Campaign Journal: A glorious lark song rises from the earth | Birds
Wwith a forecast of showers and then heavy rains, I was out early, determined to gain something from the day before its dissolution. The rain resisted, but it was still unusually cold on the domed crown of Big Moor. It didn’t stop the larks. As I pulled away from the road and the hiss of traffic died down, I quickly realized that I was surrounded by lark songs, not falling from the air but rising from the earth, of a chorus of invisible beings in the dark, as if I were watching a torrent of music.
Thanks to Vaughan Williams, there is a predisposition to imagine larks soaring forever, but they will sing just as gloriously from the ground as they do from the sky. “The larks carry their tongues to the last atom,” as Ted Hughes said, and they will carry those tongues as happily perched on a rock as they chirp from the sky.
Near a half-collapsed wall I finally spotted one and while I did it took off, beefy and pale, then pulled back and rose into the sky, where it took off. started singing again. I turned along the wall, following a narrow path, and strained an ear to bring the lark with me, and thus came to the Hurkling Stone. “Hurkling” is a charming word, possibly from Old Norse, meaning to squat or squat, which this stone does, a mundane thing in a beautiful place on the crest of the moor with sudden views over the valleys neighbors.
The Hurkling Stone remains the meeting point of three parish boundaries, their initials carved in disorder in the rock. Thousands of sheep have spent the summer here. Men from each village roamed their parish boundaries, a legal assertion of grazing rights to deter jealous neighbors. It’s all gone now, especially the sheep. Near my boot a young rowan grew in the humid air, reaffirming an older model than the shepherds who met at this stone, the men who cleared the forest and in so doing brought lark songs. with them.