Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote a rather long elegy called In Memoriam in 1849.  It is a poem written over seventeen years about his grief at losing a friend and is long meditation on God and the reason for human existence and even TS Eliot called it unapproachable.  In spite of the fact that few people manage to read all 100 plus stanzas, it has been influential in giving us two well know phrases.  The first is

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all

The second is the well known phrase 'Nature, red in tooth and claw' which was meant to describe mankind, though is most often used when humans are rather shocked at how bloody and violent nature can be.  This phrase has been in my mind since we had a visitor to the back garden yesterday.

After a moment of stunned shock at seeing what looked like a bird of prey near to our back door, we took a few pictures of what we've decided is a young sparrowhawk.  He seemed to be a little confused and kept on calling for what we assumed was his mother.  He otherwise just sat on the fence and preened himself for a few minutes until we heard another bird calling and he flew off.  

I half expected to see most of our blue tits and sparrows in small pieces on the lawn, and whilst excited to see this wonderful bird, suddenly concerned about the small birds we love to watch.  But this is a natural way of things, hawks have always hunted small birds, as nature is red in tooth and claw.   On the walk home last night this thought was confirmed when I saw a charming scene of a dead rat in the park, which had been somewhat torn from limb from limb, probably by one of the crows in the area.

In spite of the all this bloodshed, this morning we had a rare sighting of a jay in the garden which was wonderful.  The year is moving on, Mr C is starting to grow his veg seeds in sunny windowsills, the birds are nesting and singing loudly, the days are lengthening and the word is slowly turning green again.

"March is a month of considerable frustration - it is so near spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light years away."
  Thalassa Cruso  

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