Härfågel, or: Hoopoe

‘War Poetry’ – a d’Verse poetics prompt

OOOP! 
  OOOP! 
    OOOP! OOOP! your haunting
  calls, dire warnings ere impending
    falls, unheeding ape-men charging
      tall, ignoring farsighted soarings

OOOP! 
  OOOP! 
    OOOP! OOOP! you've studied
  death, counted those countless muddied
    breaths, swooping, swiping with bloodied
      sneath, men's legions life-and-limbless

OOOP! 
  OOOP! 
    OOOP! OOOP! this hallowed
  Land, sought endlessly by shallow
    men, mauled bodies from green gallows
      hang, you ~flutter~ 'bove friendlessly

OOOP! 
  OOOP! 
    OOOP! OOOP! harbinging
  croon; was it crowned bird's unhinging
    tune that left this sand Land tinged in
      prune, seeped deeply dark in Cain's sin?

d’Verse

At d’Verse, we were asked to pen ourselves new war poems. No matter our personal experiences, we all fear what war can do. Maybe it’s something we’ve met in the eyes of refugees, in our nightmares, or from reading books…

The hoopoe, the national bird of the State of Israel, where I proudly reside, inspired my war poem (above). For more on that, see below.


Hoopoe: harbinger of war?

The State of Israel’s national bird is the hoopoe, which I alluded to in my d’Verse poem yesterday. In response, my poet-blogger-friend Björn just informed me that in Swedish, this creature is known as ‘härfågel’, which is loosely translated as: ‘army-bird’.

The hoopoe actually gets its English name from the sound it makes while singing. The song is a deep, haunting ‘oop oop oop’ that has led to the bird being associated with death and the Underworld in Estonian tradition. The song itself is said to forebode death. Across the majority of Europe, it was thought of as a thief and as a harbinger of war in Scandinavia…

-Lexi Menth, ‘Crown of Feathers – Hoopoe’, 2015

Hoopoe: magical, medicinal bird?

For the purposes of my “war poem” above I deliberately address the hoopoe as a harbinger of death and war, but it is only fair to note that this elegant bird is regarded very positively in most cultures, including throughout the Middle East and in Islam.

The bird known as the hoopoe… has been a common motif in the literature and folklore of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, from ancient to modern times. As a solar symbol, it was often associated with kingship, filial piety, and wisdom, and its body was believed to possess potent magical and medicinal properties…

-Timothy Schum, ‘From Egypt to Mount Qāf: The Symbolism of the Hoopoe in Muslim Literature and Folklore’, 2018

Still…

Still, Björn’s comment to me regarding the hoopoe in Swedish lore excited my imagination and reminded me of the following animated video, which puts the bloody history of the “Holy Land” to music:

Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide: https://blog.ninapaley.com/2012/10/01/this-land-is-mine/