A song of light, and pierces air
With fountain ardor, fountain play,
To reach the shining tops of day,
And drink in everything discern’d
An ecstasy to music turn’d,
-From “Lark Ascending”, George Meredith
Some things in nature are so breathtaking, they move us to try to create something equally beautiful to express and share our awe. Ansell Adams strove to capture the brooding majesty of the North American west on black and white film. John Muir did the same through layer after layer of eloquent descriptive narrative. Poets through eternity have tried to do justice to flowers and birds, lakes and mountains, the moon and stars, but in the end, Kilmer probably had it right; we will never see a poem as lovely as a tree.
Birds occupy their own special place in the artistic interpretation of nature. Is it possible to expound the glory of the dawn chorus or the swirl of a million flamingos in a way that even comes close to equaling the events themselves? Let’s start with something simpler: a single bird’s song —
Happy as a lark! Why do we say that?
Because the male Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) has one of the most joyful songs in existence. And not only that, but he accompanies his song with an exuberant flight display, soaring high into the sky until his is a mere dot, singing all the while, and then plunging back to earth.
Here is the song of the skylark:
Unsurprisingly, this exuberance has not gone unnoticed by poets and composers. I’d like to share, today, some stunning interpretations of the song and flight of the skylark.
Song of the Lark for Flute and Harp, Charles Rochester Young, 1989
L’Alouette (The Lark), Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, 1840
The Lark Ascending, Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1914
Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending , above, was based on a 122-line poem of the same name, written by George Meredith in 1881. Meredith’s paean to the skylark begins –
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
Read the rest HERE and decide for yourself whether Meredith’s poem, or any of the musical interpretations are as lovely as a skylark’s ecstasy.