(most difficult one … yet… but I’m out of ideas, so I’m posting it anyway…. Ready?)
G is For Gyrfalcon…
Why, yes, I DID marry a former zoo keeper …
It was the first thing that popped into his head when I texted “G” this evening. Actually, the FIRST thing he replied with was a series of ??? and then the light dawned, and I got “Gyrfalcon.” Now, this is a lot better than his SECOND suggestion: “gyratory.” That’s a mining crusher. Yes, from zoo keeper to mining archaeologist. How can one girl get so lucky? I mean … really?
So … Gyrfalcon. These are the largest of the falcons. How large? Let’s just say these birds have wingspans as wide as I am tall (5’ 4” – which isn’t really tall for a human, but massively wide for the wingspan of a bird!) Also called “Royal Falcons,” they’re the ones you would see on a kingly wrist before being tossed aloft to go kill … something. A hare? A ptarmigan? Something like that. The sport of kings favored the Gyrfalcon, and even in the wild, the birds have only one natural enemy—Golden Eagles. They breed in the Arctic. I’m including a link to the McCauley Library and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology so you can hear one from 1972 that was in Alaska.
Until recently (2011), ornithologists believed they spent their winters south. Turns out, that’s not entirely true. Seems these falcons like to hang out on sea ice in the winter. No, I don’t quite understand that, either, but, ornithologists have the data, so I’ll go with that.
A regal bird deserves a regal poetry form. So … let me introduce you to the Alexandrine Poetry Type (because few things are as high-falutin’ as Alexander the Great). This poetry form consists of 12-syllable lines, and derives its form from a medieval romance written about … c’m on … guess… YES! Alexander the Great! Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) favored it, and when I looked it up, I came up with this example:
La très-chère était nue, et, connaissant mon cœur,
Elle n’avait gardé que ses bijoux sonores,
Dont le riche attirail lui donnait l’air vainqueur
Qu’ont dans leurs jours heureux les esclaves des Mores.
Now, let’s get one thing straight – if you think I’m doin’ this in French on a Sunday night, you’re crazier than, well, me. And now … an Alexandrine Poem all about The Gyrfalcon…
Royalty willingly lays out its treasure for
Fleet of wing, sharp of eye, hunters in feathers, who
Wing their way upward and down seeking quarry and
Soar wildly down with bell chiming, brightly and clear.
What are these creatures, these massive Gyrfalcons that
Kings and their princes wage war for their favor, while
History records all this fair-feathered madness and
Dynasties fall, cities crumble and burn. For birds.
Iceland has claimed them, these proudest of falcons, their
National Symbol falco rusticolus, or
“gyrkin” from “gyrose,” that Latin to circle it
Hunts down its prey in unusual ways. And yet…
Our history records our great love for this falcon
By twelve-eighty-six its true merits were known when
Historian Ibn Said al-Maghribi told
Tales of fair Ireland and the worth of this falcon.
A princely sum, wanted dead or alive, such was
The ardor for birds far and wide. But worse, still more…
In China of old how the story was told of
The Emperor’s madness-tinged love for these falcons…
Swan-hunting was fashionable among his court
So a plan the Liao Emperor hatched where he meant
To tax his people into oblivion ‘ere
Gyrfalcons were given to sate his ambition…
And now these proud birds still prized for intelligence
Wing through the world unabashed, unpossessed
Revealing still surprises like sea voyages—
Gyrfalcons and humans, soar higher and wilder.