Pepys and a nightingale

A new poem by Janet Sutherland.

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Pepys wrapped a rag around his little left toe,
it being new sore, and set out walking,
coming by chance upon his nightingale,
which called me back to mine. I saw the past,
to the rear of the farmhouse there were yews,
rifle green and murderous to cattle,
and, once, my father heard a nightingale
so out I went to wait on soft dead ground.
It’s plain, he said, plain brown, just listen and
under a hundredweight of feathered branches,
that crushed the air to a tense silence,
a nightingale sang, out of full darkness.
His heart, as all hearts are, disguised;
a secretive bird in an impenetrable thicket.


Janet Sutherland is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Bone Monkey (Shearsman Books).

This article appears in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge