This is Emily Brontë's watercolour of her pet merlin hawk, Hero. As wild and strange as she was. She rescued him from an abandoned nest on the moors and in her poem, "The Caged Bird" she identifies with him "like myself alone, wholly alone", wishing to return to "Earth's breezy hills and heaven's blue sea":
Could my hands unlock the chain
How gladly would I watch it soar
And never regret, and never complain
To see its shining eyes no more.
Back from Brussels in November 1842, she noted in her diary, "lost the hawk Hero, which, with the geese, was given away, and is doubtless dead...I inquired on all hands and could hear nothing of him."
Hero also appears in Anne Carson's dazzling “The Glass Essay”. Visiting her mother in Yorkshire,
Her tiny sharp shoulder hunched in the blue bathrobe
made me think of Emily Brontë's little merlin hawk Hero
that she fed bits of bacon at the kitchen table when Charlotte wasn't around.
I don't know if it's true. And he may have been called Nero; no one can read Emily’s handwriting. But this watercolour fell out of my copy of Wuthering Heights this morning and I can't stop looking at it.