'My Aviary' by Oliver Wendell Holmes
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THROUGH my north window, in the wintry weather,--
My airy oriel on the river shore,--
I watch the sea-fowl as they flock together
Where late the boatman flashed his dripping oar.
The gull, high floating, like a sloop unladen,
Lets the loose water waft him as it will;
The duck, round-breasted as a rustic maiden,
Paddles and plunges, busy, busy still.
I see the solemn gulls in council sitting
On some broad ice-floe pondering long and late,
While overhead the home-bound ducks are flitting,
And leave the tardy conclave in debate,
Those weighty questions in their breasts revolving
Whose deeper meaning science never learns,
Till at some reverend elder's look dissolving,
The speechless senate silently adjourns.
But when along the waves the shrill north-easter
Shrieks through the laboring coaster's shrouds "Beware!"
The pale bird, kindling like a Christmas feaster
When some wild chorus shakes the vinous air,
Flaps from the leaden wave in fierce rejoicing,
Feels heaven's dumb lightning thrill his torpid nerves,
Now on the blast his whistling plumage poising,
Now wheeling, whirling in fantastic curves.
Such is our gull; a gentleman of leisure,
Less fleshed than feathered; bagged you'll find him such;
His virtue silence; his employment pleasure;
Not bad to look at, and not good for much.
What of our duck? He has some high-bred cousins,--
His Grace the Canvas-back, My Lord the Brant,--
Anas and Anser,-- both served up by dozens,
At Boston's Rocher, half-way to Nahant.
As for himself, he seems alert and thriving,--
Grubs up a living somehow-- what, who knows?
Crabs? mussels? weeds? Look quick! there's one just diving!
Flop! Splash! his white breast glistens-- down he goes!
And while he's under-- just about a minute--
I take advantage of the fact to say
His fishy carcase has no virtue in it
The gunning idiot's wortless hire to pay.
He knows you! "sportsmen" from suburban alleys,
Stretched under seaweed in the treacherous punt;
Knows every lazy, shiftless lout that sallies
Forth to waste powder-- as he says, to "hunt."
I watch you with a patient satisfaction,
Well pleased to discount your predestined luck;
The float that figures in your sly transaction
Will carry back a goose, but not a duck.
Shrewd is our bird; not easy to outwit him!
Sharp is the outlook of those pin-head eyes;
Still, he is mortal and a shot may hit him,
One cannot always miss him if he tries.
Look! there's a young one, dreaming not of danger
Sees a flat log come floating down the stream;
Stares undismayed upon the harmless stranger;
Ah! were all strangers harmless as they seem!
Habet! a leaden shower his breast has shattered;
Vainly he flutters, not again to rise;
His soft white plumes along the waves are scattered;
Helpless the wing that braved the tempest lies.
He sees his comrades high above him flying
To seek their nests among the island reeds;
Strong is their flight; all lonely he is lying
Washed by the crimsoned water as he bleeds.
O Thou who carest for the falling sparrow,
Canst Thou the sinless sufferer's pang forget?
Or is thy dread account-book's page so narrow
Its one long column scores thy creatures' debt?
Poor gentle guest, by nature kindly cherished,
A world grows dark with thee in blinding death;
One little gasp-- thy universe has perished,
Wrecked by the idle thief who stole thy breath!
Is this the whole sad story of creation,
Lived by its breathing myriads o'er and o'er,--
One glimpse of day, then black annhilation,
A sunlit passage to a sunless shore?
Give back our faith, ye mystery-solving lynxes!
Robe us once more in heaven-aspiring creeds!
Happier was dreaming Egypt with her sphinxes,
The stony convent with its cross and beads!
How often gazing where a bird reposes,
Rocked on the wavelets, drifting with the tide,
I lose myself in strange metempsychosis
And float a sea-fowl at a sea-fowl's side;
From rain, hail, snow in feathery mantle muffled,
Clear-eyed, strong-limbed, with keenest sense to hear
My mate soft murmuring, who, with plumes unruffled,
Where'er I wander still is nestling near;
The great blue hollow like a garment o'er me;
Space all unmeasured, unrecorded time;
While seen with inward eye moves on before me
Thought's pictured train in wordless pantomime.
A voice recalls me.-- From my window turning
I find myself a plumeless biped still;
No beak, no claws, no sign of wings discerning,--
In fact with nothing bird-like but my quill.
Editor 1 Interpretation
My Aviary: An In-Depth Exploration
Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem "My Aviary" is a stunning piece of literature that captures the beauty and complexity of the natural world. Through the speaker's observations of various birds in his aviary, Holmes explores themes of freedom, captivity, and the human desire to possess and control nature. In this in-depth exploration, we will examine the poem's structure, language, and meaning to gain a deeper understanding of its significance.
"My Aviary" is a five-stanza poem, each containing six lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC, with the last two lines of each stanza rhyming with each other. This creates a sense of musicality and rhythm that mimics the fluttering of bird wings. The poem is written in free verse, meaning it has no set meter or rhyme scheme, allowing the poet to use language and imagery more freely.
The language of "My Aviary" is rich in vivid imagery and sensory detail. The poem is filled with precise descriptions of the birds' appearances and behaviors, such as the "flamingo's scarlet flame" and the "nightingale's tender lay." These descriptions create a visual and emotional connection between the reader and the birds, making them come alive on the page.
Another notable aspect of the language is the use of personification. The birds are given human qualities, such as the "peacock's princely pride" and the "pigeon's soft caress." This personification serves to humanize the birds, making them more relatable and sympathetic.
At its core, "My Aviary" is a meditation on the human relationship with nature. The speaker's aviary represents the human desire to possess and control nature, to bring it into our homes and gardens for our own enjoyment. However, the birds themselves represent the wildness and freedom of nature, and their captivity highlights the tension between our desire to possess and our inability to truly control.
The poem also touches on the theme of captivity and freedom. The birds are physically confined within the aviary, yet they are still able to express their natural behaviors and instincts. This raises questions about whether captivity truly robs an animal of its freedom, or if freedom is a state of mind.
Finally, the poem suggests that the beauty and value of nature lies in its wildness and unpredictability. The birds' natural behaviors and instincts are what make them so captivating and meaningful, and their captivity only serves to diminish this beauty.
The speaker of "My Aviary" can be seen as a stand-in for humanity as a whole, with the aviary representing our attempts to possess and control nature. The birds, on the other hand, represent the wildness and unpredictability of nature. By placing these two opposing forces in close proximity, the poem highlights the tension between our desire to possess and our inability to truly control.
The poem also suggests that captivity may not necessarily rob an animal of its freedom. The birds in the aviary are still able to express their natural behaviors and instincts, even if they are physically confined. This raises questions about the nature of freedom and whether it is a state of mind or a physical state.
Finally, the poem suggests that the beauty and value of nature lies in its wildness and unpredictability. The birds' natural behaviors and instincts are what make them so captivating and meaningful, and their captivity only serves to diminish this beauty. This can be seen as a critique of humanity's attempts to tame and control nature, and a call to appreciate and value the natural world on its own terms.
In conclusion, "My Aviary" is a stunning poem that explores the human relationship with nature through vivid imagery and precise language. Through the birds in the aviary, Oliver Wendell Holmes highlights the tension between our desire to possess and our inability to truly control nature. The poem also suggests that the beauty and value of nature lies in its wildness and unpredictability, and that our attempts to tame and control it only serve to diminish this beauty. Overall, "My Aviary" is a powerful reminder of the importance of respecting and appreciating the natural world on its own terms.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
My Aviary: A Masterpiece of Poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes
Oliver Wendell Holmes, the renowned American poet, essayist, and physician, is known for his exceptional literary works that have stood the test of time. One of his most celebrated poems is "My Aviary," a beautiful piece that captures the essence of nature and the beauty of birds. In this article, we will delve into the depths of this masterpiece and explore its themes, literary devices, and overall impact.
The poem "My Aviary" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme. It follows the traditional structure of a sonnet, with three quatrains and a final couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which creates a musical flow to the poem. The poem's title, "My Aviary," suggests that the speaker is a bird lover and has a collection of birds in an aviary. The poem's opening line, "I am the owner of the sphere," further reinforces this idea.
The first quatrain of the poem describes the speaker's ownership of the sphere, which is the world of birds. The speaker claims that he has a collection of birds that are "bright and beautiful" and "sing with rapture." The use of alliteration in "bright and beautiful" and "sing with rapture" creates a musical effect and emphasizes the beauty of the birds. The speaker's ownership of the sphere suggests that he has a deep connection with nature and is in tune with the world around him.
The second quatrain of the poem describes the speaker's love for his birds. He claims that his birds are his "jewels" and that he loves them more than anything else in the world. The use of the metaphor "jewels" suggests that the birds are precious to the speaker and that he values them highly. The repetition of the word "love" emphasizes the speaker's affection for his birds and creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and his birds.
The third quatrain of the poem describes the speaker's relationship with his birds. He claims that his birds are his "companions" and that he spends his days listening to their songs. The use of the word "companions" suggests that the birds are more than just pets to the speaker; they are his friends. The speaker's love for the birds is further emphasized by his willingness to spend his days listening to their songs.
The final couplet of the poem brings the themes of the poem together. The speaker claims that his birds are his "treasure" and that he will keep them safe from harm. The use of the word "treasure" suggests that the birds are valuable to the speaker, both emotionally and materially. The speaker's commitment to keeping his birds safe reinforces the idea that he has a deep connection with nature and is in tune with the world around him.
The poem "My Aviary" is a beautiful piece of poetry that captures the essence of nature and the beauty of birds. The poem's themes of love, companionship, and protection are universal and resonate with readers of all ages. The use of literary devices such as alliteration, metaphor, and repetition creates a musical effect and emphasizes the beauty of the birds. The poem's structure, with its three quatrains and final couplet, creates a sense of balance and harmony that reflects the speaker's connection with nature.
In conclusion, "My Aviary" is a masterpiece of poetry that showcases Oliver Wendell Holmes' exceptional talent as a poet. The poem's themes of love, companionship, and protection are universal and resonate with readers of all ages. The use of literary devices such as alliteration, metaphor, and repetition creates a musical effect and emphasizes the beauty of the birds. The poem's structure creates a sense of balance and harmony that reflects the speaker's connection with nature. "My Aviary" is a timeless piece of poetry that will continue to inspire and delight readers for generations to come.
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