“Shakespeare’s Birds” by Peter Goodfellow. Illustrated by Peter Hayman.
Kestrel Books, England. 95 pages, 1983.
This book combines my love for Shakespeare and bird watching.
Fifty different birds are mentioned in a fascinating short book. Shakespeare’s bird imagery is wonderful.
Beatrice runs like a lapwing. Marc Anthony is a doting mallard. And Juliet alludes to Romeo as a peregrine falcon.
Macbeth curses his servant as a “cream-faced loon.“ Hamlet knows “a hawk from a handsaw.” (heron) A young man in Venus and Adonis is described as “a dive-dapper.” (grebe) A cormorant is called “a greedy and devouring bird” in several plays.
In Shakespeare’s day bird-liming (catching)with lime on a branch) was popular. So was the majestic art of falconry (hunting with hawks). The Bard refers to kites, ravens and crows. In Coriolanus, he calls the osprey (fish hawk) “sovereign to the fish.”
In The Taming of the Shrew he mentions the buzzard. In Antony and Cleopatra, he cites the quail and in Much Ado About Nothing the partridge and woodcock. In Othello he mentions a snipe.
Shakespeare refers to the turtle dove in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the line “as gently as any sucking dove.” In The Merchant of Venice old Gobbo offers Bassanio “a dish of doves.” (Pigeons and doves feed their young on regurgitated food, partly digested, called pigeon’s milk. So, in As You Like It we get “as pigeons feed their young.”)
In the Merchant of Venice Portia says: “He knows me as the blind man knows the cuckoo–by the bad voice.” And Prince Hal in Henry IV labels Falstaff a “cuckoo.” King Lear asserts: “The hedge sparrow fed the cuckoo so long, / That it had its head bit off by its young.”
Lady Macbeth during Duncan’s murder cries out: “It was the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman.” And Bolingbroke in Henry VI speaks of the “deep night when screech owls cry.”
The nightingale is a “better musician than the wren.” (Merchant of Venice) “I hear the morning lark.” (Midsummer’s Night Dream) “The skylark sings at heaven’s gate.” (Cymbeline and Sonnet 29) Shakespeare refers to the house martin as a “martlet” or swallow.
He mentions in his plays rooks, magpies, jackdaws, choughs and jays. And the Bard seems to beam on England’s adorable little “robin redbreast” in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
(Peter Goodfellow is an author and avid birdwatcher. Peter Hayman has studied birds for four decades.)
SAD LINE FROM MALLARME
One of the most depressing lines in literature about aging old men like me is from Mallarme’s poem, “Sea Breeze.” (1865) It starts like this in translation from the French: “The flesh is sad, alas! And I have read all the books.”
My “flesh is sad” because at 86 I can no longer make love. And, I have “read all the books”: by Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Homer; Boccaccio and Defoe; Voltaire, Cervantes and Rousseau; Paine and Thoreau; Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin and Gogol; Melville and Proust; Zola, Flaubert, Hugo, de Maupassant and Balzac; Fielding and Stendhal; Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Mann and George Sand;
Nietzsche and Rostand; Stowe and Crane; Austen, Bronte, Hardy, Conrad and Shaw; Malraux, Maugham and Kafka; Twain, Jack London, Dreiser, Sinclair, Steinbeck, Faulkner, Mencken and Hemingway; Camus and Joyce; Solzhenitsyn; Orwell and Huxley.
And I have read all the major plays by: Aristophanes, Dante, Moliere, Marlowe; Rostand; O’Neill, Arthur Miller; Shaw, Wilde, Brecht and Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Albee, Ionesco and Odets.
I have read all the major poetry by: Chaucer (“Canterbury Tales”), Villon, Donne and Milton (“Areopagitica”); Byron, Goethe, FitzGerald (“Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”); Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge; Whitman, Poe, Frost, Dickinson, Longfellow; Kerouac (“On the Road’) and Langston Hughes (“Let America Be America Again”).
(Alert: I’m sure I’ve missed many favorites of readers.)
TRUMP TAX COMPLAINT UNFOUNDED
President Trump moans constantly that the U.S. has one of the world’s highest corporate tax rates of 35 percent. Yet, yet, yet.
A recent analysis of 258 profitable Fortune 500 companies that earned more than $3.8 trillion in profits paid zilch in taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2015. How?
Easy. Tax dodging. Tax loopholes. Outsourcing. Offshore tax havens. Products made cheaply overseas and sold back in the U.S. at an enormous profit.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont socialist, rightly points out that offshore tax abuse is so outrageous that “one five-story office building in the Cayman Islands is the ‘home’ of 18,000 corporations.”
NBA SLAM-DUNK CONTEST
The National Basketball Association All-Star game is no longer a basketball game. It’s now a dunking contest. The Eastern Conference had the better dunkers, out dunking the Western Conference, 192-182, in New Orleans Feb. 19.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (Jake.Highton.firstname.lastname@example.org)