) explained that 
by " sea-blue bird of March " he meant the king- 
fisher ; " that he was walking one day in March 
by a deep-banked brook, and under the leafless 
bushes he saw the kingfisher flitting underneath 
him, and then came into his head a fragment of an 
old Greek lyric poet, ' d\i7r6p<t>vpos elapos opvis-' " 
As he never saw the kingfisher on this particular 
brook before March, he concludes that in that 


county at least they go down to the sea during 
the hard weather and come up again with the 
spring ; for what says old Belon : 

Le martinet pescheur fait sa demeure 
In temps d'hiver au bord de 1'ocean, 
Et en este sur la riviere en estan, 
Et de poisson se repaist a toute heure. 

The letter shows the accuracy of the poet's 
observation. His statement as to the partial mi- 
gration of the kingfisher to the sea in the winter 
is borne out by Mr. Warde Fowler (" A Year with 
the Birds," p. 14), and by Mr. Seebohm (" British 
Birds," ii., 343). The passage is an interesting 
revelation of the working of the poet's mind, and 
shows how he wedded together in his poems the 
results of observation of nature and of the study 

of the best poetic models. 

To the class of the obscure passages belong the 
lines from Lancelot and Elaine : 

As a little helpless, innocent bird, 

That has but one plain passage of few notes, 


Will sing the simple passage o'er and o'er 
For all an April morning, till the ear 
Wearies to hear it. 

These lines, according to Dr. Bull in his " Notes 
on the Birds of Herefordshire " (p. 23), refer to 
the willow-wren, which sings a charming but 
monotonous song from April onwards all through 
the summer. The passage is perhaps better 
suited to the still more monotonous notes of the 

A similar passage is to be found in The Islet : 

For in all that exquisite isle, my dear, 
There is but one bird with a musical throat, 
And his compass is but of a single note, 
That it makes one weary to hear. 

There is an obscure passage in The Princess, 
where the difficulty arises partly from the poet's 
allusive and intricate style and partly from the 
coining of a new word. It is a place in the poem 
where the Prince disguised as a girl has sung, 
" maiden-like as far as I could ape their treble," 


the song, "O swallow, swallow, flying south," 
and when the Princess said to him : 

'Not for thee,' she said, 
' Bulbul, any rose of Gulistan 
Shall burst her veil : marsh-divers, rather, maid, 
Shall croak thee sister, or the meadow-crake 
Grate her harsh kindred in the grass. 

Gulistan (the rose-garden) is the name of the 
work of the Persian poet Sadi ; bulbul is the 
oriental name of the nightingale ; the first part 
of the passage refers to the eastern legend of the 
love of the rose for the nightingale. " Marsh- 
divers" is a word unknown to the dictionaries 
except the " Century Dictionary," which only 
quotes this passage and gives for the meaning, " a 
water-bird, perhaps the bittern." Surely " moor- 
hen" would suit the passage better, for the 
bittern does not dive, and the word " croak " is 
more applicable to the harsh note of the moor- 
hen than to the boom of the bittern. It is by no 
means clear that by " marsh-diver " the poet 


meant to refer to any bird at all ; perhaps the 
reference is to frogs and their chorus. 

Another passage which might give rise to con- 
siderable discussion is the one in In Memoriam 
(stanza cii.) : 

Here thy boyhood sung 
Long since its matin song, and heard 
The low love-language of the bird 
In native hazels tassel-hung. 

the reference may be to the lesser white-throat, 
which has a preference for the hazel, and is 
known in Lancashire as the hazel-linnet (Howard 
Saunders, 44), or perhaps to the soft notes of the 

More obscure still is the verse from Early 
Spring : 

Till at thy chuckled note, 

Thou twinkling bird, 
The fairy fancies range, 

And, lightly stirr'd, 
Ring little bells of change 

From word to word. 


This passage perhaps suits the song-thrush. 
Its note as described by Magillivray, " Tiurru, 
tiurru, chipiwi," might well be called " chuckled," 
while the quick movements of the birds in the 
bushes justifies the epithet " twinkling " ; more- 
over, the subject of the poem is the beginning of 
spring, and the song-thrush is heard very early 
in the year. All this, however, is equally applic- 
able to the blackbird. 

Canon Ainger (" Tennyson for the Young") sug- 
gests that the sedge-warbler is intended, but the 
sedge- warbler is a late arrival, and is not heard 
in England before April. 

The line from The Poet's Mind, 

In the heart of the garden the merry bird 

applies equally well to the song-thrush and the 

In the following lines 

And all talk died, as in a grove all song, 
Beneath the shadow of some bird of prey, 
(Pelleas and Ettane.) 


the " bird of prey " is probably the sparrow- 
hawk, which frequents hedgerows and woods, 
while the kestrel, the only other common English 
bird of prey, prefers trie open country. 

In the passage from The Marriage of Geraint 

But when the third day from the hunting morn 
Made a low splendour in the world, and wings 
Moved in her ivy, Enid, for she lay 
With her fair head in the dim yellow light, 
Among the dancing shadows of the birds 

the birds referred to are probably sparrows, who 
are great frequenters of ivy. 

In the passage from Aylmer's Field, where the 
country squire is telling with delight the story 
of the capture of the great * ' pock-pitten " 
poacher in flagrante delicto, the line 

The birds were warm, the birds were warm upon 

obviously refers to pheasants or partridges, or 

The following passages contain references either 


to birds which cannot be specifically identified 
or to birds in general : 

One morning a bird with a warble plaintively 

Perch' d on the shrouds and then fell fluttering 

down at my feet. 

(The Wreck.) 

Yer laste little whishper was sweet as the lilt of 

a bird. 


An', afther, I thried her meself av the bird 'ud 

come to me call. 


See, see, my white bird stepping toward the mare. 

(The Cup.) 
Like birds the charming serpent draws. 

(In Memoriam, st. 24.) 

Red berries charm the bird. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

The birds made 
Melody on branch, and melody in mid air. 

(Gareth and Lynette.) 

Love may come, and love may go, 
And fly like a bird, from tree to tree, 

(Edward Gray.) 


As the sweet voice of a bird, 
Heard by the lander in a lonely isle, 
Moves him to think what kind of bird it is 
That sings so delicately clear, and make 
Conjecture of the plumage and the form. 

(The Marriage of Geraint.) 

By the bird's song ye may learn the nest 

(The Marriage of Geraint.} 

And every bird of Eden burst 

In carol. 

(Day Dream.) 

A pinnace, like a flutter' d bird, came flying from 
far away. 

(The Revenge.) 

Sing like a bird and be happy, nor hope for a 
deathless hearing. 


She wak'd a bird of prey that scream'd and past. 

(Death of (Enone.) 

I never breath'd it to a bird in the eaves. 

(Queen Mary, v., 2.) 

Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland. 

(Locksley Hall.) 


As flies the shadow of a bird she fled. 


A clapper clapping in a garth 
To scare the fowl from fruit. 


Then o'er it crost the dimness of a cloud 
Floating, and once the shadow of a bird 

(Pelleas and Ettarre.) 



After reading a Life and Letters, 45. 

Akbar's Dream, 38. 

Amphion, 85, 

Ancient Sage, The, 56, 59, 94. 

Audley Court, 71, 150. 

Aylmer's Field, 10, 61, 98, 105, 144, 151, 177, 184. 

Balm and Balan, 59, 126, 132, 168. 

Battle of Brunanburh, The, 135, 136, 147. 

Becket, 23, 24, 40, 50, 87, 89, 92, 115, 118, 120, 132, 

151, 156. 

Blackbird, The, 71. 
Boadicea, 134, 143, 147. 
Brook, The, 2, 3, 93, 121, 160. 

Captain, The, 173. 

Churchwarden and the Curate, The, 30. 

Claribel, 43, 68, 73. 

Coming of Arthur, The, 97, 102. 

Cup, The, 53, 185- 


Day Dream, The, 30, 55, 98, 186. 
Dead Prophet, The, 135. 
Demeter and Persephone, 62, 87. 
Despair, 125. 

Dream of Fair Women, The, 177. 
Dying Swan, The, 93, 170. 

Eagle, The, 133, 154. 
Early Spring, 38, 182. 
Edward Gray, 185. 
Edwin Morris, 93. 
Eleanore, 167. 
Enoch Arden, 79, 88, 172. 
Epilogue, 30. 

Falcon, The, 55, 116, 126, 163. 
First Quarrel, The, 33, 52, $8. 
Flight, The, 22, 33, 53, 55. 

Foresters, The, 33, 51, 54, 57, 61, 56, 68, 70, 79, 93, 
107, 112, 113, 127, 144, 146, 147. 

Gardener's Daughter, The, 2, 31, 32, 44, 51, 56, 59, 60, 

70, 76, 99, 119, 120. 
Gareth and Lynette, 22, 36, 52, 68, 70, 121, 127, 131, 

132, 140, 161, 185. 

Geraint and Enid, 17, 82, in, 116, 157, 161, 166. 
Grandmother, The, 59. 
Golden Year, The, 82, 134. 
Guinevere, 75, 145. 


Happy, 154. 

Harold, 56, 58, 89, 91, 101, 122, 134, 139, 145, 150, 172. 

Holy Grail, The, 54, 86, 126. 

In Memoriam, 3, 22, 38, 41, 52, 54, 63, 66, 67, 73, 75, 
76, 85, 86, 93, 105, in, 120, 122, 133, 145, 160-163, 
171, 172, 176, 177, 178, 182, 185. 

In the Garden at Swainston, 58. 

Islet, The, 180. 

Kate, 113, 129. 

Lancelot and Elaine, 23, 54, 98, 126, 139, 163, 179. 
Last Tournament, The, 15, 84, 107, 130, 131, 132, 133, 

153, 170. 

Leonine Eligiacs, 125. 

Locksley Hall, 4, 39, 78, 106, no, 119, 155, 158, 186. 
Love and Duty, 22. 

Lover's Tale, The, 10, 33, 52, 73, 100, 125, 128, 151. 
Lucretius, 37. 

Mariana, 85. 

Marriage of Geraint, The, 80, 82, 85, 88, 106, 142, 184, 

1 86. 

Maud, 3, 4, 85, 94, 115, 146, 148. 
May Queen, The, 3, 4, 90, 104, 154. 
Merlin and Vivien, 107, 137. 
Miller's Daughter, The, 52, 119. 
Minnie and Winnie, 77. 
Montenegro, 132. 
Morte d' Arthur, 169. 


Northern Cobbler, The, 44, 45, 54. 
Northern Farmer, The, 12, 109, 136, 164. 

Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington, 133. 

on the Opening of the Indian and Colonial Exhibi- 
tion, 134. 

to Memory, 5. 

to the Queen, 66. 

(Enone, 131. 

Death of, 186. 

On a Mourner, 152. 
Owd Roa, 126. 
Owl's Song, The, 86. 

Palace of Art, The, 44, 61, 169. 

Parnassus, 186. 

Passing of Arthur, The, 87. 

Pelleas and Ettarre, 142, 173, 183, 187. 

Poet's Mind, The, 183. 

Song, The, 21, 56, 63, 143, 169. 

Prefatory Poem to my Brother's Sonnets, 100, 101. 

Princess, The, 21, 22, 29, 34, 53, 59, 74, 87, 88, 90, 91, 
101, 104, 119, 120, 121, 125, 129, 133, 134, 136, 
140, 141, 152, 169, 171, 172, 180, 187. 

Progress of Spring, The, 20, 51, 75, 83, 93, 99, 113, 115, 
117, 118, 129, 170, 171. 

Promise of May, The, 55, 90, 118, 143. 

Queen Mary, 7, 57, 60, 87, 90, 99, 108, 116, 136, 156, 
167, 186. 


Recollections of the Arabian Nights, 44, 63. 

Revenge, The, 186. 

Ring, The, 87, 90, 104, no. 

Rizpah, 148. 

Rosalind, 52, 140. 

St. Simeon Stylites, 125. 
Sea-Dreams, 109, 178. 
Sea Fairies, 172 

Sir John Oldcastle, 175. 

Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, 44, 73, 142. 

Qicf<=>re TT-iA ^n 

Sisters, The, 39 

Talking Oak, The, 52, 117, 167. 
Teares of the Muses, The, 117. 
Throstle, The, 34, 35. 
Tithonus, 168. 
Tiresias, 86. 

To , after reading a Life and Letters, 135. 

E. Fitzgerald, 121. 

General Hamley, 7. 

Mary Boyle, 99. 

Rev. F. D. Maurice, 112. 

To-morrow, 45, 53, 185. 

Village Wife, The, 126. 

Voyage of Maeldune, The, 57, in, 173. 

Walking to the Mail, 120. 


Will Waterproof, 109, 155. 

Window, The, 51, 65, 73, 80, 84, 97, 100, 114. 

Wreck, The, 132, 185. 



Ainger, Canon, 183. 
Aldworth, 7, 10, 15. 
Argyll, Duke of, I, 76, 178. 

Beattie, 171. 
Birds, domestic, 29. 

migration of, 86-92. 

nuptial plumage, 39. 

of paradise, 30. 

song of, 21, 22, 31, 32, 36, 39-46. 

Bittern, 9, 163, 164, 165, 181. 

Blackbird, 9, 13, 15, 31, 48, 49, 66, 67, 69-72, 113, 183, 

Blackcap, 21, 82, 83. 

Browning, Robert, 2. 

Bulbul, see Nightingale. 

Bullfinch, 49. 

Burns, 48, 49, 79, no. 

Butcher-bird, 148. 

Butler, 49. 

Butterbump, see Bittern. 

INDEX 195 

Buzzard, common, 136, 137 

rough-legged, 16, 113, 136. 

clock, 137. 

Byron, 46. 

Carlyle, 74. 

Carrion crow, see Crow, 

Chaffinch, 49, 183. 

Chaucer, 36, 97, 102, 109, 127, 156, 164. 

Chiff-chaff, 180, 

Coleridge, 9, 36, 62 

Coot, 1 60. 

Cordeaux, John, 11, 13, 77, 83, 128, 130, 165. 

Cormorant, 16. 

Corncrake, 9, 152. 

Cowper, 46, 112. 

Coxhead, Ethel, 24. 

Crabbe, 92. 

Crake, see Corncrake. 

Crane, 170, 

Crow, 106, 107-111. 

Cuckoo, 15, 20, 31, 90, 99-103. 

Crossbill, 16. 

Crow, carrion, 16, 104, 106-111. 

Culver, see Dove, ring. 

Curlew, 9, 158, 159, 

Darwin, 40. 
Dixon, Charles, 95. 
Dorhawk, see Nightjar. 

196 INDEX 

Dove, 9, 31, 39, 116, 119, 121, 122. 
ring, 13, 15, 116, 117, 119. 

stock, 12, 13, 20, 21, 118, 

turtle, 15, 17, 21, 118, 119. 

Dray ton, 48, 49, 164, 165. 
Dryden, 105, 177. 

Duck, wild, 1 6, 24. 

Eagle, 131-135- 

white- tailed, 135. 

Falcon, 137. 

peregrine, 16, 141, 142. 

Falconry, 137, 138, 139. 

Farringford, 6, 7, 8, 10, 16, 17, 80, 144, 16) 

Fern owl, see Nightjar. 

Fletcher, Phineas, 42. 

Fowler, Warde, i, 28, 40, 43, 64, 179. 

Garden- warbler, 182. 
Glimmer-gowk, 13, 126. 
Goldfinch, 13, 31, 76, 77. 
Goose, 165. 

Great plover, see Plover. 
Greenfinch, 77, 78. 
Gull, 172-174. 
common, 172. 

kittawake, 174. 

Halcyon, see Kingfisher. 

INDEX 197 

Harting, J. E., 18, 19, 20, 95, 123, 125, 138, 166, 173. 
Hawk, 16, 21, 113, 138, 140, 143, 144- 

hobby, 1 6. 

kestrel, 13, 16, 143. 

sparrow, 82, 142, 184. 

Heron, 9, 15, 160. 

Hobby, 16. 

Hurdis, 71, 76, 79, 130, 152. 

Ingelow, Jean, 83. 

Jackdaw, in, 112, 177. 
Jay, 9, 15, 20, 113. 
Jonson, Ben, 156. 
Jowett, B., 17. 

Keats, 62. 

Kingsley, Charles, i. 
Kestrel, 13, 16, 143. 
Kingfisher, 15, 20, 171, 178, 179. 
Kite, 12, 13, 143. 

Lapwing, 154-156. 

Lark, 20, 21, 29, 31, 44, 47, 5<>57, 72, 141, 150, 177. 

Lecky, The Right Hon. W. E. H., i. 

Lilford, Lord, 13, 

Lincolnshire, 10-13. 

Linnet, 13, 20, 29, 41, 43, 44, 49, 72, 

hazel, 182. 

Lintwhite, see Linnet. 

198 INDEX 

Mablethorpe, 4. 

Macgillivray, 35. 

Magpie, 112, 113, 137. 

Marsham's indications of spring, 65, 91, 117. 

Marsh-diver, 181. 

Martin, house, 98. 

Mavis, see Thrush, song. 

Meadow-crake, 181. 

Merle, see Blackbird. 

Mew, see Seagull. 

Migration, 86, 87. 

Milton, 46, 47, 148. 

Montgomery, 63. 

Moorhen, 181. 

Morris, F. O., 14, 75, 106, 113, 114. 

Nightingale, 8, 9, 10, 21, 29, 31, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47. 

48, 57-64, 72, 176, 177- 
Nightjar, 13, 15, 16, 125, 128, 129. 

Ouzel, see Blackbird. 

Owl, 8, 9, 13, 1 6, 29, 72, 122. 

barn, 123, 126, 127, 128, 177 

brown, 123, 124, 125. 

eagle, 127. 

Oyster-catcher, 15. 

Parrot, 30. 

Partridge, 10, 16, 151, 184, 

Peacock, 30, 

INDEX 199 

Peewit, see Plover, green. 

Peregrine falcon, see Falcon, peregrine. 

Pheasant, 16, 151, 184. 

Phillips, 71. 

Pigeon, 121, 150. 

carrier, 122. 

Pipit, tree, 50. 

meadow, 51. 

Plover, great, 9, 157. 

green, 9, 16, 154-156. 

Ptarmigan, 153, 154. 

Quail, 150. 

Raven, 16, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148. 
Redcap, see Goldfinch. 
Robin, 17, 39, 49, 78-80. 
Robinson, Phil, 17, 18, 25, 
Rook, 9, 104, 107, 177. 
Ruskin, 94. 

Saunders, Howard, 13, 25, 70, 73, 74,75, 130, i/o, 174- 

Scott, no, 157. 

Seagull, 4, 15, 16. 

Seamew, see Seagull. 

Sedge warbler, 40, 183. 

Seebohm, H., 84, 145. 

Selborne, Earl of, 10. 

200 INDEX 

Selous, 155, 157. 

Shrike, 85, 148, 149. 

Shakespeare, 47, 48, 55, 60, 92, 98, 100, 102, 106, 108, 

no, 124, 127, 141, 147, 150, 156. 
Shelley, 62, 97. 
Skelton, 49, 68. 
Skylark, see Lark. 
Snipe, 9, 152, 153. 
Somersby, 4, 6, 8, 9. 
Sparrow, hedge, 49, 84, 85, 149. 

house, 85, 184. 

Sparrow-hawk, see Hawk. 

Spenser, 69, 117. 

Starling, 14, 21, 83, 84. 

Stork, 166, 167. 

Stormcock, 68. 

Swainson, 67, 69, 77, in, 117, 145, 1/2. 

Swallow, 20, 21, 29, 72, 89, 99. 

Swan, 21, 167-170. 

Swift, 97. 

Tennyson, accuracy of, 1-3. 

birds mentioned by, 28. 

Browning and, 2. 

homes of, 4, 6, 7. 

Natural History Books possessed by, 14. 

Natural History, his knowledge of, 2, 8, 9, 10, 13, 

15, r6. 

poets compared with, 21, 25, 26. 

INDEX 201 

Tennyson, powers of observation in, 2-5, 8, 12, 14-17- 

provincial bird names used by, 13. 

quotations from, see List of Poems, p. 188. 

Thomson, 42. 

Throstle, see Thrush, song. 

Thrush, 149. 

- song, 13, 17, 34, 35, 48, 49, 64-69, 113, 183. 

missel, 68, 69. 

Tit, 20, 82, 113, 149. 
Tuck, Rev. J. E., 18. 
Turkey, 13. 

Virgil, i, 42, 96, 119 
Vulture, 135. 

Ward, Mrs. Richard, 15. 

White, Gilbert, 83. 

Whitethroat, lesser, 182. 

Willow- wren, 180. 

Windhover, 144. 

Woodcock, 150, 151. 

Wood-dove, see Dove, stock. 

Woodpecker, 13, 15, 20, 129, 130. 

Wood-pigeon, see Dove, ring. 

Wordsworth, 8, 65, 79, 114. 128, 129, 153. 

Wren, 82. 

common, 80, 81. 


202 INDEX 

Wren, gold-crested, 80, 81. 
fire-crested, 80, 81. 

Yaffingale, see Woodpecker, 

PR Watkins, Watkin Jaines Yuille 

5592 Strang 

B5W3 The birds of Tennyson