Thursday 20 January 2011

St Agnes' Eve

St Agnes' Eve - Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:

'The Eve of St Agnes' by John Keats, written in Chichester in 1819.

medieval wood carving, one of a pair.
(Bought in a junk shop for £5!)

It is St Agnes' Eve , and after a clear night and a full moon, although the sun shines, there is an extremely heavy frost, just the same weather that Keats was writing about in 1819 in the opening lines of his poem.

I love the sound of owls, last night they were hooting from the woods beyond our garden. Sometimes in the summer I stand outside and call to them, although these days I never seem to get a reply. Perhaps I've lost the knack.

My brother reared a tawny owl, seen with me here in the process of growing out his fledgling down. He would fly lazily about the garden and nearby cricket pitch in the daytime. In the evenings, when we had both been banished, me to bed and he to his pen, I would lean out of my bedroom window and hoot to him and his beautiful, melodious reply would come floating across the orchard.

Himself sometimes puts an owl in his carvings, silently watching from a corner or gliding through the sky. 

Badger watch 1 

 The watcher watched!

Badger watch 2. Limewood bas-relief carving by Peter Murphy.

Hall's Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art.

Owl. Associated with Athene (Minerva) in ancient Greece where it is found on the reverse of coins bearing her image. From this it became a symbol of wisdom, which Minerva personifies. It is a common attribute of the goddess, perhaps perched on a pile of books. As a nocturnal bird it is also the attribute of  night personified, and of sleep.


  1. OMG, I love that picture and your hooting...In Hawaii we have a native owl, which is Pueo (poo-ay-oh) in Hawaiian. They are pure white and considered to be a sign of good luck by the ancient Hawaiians. They are endangered, although we are working to move them out of that status. His pieces are beautiful!

  2. oh my rosemary,

    your words are so beautiful as are the owl and carvings. thank you for starting your blog and sharing these snippets of your life with us. in a day where everything seems phony your writing is so honest.


  3. I love owls. This summer I became obsessed with a live cast of an owl box. I watch the eggs hatch grow and leave the box. They are fabulous creatures. So quiet, but ever watching... Lovely post. Thanks!

  4. What a beautiful bird in the 2nd photo, Cher - the owl's not bad either.

    And what a bargain, that carving for a fiver! What a charmed life you lead. Himself\s carvings as wonderful as ever. X

  5. Wishing success to your Pueo, Connie Lou.

    Dear Janet, I had no idea that a blog would be so revealing when I started out!

    What's not to love about owls, Bonnie, apart from the ones that screech!

    Tom, it was TWO owl carvings for a fiver - how's that for a charmed life!

  6. Hi Rosemary,
    well weren't you a black haired beauty? no wonder himself fell for you - but I do love your white hair now - can you remember the transition period? it would make a fab blog.

  7. Dear Janet, it would make a long and dreary blog as I was already quite grey by my early thirties. I went through a period of low lights at the front to match the back, followed by high lights at the back to match the front before arriving at my present state of white all over!

  8. Hello,
    Would you be interested in selling the first owl wood carving?

  9. Hello,

    If you ever have any interest in selling the medieval owl carvings privately, do let me know.