Early in the morning – a nightingale in the woodlands

Another morning, another sunrise. Out on the Elbe flats – once again. Nights are getting shorter and you have to stay up longer or get up earlier to catch the elusive beasts of the night out in the open. I don´t care much for late sittings on some lonely hunting perch as light dwindles and sight fails. They´re not into night vision yet in Saxony-Anhalt – at least not mounted on rifles – and as this is not just about spotting, but serious stuff, the final switch back to mounted telescope for the shot is no viable option. So, long story short, I prefer getting out in the morning, even before the bus goes on its first tour, hoping that the old phrase proves true: “The early bird catches the worm.”  

Greeting some late-night revelers with “Moin, moin!” registers surprise, if not just stupor. On the parking lot I put on even more layers of warm stuff. Utensils, keys, phone and wallet are stowed in deep pockets just in case. Finally, I pull out and onto the empty streets. “Radio Brocken” blares popular tunes from times gone by. I rush past traffic lights still blacked out for the night – extra wary for late comers. I leave Martin Luther-avenue with noble flats, turn into another lined with trees, cross first over a bridge at the railways and then the big one over the “Elbe” before getting into more space and finally onto the flat lands in the “Hinterland”.

Planning this outing, I thought the hide along the “Haidelache” was perfect. It´s been my hideout before and as I´ve never been lucky there, the odds are that this would change sooner or later. My posting in the “hunting forum” shared that logic. However, as the farmer´s co-op had just put maize out in “Hermannsruh”, chances were good, that boar would invade the new plantation and wreak havoc overnight. So, my experienced colleagues suggested, I go there instead and try to catch them, before they move back into the big state forest. That´s why I didn´t pass the dairy in the end, but turned in before, circled the compound milking nearly a thousand cows daily and parked just beyond the industrial complex, right next to a game feeder and a short stretch into the farming path bordering some drainage ditch separating a ripe canola field from the freshly planted maize plot, which we were trying to protect.

Out in the East, the sky was paling. The birds were out. There´s no holding them back as Spring moves in.  I tried to be as quiet as possible. Shutting the door and loading the rifle were muffled before I shoulder the rifle and rucksack making my way down the pathway. Trying my utmost to avoid any snapping or cracking, which would go far this clear morning and might just warn ever watchful game.

Some 300 yards along the path, I got to the wooden construction (“Scherenleiter Hochsitz”), where I could mount the perch to keep a watchful eye over the area and await passing game. An advantage of having a higher shooting angle sitting up high and aiming more into the ground than standing flat on the ground and aiming far into the horizon is a “gesicherter Fangschuss”. Game doesn´t seem to register such constructions (“Jagdliche Einrichtungen”) as “human”. So, roe deer were nibbling quite fearlessly – at around 30 yards – until the pretty consistent breeze shifted whimsically and they got a whiff of me and a fright for their life. Annoyed a doe barked and the bevy moved off at speed into the ripe rape.

In the rucksack, I carry a cushion to sit on, a rolled-up blanket as back-support and a woolen one to unwrap for extra-warmth. That – and an apple plus a coffee flask – makes time pass quite comfortably on this look-out. There was no boar in sight, nor did I see any signs of them, when I got down to inspect the maize field. All was in perfect order as if smoothed over by caring hand with no irritations whatsoever. I did see some white storks fly by, crows too and some lone darting starlings. It was way too early for birds of prey – and probably to way-out for owls too.

However – and that was to be a highlight of my morning and perhaps in my hunting days – there was a nightingale in the bushes. I heard later, that they have just arrived back in these parts and are now shouting out their jubilant song with new vigor.

Untiringly the little bird went about its daily business of praising the good Lord and singing His wonders into this beautiful world of ours. I´m not an expert at identifying birds – never mind their calls – but I do have a telephone with a voice recorder. So, this morning I taped this little brown music master – and voila – my hunting friends and colleagues confirmed my hopeful guess. After checking with them, they returned with thumps-up and confirming nods: “Das ist eine Nachtigall!”

It was indeed the inconspicuous queen of variety and diva of acapella song herself – strikingly melodious, most lyrical and just so enthusiastically vibrant – as she continued to worship the creator throughout the morning. She just never tires at this. You can´t believe, how elated I was to hear her go about morning devotions in real life. In German I´d say: “Ich bin ganz aus dem Häuschen!” (Literally: “I am totally out of the little house” meaning “I am overjoyed!”) My recording is quite amateurish and here is a professional one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3iq2XrYebk

Sharing this with my mother, she related, how at the moment they were enjoying the crowned cranes on the maize fields in Welbedacht. Now, there is a bird of note. It´s the national bird of Uganda. It flouts spectacular feathers, stands tall in plumed grace and bears a crown to top it all. Yet, if You listen to its attempts at music, it’s not much to write home about. Sounds much like a chicken run or worse gaggle of geese. Compare that with the nightingale. She´s mostly solitary. She´s hardly seen, shy as she is – and if You do get ever so lucky, You´re bound to think, that´s just a poor LBJ (Little brown job), but then, when she picks up her tune and You hear her go off to sing in tremolo and hit even the highest notes without fail, rolling down and soaring up, up and even higher – well, that just makes all the difference. The drab old girl can sing!

No wonder, it has motivated artists to paint, sing and fabulate about this little Miss Grey – from the Land of the rising Sun and the Middle Kingdom right to the Danish shores and German lowlands. Just listen to the wonderful rendition of Mendelsohn in her honor: “Was Neues hat sie nie gelernt, singt alte liebe Lieder

The nightingale reminded me very much of one of my long-standing favorites – and so here goes – just like on that first Mission festival in Dreihausen (Ebsdorfergrund), where I actually sang that last stanza during the introduction 🙂

1) Jesus Christus herrscht als König,
alles wird ihm untertänig,
alles legt ihm Gott zu Fuß.
Aller Zunge soll bekennen,
Jesus sei der Herr zu nennen,
dem man Ehre geben muß.

2) Fürstentümer und Gewalten,
Mächte, die die Thronwacht halten,
geben ihm die Herrlichkeit;
alle Herrschaft dort im Himmel,
hier im irdischen Getümmel
ist zu seinem Dienst bereit.

3) Gott ist Herr, der Herr ist Einer,
und demselben gleichet keiner,
nur der Sohn, der ist ihm gleich;
dessen Stuhl ist unumstößlich,
dessen Leben unauflöslich,
dessen Reich ein ewig Reich.

4) Gleicher Macht und gleicher Ehren
sitzt er unter lichten Chören
über allen Cherubim;
in der Welt und Himmel Enden
hat er alles in den Händen,

denn der Vater gab es ihm.

5) Nur in ihm, o Wundergaben,
können wir Erlösung haben,
die Erlösung durch sein Blut.
Hört’s: das Leben ist erschienen,
und ein ewiges Versühnen
kommt in Jesus uns zugut.

6) Jesus Christus ist der Eine,
der gegründet die Gemeine,
die ihn ehrt als teures Haupt.
Er hat sie mit Blut erkaufet,
mit dem Geiste sie getaufet,
und sie lebet, weil sie glaubt.

7) Gebt, ihr Sünder, ihm die Herzen,
klagt, ihr Kranken, ihm die Schmerzen,
sagt, ihr Armen, ihm die Not.
Wunden müssen Wunden heilen,
Heilsöl weiß er auszuteilen,
Reichtum schenkt er nach dem Tod.

8) Zwar auch Kreuz drückt Christi Glieder
hier auf kurze Zeiten nieder,
und das Leiden geht zuvor.
Nur Geduld, es folgen Freuden;
nichts kann sie von Jesus scheiden,
und ihr Haupt zieht sie empor.

9) Ihnen steht der Himmel offen,
welcher über alles Hoffen,
über alles Wünschen ist.
Die geheiligte Gemeine
weiß, daß eine Zeit erscheine,
da sie ihren König grüßt.

10) Jauchz ihm, Menge heilger Knechte,
rühmt, vollendete Gerechte
und du Schar, die Palmen trägt,
und ihr Zeugen mit der Krone
und du Chor vor seinem Throne,
der die Gottesharfen schlägt.

11) Ich auch auf der tiefsten Stufen,
ich will glauben, reden, rufen,
ob ich schon noch Pilgrim bin:
Jesus Christus herrscht als König,
alles sei ihm untertänig;
ehret, liebet, lobet ihn!

(Philipp Friedrich Hiller, 1755)

I think, that eleventh stanza is a brilliant description of the nightingale´s stance. She does not make much of herself, keeps in the shadows really, but still, she´s not too bashful being in the lowest ranks and without much plumage – just as the servant, who received but one talent (Mt.25,24-28). She too has but one real talent – and that is to sing  – and so that´s what she does. Full blast! She doesn´t stop to believe faithfully. She doesn´t cease to speak her creed. Rather, she starts when the night is still dark and she continues to sing it out loud and clear: “IX is Lord and King, Hallelujah!” And she invites all and everything to praise His holy name – the living God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost + who has created us, saved us and justified us and continues to save and sanctify us until He comes again to carry us home. So we are all bound to love, fear and trust Him more than anything. He´s our Lord and our God. This sung confession of trust and confidence is a good way to start any day, don´t You think? It would even do as motto for a whole day – any day!

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
This entry was posted in Eastertide, Gedankensplitter, Morning Prayer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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