The Dead Owl – H. K. Dell

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1968 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: Cyril Fletcher, Alan Dobson, Mrs M Bottrall

He lies quite still upon the orchard grass,
Under the apple trees, wild spirit of the woods
That would drop from the tall trees in gloom of evening,
And like a shadow among shadows pass.

From the white poplar with its silver leaves,
As the light faded from it, I have seen him fall,
A blur against the blur of growing greyness;
Shivering leaves chattering in the dusk-time breeze.

Drop like a stone — the strong wings outspreading
Silently floating him across the lawn, lifting
Effortlessly onwards, away to darkening woods.
To night’s release, to glad hunting heading.

Sometimes at night I woke and heard him cry,
That strange wild cry that spoke of stirring unknown things.
This night that cry was terrible, fierce, unceasing,
Piercing the dark with tearing agony.

Through dew — wet grass, clutching a torch, falling,
Peering into dim trees, searching, nothing finding,
Only that piteous cry echoing everywhere,
Only dark, agony, and death calling.

Here in the sun he lies upon the grass.
Perfect in death; no blood, no sign of any wound.
This living beauty stilled by some cruel poison.
Down of breast — strength of wing — man cannot match or pass.

Copyright © H. K. Dell 1968

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