Punch,  44 (1863), 37.

The Starling of the Vatican



Poetry, Drollery


Ornithology, Animal Behaviour, Religious Authority

    An implicit comparison of Pope Piux IX to an ageing starling in his 'costly cage', this poem describes the bird's 'poor old wings / Clipped close as shears can shave', his 'draggled tail', and his memories of the 'days gone by' when he used to chant 'Non possumus, possumus, possumus' and related catechisms. Notes the bird's hatred of the 'watchful hand that coops / His dark and dreary age', his quest for freedom from the 'French gaolers' [a reference to the pope's hostility to Piedmont] and Britannia's offer of freedom on the island of Malta, rather than living 'caged in a Roman hall'. The bird remains and continues with his chant.

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