The song of the cicadas has inspired poets through the centuries, from the ancient Greek Meleager to Lisa Bankert of Kensington. Bob Dylan wrote a whole song about the bugs (which he dubbed "locusts") after their hum nearly drowned out a Princeton University ceremony in which he received an honorary degree.

The Cricket to the Cicada

Meleager

(Greece, circa 100 B.C.)

O resonant cicada, drunk on dewy droplets.

You sing your rustic song that sounds in lonely places.

Perched with your saw-like limbs, high up among the leaves

You shrill forth the lyre's tune with your sun-darkened body.

But, dear friend, sound forth something new for the woodland nymphs,

A divertissement, chirping a tune for

Pan as the song which you sing in your turn,

So that I, escaping from Eros, can catch some noon-time sleep

While reclining there under the shady plane tree.

Translated by Rory B. Egan, University of Manitoba

Anonymous

(Greece, circa 5th century A.D.)

We know that you are royally blest Cicada when, among the tree-tops,

You sip some dew and sing your song;

For every single thing is yours

That you survey among the fields

And all the things the woods produce.

The farmers' constant company,

You damage nothing that is theirs;

Esteemed you are by every human

As the summer's sweet-voiced prophet.

The Muses love you, and Apollo too,

Who's gifted you with high pitched song.

Old age does nothing that can wear you,

Earth's sage and song-enamored son;

You suffer not, being flesh-and-blood-less --

A god-like creature, virtually.

Translated by Rory B. Egan, University of Manitoba

Ode to a Cicada

By Lisa Bankert

(Kensington, 2004)

I saw my first cicada. Yikes!

I swear it was immense!

Its bulging eyes were wide as pies;

Its wings the size of tents.

It wobbled through the thick May air;

I watched it from behind.

It buzzed its wings unsteadily;

I think the thing was blind.

It crashed into my dogwood tree and hummed as if to say "I s'pose I'll plant my big fat self right here and munch all day."

Day of the Locusts

By Bob Dylan

(1970)

Oh, the benches were stained with tears and perspiration, The birdies were flying from tree to tree.

There was little to say, there was no conversation As I stepped to the stage to pick up my degree.

And the locusts sang off in the distance, Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.

Oh, the locusts sang off in the distance, Yeah, the locusts sang and they were singing for me.

I glanced into the chamber where the judges were talking, Darkness was everywhere, it smelled like a tomb.

I was ready to leave, I was already walkin', But the next time I looked there was light in the room.

And the locusts sang, yeah, it give me a chill, Oh, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.

Oh, the locusts sang their high whining trill, Yeah, the locusts sang and they were singing for me.

Outside of the gates the trucks were unloadin', The weather was hot, a-nearly 90 degrees.

The man standin' next to me, his head was exploding, Well, I was prayin' the pieces wouldn't fall on me.

Yeah, the locusts sang off in the distance, Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.

Oh, the locusts sang off in the distance, And the locusts sang and they were singing for me.

I put down my robe, picked up my diploma, Took hold of my sweetheart and away we did drive, Straight for the hills, the black hills of Dakota, Sure was glad to get out of there alive.

And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill, Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.

And the locusts sang with a high whinin' trill, Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me, Singing for me, well, singing for me.

Copyright 1970, Big Sky Music