The words of Cornwall's greatest poet appeared above one of London's busiest thoroughfares yesterday, briefly upstaging some of the world's biggest brands.
Lines from I Am The Song, a short verse by Charles Causley, were flashed up on the famous Piccadilly Lights for five hours to mark National Poetry Day.
Normally the preserve of adverts for Coca Cola, Sanyo and other multinational companies, the big-sell was briefly replaced by a small poem that begins: I am the song that sings the bird.
It was the first time the iconic hoarding had been used in this way on National Poetry Day, giving tourists, shoppers and workers a moment to consider the Launceston writer's nine-line contemplation on the natural world and goodness of humanity.
Charles Causley, who was placed at the Number 7 spot in the Western Morning News' poll of 100 greatest Cornish people, spent his whole life in his native Launceston. The author of an unrivalled body of work, much of it centred on his home town, he worked for many years as a schoolteacher and also served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
Born in 1917, he published some 40 books of poetry and short stories – including Farewell Aggie Weston, Figgie Hobbin, Jack The Treacle Eater and The Merrymaid Of Zennor. A Companion of the Royal Society of Literature and Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd, he was awarded both the CBE and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. At the time of his death in 2003, he was regarded by many of his contemporaries and admirers as "the Poet Laureate we never had".
Welcoming the move to celebrate Causley's genius as part of the 18th National Poetry Day, the event's founder, William Sieghart, said: "Poetry is all around us – including in advertising. The Piccadilly Lights are Britain's most famous and eye-catching advertising site. So it's wonderfully refreshing that among the advertising messages, passers-by will find Charles Causley's reminder of the power of human expression, a commodity money can't buy."
I Am The Song by Charles Causley
I am the song that sings the bird,
I am the leaf that grows the land,
I am the tide that moves the moon,
I am the stream that halts the sand,
I am the cloud that drives the storm,
I am the earth that lights the sun,
I am the fire that strikes the stone,
I am the clay that shapes the hand,
I am the word that speaks the man.