Waders that stay
White Egret (Egreta alba) 1938
Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, Australian naturalist and artist (1867-1944)
From the collection of the National Library of Australia: http://www.nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an3821510-v
Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading –
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.
Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.
From Birds: Poems by Judith Wright, National Library of Australia, 2003
Egrets in another country, in another century
Egrets are one of several species commonly called ‘rice birds’: these are cattle egrets (Bubulcus ibis). The title of the poem below refers to Feroke, a small city surrounded by rivers and wetlands in Kerala, India.
The rice-birds fly so white, so silver white,
The velvet rice-flats lie so emerald green,
My heart inhales, with sorrowful delight,
The sweet and poignant sadness of the scene.
The swollen tawny river seeks the sea,
Its hungry waters, never satisfied,
Beflecked with fallen log and torn-up tree,
Engulph the fisher-huts on either side.
The current brought a stranger yesterday,
And laid him on the sand beneath a palm,
His worn young face was partly torn away,
His eyes, that saw the world no more, were calm
We could not close his eyelids, stiff with blood,–
But, oh, my brother, I had changed with thee
For I am still tormented in the flood,
Whilst thou hast done thy work, and reached the sea.
From Last Poems by Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1905; also in Selected Poems from The Indian Love Lyrics of Laurence Hope, William Heinemann, 1922