The Wood-pigeon

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

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

all 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.