“A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.” [Shelley]
A nightingale is a poet; a thousand songs of lamentation in a nighttime sung by sorrow’s sentry. Songs of sadness, songs of loneliness, songs to reveal a hidden presence. A thousand songs sung in solitude. A serpent, too, can tell a thousand tales. Tales of woes and injustice. Tales not his own, but crafted like new skin; the tales twisted and formed into false claims against the unseen voice. The nightingale sings truth sweetly against the hissing of the serpent’s lies.
“Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird!” You were born to sing. To sing the lamentations of a suffering people. To sing of life’s glories in the dusk of isolation. To sing of hope in the den of despair. You were born to sing of a blooming rose when the serpent tells of thorns alone.
“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.” [Keats]
Sing for Persia, for Palestine!
Immortal bird, sing tales of crime.
Sing Esther’s triumph in Xerxes’s court,
When serpents hissed a lie not bought.
Sing of Gaza, of Bethlehem’s woes,
Of Lebanon and a thousand foes.
Songbird of sorrow, sing your song,
And bid the serpent not hiss too long.
The nightingale is a poet of sorrow.
The serpent is a teller of lies.