A Necklace of Wrens by Michael Hartnett

Lilydale Lake Wren Linocut by Jan Liesfield

In Ireland, St. Stephen's Day is also known as Wren's Day - a tradition descending either from Celtic or Nordic mythology, where boys would hunt for a wren and then take the captured bird around town singing and asking for coins. There are various stories attached to the tradition, including one where a wren betrayed Irish soldiers to invading Vikings, by beating its wings upon their shields, earning the moniker, 'traitor-birds'.

Whatever the root of the story, it made me think of this beautiful poem by Michael Hartnett - recalling an incident from his childhood when a fledged nest of wrens landed on him and his grandmother claimed it foretold his calling as a poet.

A Necklace of Wrens for Micheal O Ciarmhaic, file

When I was very young I found a nest. Its chirping young were fully fledged.

They rose and re-alighted around my neck, Made in the wet meadow a feather necklet.

To them I was not human but a stone or tree: I felt a sharp wonder they could not feel.

That was when the craft came which demands respect. Their talons left on me scars not healed yet.

Via The Guardian - the original article also contains the Irish version and an appraisal of the poem.

Illustration: Lilydale Lake Wren by Jan Liesfield