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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Budge's Snippet: The Parrot and the Minor Prophets

One more snippet from Budge:
[Professor W. Wright] carefully explained to me that there was still time for me to abandon Semitic Languages, because, as he said, the man who took them up to gain a living by them was a fool, but, of course, if I persisted in my foolish idea, he was there to help me, and he would do so... Many of the texts which we read were studied in his own house, and there in his work room, with his beloved grey parrot uncaged by his side, he helped me to struggle through Phoenician inscriptions ...
The parrot ... began his career in Wright's house in the drawing-room. After a short time, when he had found his bearings, he began to say to visitors either "Give us a drink," or "Give us a kiss," and when disturbed by any sudden noise or movement he would exclaim, "O Hell!" ...
The parrot was then removed to the dining-room, and all went well, and he behaved himself with great propriety, until a certain evening when Wright gave a small dinner party. On that occasion Wright's guests consisted of eight University friends, among them being two Professors of Divinity, Dr. Campion, of Queens', and Professor Bensly.
The parrot was pleased with the conversation, and whistled and chuckled, and called "puss, puss, puss," and mewed like a cat, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. Then he exclaimed, "O Hell! " once or twice, which created a general laugh, and then Mrs. Wright got up and, taking the large handkerchief which was kept for the purpose, threw it over the cage, and promised the parrot a "bone " if he was good.
Presently, in the unaccountable way in which such things happen, a silence fell upon the company, and suddenly the parrot cried out, "Damn the Minor Prophets!" in a tone of voice which was so like that of his master that the speaker might have been Wright himself.
This expression by the parrot of his opinion of the Minor Prophets was followed by shouts of laughter, in which the parrot joined.
When these had subsided somewhat, Wright, who was one of the Committee of the Revisers of the Bible who were then actually at work on the Minor Prophets, began hastily to explain that the parrot must have picked up this profane remark from the lad who worked in the garden, and said that he would admonish the lad at the first opportunity. But I could never find out that any of his guests on that memorable evening were prepared to accept that explanation unreservedly.
After that evening the parrot was taken back to the study, where he was more often out of his cage than in it.... He never admitted me to full membership in his friendship, but he honoured me so far as to eat through my coat collar when he sat on my neck, and on another occasion he bit my cap in pieces, and caught my thumb in his beak when I tried to take the remains from him.

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