Gawaine Powell Davies SIM newsletter November 2017
There was said to be a bird whose song so touched the heart that anyone who heard it would be happy for ever after. The king was intrigued, and sent his chief hunter to bring the bird to him. Noone knew what the bird looked like, or even in which forest it was to be found The hunter knew little of birds - they knew this and flew away at his clumsy approach. So slowly he began to study them, noting where each nested, what it ate, its plumage and its song. As he came to know them the forest became alive, joyful with the skylark, mournful with the bittern and melancholy with the night owl. But there was nothing resembling the bird that he sought.
One day he heard a cheeping sound coming from a thicket. A bird, quite plain and ordinary, was caught in a trap. Its struggle pierced his heart. He knelt, and with infinite care freed the bird, checking that it was unharmed before he released it. It flew off without looking back, with a wild, harsh cry.
He did not go back to court. Those who sought him found him living in alone in a hut in a glade that was full of birds. He seemed quite content, and showed no interest in the news they brought. He took them into the forest and showed them the birds and their ways. But when they asked about the bird whose song brings happiness he merely smiled and shook his head, as if at some half forgotten youthful folly.