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The Wood-pigeon

from Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales - NATURE SONGS





An Isle of Wight legend respecting this bird tells us that, soon after
the creation of the world, all the birds were assembled for the purpose
of learning to build their nests, and the magpie, being very sagacious
and cunning, was chosen to teach them. Those birds that were most
industrious, such as the wren and the long-tailed-capon, or pie-finch,
he instructed to make whole nests in the shape of a cocoa-nut, with a
small hole on one side; others, not so diligent, he taught to make
half-nests, shaped something like a teacup. Having thus instructed a
great variety of birds according to their capacity, it came to the turn
of the wood-pigeon, who, being a careless and lazy bird, was very
indifferent about the matter, and while the magpie was directing him how
to place the little twigs, &c., he kept exclaiming, "What, athurt and
across! what zoo! what zoo!--athurt and across! what zoo! what zoo!" At
length the magpie was so irritated with his stupidity and indolence,
that he flew away, and the wood-pigeon, having had no more instruction,
to this day builds the worst nest of any of the feathered tribe,
consisting merely of layers of cross-twigs.

Montagu gives a Suffolk version of the tale, which differs considerably
from the above. "The magpie, it is said, once undertook to teach the
pigeon how to build a more substantial and commodious dwelling; but,
instead of being a docile pupil, the pigeon kept on her old cry of 'Take
two, Taffy! take two!' The magpie insisted that this was a very
unworkmanlike manner of proceeding, one stick at a time being as much as
could be managed to advantage; but the pigeon reiterated her 'two, take
two,' till Mag, in a violent passion, gave up the task, exclaiming, 'I
say that one at a time's enough; and, if you think otherwise, you may
set about the work yourself, for I will have no more to do with it!'
Since that time, the wood-pigeon has built her slight platform of
sticks, which certainly suffers much in comparison with the strong
substantial structure of the magpie." The cooing of the wood-pigeon
produces, it is said--

Take two-o coo, Taffy!
Take two-o coo, Taffy!

Alluding, says Mr. Chambers, to a story of a Welshman, who thus
interpreted the note, and acted upon the recommendation by stealing two
of his neighbour's cows.





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