Cold Blows The Wind


The north wind was vicious and the sunlight was feeble and cold. Algy didn’t feel like getting up in the morning, but the days were much too short now to be wasted. So he fluffed up his feathers and flew down to the sea with a book of poetry under his wing. Tucked into a sheltered corner among the rocks, Algy read happily in the cool light reflecting off the water all around him, listening to the sounds of the Sea of the Hebrides (audio post below) as the wind drove the waves spitting and surging onto the beach beside him.

         Cauld blows the wind frae north to south,
         And drift is driving sairly ;
         The sheep are couring in the heugh,
         Oh sirs! it’s winter fairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         I’d rather gae supperless to my bed,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         Loud rairs the blast amang the woods,
         The branches tirling barely,
         Amang the chimley taps it thuds,
         And frost is nippin sairly.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         To sit a’ the night I’d rather agree,
         Than rise in the morning early.

         The sun peeps o’er the southlan’ hill,
         Like ony tim’rous carlie;
         Just blinks a wee, then sinks again,
         And that we find severely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         When snaw blaws into the chimley cheek,
         Wha’d rise in the morning early.

         Nae linties lilt on hedge or bush,
         Poor things, they suffer sairly ;
         In cauldrife quarters a’ the night,
         A’ day they feed but sparely.
         Now up in the morning’s no’ for me,
         Up in the morning early ;
         Nae fate can be waur, in winter time,
         Than rise in the morning early.

[Algy is reading Cold Blows The Wind, a lesser-known Scots poem by John Hamilton, published in Walter de la Mare’s anthology Come Hither.]

Happy Is He Whose Dauntless Wing Lifts Him …


It was a cold, bright winter morning, with strange mists weaving between the hills. The days were growing very short now, so Algy decided to make the most of the brief hours of pale sunshine. He found a comfortable position on the end of the old fence, among the bare, tangled stems of the honeysuckle, and settled down to read something suitably out of the ordinary, while the other birds chattered in the bushes around him (audio recording in the post below):

                  Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées,
                  Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers,
                  Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers,
                  Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées,

                  Mon esprit, tu te meus avec agilité,
                  Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pâme dans l’onde,
                  Tu sillonnes gaiement l’immensité profonde
                  Avec une indicible et mâle volupté.

                  Envole-toi bien loin de ces miasmes morbides;
                  Va te purifier dans l’air supérieur,
                  Et bois, comme une pure et divine liqueur,
                  Le feu clair qui remplit les espaces limpides.

                  Derrière les ennuis et les vastes chagrins
                  Qui chargent de leur poids l’existence brumeuse,
                  Heureux celui qui peut d’une aile vigoureuse
                  S’élancer vers les champs lumineux et sereins;

                  Celui dont les pensers, comme des alouettes,
                  Vers les cieux le matin prennent un libre essor,
                  — Qui plane sur la vie, et comprend sans effort
                  Le langage des fleurs et des choses muettes!

Algy is reading Élévation from Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire, in a dual language edition with prose translation by Francis Scarfe:

Above the pools, above the valleys and mountains, woods, clouds and seas; beyond the Sun, beyond the expanses of ether, beyond the frontiers of the starry skies – agile you move, my mind, and as a strong swimmer rejoices in the wavy sea, gaily you cleave the unfathomable vastness with ineffable, virile and voluptuous joy. Fly far away beyond this deadly slough; go, cleanse yourself in the noblest of the air, drink undiluted the nectar of the gods, that lucid fire which brims the limpid realms of space! Beyond all cares and vast chagrins that weigh upon our fogged existence, happy is he whose dauntless wing lifts him towards the luminous and serene fields of peace, he whose thoughts soar free like larks towards the morning skies, who rides high above life, swift to interpret the speech of flowers and voiceless things.

Remembrance Day 2012


On Remembrance Day, Algy perched on a low stone wall by the loch and thought sadly of the terrible damage done to the world and its creatures by war.

He quietly hummed An Eala Bhàn – The White Swan – a haunting Gaelic song with lyrics written by a poet from the island of North Uist while in the trenches of WWI during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Listen to this lovely version of An Eala Bhàn sung by North Uist’s own Julie Fowlis.

Algy Lets Nature Be His Teacher


The autumn weather remained cold, but it was bright and inviting. Algy felt that he needed a break from his daily chores, so he set off to look for new adventures. After flying for twenty miles or so, he paused to rest on the mossy floor of the temperate rainforest. Watching the light play through the trees while a robin trilled nearby, Algy was reminded of a poem, even though it was intended for a different season. So he offered this advice to his friends:

         Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
         Or surely you’ll grow double:
         Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
         Why all this toil and trouble?

         The sun above the mountain’s head,
         A freshening lustre mellow
         Through all the long green fields has spread,
         His first sweet evening yellow.

         Books! ‘tis a dull and endless strife:
         Come, hear the woodland linnet,
         How sweet his music! on my life,
         There’s more of wisdom in it.

         And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
         He, too, is no mean preacher:
         Come forth into the light of things,
         Let Nature be your teacher.

[From the poem The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth.]

Algy Greets All His Friends


In Algy’s wee corner of the West Highlands it has been raining for two days straight, but Algy is happy because he has made new friends on Tumblr. He greets all his friends, near and far, and hopes they are happy and at peace. He says:

          If I were to live my life
          in catfish forms
          in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
          at the bottom of a pond
          and you were to come by
              one evening
          when the moon was shining
          down into my dark home
          and stand there at the edge
             of my affection
          and think, “It’s beautiful
          here by this pond.  I wish
             somebody loved me,”
          I’d love you and be your catfish
          friend and drive such lonely
          thoughts from your mind
          and suddenly you would be
             at peace,
          and ask yourself, “I wonder
          if there are any catfish
          in this pond?  It seems like
          a perfect place for them.”

[Algy quotes Richard Brautigan’s poem Your Catfish Friend.]

Algy Celebrates World Rhino Day 2012


Algy loves rhinoceroses. To celebrate World Rhino Day he invited some very special friends for a quiet holiday in the West Highlands, far away from harm.

[Algy gratefully acknowledges the source of these particular rhinos, in a photo by Clem Evans, evo2000, on flickr, adapted under a Creative Commons licence.]


Algy Rides a Dragon as Swift as the Wind


Algy doesn’t like St. George’s Day, or beastliness to dragons on any occasion. Dragons are Algy’s friends, for without them, who would breathe fire into the sunset?

He remembered the Chinese nursery rhyme, and went for a very special ride:

          As the sun came up, a ball of red.
          I followed my friend wherever he led.
          He thought his fast horse would leave me behind
          But I rode a dragon as swift as the wind!

[Algy gratefully acknowledges the source of the image of this particular dragon, in a photo by wisefly on flickr, adapted under a Creative Commons licence.]


Algy Has a Grey Day


Algy was feeling rather glum. His oldest friends had suffered a sad loss, and they had gone away for a while. The wind felt melancholy too, and blew the mist back in from the sea.

He was reminded of the poem Lassitude by Mathilde Blind, although his own sea was greenish-grey…

          A fisher-boy, in level line,
          Cast stone by stone into the brine:
          Methought I too might do as he,
          And cast my sorrows on the sea.

Algy Listens to the Sea-Wash


The sea-wash never ends.
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows?
             Only the old strong songs?
             Is that all?
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.

[Sea-Wash by Carl Sandburg originally appeared in the February 1920 issue of Poetry magazine. Listen to Sea-Wash at the Poetry Foundation.]