Poor ol’ Cock Robin

A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.

William Blake

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The yard is suddenly plentiful with robins—
Are they the ominous harbingers of things to come or the triumphant heralders of the anthems of Spring?
With the forecast boding a Winter Storm’s bothersome approach it is perhaps a frantic search for food which these birds seek all in order to wait out the impending weather.
Either way, robins have been the subject of prose and poem down through the ages as there is just something most endearing about these rusty breasted members of the thrush family.

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The tale of Who Murdered Cock Robin is a British Nursery Rhyme which, in 1993, was adapted by Kevin O’Malley as a delightfully illustrated children’s book– complete with mystery and intrigue. The original British Nursery Rhyme is thought to be an allegorical reference to fabled Robin Hood.

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“Who killed Cock Robin?” “I,” said the Sparrow,
“With my bow and arrow, I killed Cock Robin.”
“Who saw him die?” “I,” said the Fly,
“With my little eye, I saw him die.”
“Who caught his blood?” “I,” said the Fish,
“With my little dish, I caught his blood.”
“Who’ll make the shroud?” “I,” said the Beetle,
“With my thread and needle, I’ll make the shroud.”
“Who’ll dig his grave?” “I,” said the Owl,
“With my pick and shovel, I’ll dig his grave.”
“Who’ll be the parson?” “I,” said the Rook,
“With my little book, I’ll be the parson.”
“Who’ll be the clerk?” “I,” said the Lark,
“If it’s not in the dark, I’ll be the clerk.”
“Who’ll carry the link?” “I,” said the Linnet,
“I’ll fetch it in a minute, I’ll carry the link.”
“Who’ll be chief mourner?” “I,” said the Dove,
“I mourn for my love, I’ll be chief mourner.”
“Who’ll carry the coffin?” “I,” said the Kite,
“If it’s not through the night, I’ll carry the coffin.”
“Who’ll bear the pall? “We,” said the Wren,
“Both the cock and the hen, we’ll bear the pall.”
“Who’ll sing a psalm?” “I,” said the Thrush,
“As she sat on a bush, I’ll sing a psalm.”
“Who’ll toll the bell?” “I,” said the bull,
“Because I can pull, I’ll toll the bell.”
All the birds of the air fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll for poor Cock Robin

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(one of the many robins in the yard / Julie Cook / 2014)

3 comments on “Poor ol’ Cock Robin

  1. calmgrove says:

    Nice to see the American Robin so vividly and clearly photographed, Julie. Of course you’ll know that the American Robin (a thrush, as you point out) and the European Robin are different in most respects apart from their distinctive red breasts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Robin). The European Robin appears frequently on British Christmas cards, but is a very common garden bird here around half the year, foraging around bird feeders and having standoffs with other males in spring; one has been nipping in on our bird feeder between a pair of nuthatches and various tits and sparrows today.

    I guess the American Robin got its name from the early settlers’ familiarity with the European original. The same situation applies to the (polecat, a very different animal to the skunk even though that’s also referred to as a polecat — presumably from its smelliness.

    • Oh you are certainly correct—the early colonists did find a similarity—thus our American Robin. They are pretty much year round residents here in Georgia–but they do tend to congregate en masse now until early summer–where there is one, there are 20 or more. They are ground birds, meaning they forage on the ground verses flying up to feeders. . . preferring worms, grubs and insects.
      The robin is the bird in question in the expression “the early bird gets the worm”.
      This time of year, when everything is so barren and brown, birds such as the robin, really do stand out as a nice contrast to the dreariness.
      Thank you for the wonderful info regarding these kissing cousin birds—as well as a tantalizing tidbit regarding polecats— I’ve always heard the very southern expression “I could eat the north end of a south-bound polecat”—but I’ve also heard the substitution of a mule in place of polecat 🙂

      • calmgrove says:

        Thanks for your detailed reply, Julie, especially that very odd polecat expression (which presumably suggests the speaker is lying through their teeth!). By the way, I gave the wrong link for the European polecat — this link should take you to that photograph of a polecat in our field from last year, as dead as a doornail.

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