No. III—pp. 31 and 141.

THERE must be few readers who are not familiar with this story through the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, but it was popular several centuries before that celebrated collection was rendered into English from Galland's French translation, as it is one of the tales of the Seven Wise Masters and the Seven Sages, old English prose and metrical versions of the Historia Septem Sapientum Romæ, or of Dolopathos, which are Latin and French adaptations of the Book of Sindibād. In our common version of the Thousand and One Nights, the Story of the Parrot is told (in the introduction) by King Yunan, when his counsellers urged him to put the sage Dūbān to death; but in the Būlāq and Calcutta printed Arabic texts, the king says: “I should repent after it, as King Sindibād repented of killing his falcon;” then follows the well-known story of the king who killed his falcon, under the mistaken idea that it had, from mere wantonness, repeatedly dashed from his hand the cup of spring water, when he was about to drink, and afterwards found that a venomous serpent lay coiled at the spring-head.*

The 68th chapter of Swan's Gesta Romanorum seems imitated from the Story of the Parrot: A certain king had a fair but vicious wife. It happened that her husband having occasion to travel, the lady sent for her gallant, and rioted in every excess of wickedness. Now one of her handmaids, it seems, was skilful in interpreting the song of birds, and in the court of the castle there were three cocks. During the night, while the gallant was with his mistress, the first cock began to crow. The lady heard it, and said to her servant: “Dear friend, what says yonder cock?” She replied: “That you are grossly injuring your husband.” “Then,” said the lady, “kill that cock without delay.” They did so, but soon after, the second cock crew, and the lady repeated her question. “Madam,” said the handmaid, “he says, ‘My companion died for reveal­ing the truth, and for the same cause I am prepared to die.’” “Kill him!” cried the lady, which they did. After this, the third cock crew. “What says he?” asked she again. “Hear, see, and say nothing, if you would live in peace.” “Oh, don't kill him,” said the lady.

The frame, or leading story, of the Persian collection of Nakhshabī, entitled, Tūtī Nāma, Parrot-Book, or Tales of a Parrot, is similar to our tale: A man bought, for a large sum of money, a wonderful parrot, that could talk eloquently and intelligently, and shortly afterwards, a sharyk—a species of nightingale, according to Gerrans, “which imitates the human voice in so surprising a manner, that, if you do not see the bird, you cannot help being deceived”—and put it in the same cage with the parrot. When he was about to set out on a distant journey, he told his wife, that, whenever she had any important affair to transact, she must first ask the advice of the parrot and the sharyk, and do nothing without their sanction. Some months after he was gone, his wife saw from the roof of her house a very handsome young prince pass along the street with his attendants, and immediately became enamoured of him. The prince also perceived the lady, and sent an old woman to solicit an assigna­tion with her on the same evening. The lady consents to meet him, and having arrayed herself in her finest apparel, proceeds to the cage, and first consults the sharyk upon the propriety of her intended intrigue; but the bird forbade her to go, upon which the lady in a rage seized the faithful bird, and dashed it on the ground, so that it instantly died. She then represented her case to the parrot, who, having witnessed the fate of his unhappy companion, prudently resolved to temporise with the amorous dame, and accordingly “commiserated her situation, quenched the fire of indignation with the water of flattery, and began a tale conformable to her temperament,” which he took care to protract till morning. In this manner, night after night, the parrot contrives to keep the lady at home until her husband's return.—The first story the parrot relates, according to Gerrans (and also in Kāderī's abridgment; but it is the 5th in MS. No. 2573, in the India Office), is of a merchant, who, having occasion to travel, left his wife and house in charge of a sagacious parrot —a cockatoo, according to Gerrans. During his absence his wife had an intrigue with a young man, who came to the house every evening; but on the merchant's return, the discreet bird, while giving a faithful account of all other transactions, said not a word in reference to the lady's merry pranks. The husband soon hears of them, however, from his neighbours, and punishes his wife. Suspecting the parrot to have blabbed, the lady goes at night to the cage, takes out the bird, plucks off all its feathers, and throws it into the street. In the morning, when the merchant misses his favourite bird, she tells him that a cat had carried it away, but he discredits her story, and thrusts her out of doors. Meantime the parrot had taken up his abode in a burying-ground, to which the poor wife now also retires; and the parrot advises her to shave her head and remain there fasting during forty days, after which she should be reconciled to her husband. This she does, and at the end of the prescribed period the parrot goes to his old master, and upbraids him with his cruel treatment of his innocent wife, adding that she had been fasting forty days in the burying-ground. The merchant hastens to seek his wife, asks her forgiveness, and they live together ever afterwards in perfect harmony. “In like manner,” adds the story-telling parrot, “I shall conceal your secret from your husband, or make your peace with him if he should find it out.”

The Tūtī Nāma of Nakhshabī was composed about A. D. 1320; it was preceded, according to Pertsch, by a similar Persian work, by an unknown author, which was based upon a Sanskrit book, now lost, of which the Suka Saptatī, Seventy Tales of a Parrot, is only an abstract, and other sources. And here the question is suggested: Was the Sindibād story of the Husband and the Parrot imitated or adapted from the frame, or leading tale, of the original Sanskrit Parrot-Book, or was the idea of the latter taken from the Book of Sindibād? However this may be, the principal story of the Tūtī Nāma presents some points of re­semblance to incidents in one of the numerous legends of the famous hero Rasalū, which are current in the Panjāb, namely, the story of Rāja Sirikop and Rasalū, kindly communicated to me by General James Abbott, from a small work which he had printed for private circulation, at Calcutta, in 1851. The conclusion of this legend seems to be the original of our old European tale of the cruel knight who caused the heart of his wife's paramour to be dressed and served up to her for supper. Rasalū, having slain the inhuman Rāja Sirikop, who played at dice for the heads of his guests, took away his infant daughter Kokla, and, when she was of age, married her. The Rana Kokla had seldom the society of her husband, as he was pas­sionately devoted to the chase, but he left behind him, as spies upon her conduct, two birds, which could talk intelligently, a parrot and a mina, or hill starling. While Rasalū was absent on a hunting excursion, his young and lonely bride was seated at her window one day, when the handsome Rāja Hodi chanced to see her as he rode past. “And she saw him, and he took the place which Rasalū had left vacant in her heart… So Rana Kokla threw him down a rope, which she tied firmly to the balcony. And Rāja Hodi clambered up to the balcony by this rope, and entered the chamber of Rana Kokla. And the mina exclaimed: ‘What wickedness is this?’ Then Hodi went straight to the mina's cage and wrung its neck. So the parrot, taking warning, said: ‘The steed of Rasalū is swift; what if he should surprise you? Let me out of my cage, and I will fly over the palace, and will inform you the instant he appears in sight.’ And Kokla said: ‘O excellent bird! do even as thou hast said,’ and she released the bird from its cage. Then the parrot flew swift as an arrow to Dumtūr, and alighting upon Rasalū's shoulder, as he hunted the stag, exclaimed: ‘O Raja, a cat is at your cream!’” The sequel is nearly identical with the catastrophe of the story in Boccaccio's Decameron, Day iv, Nov. 9, and the French tradition of Raoul de Coucy and the Lady of Fayel.—It is possible that the two birds of Rasalū may have suggested the frame of the Sanskrit prototype of the Tūtī Nāma. At all events, the legends of Rasalū and other ancient Indian heroes have been time out of mind the stock-in-trade of the wandering bards of the Panjāb, from whom General Abbott obtained this wild tale, among many others.*

Wonderfully-gifted parrots are the principal characters in many of the Hindū tales. The facility with which this bird imitates human speech, together with the doctrine of metempsychosis— and the allied notion of a person being able by magical power to transfer his own soul into the dead body of any animal or bird, upon which, for example, the romance of King Vikram is based —probably induced the fablers of India to adopt the parrot as the favourite character in their fictions. But apart from the marvellous parrot of Oriental romance, it would appear from the accounts of grave authors, Western as well as Eastern, that the bird is not only capable of repeating words and phrases which it has been taught, but is possessed of considerable intel­ligence. Locke, in his Essay on the Human Understanding, relates a curious anecdote of a parrot which answered rationally several questions which it was asked by Prince Maurice, one of which was: “What do you there (i.e. at Marignan)?” The parrot replied: “I look after the chickens.” The prince laughed, and said: “You look after the chickens!” to which the parrot replied: “Yes, I; and I know well enough how to do it,” at the same time clucking in imitation of the noise made by the hen to call together her young ones.—Willoughby tells of a parrot which, when one said, “Laugh, Poll, laugh,” laughed, accord­ingly, and the instant after screamed out, “What a fool you are to make me laugh!” Rhodiginus mentions a parrot that could recite correctly the whole of the Apostles' Creed, and of another that could repeat a sonnet from Petrarch. But these feats dwindle into insignificance when compared with the accomplish­ments of parrots referred to by the Arabian historian El-Ishākī (cited by Lane, 1001 Nights, i, p. 111, note 22), one of which could repeat the 36th chapter of the Qur'ān, the other recited the whole of the Qur'ān!—Goldsmith relates that a parrot be­longing to Henry VII, having been kept in a room next to the Thames, in his palace at Westminster, had learned to repeat many sentences from the boatmen and passengers. One day, sporting on its perch, it fell into the water. The bird had no sooner discovered its situation than it called out: “A boat! twenty pounds for a boat!” A waterman, happening to be near the place where the parrot was floating, immediately took it up and restored it to the king, demanding, as the bird was a favourite, that he should be paid the reward it had called out. This was refused; but it was agreed that, as the parrot had offered a reward, the man should again refer to its determina­tion for the sum he was to receive. “Give the knave a groat!” the bird screamed the instant the reference was made.