The Parrot

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Collected Poems of James Elroy Flecker  (1916) 
by James Elroy Flecker

The old professor of Zoology

Shook his long beard and spake these words to me

"Compare the Parrot with the Dove. They are

In shape the same: in hue dissimilar.

The Indian bird, which may be sometimes seen

In red or black, is generally green.

His beak is very hard: it has been known

To crack thick nuts and penetrate a stone.

Alas that when you teach him how to speak

You find his head is harder than his beak.

The passionless Malay can safely drub

The pates of parrots with an iron club :

The ingenious fowls, like boys they beat at school,

Soon learn to recognize a Despot's rule.


Now if you'd train a parrot, catch him young

While soft the mouth and tractable the tongue.

Old birds are fools : they dodder in their speech,

More eager to forget than you to teach ;

They swear one curse, then gaze at you askance,

And all oblivion thickens in their glance.


Thrice blest whose parrot of his own accord

Invents new phrases to delight his Lord,

Who spurns the dull quotidian task and tries

Selected words that prove him good and wise.

Ah, once it was my privilege to know

A bird like this . . .


But that was long ago ! "


July 1909