Song of Memory, Song of Eve’s Nightingale


These Ozarks hills are very old.  They are the oldest in the entire nation. Sometimes I sit atop a ridge and wonder how long ago these hills were formed by a gigantic sheet of ice pushing the land up above its level plain so that it is rumpled like a blanket on a winter bed.

Perhaps their age harkens back to tha ttime when the real Eden existed and Eve listened to the lyrical refrain of a nightingale.  Old, indeed, yet not forgotten.  Amid the cedars and hardwoods lining the ridge while silent sentinals of their brethren stand shivering along the hollows as the March winds blow cool from the massive stone faces of the high bluffs.

Below me, around the sleepy blue pond, small birds chitter and tweet sweet little songs.  They flit among the trees and chase their shadows across the ruffled water as if they had just discovered flight and song, as if they had journeyed from far-off Eden in search of a less mythical paradise.

There are no nightingales in my Eden.  There are only bluejays and sparrows and chickadees, the raucous crows garbed in their black judicial robes, and the lone hawk afloat above the trees, its eyes scanning the hollows for field mice or moles blinded by the light.

Yet Eve’s nightingale lives in memory, just as Eden itself does.

I think of that poem by Walter de la Mare which seems so fitting on this solemn morning.  It seems to evoke the haunting presence of these old hills that surround me on my perch.  I feel its rhythms as I feel the pulsations of the land, the harmony of the graceful hills and the deep and aged mystery of the many hollows that wend their way through the rolling terrain like secret passages back to that first Eden.  And, maybe, just maybe, if I listen hard enough, I will hear the melodic strain’s of Eve’s nightingale singing on a distant cedar.  For memory is deep and myth is stronger than reality at this moment.

Here is the poem that I have carried in my heart for longer than I care to mention. When I venture away from the hills of Eden here in the Ozarks, the poem brings me back.  And, it takes me back to that first Eden where I can listen to a nightingale and be at peace with the world and myself.


All That’s Past 

Very old are the woods;

And the buds that break

Out of the brier’s boughs,

When March winds wake,

So old with their beauty are—

Oh, no man knows

Through what wild centuries

Roves back the rose.

Very old are the brooks;

And the rills that rise

Where snow sleeps cold beneath

The azure skies

Sing such a history

Of come and gone,

Their every drop is as wise

As Solomon.


Very old are we men;

Our dreams are tales

Told in dim Eden

By Eve’s nightingales;

We wake and whisper awhile,

But, the day gone by,

Silence and sleep like fields

Of amaranth lie.

Walter de la Mare

Yes, very old are these woods and long is the memory of an Eden that once was and an Eden that now is.

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