Curious Place for a Wren

imgcoverWhile searching for resources for upcoming novel, Lost Words, I found issues of a periodical called Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, at www.gutenberg.org/  -This website is a wonderful source for old manuscripts.

The June, 1898 issue of this magazine has the following story:

It has been said a wren will build in anything from a bootleg to a bomb-shell, and this seems to be so. Many an urchin can testify to having found the neat nest of a wren in his cast-off shoe or a tin can, and nests filled with wren eggs are frequent finds in odd places. The home of a wren a few miles from Petersburg, Virginia furnishes the strangest case in the matter of queer habitations yet discovered. This country is the site of one of the most dramatic epochs of the civil war, and frequently the bones of unburied soldiers are picked up. Recently a rusty old skull was found in which one of these wrens chose a shelter. The skull, when found, was hidden in a patch of shrubbery. The interior of the one-time pate was carefully cleaned out, and nestled in the basin of the bony structure was the birthplace of many a baby wren. The skull made a perfect domicile. A bullet hole in the rear formed a window. An eyeless socket was the exit and entrance to the grim home. It is easy to imagine that many a family feud had its origin in the desire of others to possess so secure a home.

I don’t know how I’ll use this little account in Lost Words yet; at this point I’m only gathering material. I find the juxtaposition interesting – there’s something melancholy and ominous about a human skull, here the nest site for one of the cheeriest songbirds. I’m reminded of Act 5, Scene 1 in Hamlet:

(Hamlet) Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

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