The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday and National Geographic Museum

Upon Seeing a Coloured Drawing of the Bird of Paradise in an Album
By William Wordsworth

Who rashly strove thy Image to portray?
Thou buoyant minion of the tropic air;
How could he think of the live creature--gay
With a divinity of colours, drest
In all her brightness, from the dancing crest
Far as the last gleam of the filmy train
Extended and extending to sustain
The motions that it graces--and forbear
To drop his pencil! Flowers of every clime
Depicted on these pages smile at time;
And gorgeous insects copied with nice care
Are here, and likenesses of many a shell
Tossed ashore by restless waves,
Or in the diver's grasp fetched up from caves
Where sea-nymphs might be proud to dwell:
But whose rash hand (again I ask) could dare,
'Mid casual tokens and promiscuous shows,
To circumscribe this Shape in fixed repose;
Could imitate for indolent survey,
Perhaps for touch profane,
Plumes that might catch, but cannot keep, a stain;
And, with cloud-streaks lightest and loftiest, share
The sun's first greeting, his last farewell ray!
   Resplendent Wanderer! followed with glad eyes
Where'er her course; mysterious Bird!
To whom, by wondering Fancy stirred,
Eastern Islanders have given
A holy name--the Bird of Heaven!
And even a title higher still,
The Bird of God! whose blessed will
She seems performing as she flies
Over the earth and through the skies
In never-wearied search of Paradise--
Region that crowns her beauty with the name
She bears for 'us'--for us how blest,
How happy at all seasons, could like aim
Uphold our Spirits urged to kindred flight
On wings that fear no glance of God's pure sight,
No tempest from his breath, their promised rest
Seeking with indefatigable quest
Above a world that deems itself most wise
When most enslaved by gross realities!


We spent Sunday afternoon at the National Geographic Museum downtown -- first at the Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution exhibit, then the 1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization exhibit, and then the Desert Air: Photographs by George Steinmetz exhibit. The first one, an eight-year expedition by two Cornell evolutionary biologists to study every species of bird of paradise in New Guinea, was my favorite, partly because the birds themselves are so spectacular and partly because I enjoyed hearing about the things they needed to do as photographers to capture images of the birds. The Muslim exhibit was targeted more towards kids and teens, but it started with a short movie starring Ben Kingsley about Islamic scientific contributions and I learned a bunch about architecture and medicine in the Muslim world during the so-called Dark Ages. The photos were taken mostly from above and were spectacular, especially the remote regions of Asia.

The Birds of Paradise exhibit has many video and interactive features...

...including an animatronic bird demonstrating the muscles and feathers during a courtship dance...

...a chance for human males to try out the head-shaking, butt-wagging dances...

...and a feature on the sexy reasons these are important to birds of paradise.

These Victorian hats were made with whole birds. We all agreed that the feathers look a lot better on living birds.

There were few examples of mounted birds because the animals are so rare and most are highly endangered.

This is the elephant clock from the 1001 Inventions exhibit, a model of Al-Jazari's original which used dripping water to tell the time via a Rube Goldberg effect among the various creatures on the clock.

We had parked in front of the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, which had its inner doors propped open when we got back to the car. I had never seen the inside of the cathedral and was struck by how gorgeous it is, so we stopped inside for a few minutes before heading home. After catching the very end of the Ravens game, which they won in an overtime nail-biter with their new and apparently worthy kicker, we had dinner with my parents so they could see Daniel before we took him back to school. Then we picked up Daniel's laundry and fencing stuff from home and drove him to College Park, arriving home just as Once Upon a Time was ending -- we had recorded it, so we watched that before the Giants-Packers game which sadly did not go well for Green Bay.

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