National Poetry Month, Day 21 // Nothing sensory for me surpasses in glory the chorus of birdsong that rises in the predawn hours of early spring. As much as anything that bursts from the ground or buds from the greening branches of trees, and more than most, birdsong heralds the return of the season of renewal and growth, no matter the length or severity of winter. I don’t drop to my knees in awe – another word for prayer – but my spirit pauses at that hour to catch its breath in gratitude. There’s no need to analyze or explain it. It’s a time for simple awareness and presence, the kind William Alexander Percy hails in his poem “Overtones.”
Today the Christian church in the Western world will celebrate Easter, and the Eastern church’s celebration will follow eight days later. How many sermons will be delivered on the day! (Mine will be one of them.) Wouldn’t it be better if we were simply to fall on our knees in gratitude and praise for the new life that is always surprising us in such small and easily overlooked ways?
“Overtones,” by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942)
I heard a bird at break of day
Sing from the autumn trees
A song so mystical and calm,
So full of certainties,
No man, I think, could listen long
Except upon his knees.
Yet this was but a simple bird,
Alone, among dead trees.