The Parrot (Robert E. Howard)


In a 1934 letter to H. P. Lovecraft, Howard discussed his use of a seemingly prescient parrot in the Conan story "Iron Shadows on the Moon." His recollections, and the reconstruction, appear as follows:

I'm afraid I can't claim originality in regard to the parrot and his repetition of the god's invocation [in “Iron Shadows on the Moon”]. I got the idea from a poem of Noyes', entitled, I believe, 'The Parrot". As I remember, it goes something like this:
 
When the king and his folk lay dead,
   And the murderous horde was gone,
He gnawed through his cage and fled
   To the sheltering woods alone.
But after an endless age,
   He was taken by man once more;
And swung in a sturdier cage
   By a white-washed ale-house door.
Through the long hot afternoon,
   From his place by the blistered wall,
He whistled a dark old tune,
   And called as a ghost might call:
"Farlo, merillo, geray!"
   And the wondering people heard
The voice of the dead that day
   Talking again in a bird.
 
The poem ends on what seems to me a powerful and shuddersome note
 
And once, oh dreadful and wild,
   In the blaze of the noonday sun,
It shrieked like a frightened child
  That into the dark has gone.


Here's the Alfred Noyes original
 
THE PARROT

When the king and his folk lay dead,
     And the murderous hordes had gone,
He gnawed through his cage and fled
     To the swallowing woods alone;
But, after an endless age,
     He was taken by a man once more;
And swung in a sturdier cage
     By a sun-bleached wine-house door.

And there, on a hot white noon,
     From his place on the blistered wall,
He whistled a dark old tune
     And called, as a ghost may call,
Farlo — Merillo — Rozace,
     With a chuckle of impish glee,
The words of the vanished race,
     That none knew now but he.

Farlo – Merillo – Geray!
     And the spell struck listeners heard
The tongue of the dead that day
     Talking again in a bird;
And his eyes were like blood-red stones,
     For round him the wise men drew,
And coaxed him with terrapin bones
     To tell the words he knew.

Sleek as a peach was his breast
     His long wings green as palms;
And, whiles, like a prince he’d jest,
     Then, beggar-like, whine for alms;
And, whiles, like a girl in flight
     He’d titter, then mimic a kiss,
And chuckle again with delight
     In that wicked old way of his.

He’d courtesy low, and he’d dance
     On his perch, and mockingly leer,
And stiffen himself and prance
     For the grey-beards listening there;
And once – O, dreadful and wild,
     In the blaze of that noonday sun;
He shrieked, like a frightened child,
     That into the dark had gone.

—Alfred Noyes
Dick Turpin's Ride and Other Poems 1927


This work published after December 31, 2002 is in the public domain in the United States because the author died at least 70 years ago. This is a posthumous work and may be copyrighted in certain countries and areas, based on how many years after posthumous publication, rather than how many years after author's death.


The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.