Friday, February 22, 2008

Mistle

Mid-February; three horses, a black, a bay and a chestnut, graze
In the old château orchard, under apple trees
Whose branches are heavy with green leaves and fruit,
Of mistletoe. Sacred, magical and poison parasite,
Token of clean air, whose pearly, mucous berries
Whet the whistles, it is said, of mistle thrushes,
So they can bring from the topmost twigs,
The first taste, crisp and sweet and juicy,
Of early season's birdsong.
***
(Prompted by the coming Festival of the Trees special on orchards)

16 comments:

Rosie said...

your verse is packed with pagan mystery Lucy,and the sense of hanging between seasons. I am glad you have put me right about the use of whet and whistle. I always thought that it was a reference to the drink with which you wet your whistle, only ever having heard the expression and not seen it written...what a useful blogger you are

rr said...

I think with that h Lucy's actually bending to poetic ends the conventional whistle wetting. And deftly so :-)

Lucy said...

Glad you find my (yes, intentional) mis-spelling deft not daft, Rachel!
I knew it was 'wet' really, but written as such, it just looked, well, wet! I liked the h to go with whistle better, and mistle thrush song is indeed sharp. Always tricky making puns in writing( or at least those which are homonyms but orthographically different), which option do you go for?
But thanks both for reading!

Dave said...

I would've gone with "wet" - but a great line either way!

marly said...

Liked this pairing, Lucy. "Mistle thrush": what wonderful syllables those are. Liked the whet/wet business and think both come across, at least to my mind.

Lucy said...

I'm hopelessly suggestible like this; the problem is, a shown by the excellent Phrase Finder to which rr's link leads, it is a common mis-spelling/misapprehension, so looks like an error, and vanity troubles me that I don't want people to think I'm simply being ignorant. Also, of course, the berries are moist, so therefore not sharpening but wetting. But I do like the look and sound of 'whet' better than 'wet'.
I don't know. Perhaps I'll leave it a day or too and see what the verdict is, or how I feel then!

Plutarch said...

I would originally have said wet, but now prefer whet. Are you one of those people who pronouce the "h" in such words as "where" and "when"? I don't think I am, but I wish I were. Anyone reading your delightful poem aloud whould surely have to apirate the "h" in whet.

Lucas said...

The clarity and lightness of this photograph are delightful.
The poem brings to mind a field set for a festival of some kind: a medieval scene perhaps - I love the line "Whose branches are heavy with green leaves and fruit,/Of mistletoe...

Isabelle said...

Lovely. lovely poem and beautiful photo.

To add to the wet/whet debate - since I'm Scottish, they're not homonyms to me. Whet is whwhwhwhet - like blowing out and candle and then -et.

apprentice said...

Yes both very lovely. Are you sure you didn't knit gree pompoms for those trees?

On the use of expressions, I read a thing where someone talked about the "sloth of despond" which gave me a chuckle!

Lucy said...

Plutarch - that's exactly how I feel about it, I wish I did sound the h in those words but probably don't, I think I might try doing so now...
Isabelle, on the other hand does! In fact Scottish English leaves in quite a lot of good sounds that lazy southerners leave out, and is probably in many ways superior (still trying to make up for calling you English that time...!)
Lucas - hello, lovely to see you, that's a jolly image, a bit of Merry Brittany, and Jack in the Green!
Apprentice - the sloth of despond is brilliant and really deserves a cartoon! It is quite an extraordinary quantity of mistletoe, I don't know if the trees themselves leaf or fruit at all. I'll have to check later in the year.
Thanks all for reading, I think the h can stay.

Rosie said...

I'm not going to believe anything you spell from now on...

herhimnbryn said...

Spelt either way L, your words are hauntingly evocative of the season.

I remembered,
http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/endicott_redux/2007/12/happy-new-year.html

Spring time of the year sung by L McK, with a great video of Mummers dancing.

meggie said...

I was surprised on rereading the comments to see that no one mentioned the sharpening of the thrush's whistle. I took that to be the meaning.
Lovely however read.

Dick said...

I'm with Meggie on that. I was really struck by the sense of a sound sharpened. It's a fine poem, Lucy.

Lucy said...

Any one of you could be a deciding vote, the h stays - a sharp sound was in my thinking...