The Brent Goose

“How unaccountable is the attribute of dull-wittedness we ascribe to the goose! I should call the wild goose the most thinking biped of any shore-bird that exists, with the possible exception of the Raven and the Grey Crow. Even the domestic goose is no moron, though his civilized decadence in comparison with his wild brethren is almost as painful as the caustic caricature of the wild boar in the farmyard pig.

Anthony Collett has described the semi-responsive emotions of these petty officials of the home-pastures when a skein of wild geese passes trumpeting over them. They lift their bristling necks, pose amazed at the articulate sky, flap their wings like the birds in Dürer’s Melancholia, too impotent to lift their earth-born robustness and fall to gobbling the meadow-grass again.

The farmyard goose is the self important Bumble of the steading, with the itch for minor tyranny common to the breed, but he is certainly no fool. But the wild geese, as they drive apocalyptically through the upper darkness, clanging to the wild-eyed stars – they seem the flying angels of noble freedom, a freedom the race of men has lost”.

(You can read more about Massingham’s book Birds of the Seashore here )


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