21 APRIL 1933, Page 13


We never enjoy our birds so much as now, when they are visible, when they are in full song, when they are arriving from overseas, when they are happiest. Mr. W. H. Davies says (in a very little book, just published, Jonathan Cape, 3s. 6d.) that birds are the happiest things on earth." He may care to know, or be reminded, that the Professors agree. Professor Arthur Thompson, for example, says the same thing, very nearly in the same words, in his Biology of Birds (a great book published by Sedgwick and Jackson) ; and there or elsewhere says one of the best things ever published on the mentality of birds, that they could be much cleverer if they wanted to or if it were worth their while. Flight is so easy, sight and hearing so quick, that these are enough ; but they possess unusually big brains ; and their high temperatures and the quick meta- bolism of their tissues all add to their vividness. Another parallel passage, doubtless familiar to Mr. W. H. Davies, is in Meredith's " Lark Ascending." The one poet says " they sing for me without expecting commendation " ; the other praises them for the absence of the " taint of personality." The book is not learned, but it has charming passages. Is it just a poetic licence that he expects to hear the song of his blackbird's " daughter" ? It is doubtless a deficiency in the race of birds that only the cocks sing, though the female cuckoo makes—to my ears —a prettier noise than the male.