Raphael Carter is looking for poems about hummingbirds. He has found three, one by Lawrence and two by Dickinson, which he reproduces and comments on with enthusiasm, whether he approves (“I would take the stanza beginning ‘He never stops,’ and the line ‘reels in remoter atmospheres,’ over just about anything else in American poetry. This is what astonishes me about Dickinson. She wrote close to two thousand poems, and nearly every one of them is forceful, original, and beautiful.”) or disapproves (“[Lawrence] knows that hummingbirds are small and very fast and often very bright, and yet he writes this ponderous, ungainly poem whose rhythms would be more suitable for describing an elephant”). He says “There must be others—surely Frost wrote about hummingbirds somewhere…”; Elizabeth Bishop leapt to my mind, and she did mention “The tiniest green hummingbird in the world” in “Questions of Travel”, but she doesn’t seem to have written a poem specifically about the bird. I have found online a translation with commentary of a Zinacantán (Maya) hummingbird poem, but that may be a little far afield; anybody know others? [Via Plep.]
Update. Avva and his readers have found further examples, in both English and Russian.


  1. How about if we write a couple of hummingbird poems to order? Does that count?

  2. Here’s Hartley Coleridge (son of the more famous Coleridge):

    Humming Birds

    The insect birds that suck nectareous juice
    From straightest tubes of curly-petaled flowers,
    Or catch the honey-dew that falls profuse
    Through the soft air, distill’d in viewless showers,
    Whose colours seem the very souls of gems,
    Or parting rays of fading diadems:–

    I have but seen their feathers,–that is all.
    As much as we can know of poets dead
    Or living; but the gilded plumes that fall
    Float on the earth, or in the wind dispread
    Go everywhere to beautify the breeze.
    Sweet wind, surcharged with treasures such as these,

    I may not feel:–I never may behold
    The spark of life, that trimmed in garb so bright
    That flying quintessence of ruby, gold,
    Mild emerald, and lucid chrysolite.
    Yet am I glad that life and joy were there,
    That the small creature was as blithe as fair.

  3. Thanks! I passed it on to Raphael. (Since the hummingbird is not native to Russian, I don’t suppose there are any kolibri poems.)

  4. Bunin wrote “Kolibri” in 1907; I don’t like it that much, but here goes (I wonder if Bryusov or Bal’mont wrote any kolibri poems, they might well have):


    ????? ??????? – ??? ?????????? ?????
    ??????? ??? ???????? ? ?????? ?????
    ???????? ????, ????????? ????,-
    ??? ????? ? ?????????, ? ???.

    ????, ??????, ?????? ????????,
    ????? ???????… ?? ????? ????????
    ????????? ? ????? – ? ?????? ??????? ???:
    ?? ????? ???? ????????? ???????.

  5. Cyrillic doesn’t seem to work here. Oh well. I’ll include the poem in my next LJ entry.

  6. Thanks! I’m adding an update with a link to your discussion.

  7. There was a poem in the London Review of Books years ago about Hummingbirds. Can’t remember the author, but I memorised it:

    Don’t know the words.”

  8. I love that Elizabeth Bishop’s poem. It’s posted at the Enigmatic Mermaid too. I can almost see the Brazilian landscapes she describes…

  9. I don’t suppose Seals & Crofts’ Hummingbird would count?

    #7‘s entry sounds like Ogden Nash… but I can’t find it associated with his name on the web.

  10. Also, I stumbled on this one.

  11. sandra price says

    I just lost a niece at 22 yrs of age, we have had a hummingbird around for weeks now, with out a feeder. We have a feeder now. At the grave side we were approached by a hummingbird and hovered around us for a good while. The mother held her hand out and the hummingbird flew into the palm of her hand. So hummingbirds are very special to us. Do you know of a Bible verse that speakes of hummingbirds, or a poem. She wants something for printing.

  12. Sandra: I’m very sorry for your loss. The only hummingbird poems I know of are linked in the entry above (or quoted in the comments); hummingbirds wouldn’t be mentioned in the Bible because they’re a New World bird.

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