Friday, March 24, 2006

It is the lark . . .

. . . or, "Those bloody birds are singing again."

Few people who have not lived in the wilder parts of a country (possibly Temperate zones only) can have experienced a true Morning Chorus.

It is starting to get Spring here (Hungary) and I was woken a couple of days ago by a rather weak effort on behalf of the local bird population - I suppose it has the excuse of being more or less urbanised and so deplete of the true masters of song that it was a little shy of giving it full throttle. The slothful 'cooing-doves' did there usual late entry and continued long into the morning.

I lay in bed thinking - Now, if this were back in the village, the noise would be so loud that I would be fully awake and not half and half.

And, off went the thoughts on walkabout to Shakespeare, morning chorus and dawn.

First to mind for me is always A Midsummer Nights Dream.

Puck warns Oberon of the approach of daylight with, "Fairy King, attend and mark, I do hear the morning lark."

Which I find strange, as it is rarely the lark I hear first: But I don't live in England.

Certainly the chorus starts with a few tentative voices - quite high (and very unlike the Nightingale - so yar-boo-sucks to Juliet). Then builds to a most impressive mix and volume.

This happens in darkness (which most townies don't know because they are still asleep) several minutes before the first light creeps into the sky. And that gives the lie, by the way, to the idea that Oberon and his Kingdom can play in the sunlight: Earlier, Puck has mentioned the rise into the sky of Venus, the morning (and evening) star. This happens a good time before the sky gets light, and it is the signal for the Dark Spirits to disappear into their graves - the remaining Spirits can still hang around, but not face full sunlight. As soon as the grey sky shows sign of the sun rising, off they jolly well go.

Which brings me to the idea of dawn.

There are distinct stages to the morning awaking of the Sun and arrival of the day.

The first sign is Venus. The star appears as the Sun approches (it is a planet close to the sun so is always associated with it). It is a very bright star and has a mixed reputation in a number of cultures - the Romanians call it Lucaferul (bit of a strong sex drive with him) and of course the planet is the goddess of love, Venus in other western cultures. It disappears last from the lightening sky as the other 'candles' burn down a little more quickly.

The star is though, silent. No one can hear it - so you only know about it if you are awake in the night - it is a sign to lovers and shepherds (it is always so cold in the morning that the Shepherd wakes early). Romeo is familiar with it.

Around the same time, the temperature drops (if it is a clear sky - and if you are seeing the stars, it is). The dew drops with it. Everything gets wet (I'll go on about this another time).

Then the birds join in - the chickens (and village dogs) are regular noise makers throughtout the night and their use as a clock is quite inexplicable to me. Maybe it is their regularity of their noise that has them marking the hours rather than signals of change.

It is still dark but the length of time left in darkness is now marked- barely half an hour and the sky will have lightened enough for people to get up and start work.

“And merry larks are ploughmen’s clocks.” [Love’s Labour’s Lost – V, 2]

Too damn right - get out of bed, get some breakfast and get to work.

The human country side starts with the light, and ends with it too.

By the time the lazy sun heaves itself over the horizon, a good period of light has gone by. When I am back in the village, it is a time to work - not too hot and the flies haven't got up yet. I will see the local cowherd go by with all the village cows, and many of the foresters will be up and on their way long before the Sun rises.

Ever must it have been, until Industrialisation.

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