Day 23 — Shakespeare & birds & eccentrics: but no rabbits 

23 scotland-starling-murmuration

April 23 is, as I said Monday (Plague Lear), Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday/choose-your-own-anniversary-day. Each year I write something Bill-affiliated. This is the reserve idea mentioned then even though it’s been in my mind for several years ever since reading an article about … well, see below.

A second part  2. Austin’s rabbits, exploring the introduction of rabbits to Australia is also intended, but owing to: a) part 1’s length; b) my inability to reduce a); & c: my weariness, I’m only going to upload part 1. Part 2, although currently incomplete, I still see very much as a companion to this poem. When a first draft of it is finalised, it might help me work out what to trim here.


the law of unintended consequences: Schieffelin’s starlings & Austin’s rabbits

1. Schieffelin’s starlings

i. 1596, London
Shakespeare penning Henry IV, Part 1 :
Hotspur plots to drive Harry nuts
by teaching a starling to repeat
his brother-in-law Mortimer’s name
till he is released from Welsh prison.
the only reference to the bird
in all the Bard’s eclectic opus
— a throwaway line from a country
twitcher turned urban playwright.

ii. 1890, New York
March 6, 1890, Central Park
German immigrant, Bronx resident,
wealthy American businessman,
gentleman, (eccentric) drug manufacturer
American Acclimatization Society member,
& Shakespearian aficionado or fanatic
depending on who you ask
— Eugene Schieffelin —
decided it would be a lark
to introduce (imported from
the Old World at great expense)
every bird spoken in Shakespeare
to North America.

& so 100 birds fly off
into the virgin new world blue

iii. Now
numbering over 200 million
from Alaska to Mexico
these lean mean feathered bullets
do nothing in moderation.
the Rocky Balboas of bird boxing
fierce fighters for nest cavities
regularly muscle out native birds
& blamed for their population declines.
willing & able to eat anything
breed with disconcerting vigour.
— have brought down planes
cost US agriculture a billion a year
steal cows’ grain condensing milk production.

iv. Retrospect
Schieffelin’s attempts
to introduce skylarks
bullfinches, chaffinches, & nightingales
were thankfully, unsuccessful.
however, starlings, sparrows, & pigeons
remain the only unprotected avine
in North America (all introduced)
their numbers in total more
than all other birds combined.

no doubt had he future-known
Bill would have taken up
his quill
& struck
said references from his pages
most vigourously.



Note: some scholars reject the theory that Schieffelin belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works wanting to hear them warbling their old world songs on the limbs & branches of America … but I have used it irregardless because, poetry. Everything else is as factual as my research can make it.