In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Parrot Speaks True and Plain


This is probably the last of my series of Parrot poems. They were written quite thick and fast through June, with various very topical references. Thanks to my friend Roger Chaffin for suggesting I use the rhyme royal form.

The references to a parrot come from a long and magnificent poem written in the reign of Henry 8th by the poet John Skelton. It was called “Speak, Parrot.” Its parrot was very learnéd but not at all polite. He makes a great play of being nervous of speaking out “true and plain” but was of course persuaded to do so in the end.

You can find my translation/modern adaptation of Skelton’s great poem in the column of titles running down the right hand side of the home page of this website. The Youtube version is an audio recording of my voice reading a summary of the poem. It uses pictures taken from the top of the William Tyndale monument that overlooks the Severn Estuary. The top of that tower can be likened to a kind of cage, reminding us of the parrot’s cage. Tyndale and Skelton were more or less contemporaries and both in their different ways were great writers, publishing their work in tumultuous and dangerous times. Tyndale was burnt to death as a heretic.

In “Speak, Parrot,” Skelton was focussing his attacks on Cardinal Wolsey, and possibly also taking a serious risk in doing so. My more contemporary targets are Cameron, Osborne and Murdoch the press baron and billionaire castle-keeper, friend of Trump.

I have brought these latest little poems of mine together under the title “Parrot Addenda.” The collection of them, with some footnotes at the end, can also now be found on the websites’s home page, down the right, under “Speak Parrot.”

Finally, I ought to mention that the very last couplet of this final rhyme royal stanza is an almost exact quote from the work of another great satirist Alexander Pope. It comes from his poem called “Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot.” Pope was not talking about Brexit when he wrote it. But I am, and if Pope were alive today, I am sure he would approve.