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The Laburnum Top by Ted Hughes

The Laburnum Top is silent, quite still
In the afternoon yellow September sunlight,
A few leaves yellowing, all its seeds fallen

Till the goldfinch comes, with a twitching chirrup
A suddeness, a startlement,at a branch end
Then sleek as a lizard, and alert and abrupt,
She enters the thickness,and a machine starts up
Of chitterings, and of tremor of wings,and trillings –
The whole tree trembles and thrills
It is the engine of her family.

She stokes it full, then flirts out to a branch-end
Showing her barred face identity mask.
Then with eerie delicate whistle-chirrup whisperings
She launches away, towards the infinite
And the laburnum subsides to empty.


The poet begins the poem by saying that it is the month of September. The top of the laburnum tree is silent. It has few leaves which are turning yellow and its seeds have also fallen.

The laburnum tree top remains still till the goldfinch, a yellow coloured bird, comes and starts chirruping. It becomes lively. The bird enters the tree like a lizard. The entry is very abrupt and bird seems very alert. The moment the goldfinch enters the thickness of the tree, its chicks start chirruping. It is as if the engine of a machine has started. The chicks show their happiness by flapping their wings and by their chitterings.

The goldfinch moves towards a branch end and shows her masked face. The chirruping changes into delicate whistle chirrup whispering and then she flies away into the infinite. The laburnum tree which was full of life and activity till now, suddenly becomes silent and quiet. The singing of the goldfinch had brought life to the tree for some time and it again ‘subsides to empty’.

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