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Saturday, April 20, 2013


It had a velvet cap,
And wold syt upon my lap,
And seke after small wormes,
And somtyme white bred crommes;
And many tymes and ofte
Betwene my brestes softe
It wolde lye and rest;
It was propre and prest.
       --from John Skelton (1463-1529),
            The Boke of Phyllyp Sparowe
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
It's dank and cloudy with sun coming through a patch of blue, but the sparrows are tweeting indefatigably in the rose canes. So lovely to let the mind drift and flit with a flock. They never worry about their duty to publishers or work or whether their downy children are displaying any drive to leave the nest--they are a cheerful cloud of cheeping, of busy and furiously social enthusiasms.

Traditionally they are called a host of sparrows, a quarrel of sparrows, a knot of sparrows--my group is not quite large enough to be a host, nor are they a bickering quarrel this morning. And if they are a knot, these sparrows are a large, wondrous Celtic interlace that hardly knows head from tail as it moves in complicated ways through the rugosas.

The cardinals arrive in a dash of color, flicking their tails, bunching against the chill. But the sparrows cheep on, all pausing from motion for an instant, looking like little brown fruits left over from fall on the whips of the canes.
                      * * *
Finding me elsewhere in recent books:

  • Thaliad's epic adventure in verse here and here (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
  • The Foliate Head's collection of poems from Stanza Press (UK) here
  • A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage from Mercer University Press (ForeWord 2013 finalist, The Ferrol Sams Award, 2012) here
  • The Throne of Psyche, collection of poetry from Mercer, 2011, here
  • Excerpts at Scribd


  1. Funny what a constant in art and civilisation sparrows are - are not two sold for a farthing? Sparrows must not build in his house-eaves, because they are lecherous...

    I remember seeing a Japanese (I think, or Chinese) ceramic painting of sparrows in wysteria, and thinking how sombre the colours were, dusky brown and mauve, yet the image of it remains with me very strongly.

    I'm glad your sparrows accompany your day!

  2. I often miss the greater variety of songbirds I knew elsewhere, but usually at this time of year there are cardinals and juncos and hordes of sparrows in the back yard.

    This sparrow, it had to be explained, was not lecherous, though he liked to nest in a bosom!

  3. "Prest," now, I wonder why such a wonderful word didn't take, in the long run? I draw a blank when I try to find a modern equivalent: "ready," or "quick," or "nimble," I suppose, are all fairly near the mark.

    Thank you! I had not thought of Skelton for many a long year.

  4. So many grand ones have been left behind...

    I love the rollicking, rolling tumbe of Skeltonics! And am fond of the Tudor poets.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.