Said a people to a poet—‘ Go out from among us straightway!
While we are thinking earthly things, thou singest of divine.
There’s a little fair brown nightingale, who, sitting in the gateways
Makes fitter music to our ears than any song of thine!’
The poet went out weeping—the nightingale ceased chanting;
‘Now, wherefore, O thou nightingale, is all thy sweetness done?’
I cannot sing my earthly things, the heavenly poet wanting,
Whose highest harmony includes the lowest under sun.’
The poet went out weeping,—and died abroad, bereft there—
The bird flew to his grave and died, amid a thousand wails:—
And, when I last came by the place, I swear the music left there
Was only of the poet’s song, and not the nightingale’s.
– Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1820 Florence Nightingale (pioneering British nurse in the Crimean War)
1992 Robert Reed (actor)
On This Day:
1215 English nobles serve King John with the ultimatum that will lead to the signing of the Magna Carta
Have a good Saturday, 12th May
Beautiful must be the mountains whence ye come,
And bright in the fruitful valleys the streams, wherefrom
Ye learn your song:
Where are those starry woods? O might I wander there,
Among the flowers, which in that heavenly air
Bloom the year long!
Nay, barren are those mountains and spent the streams:
Our song is the voice of desire, that haunts our dreams,
A throe of the heart,
Whose pining visions dim, forbidden hopes profound,
No dying cadence nor long sigh can sound,
For all our art.
Alone, aloud in the raptured ear of men
We pour our dark nocturnal secret; and then,
As night is withdrawn
From these sweet-springing meads and bursting boughs of May,
Dream, while the innumerable choir of day
Welcome the dawn.
– Robert Seymour Bridges
From a letter from STC to Wordsworth after writing The Nightingale:
In stale blank verse a subject stale
I send per post my Nightingale;
And like an honest bard, dear Wordsworth,
You’ll tell me what you think, my Bird’s worth.
My own opinion’s briefly this–
His bill he opens not amiss;
And when he has sung a stave or so,
His breast, & some small space below,
So throbs & swells, that you might swear
No vulgar music’s working there.
So far, so good; but then, ‘od rot him!
There’s something falls off at his bottom.
Yet, sure, no wonder it should breed,
That my Bird’s Tail’s a tail indeed
And makes it’s own inglorious harmony
Æolio crepitû, non carmine.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge