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OUR parrot, winged mimic of the human voice, sent from farthest Ind, is dead. Come ye in flocks, ye birds, unto his obsequies. Come, ye pious denizens of the air; beat your bosoms with your wings and with your rigid claws, score furrows on your dainty heads. Even as mourners rend their hair, rend ye your ruffled plumes. Since the far-sounding clarion is silent, sing ye a doleful song. Wherefore, O Philomel, mourn ye the dark deed of the Ismarian tyrant? Time should have ended that lament. Keep it to mourn for the passing of the rarest of thy kind. The fate of Itys was once a mighty theme of sorrow; but all that was

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long ago. All ye who float with outspread wings in the liquid air, and thou before all others, loving turtle, breathe forth your mournful plaint. He was, all his life long, a faithful friend to thee and never did he waver in his loyalty. What young Pylades the Phocian was to Argive Orestes, such, my parrot, was the turtle-dove to thee, so long as thou didst live.

But how did this fidelity bestead thee, and what availed the brilliant colours of thy plumage rare? or that voice so skilled in mimicking the tones of human speech? What did it boot thee to win the affection of my mistress from the very moment thou wast given her? O hapless one, thou wast the glory of birds, and now thou art no more! With thy wondrous plumage, thou couldst outshine the green fire of the emerald, and the hue of thy beak was of the richest red. No bird on earth could speak so well as thou, so great thy skill in imitating, with thy nasal tones, the sounds that thou hadst heard.

Now envious death hath stricken thee; never wast thou at war with any bird. Thou wast garrulous and didst love the piping times of peace. See, the quails are for ever at war; that, perchance, is why they live so long. Thou didst ask for very little; and sith you loved so much to gossip, your beak had very little time for food. A nut was all thy dinner, a poppy-seed or two would bring thee sleep, and with a sip of water thou wouldst quench thy thirst. The hungry vulture lives, and the kite that weaves his circles in the air, and the rain-foretelling daw. The raven, whom the panoplied Minerva hates, lives on--nine generations will hardly see it die. But he is dead, this bird, this babbling echo of the human voice, this gift so rare brought from the utmost limits of the world. ’Tis nearly always so; the greedy hands of death strike first at what is best upon the earth, and things of little worth accomplish to the full their destined tale of years. Thersites beheld the melancholy obsequies of Protesilaus. Hector came to dust and ashes while yet his brothers lived.

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What boots it to recall how, with fear at her breast, my mistress prayed for thee--prayers caught up by the swift wingèd South and carried o’er the seas? The seventh day had come, the seventh, and thy last. Fate had unwound thy thread of days. Howbeit even then thou spakest, crying, with thy dying breath, "Corinna, fare thee well!"

There, in Elysium, on a hill-side's gentle slope there stands a forest of broad, shady oaks, and over the moist soil the rich grass spreads its coverlet of green. Here, if the fabled tale we may believe, abide all innocent birds, and here no fowl of evil omen ever comes. Here range the harmless swans, and here the one undying Phœnix dwells. Here doth the peacock proudly show his gorgeous plumage and the crooning dove showers kisses on her eager mate. Here in their midst, here in these pleasant woody places, our parrot speaks and calls around him all birds of gentle soul. His bones a mound doth cover, a little mound as doth befit his size, and on it is a little stone that bears this little legend:

From this memorial, you may see
What love my mistress bore to me.
Whene'er to her I spake, my words
Meant more than any other bird's.


Psittacus, Eois imitatrix ales ab Indis,
    occidit--exequias ite frequenter, aves!
ite, piae volucres, et plangite pectora pinnis
    et rigido teneras ungue notate genas;
horrida pro maestis lanietur pluma capillis,
    pro longa resonent carmina vestra tuba!
quod scelus Ismarii quereris, Philomela, tyranni,
    expleta est annis ista querela suis;
alitis in rarae miserum devertere funus--
    magna, sed antiqua est causa doloris Itys.
Omnes, quae liquido libratis in aere cursus,
    tu tamen ante alios, turtur amice, dole!
plena fuit vobis omni concordia vita,
    et stetit ad finem longa tenaxque fides.
quod fuit Argolico iuvenis Phoceus Orestae,
    hoc tibi, dum licuit, psittace, turtur erat.
Quid tamen ista fides, quid rari forma coloris,
    quid vox mutandis ingeniosa sonis,
quid iuvat, ut datus es, nostrae placuisse puellae?--
    infelix, avium gloria, nempe iaces!
tu poteras fragiles pinnis hebetare zmaragdos
    tincta gerens rubro Punica rostra croco.
non fuit in terris vocum simulantior ales--
    reddebas blaeso tam bene verba sono!
Raptus es invidia--non tu fera bella movebas;
    garrulus et placidae pacis amator eras.
ecce, coturnices inter sua proelia vivunt;
    forsitan et fiunt inde frequenter anus.
plenus eras minimo, nec prae sermonis amore
    in multos poteras ora vacare cibos.
nux erat esca tibi, causaeque papavera somni,
    pellebatque sitim simplicis umor aquae.
vivit edax vultur ducensque per aera gyros
    miluus et pluviae graculus auctor aquae;
vivit et armiferae cornix invisa Minervae--
    illa quidem saeclis vix moritura novem;
occidit illa loquax humanae vocis imago,
    psittacus, extremo munus ab orbe datum!
optima prima fere manibus rapiuntur avaris;
    inplentur numeris deteriora suis.
tristia Phylacidae Thersites funera vidit,
    iamque cinis vivis fratribus Hector erat.
Quid referam timidae pro te pia vota puellae--
    vota procelloso per mare rapta Noto?
septima lux venit non exhibitura sequentem,
    et stabat vacuo iam tibi Parca colo.
nec tamen ignavo stupuerunt verba palato;
    clamavit moriens lingua: 'Corinna, vale!'
Colle sub Elysio nigra nemus ilice frondet,
    udaque perpetuo gramine terra viret.
siqua fides dubiis, volucrum locus ille piarum
    dicitur, obscenae quo prohibentur aves.
illic innocui late pascuntur olores
    et vivax phoenix, unica semper avis;
explicat ipsa suas ales Iunonia pinnas,
    oscula dat cupido blanda columba mari.
psittacus has inter nemorali sede receptus
    convertit volucres in sua verba pias.
Ossa tegit tumulus--tumulus pro corpore magnus--
    quo lapis exiguus par sibi carmen habet:
"colligor ex ipso dominae placuisse sepulcro;
    ora fuere mihi plus ave docta loqui".

Next: Elegy VII: He Assures Corinna That He Has Never Had Any Guilty Commerce With Cypassis, Her Maid.