Sunday Quiz – Waxing Lyrical! – The Answers

Robert Browning, from his poem ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’: ‘That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, Lest you should think he never could recapture The first fine careless rapture!’

Good morning Readers! And thanks to everyone who had a bash at the quiz. I am marking it out of 20 because you got an extra mark if you hazarded a guess at the authors. Anne managed a stunning 20 out of 20, so well done that woman! Sarah got 10 out of 10 for matching the birds to the poems. and  Christine got 7 out of 10. Of those who had a bash at both matching the birds and naming the authors, sllgatsby got 8 and Gert Loveday got 8, so congratulations to everyone, and do let me know if you have a favourite bird poem, looking at the works for the quiz has got me intrigued. I’m specially interested if you have a poem about a local bird- where are the works about ground hornbills or kookaburras? I think we should be told.

Dear Readers, let’s see how you got on with our bird poems.

a) 8) – Carrion crow. From Ted Hughes’ ‘Examination at the Womb-Door’ from his Crow poems. This always gives me goosebumps. You can read the whole poem here

“But who is stronger than death?
Me, evidently.”

b) 9) Sparrowhawk, from Hawk Roosting, again by Ted Hughes. The whole poem is here.

“My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot

Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly –
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads.

c) 4) Robin – from W.H Davies’ poem ‘Robin Redbreast’ – read the whole thing here .

How he sings for joy this morn!
How his breast doth pant and glow!
Look you how he stands and sings, 
Half-way up his legs in snow!

d) 3) Mallards – from Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Duck Ditty’ in ‘The Wind in the Willows’. The whole poem is here.

Everyone for what he likes!
We like to be
Heads down, tails up,
Dabbling free!

High in the blue above,
Swifts whirl and call –
We are down a-dabbling
Up tails all!

e) 5) Kestrel. From The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins. Read the whole poem, and an interesting analysis of it, here. One of my very favourite poems.

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn xxxxxx, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him solid air, and striding 
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy!

f) 7) Kingfisher – from The Kingfisher by Mary Oliver, another of my favourite poets. You can read the whole thing here.

When the wave snaps shut over his blue head, the
remains water–hunger is the only story
he has ever heard in his life that he could
I don’t say he’s right. Neither
do I say he’s wrong. Religiously he swallows the
silver leaf
with its broken red river, and with a rough and
easy cry
I couldn’t rouse out of my thoughtful body
if my life depended on it, he swings back
over the bright sea to do the same thing, to do it
(as I long to do something, anything) perfectly.

g)2) Skylark from ‘To a Skylark’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley. So many children used to learn this at school and be put off poetry for life. What a shame. When I was taught it at my school in East London, I had never seen a skylark in my life. When I finally did see one, when I was a child on holiday in Dorset, it made a lot more sense. You can read the whole thing here.

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert, 
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still doth soar, and soaring ever singest. 

h) 1) From Sparrow by Norman Maccaig. Now, if we’d been taught this at school I’d have known how to relate. Read the whole thing here.

He’s no artist.
His taste in clothes leans towards
the dowdy and second hand.
And his nest — that blackbird, writing
pretty scrolls on the air with the gold nib of his beak
would call it a slum. 

i) 10 from ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by John Keats. Another poem that is rather too complicated to be taught to young children I think. Plus, you would be very lucky to hear a nightingale these days (although Keats heard this bird on Hampstead Heath). This is a splendid poem on mortality but it needs time and  concentration. You can read the whole thing here.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk;
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,-
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, 
In some melodious plot 
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 

j) 6) ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe. How this poem begs to be read aloud! It’s something of a Gothic masterpiece, in my opinion, with a strand of hectic madness in it. Read the whole thing here.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter
In there stepped a stately …… of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he: not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door – 
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door – 
Perched and sat, and nothing more. 

Photo One by Joe Ravi / CC BY-SA (

1) House sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Photo Two by Neil Smith from from

2) Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

Photo Three by Mr TinDC from

3) Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos)

Photo Four by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK / CC BY (

4) Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Photo Five by Andreas Trepte / CC BY-SA (

5) Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Photo Six by Brian Gratwicke at

6) Raven (Corax corax)

Photo Seven by Roger Batt from

7) Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)


Photo Eight by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE / CC BY-SA (

8) Carrion crow (Corvus corone)

Photo Nine by Imran Shah from Islamabad, Pakistan / CC BY-SA (

9) Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

Photo Ten by Kev Chapman from

10) Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos)

Photo Credits

Photo One by Joe Ravi / CC BY-SA (

Photo Two by Neil Smith from 

Photo Three by Mr TinDC from

Photo Four by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK / CC BY (

Photo Five by Andreas Trepte / CC BY-SA (

Photo Six by Brian Gratwicke at

Photo Seven by Roger Batt from

Photo Eight by Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE / CC BY-SA (

Photo Nine by Imran Shah from Islamabad, Pakistan / CC BY-SA (

Photo Ten by Kev Chapman from

6 thoughts on “Sunday Quiz – Waxing Lyrical! – The Answers

    1. Bug Woman

      That is absolutely lovely, Anne, what a treat! I think I’ll do a post on poems about other people’s birds at some point, there are some crackers out there. BTW here in London we’ve had temperatures in the mid-30’s for a week and we’re all melting, I don’t know how you do it 🙂

  1. gertloveday

    When I saw your title I thought you might be going to include one of my favourite poems from Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov which begins

    I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
    By the false azure of the windowpane;
    I was the smudge of ashen fluff- and I
    Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

    You can find the rest of this on the poetry foundation site too.

  2. FEARN

    Not a poem but an evocative quote from Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song. Peewits are also known as lapwings.

    So that was Chris and her reading and schooling, two Chrisses there were that fought for her heart and tormented her. You hated the land and the coarse speak of the folk and learning was brave and fine one day; and the next you’d waken with the peewits crying across the hills, deep and deep, crying in the heart of you and the smell of the earth in your face, almost you’d cry for that, the beauty of it and the sweetness of the Scottish land and skies.


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