Friday, February 21, 2020

European Hornets and Poet Intro

Welcome to Poetry Friday.  You can find the whole kidlit poetry gang today at Cheriee Weichel's blog, which introduces a wonderful Canadian poet. Find her here.

I felt the need to do a follow-up on the hornets' nest that blew down out of a tree and into my backyard a few weeks ago. One person asked what happened to the hornets. That set me to discovery. I learned that the type of nest I found is made by European hornets, and the only hornet to survive over the winter is the new queen, who goes underground. The rest of the hornets die with the cold weather. It was a relief to know I had nothing to fear from the nest that had blown into my yard, but I admit some mixed feelings about the hornets.

I started looking for a hornet poem, and found one by an Irish poet who went by the name of Padraic Colum (1881-1972). I had not heard of him previously, but he was quite well known and prolific, and so I decided to introduce him. You can read more about his life here.

I rather like his poem about the hornet's nest, but I must confess I still puzzle over the third couplet. I think I get the gist of it, but ... maybe you can help me? At the very least, I hope you will enjoy his imagery.

How strangely like a churchyard skull
The thing that’s there amongst the leaves!

A Hornets’ nest; but stir the branch
And they’ll be round your head and ears!

So wary ana so weaponed,
How do they not possess the wold?

Their lives a watch, their act a doom,
Of their own terrors they must die!

Livid, uneyed, articulate,
How like a skull their nest they make!

Padraic Colum

Image result for hornet's nest images
That's it for me this week. I hope you enjoyed this poem and poet, and I hope you might take a look at my new posting of Grandma Pierce's diary for July 1928. Her life on a farm in Iowa comes to life in her diary, and...I've included a classic picture of her with my aunt and my mother.  Click on the link under archive.



  1. Wow, so interesting! I didn't know any of that about hornets. Could that "ana" be supposed to be "and?"

  2. Oh, I love this! I just discovered Padric by way of Catherine Flynn...because she shared his podcast. So, if you want more about his work, find Poetry Unbound. I love the line,
    "How do they not possess the wold?"
    Isn't that just like all of us? We could be the change if we wanted to be.
    Great poem.

  3. I've seen quite a few of these hornets' nests this past year and wondered if I'm simply more observant or if there are more of them. I love the poem you shared with its fascinating reflections on hornets. "Of their own terrors they must die." Wow!

  4. Wow, what a cool poem! I just took that third couplet to mean the poet is amazed that hornets don't rule the world, since they have such powerful weapons and everyone runs from them. I could be wrong, though! :>)

  5. I agree with the others about the third couplet, Karen. I enjoyed reading about his life, too, starting so young, achieving a lot. We've fought a few hornets around the neighborhood, not fun to have them buzzing near.

  6. I'm impressed that you followed your wonder to discover new learning and a new-to-you poet. And now I'm off to check out Grandma Pierce's diary.

  7. Thanks for this introduction to Padraic Colum. The poem reminded me of a very creepy novel, Nest, a novel by Kenneth Oppel - although his nest contained wasps.

  8. That is fascinating. I wonder if it's true for all hornets? (It perhaps not where I live, since it doesn't get that cold!)

  9. What a cool poem about hornets. I'll have to share it with my husband. He has found those hornet's nests in the woods. We have two large ones hanging in our basement. They are definitely a conversation starter.

    1. Always nice to hear about another nature enthusiast!