Too few Washingtonians have hobbies; for many people here, cultivating a career is apparently amusement enough. Fortunately, I sometimes encounter locals—like this fellow on the west front of the cathedral—who enjoy a pastime I’d never really thought much about, and I like when they explain its appeal in terms I can understand.
A SIMPLE DESULTORY PROSOPOPOEIA
(or, HOW I WAS RICHARD WAGNER’D INTO TRADITION)
“I do not think that they will sing to me”:
Impulsive mermaids drown in shallow words.
Await no witless warbling by the sea;
Rather, seek the songs of simple birds.
From perch and peak they twitter truths profound:
A woodbird stirs the Volsung in his blood;
A parliament of eagles circles ’round;
A curlew chills the farer on the flood.
The cuckoo croaks that sumer is icumen;
“Keep well thy tongue!” confesses Chaucer’s crow;
The nightingale her owl will merr’ly summon;
Despite their flyte, one insight they bestow:
Be still, but heed the rustle of a wing;
A legendary pigeon waits to sing.
(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tag.)