rhymes written after reading Simon Barnes’ blog post “Barn Owl in the Snow”

Across the marsh, white passing over white,
The silent hunter flies then loses height
Descending to a favoured perch to stand
And view with icy gaze an icy land.
Stray snowflakes catch my fancy, frivolous
But never his; his hunt is serious.

Across the marsh, white passing over white
Outside the stables, freezing at the sight.
I let my busy, muck-filled spade fall still
A thought occurs that gives a further thrill:
This, and the pellet found the other day
Suggest the owls have come back here to stay!

Across the marsh, white passing over white
Fight on! Though cold Spring breeding left its blight,
The pellet, when with tweezers prised in two,
Revealed the fine-boned relics of a shrew—
Strange artefacts of Lilliputian size,
A fascinating wonder for young eyes.

Across the marsh, white passing over white,
He signifies to me a world put right.
Will future generations ever know
That world? To them, and our own souls we owe
Our best attempt to turn the tide around
So nights then still awe-shiver at his sound.

Across the marsh, white passing over white,
A treasured moment; let a poet write
Some verses that will eloquently share
This plea and make the world more keenly care
And feel, if all is lost, how dear the price.
For now, the humble lines here must suffice.



Currently working as a Creative in Marketing, William Glyn-Jones studied English and Media Studies at University and then did a Masters in the History of Art. A long time lover of the classical tradition, he lived in Greece for a time teaching English, but now lives in a cottage outside the city of Bath in the UK with his wife, two young daughters and a voracious guinea pig. He is fascinated by reports of how expressing and recording gratitude can have long term positive effects on mood, and to this aim generally now writes at least one ‘Gratitude Ode’ a week, and is pretty sure it’s working.

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5 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    I am glad to read this kind of poetry: with serious ability and hope and purpose for the future. Thank you, William!

  2. James A. Tweedie

    Simon, Good to see you back with another fine post. You create a strong image, develop it, and then reshape the theme into a plea. Life is fragile, beautiful, and precious both for the owl and for the shrew. Not long ago there may well have been a “Barnes” owl in nearly every barn. Today it is far less common. It is pleasant, indeed, to host something as beautiful and useful as an owl!

    I particularly enjoyed the chosen meter which sustains the narrative, the repeated refrain, “white passing over white,” and the original word pictures such as “awe-shiver,” “And view with icy gaze an icy land,” and the exquisite couplet that ends the first stanza.

    Well done, and I hope the weekly “Gratitude Ode” is still working, especially in these restrictive and unsettled times.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Don’t know where the name “Simon” came from. Auto spell probably! “William” was, of course, intended.

  3. Jeff Eardley

    A beautiful poem that I have been re-reading all day. I love the imagery, the pellet and the tweezers, the white over white and the hope for a better world. And the perfect accompaniment of the Doug Walpus painting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. C.B. Anderson

    This poem is a repeating form with which I am unfamiliar. Is it a nonce form of your own devising?

    Unless I completely miss your meaning in the second stanza, some alternative punctuation would be useful: a period after “still” in the third line.

    Similarly, in the third stanza, the non-sentence refrain is followed by the imperative sentence “Fight on!” Should not there be some punctuation at the end of the first line, a dash perhaps?

    Altogether, the poem is well done, with crisp images and intimations of the horror that Nature supplies endlessly, along with a rather apt nod to human curiosity. Pity the pitiless shrew.


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