For three equal voices (SSS or TTT)
So rich are the myriad associations with swallows, these familiar and beloved of birds! They return with spring and thus are connected with the yearly renewal of life, and with love, fidelity and fertility. They seem to favour being in close company with human beings. They nest close to us under the eaves of houses and in sheds and barns.
For fifteen years a pair of swallows built a nest against a wall in an outbuilding close to my cottage high on Anelog, a moutain in sight of Bardsey Island. From May until August they were a continuing presence with their elegant flight paths and aerobatics over and above the home field of Mount Cottage.
The awareness of birds has been a late arrival in my consciousness of the natural world. And this I share with the poet Kathleen Jamie who claims she did not write about the observational life of a birder until her book of essays Findings, although Swallows and The Swallows’ Nest does appear in her first collection of poetry The Tree House. The former poem, with its curious and beautiful use of the word batten in â€˜battened heart’, made it instantly memorable. It is a captivating poem full of images that for me celebrates all that is swallowness. The Swallows’ Nest is quite different, being very much a still-life of objects encountered whilst being shown â€˜one bird tucked in a home-made bracket of spittle and earth’.
The opening poem in my sequence is from a later collection The Overhaul. This tiny poem is for me a companion piece and close relative to The Beach where in beachcombing â€˜we hope for the marvellous / all hankering after a changed life.’
This collection of part-songs is written for and dedicated to the artist Alice Fox, who in her own creative and gentle response to the natural world, has, and in company with the poet Kathleen Jamie,
enriched my life.
Detail from Gertrude Hermes, Swallows (1933)