Friday, 29 December 2017

A double whammy

I have long passed the age when I found snowfalls at all exciting. I thought of taking a few photographs and there was a choice of snow, icy puddles, icicles, frozen slush and frost. On top of those miserable options I've had a stinking cold. A double whammy. Roll on 2018!
We have kept the bird feeder topped up but there have been very few visitors. A mavis sits, sentinel-like, on the garden fence but is completely uninterested in the bird feeder. Mavis is, of course, the old country name for a Song Thrush and comes from the old French mauvis. The Song Thrush is not a particularly common species hereabouts so I was pleased to see it. I was also reminded of the old song, Ca' the yowes, surely one of the loveliest of Britain's folk songs:


                                    Hark the mavis' e'ening sang,
                                    Sounding Clauden's woods amang;
                                    Then a-faulding let us gang,
                                    My bonie dearie.
                       


It was of course collected, and probably tweaked a little, by Robbie Burns. It has more than once been set to music, most notably by Vaughan Williams. Can folk songs be composed or written? I suppose all are written or at least taken down at some point although it would be nice to feel that they are somehow autochthonous and simply evolve in a particular region. Romantic nonsense of course and yet, listening to some of the extremely primitive tunes collected by Bela Bartok, one wonders, because they appear to date from a time when most people were illiterate and also had had no way of writing down musical notation.
Anyway, I seem to have drifted off the point - whatever that was, but in short there was little to write about in terms of wildlife, zoological or botanical and I am left with a thought. The Latin name for the Song Thrush is Turdus philomelos and there must be many a woman in Britain or North America who thanks the gods that she was called Mavis and not Turdus.

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