Quotes about Birds, Poets & Poetry

Some birds are poets and sing all summer. ~Henry David Thoreau, journal, 1852 July 5th

A flock of geese leave their lake and take wing, turning to poems in the sky. ~Dr. SunWolf, 2011 tweet, professorsunwolf.com

Autumn birds speak cheerful poetry from their berry-stained beaks. ~Terri Guillemets, “Elderberry prime,” 2006

The Phœnix is also very much like an intelligent eagle, with gold and crimson plumage. He lives chiefly on poets. He has been a good friend to the poets of all ages. ~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald, The Zankiwank & The Bletherwitch, 1896 [a little altered –tg]

It might almost be said that the birds are all birds of the poets and of no one else, because it is only the poetical temperament that fully responds to them. All the great ornithologists have been poets in deed if not in word. The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet — so vehement and intense in his life, large brained, large lunged, hot, ecstatic, his frame charged with buoyancy and his heart with song — the beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds. Indeed, is not the bird the original type and teacher of the poet? Keats and Shelley, perhaps, most notably, have the bird-organization and the piercing wild-bird cry — the sharp semi-tones of the sparrows and larks. The oldest poets, the antique bards, make little mention of songbirds but loved better the soaring, swooping birds of prey, the eagle, the ominous birds, the vultures, the clamorous sea-birds and screaming hawks. These suited better the rugged, warlike character of the times. Homer must’ve heard the twittering of swallows and the warble of nightingales; but they were not adequate symbols to express what he felt or to adorn his theme. It is not because the old bards were less as poets, but that they were more as men. ~John Burroughs, “Birds and Poets,” 1873 [altered –tg]