Wednesday, 3 November 2010

'I was somewhat tickled'

I recall that a few years ago I was somewhat tickled by a quote from slovenly artist Tracy Emin, as she unveiled a stick with a sparrow on it in Liverpool (funded by BBC licence payers to the tune of £60,000… ah those carefree New Labour days). She warbled: “I’ve always had the idea that birds are the angels of this earth and that they represent freedom.”

I was tickled because “birds are the angels of this earth”  struck me as just the sort of thing that Madeleine Basset from the Jeeves and Wooster stories might say, in addition to the stars being God’s daisy chain and that every time a fairy sneezes a wee baby is born.

Top blogging from Brit in The Dabbler. Brit goes on to contrast Emin's saccharine little angel on a stick with Ted Hughes' colder description of birds as half machine, half pitiless force of nature in his  poem Thrushes:

Terrifying are the attent sleek thrushes on the lawn,
More coiled steel than living – a poised
Dark deadly eye, those delicate legs
Triggered to stirrings beyond sense – with a start, a bounce, a stab
Overtake the instant and drag out some writhing thing.
No indolent procrastinations and no yawning states,
No sighs or head-scratchings. Nothing but bounce and stab
And a ravening second.

I think Hughes is almost spot on there - almost, because his description always makes me think of starlings rather than thrushes - with their sharp beaks, jerky but strictly controlled movements and metallic, iridescent plumage, there's something automaton-like about starlings. And when thousands of the robotic little blighters flock together, there's no doubting that they're a primal force of nature...