Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page




Of the Linnet, Popinjay, or Parrot, and other Birds that can Speak,

edited by Andrew Lang

The linnets be in manner the best birds of all others, howbeit, they be very docible. Do they will whatsoever they are taught and bidden, not only with their voice, but also with their feet and bills, as if they were hands. In the territory about Arelate (Arles) there is a bird called Taurus (because it loweth like a bull or cow, for otherwise a small bird it is). There is another also named Anthus, which likewise resembleth the neighing of horses; and if haply by the approach of horses they be driven from their grass whereof they feed, they will seem to neigh, and flying unto them, chase them away, and to be revenged of them again. But above all other birds of the air, the parrots pass for counterfeiting a man’s voice, insomuch as they will seem to parle and prate our very speech. This fowl cometh out of the Indies; it is all the body over green, only it hath a collar about the neck of vermilion red, different from the rest of her feathers. The parrot can skill to salute emperors, and bid good-morrow: yea, and to pronounce what words she heareth. She loveth wine well, and when she hath drunk freely, is very pleasant and playful. She hath an head as hard as is her beak. When she learns to speak, she must be beaten about the head with a rod of iron; for otherwise she careth for no blows. When she taketh her flight down from any place, she lighteth upon her bill, and resteth thereupon, and by that means saveth her feet, which by nature are but  weak and feeble, and so carrieth her own weight more lightly.

There is a certain pie, of nothing so great reckoning and account as the parrot, because she is not far set, but here by near at hand: howbeit, she pronounces that which is taught her more plainly and distinctly than the other. These take a love to the words that they speak; for they not only learn them as a lesson, but they learn them with a delight and pleasure, insomuch that a man shall find them studying thereupon, and conning the said lesson; and by their careful thinking upon that which they learn they show plainly how mindful and intentive they be thereto. It is for certain known that they have died for very anger and grief that they could not learn to pronounce some hard words; as also unless they hear the same words repeated often unto them, their memory is so shittle, they will soon forget the same again. If they miss a word and have lost it, they will seek to call it again to remembrance; and if they fortune to hear the same word in the meantime, they will wonderfully joy thereat. As for their beauty, it is not ordinary, although it be not very lovely. But surely amiable enough are they in this, that they can so well resemble man’s speech. It is said that none of their kind are good to be made scholars, but such only as feed upon mast; and among them, those that have five toes to their feet. But even these also are not fit for that purpose, after the first two years of their age. And their tongue is broader than ordinary; like as they be all that counterfeit man’s voice, each one in their kind, although it be in manner general to birds whatsoever to be broad-tongued.

Agrippina the Empress, wife to Claudius Cæsar, had a black-bird or a throstle at what time I compiled this book, which could counterfeit man’s speech; a thing never seen or known before. The two Cæsars also, the young princes (to wit, Germanicus and Drusus,) had one stare, and sundry nightingales, taught to parle Greek and Latin.  Moreover, they would study upon their lessons, and meditate all day long; and from day to day come out with new words still, yea, and are now able to continue a long speech and discourse. Now for to teach them the better, these birds must be in a secret place apart by themselves, when they can hear no other voice; and one is to sit over them, who must repeat often that which he would have them to learn; yea, and please them also with giving them such meat as they best love.