John Skelton

John Skelton (?1462-1529): exuberant self-proclaimed poet laureate, much given to musing on his own ineffable effable name, and author of (among other things) Speke Parrot: a gloriously inclusive satire in the voice of the parrot itself, which veers from crying out against the abuses of the times to calling for almonds or dates, and occasionally ventriloquizing other people’s suspicion of cats. It begins:

My name is Parrot / a byrd of paradyse,
By nature deuysed / of a wonderuos kynde
Dyentely dyeted / wt dyuers dylycate spyce
Tyl Euphrates that flode / dryueth me into Inde
where men of that countrey / by fortune me fynd
And send me / to greate ladyes of estate
Then parot / must haue an almon or a date.

¶ A cage curyously caruen / with syluer pyn
Properly paynted / to be my couertowre
A myrrour of glasse / that I may toote therin
These maidens ful mekely wt many a diuers flowre
Freshly they dresse / and make swete my bowre
with speke parrot I pray you / full curtesly they say
Parrot is a goodly byrd / a prety Popagay.

[Text from Certayne bokes, co[m]pyled by mayster Skelton, Poet Laureat, published 1545 – but there is an excellent modern edition by John Scattergood.]

See also this animated version.

Or, for more information than you could possibly want on the subject unless you’re an academic, this book.

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