Requiem pro ave mortuo

This morning, on my way to work, I cycled past a dead blue tit at the side of the road.

In the grand scheme of things, the death of one small bird is not a great tragedy.  It did, however, lead me to spend the rest of my commute considering the fleeting nature of life and trying to compose a suitable poetic epitaph for the bird.  I decided to go for a haiku, as that’s one of my favourite poetic forms in any case and, being short, is quite amenable to composition in situations (such as riding a bike) where you can’t immediately write it down.

By the time I had reached the office, about 10 minutes later, I had come up with a reasonably satisfactory haiku.  Unfortunately I got sidetracked with other things (such as my actual job) before I got a chance to make a note of it.  Now, on my lunch break, I have managed to more-or-less reconstruct it and I’m still fairly happy with the result (although I don’t think it’s one of my better haiku efforts):

Small, blue and yellow,
flying, always on the move.

Now dead on the road.

It was the middle line that gave me the most trouble.  I had considered various phrases along the lines of “a tiny bundle of life”, aiming to contrast the bird’s previous state with its current one (expressed in the final line) but this seemed a bit too figurative for a haiku. The form, as I understand it,  generally tends to stick with straight-up descriptive language aiming to evoke an impression of a scene and leave the interpretation to the imagination of the reader.

The title of this post (which could also be taken as a title for the haiku, although it’s nearly as long as the thing itself) is, in case you’re wondering, in Latin and means “requiem for a dead bird” (hopefully I’ve got all my cases and stuff right, as my Latin is woefully limited and rusty to boot).   As to why I titled it in Latin, that’s mostly because one of my first thoughts on seeing the bird (and before I started to compose the poem) was “sic transit gloria mundi” (roughly: “thus passes worldly glory”).  I’ve just realised that this is my second post in a row to have a Latin title (the other one was inspired by the name of my new bass ukulele and a parody of the refrain from “Ding dong merrily on high”).  Perhaps my subconscious is trying to encourage me to have another go at learning Latin?!



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  1. Not only the second Latin-titled post in a row, but it’s also less than a week since the previous one (Pons asinorum)! To be fair, though, that was a post about the names of theorems in Euclid’s Elements (in particular the ones entitled “pons asinorum”), so the title was not just Latin-for-its-own-sake (and if I’d tried to translate it, the title would have contained the word “ass” and might have been misconstrued!).

  2. PS I promise that the next post won’t be titled or written in Latin. 🙂


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