THE OWL CRITIC

  JAMES T. FIELDS  

"Who stuffed that white owl?" No one spoke in the shop;

The barber was busy and he couldnít stop;

The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading

The Daily, the Herald, the Post, little heeding

The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;

Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion.

And the barber kept on shaving.

"Donít you see, Mister Brown," cried the youth with a frown,

"How wrong the whole thing is, how preposterous each wing is,

How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck isó.

In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck Ďtis!

I make no apology; Iíve learned owl-eology.

Iíve passed days and nights in a hundred collections,

And cannot be blinded to any deflections

Arising from unskillful fingers that fail

To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.

Mister Brown! Mister Brown! Do take that bird down,

Or youíll soon be the laughing-stock all over town!"

And the barber kept on shaving.

"Iíve studied owls, and other night fowls,

And I tell you what I know to be true;

An owl cannot roost with his limbs so unloosed;

No owl in this world ever had his claws curled,

Ever had his legs slanted, ever had his bill canted,

Ever had his neck screwed into that attitude.

He canít do it, because Ďtis against all bird laws.

Anatomy teaches, ornithology preaches,

An owl has a toe that canít turn out so!

Iíve made the white owl my study for years,

And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!

Mr. Brown, Iím amazed you should be so gone crazed

As to put up a bird in that posture absurd!

To look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;

The man who stuffed him donít half know his business!"

And the barber kept on shaving.

"Examine those eyes; Iím filled with surprise

Taxidermists should pass off on you such poor glass;

So unnatural they seem theyíd make Audubon scream,

And John Burroughs laugh to encounter such chaff.

Do take that bird down; have him stuffed again, Brown!"

And the barber kept on shaving.

"With some sawdust and bark I could stuff in the dark

An owl better than that. I could make an old hat

Look more like an owl than that horrid fowl,

Stuck up there so stiff, like a side of coarse leather,

In fact, about him thereís not one natural feather."

 

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,

The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,

Walked round, and regarded his fault-finding critic

(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,

And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:

"Your learningís at fault this time, anyway;

Donít waste it again on a live bird, I pray.

Iím an owl; youíre another. Sir Critic, good-day!"

And the barber kept on shaving.

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