The Augur in Autumn

He wants to learn what the birds might teach him.
The hum that vibrates in a vacated skyline
speaks of the season. Glossy backs turn from cold
as the long tail of a taken path streams

across the sky. He looks for the not-yet
departed, hears the sooty-feathered scream …


About the poem

This poem appeared in the first issue of A Restricted View from Under the Hedge by Hedgehog Press.

This poem was written for my friend Simon Withers. It was inspired by his habit of always looking up to the sky for birds and insisting we regularly visit the peregrines nesting at Chichester Cathedral. It celebrates the obvious passion he has for nature in general and birds in particular.

The poem was written as part of my dissertation on Ancient Britain and in part it also examines the Roman practice of augury, or telling the future by watching the flight patterns of birds. Whether or not it’s possible to know the details of the future, there is certainly something to be learned by stopping whatever you’re doing to look up. I can confidently predict that your life will fill up with wonder. This is something Simon taught me, and I will always be grateful.

The poem is written in a sonnet form, partly because I wrote it for Simon and he likes beautiful, well-made things and also because it gave a sense of the order amongst the acrobatics of migratory birds. There is also something straightforward about sonnets, and I had that in mind after reading Simon Barnes’ book How to be a Bad Birdwatcher. I hope this poem inspires you to look around you much more often and if you’re not sure where to start, this book is a wonderful introduction. It is like having a kind and knowledgeable friend right by your side, and I assure you, that’s a really wonderful, life-enhancing thing.

How to Be a Bad Birdwatcher
By Simon Barnes