corvus corax

This is one of my favorite Van Goghs, everything in this world vibrates. The sky and wheat goad the birds into joining the kinetic intensity. I do not see this as a troubled picture necessarily although I think it was the last he painted before he died.

From top: Raven, Crow, Robin, Jay from Studer's Ornithology 1881; Common American Crow, JJ Audubon, early 1840s; Hill and Ploughed Field near Dresden, Caspar David Friedrich, 1824-25; Magpie and Snow near Honfleur, Claude Monet, 1868; Wheat field under theatening skies, Van Gogh, 1890; The Raven, illustration by Gustave Doré, 1884

 photo by Edward Rhys

 photo of rooks by Messent

Ravens, rooks, jackdaws, crows, magpies, choughs, jays, Corvids all, and my favorite type of bird— although in Park Slope Brooklyn I mainly see just the crows (corvus corax). Historically crows represented longevity, and marital fidelity, they were augurs of the future, or straight out harbingers of death. Whether known as a witch's familiar, chthonic messengers or petty thieves they are intelligent, wiley, playful. Like starlings, another favorite, I feel like I see the dinosaur in them.

I just read-- well browsed through-- a slim book of history, myth and lore about crows. Its part of an unusual Animals Series by British publisher Reaktion Books that includes such winning editions as Fly, Oyster and Rat. If Crow (by the magnificently named Boria Sax) is any indication of the series' quality, the rest should be wonderfully diverting. Thoroughly researched, far-reaching and densely referenced, the book remained eminently readable without slipping into slangy informality. Even better, there is no hint of catering to children, cute-mongers, or to the New Agey/Wiccan Bohemian Complex which it would undoubtedly be forced to do if it were an American publication. (Thank god for the British or I'd complain about everything.)


Labwriter said...

Crows are also my favorites. I live near St. Louis and have huge old sycamores in my neighborhood--a favorite gathering place for the crows. Several years ago they all died off from something, I can't remember what right now, and the neighborhood was silent. I had no idea how much I would miss their noise. Now they're coming back.

I love your site--my brain is an inch deep and a mile wide (very like the Platte River, but you probably don't know it because you're from the East); I found your site today looking up George Beard's book on American Nervousness (1881). You've actually read this book?

angela said...

Wow, how haunting-- the silence of the crows.

thanks for the compliment. No I never fully read Beard's book—I read a modern book called "American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History" by Tom Lutz. It essentially tells the story of Beard's book and the "outbreak" of neurasthenia at the end of the 19th century. Very good. Then I dipped back into Beard's original for research for my book (about a very different subject!)

Beth Surdut, Visual Storyteller said...

If you're interested in drawings and stories about ravens,you're welcome to visit Listening To Raven at www.bethsurdut.com/listening_to_raven_prints.htm

Steve sculpts critters said...

I love the ravens around here.
I was looking around for a pair making various soft noises the other day, scanning all the neighbors houses.
Turns out they were miles up, with a couple of interlopers, doing twirly fall out of the sky manouvers.
Great stuff!

נועה אינגבר said...

Thank you, IT'S AMAZING.


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