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Humming-Bird

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Poem Activity

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Does this poem make you look at the world and its inhabitants slightly differently? A focus on the hummingbird might have explored the bird’s tiny size and the sound it creates from its rapid wingbeat but Lawrence’s imagination takes him in to “some other world” where we see the hummingbird in a different light. It is still fast and agile but located now in an ancient past.
How can you use your voice to reflect not only the speed and energy of the bird but also the dark, dense primeval world? How will you say lines describing the bird such as, “This little bit chipped off in brilliance” where the “I” sounds encourage a rapid delivery and how will you voice lines about this “far back” world like “slow, vast succulent stems” that invite a slower delivery.
Is there humour in the last three words of the poem?

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I can imagine, in some other world
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.

Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.

I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.

Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

Humming-Bird

by D.H. Lawrence