Of all the sounds in all the world
Beyond our ancestors and all of theirs,
There is one sound we hear with unchanged ears.
For every generation, in its way,
Hears that self-same primeval song today -
Over all the world’s uncountable years
And through all her wilderness areas.
This, an echo that even time ignores,
Belying, for me, many natural laws.
Constant. Changing in essence not a note
Nor resounding from any creature’s throat.
Had people time enough when work was through;
Who can tell, then, how it was listened to.
Wind - gale force even to the merest breeze -
Has long fingered forested canopies:
Woodwind! through flinty bush and bare branched tree
Plays the reeds which years change structurally.
Birch, pine, oak, maybe even unto Ent!
Each with vibrations made so different.
We know that animal speciation
Adapts by creative evolution.
Incalculable numbers come and go,
While those left behind must evolve and grow
For to survive the uncountable years.
Not one is left that the falling tree hears.
Endless animal chatter over time
Means calls alter too but I fear that I’m
Too ignorant of things auditory
To fathom out such long-lost history.
Besides, chaotic calls make various
Concerts audibly too ambiguous.
Extinct creatures dumb in fossil or grave
Can never pronouce the noises they made.
And much as we puzzle larynx design,
It can’t identify scream, shriek or whine.
Even this is time’s merest passing phase
On history’s ever revolving stage.
Dinosaur, dodo, archaeopteryx?
Or modern birds’ ululating syrinx?
The sounds of seals and all the Phocidae
Are distorted by ocean density.
And what about the swooning songs of whales?
Or on land: partridges, pheasants and quails?
Thousands in our own vocabulary:
Czech, Italian, Chinese, Swahili.
English language rich in countless accents,
Each region, with its many strange dialects.
Then, our voices age; as does idiom,
And colloquially too, with fashion.
What is left, then, that could possibly be
The same now as prehistorically?
As far back as I can drag my mind’s ear
Did not our long-lost forgotten forebears
Hear it precisely as we do today?
What falls: the brook, the stream and lapping wave.
I can think only of moving water,
Brawling on rock-bed, pebble and boulder,
That echoes the most distant historic
Flowing rivers which become hypnotic.
They take me away in humility
To dwell long in untouchability.
© R M Meyer
Winswell Water, April 2019