Poem in a Nutshell

This poem tells us the tale of a pair of sarus cranes. Sarus cranes mate for life and show great love and devotion to their partners. In this poem, the male crane is cruelly killed by humans and we see the grief of the female crane at the death of her partner. The poem is 28 lines long and divided into 5 stanzas. It is written in free verse.

Stanza 1

The male was shot
as he necked
to pull the reluctant sun out
from the rim of horizon. 

The male crane was shot as he was flying around trying to look at the sunrise. The hunters shot the crane while he enjoying his daily life, flying about the sky unaware of the danger he was in.

Stanza 2

She flew crying 	 		 	
as he was picked up hands and jaws
and a proud neck was humbled
to lie like dirty linen
in a coarse washing bag. 

The female crane flew crying as her partner was cruelly picked up by the hunters by hands and jaws. They tossed his body into a coarse washing bag as though it were dirty linen. This shows us the cold-hearted nature of the hunters- they not only killed an innocent bird but also treated its dead body so harshly.

Stanza 3

She circled the sky 10
in movements of grace
over his disgraceful end.
The killers went away and she returned
to the death’s scene
with grief that inscribed its intensity
in dots and pits
like the Morse code of bird’s sorrow
transmitted to the air. 

The female crane circled the sky in graceful movements over his disgraceful end. She is trying to remain calm even at the site of the horrific scene that has occurred. The killers went away and she returned to the site of her partner’s death. Sadness was written on her in dots and pits like the Morse code of bird’s sorrow transmitted to the air.

Morse code is a symbolic language that uses a combination of long and short sounds or flashes of light to send messages. By comparing the bird’s sorrow to Morse code, the poet wants to convey its secretive nature. Humans cannot understand this sorrow and continue to hunt birds unaware of how their cruel actions affect them.

Stanza 4

With her beak she kissed a few feathers
picked the ones that wind had not taken away
and sat to hatch
the blood stained feathers
into a toddling chick. 

She kissed a few feathers with her beak and picked the ones that had not been blown away by the wind. She then hatched the blood stained feathers into a toddling chick. The female crane’s actions almost feel like a funeral ritual- she is saying her last goodbye to her beloved by weaving his feathers into something. This is a display of their intense love.

Stanza 5

A wave of the seas she had never seen
came to her from far away
and carried her to him.
She went away beyond Hume’s words,
beyond the legends and fables of human love.

A wave of the seas she had never seen came to her from far away and carried her to her dead companion. This suggests that the female bird joins the male bird in death because of her devotion to him. The poet says she goes beyond Hume’s words and beyond the legends and fables of human love.

Hume was the author of The Game Birds of India, Burma and Ceylon (1881) and he wrote about sarus cranes mating for life. He also wrote that they exhibit great grief at the death of their partner. The poet presents the same scene of the grief-stricken sarus crane to us. In her distress, she too dies and goes beyond the limits of Hume’s words. The birds’ love is greater and purer than that of humans so the female bird’s death goes beyond that too.

Conclusion

The poem presents a story of a sarus crane brutally killed by hunters. His companion is struck with sorrow and misery at his death and meets her own end. The poem is a touching but sad love story of two birds and it also makes us aware of the dark and cruel side of human beings who cause the tragedy.