If we were magpies love,
and some day a bright bait caught your eye
and you were taken in a magpie trap,

a siren in a cage, then I would stay,
perch above you, spread my wings in the rain
and fan you with my feathers in the sun.

And when the others came,
drawn by the oil spill of your plumage,
the darkness of your eye,

I'd watch them strut in,
squawking to their doom
to find themselves trapped.
All night I'd listen to their confusion,
the beat of wing on wire, until the morning
and the farmer came to wring their lives away.

And through the winter I would feed you,
dropping the mites like the kisses to your beak.
And in the Spring I'd sing, touch my wings to yours

while we waited for that day
when the farmer, realising at last as all men must
that love is all there is to save,

will open the door to your cage
and let you walk out to me,
where I will be waiting
to help you try your wings again.

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About "Song"

Skirrid Hill’ takes its origin from the Welsh, ‘Ysgirid Fawr’ which roughly translates as ‘shattered mountain’. ‘Skirrid’ can also mean ‘divorced or separated’ – the theme is the connotation of something broken down or split away — the natural deterioration and separation of people and things.

Therefore the collection deals with death, separation from one’s family, loss of communication, distancing in relationships. It also deals with the literal physical separation that takes place in the mountain itself; the diminished empathy between humans and nature.

The title ‘Song’ is ambiguous; a love song but also a Siren song. The Sirens were Greek mythological temptresses who lured sailors to their deaths by hypnotic singing. In this poem Sheers has the woman trapped instead. It could possibly be read as a coded message of his ambivalent feelings at his failed relationship, in which he may have felt misled or trapped by the woman. Or it can be read as a carefully wrought and beautiful love poem.

‘Song’ is an elaborate, extended metaphor, likening the young woman with whom Sheers was in a relationship to a caged magpie. This is in the style of the seventeenth century Metaphysical poets, in which writers like John Donne and Andrew Marvell wove elaborate comparisons with wit and intelligence. For example, in John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ he describes the flea that bites them both as mixing their blood, so they are bonded and therefore may as well have sex! An elaborate metaphor like this is called a ‘metaphysical conceit’.

A great deal of Sheers' poetry can be described as ‘modern metaphysical poetry’.


The poem comprises seven stanzas of three lines each, known as tercets or triplets, and a final stanza of four lines. The voice is that of the poet in unrhymed free verse, a second-person address to the woman.

Language and Imagery

The extended metaphor of the caged magpie dominates the poem. It begins simply in the first line of stanza one, then increasingly elaborate ideas are woven in; for example, the poet feeding her insects and protecting her from the elements with his wings.

Unexpected ideas are introduced, notably the casting of the woman as a ‘siren’ in a cage, and the ‘oil-spill’ of her plumage. Both of these are important in their allusion to female treachery. One refers to luring men (and even Sheers) to their deaths. The other is a matching allusion, in terms of the natural world, to entrapping and destroying male birds through the destructive spilt oil.

The poem is unrhymed until the last two stanzas. ‘Day’, ‘save’, ‘cage’ and ‘again’ are assonant rhymes that give a sense of completeness and resolution.

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