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  • Writer's picturegailphilip4

Three ways a Nightingale can inspire you

In April Nightingales start returning to England (mainly in the South and South-East) from sub-saharan Africa. It’s a long journey on an aeroplane, let alone if you have to provide your own power and you are not much bigger than a robin! We have heard on the news today that this migration is going to be ever more hazardous for these birds as their wingspan is apparently becoming shorter due to global warming. Their tenacity and resilience is amazing, even inspirational. Not so?

But there is another sort of nightingale in the news: the newly created Nightingale Hospital in London to deal with victims of Coronavirus. I presume it has been named after Florence Nightingale, who transformed nursing during the Crimean War in the 1850’s. She established high standards of care, insisting on such basic necessities as bathing, clean clothing and dressings, and adequate food. Attention was given to the psychological needs of wounded soldiers through assistance in writing letters to relatives and through providing educational and recreational activities. She herself wandered the wards at night, providing support to the patients, earning her the title of “Lady with the Lamp.” Florence was guided and comforted by her religious beliefs. At the age of 16, she had experienced what she believed was a call from God. She viewed her particular calling as reducing human suffering. Nursing seemed the most suitable route to serve both God and humankind.

Even though some doubt has been cast on some of her achievements in recent years, her life is nevertheless amazing and inspirational. Not so?

Here is a third sort of inspirational Nightingale: the poem by John Keats called Ode to a Nightingale. I have always been fascinated by this poem after encountering it as a teenager. I can’t recite it from memory, but I know its message. It’s basically about three things:

the beauty of the nightingale’s song (a fast succession of high, low and rich notes),

the way it provides an escape from the cares of the world

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

What thou among the leaves hast never known,

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

and how the bird through its song is immortal

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

No hungry generations tread thee down;

The voice I hear this passing night was heard

In ancient days by emperor and clown:

Is this not a third sort of inspirational Nightingale?

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