Merlyn, on the language of birds

It was a beautiful foggy morning here, everything covered in fuzzy painted on frost. Saw hawks circling and crying and some lovely, entertaining close-ups of crows at play. Then later on the bus ride home reading T.H.White’s The Once and Future King, I stumble upon a passage with Merlyn speaking on the language of birds. I just had to share it:

“The conversation, observed Archimedes, “arose out of whether birds could talk.”

“Another friend of mine,” said, Merlyn immediately, in his most learned voice, “maintains, or will maintain, that the question of the language of birds arises out of imitation. Aristotle, you know, also attributes tragedy to imitation.”

Archimedes sighed heavily, and remarked in prophetic tones, “You had better get this off your chest.”

“It’s like this,” said Merlyn.. “The hawks scream like their prey. The mallards croak like the frogs they eat, the shrikes also, like these creatures in distress. The blackbirds and thrushes click like the snail shells they hammer to pieces. The various finches make the sounds of cracking seeds, and the woodpecker imitates the tapping on wood which he makes to get the insects that he eats.. 

There are other things besides the things you eat. Even a bird drinks sometimes, for instance, or bathes itself in water. It is the liquid notes of a river that we hear in a robin’s song.”

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About Beauty and Dreams

I'm just a lady in Portland, OR. Check out my blog! Drawings, collage and more!
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2 Responses to Merlyn, on the language of birds

  1. clinock says:

    The crows around here imitate domestic animals, dogs and cats. They reproduce their barks and yowls. I once met a woman who told me she could talk to the birds – I believed her…

  2. I believe it. Crows are so clever.

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