Dare-Gale Press takes its name from the opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem, ‘The Caged Skylark’:
As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage
Man’s mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells…
Since at least the time of the great Troubadour poet Bernart de Ventadorn, the skylark has been a symbol of both lyric poetry and what Hopkins calls ‘man’s mounting spirit’, and its desire for freedom. For Shelley, the skylark, with its vertical flight and tendency to sing as it hovers at great height, is a ‘blythe spirit’ who teaches the poet to sing, while Isaac Rosenberg found ‘strange joy’ at hearing larks in the trenches, their song dropping from the sky ‘like a blind man’s dreams on the sand’. Coleridge translated the skylark’s exuberant song as: ‘I love my Love, and my Love loves me!’.
Hopkins’s image of the bold and freedom-loving skylark kept as a pet in a cage is a particularly potent symbol of his longing for creative and spiritual liberty. Today no one keeps skylarks in a cage but it was common in Hopkins’s time. J.M. Bechstein in his Natural History of Cage Birds (1795) gives a guide on how to keep them:
“In rooms, it is common to let [the skylark] hop about, giving it a retired corner to sleep; it is, however, also kept in cages, where it sings best… It is a good plan to have in a corner a little square of fresh turf, which is as beneficial as it is agreeable. The top of the cage must be of linen, since, from its tendency to rise for flight, it would run the risk of wounding its head against a covering of wood or iron wire, especially before it is well tamed.”
The birds pictured on the home page are of course not skylarks but starlings, who gather together in huge clouds known as murmurations – one of the great wildlife spectacles of a winter sky.