This is a tale of bird tales. The first will warm the heart since the reader can identify being in lockdown during COVID-19. It's the story of how a pair of pigeons named Ollie and Dollie continued to return to the household a photographer and his family, in Vlaardingen, The Netherlands. Subsequently, Jasper Doest's article and photos were picked up by National Geographic. For me, the theme of 'bird visitations' was reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem, The Raven.
See if you can pick up on the similarities?
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.
Tick tick tick tick tick. The sound of a creature’s nails on the laminate flooring approaches from the hallway. I look up from behind my laptop, where I’d been writing photo captions.
Verse versus Prose
In literature, a symbol can be subtle or obvious. In 'The Raven' the symbol is somewhat obvious. Poe's raven symbolizes 'mournful, never-ending remembrance. ' Our narrator laments over his loss for the perfect maiden "Lenore." She is the driving force behind his conversation with the Raven.
One of the world's most recognizable poems was first published in 1845. It's often described in literature as an essential part of his genius. His superb use of verse and meter was comparable to Shakespeare's. With it, he was able to create a believable universe populated by supernatural forces and one particularly persistent raven.
In Doest's case, his narrative was done in prose versus verse. His sustained narrative tells a story without any need for rhythm. Prose is often the language of wit. It is what many of us use in everyday speech. Much of Shakespeare is written in a combination of verse and prose, often used for different effects. Poe, like Shakespeare, often reserved verse for more lofty subjects like love, despair, and emotional yearning.
Doest's prose & photography entertains with a wink & nod
Doest's prose uses a lighter touch. It is a more relatable conversation of sorts.
With perky steps, a pigeon enters the living room. Ignoring us, he walks straight to the dinner table in search of breadcrumbs that our girls might have dropped during breakfast. He begins to feast, and I tiptoe towards the table to grab my camera.
Doest had an assignment in Romania when the coronavirus blanketed the earth. Instead, like most of us, he became "sheltered in place." However, living in the moment versus dwelling on the dark side of life, the pandemic allowed him to slow down to take time for a pair of returning pigeons who seemed to enter his dwelling with no fear of repercussion.
Ollie and his partner in crime, Dollie, have been visiting our house for several weeks now and have become a welcome distraction from the daily news. I should have been on assignment in Romania at the moment, but I was forced to stay home when the coronavirus started spreading across Europe.
While Poe didn't have to face the spread of a horrific disease, the raven in his poem was a harbinger of bad news, nonetheless.
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
Poe's darkness is soul-wrenching as evidenced by his repetitious use of the word "nevermore." He compares the raven to a demon, that like his soul cannot be lifted.
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—Nevermore!
Doest, on the other hand, envies the freedom of the pigeons who can fly away not only from his house, but also from the world's current affliction that only affects humans:
Ollie has finished his business in the living room. I follow him to the hallway from where he can see Dollie. She has been waiting on the kitchen counter for him. For a minute they both stare at me. Then they fly off through the open balcony door into the clear blue sky. I envy their freedom.
Poe and Doest are both affected by tragedies and death in their lives, as symbolized by the visiting birds. While is Poe is saddened, and Doest is envious, they both are in wonderment as to the raven and pigeon's aloofness.
Poe ends his poem in a state of despair. He finds himself under the shadow of the raven that represents the seemingly inescapable reality of depression. Doest on the other hand is more optimistic. He comes to the understanding we are "not alone on this planet," and how we need to share it with all living beings "as if our lives depended on it."
However, both writers express what it's like to witness the repetitious cycles of life. While "The Raven' s "nevermore" represents the finality of death, it's also a sentiment the writer is slavishly chained to.
On the flip side, Doest's more sanguine interpretation of the pigeons' continual returns to his home can be interpreted as "forevermore," even though that word was never uttered in his article. [ Ha! As a writer, sometimes, you have to take poetic license.]
Primary Source: National Geographic