Twelve years have elapsed since I last took a view
Of my favourite field and the bank where they grew,
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me shade.
The blackbird has fled to another retreat
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat,
And the scene where his melody charmed me before,
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.
My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast, and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.
‘Tis a sight to engage me, if any thing can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man;
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a being less durable even than he.
These verses by William Cowper (1731 – 1830) is a trenchant reminder that the destruction of trees and the consequent displacement of wildlife is an aspect of human activity that goes back a long way. When there are no hazels or other form of shelter for the blackbird to retreat to it dies. That is why today in Britain, where 80,000 miles of hedgerows have disappeared since the second world war, and wetlands continue to be drained.
"The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing."
(From La Belle Dame Sans Merci John Keats (1795 – 1821)
The Poetry of Things
The Natural World: all creatures, great and small.