The raven didn't hear me coming, so it broke away from the cliff at the last moment, struggled to remain airborne, and then climbed with a clumsy whooshing of wings out of the shadows and above the ridge, where it found the thermal, flexed its wing-fingers, and hung motionless for an age, the sun glinting on its eye and sheening its plumage, until suddenly it was gone, slaloming lazily down the valley.

Jan FE Celliers (1865-1940) was an Afrikaner poet who fought the British and found inspiration in the same magic I saw this afternoon. Here's a translation of the first verse of Dis al ("That's all"):

It's the brown,
It's the blue:
It's the earth,
It's the light;
And a bird circles high
In solitary flight--
That's all.

I'd have been happy with that, but Celliers goes on:

It's an exile, arrived
Through the ocean's squalls,
It's a grave in the grass,
It's a tear that falls--
That's all.

I had a very interesting chat on Friday with Nick Lloyd, the man behind Iberia: Nature and Environment. I think we agreed (well I did) that what begins as an attempt to harness nature to human (ethnic/religious/ecological) gibberish inevitably results in an inability to describe actual phenomena adequately, and that's what I think happens to Celliers in some of his other work, as well as to the multitude of writers who were blinded by post-Enlightenment ideologies of doom and salvation.

(A bird crapped on my head on the way down. Fortunately it wasn't the raven.)

  • Natural history (517) Natural history is the research and study of organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. It encompasses scientific research but is not limited to it, with articles nowadays more often published in science magazines than in academic journals.
  • Translation (649)
Categories: Birds, Of metres, Splog

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  1. MM
    October 24th 2004 11:24

    I read about some German eagles or some such that ride on the thermals near some castle in the south of Bavaria, but when it's raining they can't use the thermals, so they waddle uphill along the road.
    For what it's worth.

  2. MM
    October 24th 2004 11:27

    And I took some photos at the Tower of London in June, but most don't give an impression of size.
    This doesn't remember me (maybe a Firefox problem).

  3. Trevor
    October 24th 2004 12:39

    Catchphrase you should know by now: It's a Trevor problem.

  4. Transblawg
    October 26th 2004 00:05 Ravens at the Tower of London
    Here are some photos of ravens at the Tower of London, taken in June. They would rather be frightened off a mountain by Trevor, I’m sure. You’re not supposed to feed them, but they don’t know that. That’s a juvenile...

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