February Thaw

January 28, 2012

A blog for listening notes associated with the seminar, Sounding the Animal, at Cornell Society for Humanities, Winter-Spring 2012.

Friday, 27 January, 2012

With the thaw on, today was a good listening day. Tufted titmouse singing on a wire, soon as I left the house: “tear tear tear.” At Sapsucker Woods: chirpety finches (bursting in a cloud of wings), woodpecker’s cry, kingfisher, ducks’ descending “wanh wanh wanh” in the pond. You’d almost think it were spring, but for the absence of blackbird trills. A kind of drippy lushness to the soundscape.

I looked up this poem by (19th century British poet) John Clare, on the February thaw, and noticed how much attention he gives to sound:

‎”The snow has left the cottage top;
The thatch-moss grows in brighter green;
And eaves in quick succession drop,
Where grinning icicles have been;
Pit-patting with a pleasant noise . . .
. . .
Ploughmen go whistling to their toils,
And yoke again the rested plough;
And, mingling o’er the mellow soils,
Boys shout, and whips are noising now.
. . .
The mavis thrush with wild delight,
Upon the orchard’s dripping tree,
Mutters, to see the day so bright . . .
And oft Dame stops her buzzing wheel
To hear the robin’s note once more,
Who tootles while he pecks his meal
From sweet-briar hips beside the door.
. . .
Thus Nature of the Spring will dream
While south winds thaw; but soon again
Frost breathes upon the stiff’ning stream,
And numbs it into ice: the plain
Soon wears its mourning garb of white;
And icicles, that fret at noon,
Will eke their icy tails at night
Beneath the chilly stars and moon.”

–John Clare, “February” (a few weeks early in 2012)



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