A bird’s eye view

A bird’s eye view

A bird’s eye view

Oh, to be a bird – to soar high above the land, to glide on thermals – majestic, graceful. But best of all, to get that inspiring, awesome perspective over our world that’s afforded by a view from above. The colours, the textures and the sense of cohesion are just amazing.

In my book Burning Embers the protagonists, Rafe and Coral, twice take to the skies – once in a hot air balloon, and once in a light aircraft. In both cases I was able to explore descriptions of the African landscape from a new angle, and in further depth – and the characters consequently found their own new perspectives on their relationship.

I love to look at pictures of aerial views. (Readers of my blog may remember an earlier post in which I mentioned that I love the ‘Earth from the Air’ series of photographs taken by French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand.) Here’s a picture I particularly like taken over the area in which I live in the south of France. So many trees, and see how the depths of the ocean are visible from the height.

One of my favourite poets is Leconte De Lisle, a nineteenth-century French poet whose focus was very much on beautiful descriptions of nature. His poem ‘Le sommeil du condor’ (‘The Condor’s Slumber’) really captures the power and majesty of the condor, while presenting the world spread out beneath this soaring bird of prey in such a way that we feel we are truly experiencing a bird’s eye view.

The Condor’s Slumber

Beyond the steep Cordilleras’ steps,

Beyond the mists haunted by the swarthy eagles,

Higher than the summits worn into hollows,

Where there seethes the bloodstained stream of the long-known lava-flows,

With drooping wingspan reddened here and there,

The huge bird, filled entirely with a gloomy sloth,

Watches silently America and the distance,

And the dimmed sun dying in his cold eyes.


Night rolls in from the east, where the wild pampas

Beneath the tiered mountains stretches out endlessly;

It lulls to sleep Chile, the cities, the seashores,

With the Pacific, and the sublime horizon.

It has seized hold of the unspeaking continent:

From the sands to the hillsides, from the gorges to the mountain-slopes,

From summit to summit, it swells out, in growing eddies,

The weighty overflowing of its high tide.

As for him, like a ghost, alone, on the brow of the lofty peak,

Bathed in a glow that turns the snow bloodshot,

He awaits that baleful sea coming to lay siege against him.

It arrives, unfurls and quite covers him over.

In the endless emptiness the Southern Cross lights up

On the ascents of heaven its stellar beacon.


He croaks with pleasure, he ruffles his feathers,

He stretches up his muscular bare neck,

He rises up flapping at the biting snow of the Andes,

With a harsh call he flies aloft where the wind does not reach,

And, far from the blackened globe, far from the living planet,

He sleeps in the frozen air, with wings spread wide.

Le sommeil du condor

Par-delà l’escalier des roides Cordillères,
Par-delà les brouillards hantés des aigles noirs,
Plus haut que les sommets creusés en entonnoirs
Où bout le flux sanglant des laves familières,
L’envergure pendante et rouge par endroits, Le vaste Oiseau, tout plein d’une morne indolence,
Regarde l’Amérique et l’espace en silence, Et le sombre soleil qui meurt dans ses yeux froids.

La nuit roule de l’est, où les pampas sauvages
Sous les monts étagés s’élargissent sans fin ;
Elle endort le Chili, les villes, les rivages,
Et la mer Pacifique, et l’horizon divin ;
Du continent muet elle s’est emparée :
Des sables aux coteaux, des gorges aux versants,
De cime en cime, elle enfle, en tourbillons croissants,
Le lourd débordement de sa haute marée.
Lui, comme un spectre, seul, au front du pic altier,
Baigné d’une lueur qui saigne sur la neige,
Il attend cette mer sinistre qui l’assiège :
Elle arrive, déferle, et le couvre en entier
Dans l’abîme sans fond la Croix australe allume
Sur les côtes du ciel son phare constellé.

Il râle de plaisir, il agite sa plume,
Il érige son cou musculeux et pelé,
Il s’enlève en fouettant l’âpre neige des Andes,
Dans un cri rauque il monte où n’atteint pas le vent,
Et, loin du globe noir, loin de l’astre vivant,
Il dort dans l’air glacé, les ailes toutes grandes.




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