07 March, 2008

Wild Geese











.....there came a faint tone of excitement into their speech. They began moving their heads from side to side in jerks. And then, turning into the wind, suddenly they would all be in the air together, fourteen or forty at a time, with wide wings scooping the blackness and a cry of triumph in their throats.

In a steamer it takes two or three days to cross the North Sea - so many hours of slobbering through the viscous water. But for the geese, for the sailors of the air, for the angled wedges tearing clouds to tatters, for the singers of the sky with the gale behind them - three miles up with cumulus for their floor instead of water - for them it was a different matter.

They planed for the last part on down-curved wings. At the last moment they scooped the wind with them, flapping vigorously. Next they were on the ground. They held their wings above their heads for a moment, then folded them with a quick and pretty neatness. They had crossed the North Sea.

--The Once and Future King, TH White

8 comments:

Meghan said...

Lovely pictures. We have a lot of Canadian Geese where I'm from and I love watching them down by the lake. :)

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

I've never been into T.H. White but that piece of prose is wonderful. Perhaps I should give him another go.
I am sorry to say that the geese round us are viewed as a bit of a nuisance due to their grazing habits and subsequent manure. They make a terrible mess of the embankment at Trent Bridge. Mostly Canada geese with the odd greylag amongst their number.

Bernita said...

Oh, that is beautiful.

I yearn for the days when the geese return, to see their victory sign in the sky above,convoy after convoy spread out against the gray sky,going northward, pursuing winter's last batallions.

Constance said...

He forgot to add in the deafening honks that ring in your ears for the next twenty minutes...

Gabriele C. said...

Wild geese. Memories of one of the first books I read - Nils Holgerson's Wondrous Journey With the Wild Geese (or however that's translated into English) by Selma Lagerlöf.s

Carla said...

Meghan - Canada geese are quite common in Britain now, often semi-tame and living in places like town parks. Handsome birds. If I can find a photo I'll post one and you can tell me if they're the same as your Canadian Geese, or if they're completely different birds that happen to share a name (like the robin)!

Elizabeth - I'm a great fan of TH White. You have to be prepared to let his writing take you into a world of its own, as with books like Wind in the Willows or Watership Down - or Harry Potter, for that matter. If you expect him to be a realistic take on either Arthur or the Middle Ages it doesn't work at all! Well worth giving him a go, I would say. Large flocks of geese can make a mess (!) of their surroundings! These are greylags, with a stray white goose among them - I haven't figured out if it's some sort of albino or if it's a different species looking for company.

Bernita - just after the piece I quoted, there's a mention of a local fisherman who salutes the geese when they arrive and again when they leave him. I think you would like him :-)

Constance - well, it's written from the point of view of a boy who had been turned into a goose, so I daresay the honks sounded like music or speech to his ears :-)

Gabriele - Was that about the migration of the geese? Some of them make the most amazing journeys, all the way up to the high Arctic in Greenland. Wonderful birds.

Gabriele C. said...

It was about a boy, Nils, who didn't pay attention during his geography lesson and then got the Swedish provinces all in the wrong order, so he was condemnded to travel with the wild geese all over Sweden to get it right next time. :) Of course, he had all sort of adventures on the way.

Carla said...

Gabriele - that book sounds fun!