Adam’s Notebook
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Adam’s Notebook

The Nightingale Replies to Keats

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn

You think I am the selfsame chick
Whose song by Bible Ruth was heard?
How old d’you think I am, then, slick?
Some thirty-hundred-year-old bird?
The average life expectancy
For my kind runs to five years, tops.
How can Ruth’s songbird have been me?
What am I, a triceratops?
A vampire nightingale to feed
On blood and hide from all sunlight?
Well yes, alright. I do concede
That’s why I only sing at night.
Yes. I’m a Transylvanian fowl:
Undead, most fatal when I eats:
Right now I’m on a midnight prowl!
And my next meal — it could be — Keats.

[Combined sounds of squawking, bloodsucking and human screams]

Such poet-reconnoitering
Is easy meat for birds like me.
More palely-than-beforehand loitering:
Alas! their brevité-de-vie.
The fresh infusion of this blood
Doth give my singing extra welly.
What shall I do now for my pud?
Perhaps a pursy piece-o’ Shelley?

[Flies off]




Various jottings and thoughts.

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Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts

Writer and academic. London-adjacent.

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