‘The Death of the Bird’ is a long poem written by the Australian poet A. D. Hope. Hope was largely influenced by Alexander Pope and other poets from Augustan age.
In a trademark thematic concern, this poem deals with the idea of death against the vast indifference of the universe to it. It is shown through the life of a migratory bird.
The poem is divided into 8 four-lined stanzas. It is written in an ‘alternate rhyme’ where every alternate line rhyme at the end. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is ABAB.
The poet is talking about a bird towards the end of her life. It is a migratory bird who move seasonally from one place to another in search of food and warmth. Now the cooling year (winter) is here again.
Her love for the summer station (warmer region) is reminding her of the warm passage (path) to such a place. She remembers the course in lights (entire navigation details) by her heart.
There is a predetermined place (a speck on the map) on another hemisphere which means on the other half of the earth. It seems like she is being called to appear there. Again, and again, she has gone there. She has gone there so many times that it is her other home. What looks like going away is actually in a way coming home.
After migrating, the memory of the earlier place becomes a passion with which she feeds her young babies and builds the nest with straws to live in. But in her heart, the memory of that other place is still hiding. It is haunting her like ghosts. Her love to come back again is termed as ‘exiled love’.
Almost from the point of view of a bird, the poet is trying to show how the mourning in the bird has caused her to see the mirage (illusion) of valleys on the sands. Perhaps it is a desert.
The image given in this stanza is illusory as the palm tree’s shadow is different from the way it should be. She is feeling the cold air coming out of the architrave (molding around the doors) of the temple or palace.
Slowly the call to go to that other place grows stronger in the bird. She can’t resist it anymore. Initially, the feeling was delicate but now it is full of despair. It feels so urgent now that she is able to cancel the comfort and fear which were stopping her.
She finally flies into the waste leagues (an earlier way of measuring variable distance) of air. It seems like the poet anticipates her journey as a wastage.
The bird now looks stupid and weak against the vast region into which she has entered. Her existence becomes unnoticeable (a vanishing speck) there. She seems alone even among other companions. The poet is hinting at the sky through the metaphor of blue unfriendliness of space. It seems unsuitable for her weak body.
The bird has traveled far. She can sense that the season for which she came is somewhere nearby. Suddenly, something long anticipated happens. Due to her weakness, that invisible thread that was guiding her path is broken.
The poet is describing the tragedy which has happened to the bird without any warning or reason. It is an instinct that navigates a bird and, in this case, it has died suddenly.
The bird is trying her best to find a way but the whole world has suddenly become trackless. Without instinct, the light has also become wilderness, without any sign to guide her. The poet is describing the vast geography of this earth which is very complicated. Its design is so vast that it makes fun of the bird’s small wisdom.
The poet is pointing towards the direction, the eastern valleys, from which the darkness is rising for the bird who has just lost her way. The winds are striking her forcefully in a way like they are hungry. It ultimately kills the bird.
The earth which is so great feels no grief for any death. It doesn’t even threaten anyone’s life intentionally. It is simply indifferent. The death of the bird is but a tiny burden on the earth. It receives her body indifferently.