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An unexpected bird to open a December blog – but listen for a moment to this one, who seems to have a lot to sing about. 

The song is ‘a prolonged, breathless jingle of strident but not unmusical notes and high trills’ – like no other. 

But enough words for now, hear the song...


The Song of the Wren


No need to hunt me –

I’ll let you know

exactly where I am.


I’ll sing out loud –

oh yes you’ll hear me

I repeat – you’ll hear me


up to half a mile away –

a burst of song

five times a minute –


which is why

it’s no surprise

they told the story


about old Stephen –

that saint who hid

then was discovered


to be stoned to death.

They did the same to me

because they said


it was my song.

But here I am

your singing Jenny Wren


who’s survived the stones

the cold and rain

and all that man could hurl


so stop and hear me.

All is well – the world is full

of happiness and song.



Actually, the Christmas Bird is probably the ubiquitous robin.  Yes, despite all those partridges in pear trees and pheasants in snowy lanes the robin remains King of the Cards.

But here’s a more secretive bird – never ‘tame’ or unsuspicious, which hops, flits and scurries like a mouse amongst the leaf litter.

And sings.

It was that strident singing that revealed Saint Stephen, leading to his martyrdom, the story goes. as a result of which, the wren was itself stoned. Thus a strange custom grew up whereby St. Stephen’s Day (December 26th), turning into Wren Day, was celebrated by hunting and displaying a wren with all sorts of associated processions, rituals and dressings-up in many countries, but especially Ireland, which persists to this day, I learn.

Whether it all goes back to Celtic mythology with the wren’s singing even in mid-winter being seen as a symbol of the past year, or other confusing tales of an ancient enchantress who killed her suitors and became a wren, doesn’t really matter.

As our little wren, heard more than seen, continues singing we can imagine whatever we want, varyingly accept all sorts of legends, put our own words to the song.

May we all sing on, especially at this time.

PS Thanks to my friend John St John for his painting, and teaching me about the wren.




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