Friday, July 06, 2012

Fenton, Light

James Fenton is a serious poet and has written some chilling ones (Tom McIntyre remarked that being in Cambodia in the bad days might give you a rather chilly view of human nature). His new collection Yellow Tulips: Poems 1968- 2011 (available only from the UK so far) has plenty of those, and melancholic and lyrical ones. But there is another side to Fenton; he accompanied crazy, intrepid, and erudite Redmond O'Hanlon into the heart of Borneo in the book of the same name, and was the author of that ditty known by every core member of Family Q, "'s an Ukit". Here are a few verses of an ornithological poem in the same spirit, "The Orange Dove of Fiji", dedicated to O'Hanlon and his wife.

On the slopes of Taveuni
The Barking Pigeons woof
But when I saw the Orange Dove
I nearly hit the roof.

And would have surely had there been
A roof around to hit
But the roofs of Taveuni
Are down on the lower bit.

It must have been dipped in Day-Glo
Held by its bright green head.
The colour is preposterous
You want to drop down dead...

Oh the Many- Coloured Fruit Dove
Is pretty enough to boot
And I'm afraid the purple swamphen
Looks queerer than a coot.

Like a flagrant English Bishop
Let loose among his flock
With brand- new orange gaiters
(And that's just the swamphen cock)...

(Remind me to find the only slightly exaggerated description by O'Hanlon of our mutual friend Jonathan Kingdon in his hilarious and harrowing Congo book...)


Holly Heyser said...

Awesome! Wonder if those doves taste as good as they look...

Retrieverman said...

What's the species name of that dove?

Steve Bodio said...

Ptilinopus victor