Thrush Music

Transcriptions of Wildness in Poetry and Prose

The North American Thrushes

and Related Species

The Wood Thrush

“Come In” by Robert Frost

“Thrush song...” by Wendell Berry

“The First Thrush” by DL

The Hermit Thrush

“When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d”

    by Walt Whitman

The North American Robin

The Mockingbird

“Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking”

    by Walt Whitman

The Catbird

to come

The Ovenbird

“The Ovenbird” by Robert Frost

Other Bird Song

The Phoebe

“The Need of Being Versed

    in Country Things” by Robert Frost

    (with apologies, I suspect, to the Pewee)

The Magpie

“Magpie’s Song” by Gary Snyder

The Turkey Vulture

From Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

“Buzzards” by DL

“Hear the Ridge’s Song” by DL

The Great Blue Heron

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

“The Heron’s Cry” by DL

“The Heron Reflects” by DL

Other Critters

“All Ways” (a turtle song) by DL

In his essay, "The Poet," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that the poet's task was to make "imperfect transcripts" of nature's "primal warblings," and so it is no surprise that American poets have often turned to the songs of birds to hear a language "commensurate with a people" (Whitman) and with the American experience.  In particular, they turn to the family of North American thrushes, which includes the American Robin, Wood Thrush, Hermit Thrush, and Veery, among others, as well as the closely related Mimic Thrushes: the Mockingbird and Catbird. And with only a little poetic license, we will add the Ovenbird, thrush-like in appearance and behavior, and often found in the same mid-forest setting as the Wood and Hermit Thrushes.

Gathered below is a bird by bird anthology of attempts, in poetry and prose, to "transcribe" the song of the New World. And here is an essay and a few excerpts exploring the rationale behind this anthology:

  "Thrush Music: American Poet-Naturalists and the Poetics of Loss"  by DL

  "Imperfect Transcripts," an excerpt from "The Poet" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

  "A Bard Commensurate," an excerpt from the 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

  "Spring Songs," an excerpt from Specimen Days by Walt Whitman

  "A Wilder, Lovelier Song," an excerpt from "The American Background" by William Carlos Williams