Tuesday, October 26, 2010


For the Sole Benefit of the Performer

James Reeves, prefatory note to his volume of poems entitled Subsong, in Collected Poems, 1929-1974 (London: Heinemann, 1974), p. 122:
I owe the title of this volume to Mr D.W. Snow, who has kindly allowed me to quote, by way of explanation, from his beautiful book, A Study of Blackbirds (Allen and Unwin, 1958, to whom also grateful acknowledgments are made). Subsong, Mr Snow writes, differs chiefly from subdued song and full autumn song 'in being much quieter, only audible a few yards away, and delivered with the beak closed and throat barely moving. I have recorded subsong,' he continues, 'from both old and young males from August right through the winter, but most often from young birds on fine days in October and November. It seems to have no function with respect to other birds, and, as Gurr says, to be given "for the sole benefit of the performer."'
Gurr is possibly L. Gurr, "A Study of the Blackbird Turdus Merula in New Zealand," Ibis 96.2 (April 1954) 225-261, which I haven't seen.

William Cowper, letter to William Unwin (July 11, 1780):
I never write but for my amusement; and what I write is sure to answer that end, if it answers no other. If, besides this purpose, the more desirable one of entertaining you be effected, I then receive double fruit of my labour, and consider this produce of it as a second crop, the more valuable, because less expected.
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