Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Key to Doing an Assignment Well

During my first year of high school, I had to take a speech class. One of the speeches we were required to give was the reading of a poem. I chose "The Owl Critic" by James T. Fields. I was shy and didn't want to do the assignment, but it is such a great poem, it made the assignment easy. It is still one of my favorite poems. Many times, the key to doing an assignment well, is finding the right poem, topic, or project for you.

The Owl Critic
James T. Fields

"Who stuffed that white owl?" No one spoke in the shop,
The barber was busy, and he couldn't stop;
The customers, waiting their turns, were all reading
The "Daily," the "Herald," the "Post," little heeding
The young man who blurted out such a blunt question;
Not one raised a head, or even made a suggestion;
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Don't you see, Mr. Brown," cried the youth, with a frown,
"How wrong the whole thing is, how preposterous each wing is,
How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is --
In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck 't is!
I make no apology; I've learned owl-eology.

I've passed days and nights in a hundred collections,
And cannot be blinded to any deflections
Arising from unskilful fingers that fail
To stuff a bird right, from his beak to his tail.
Mister Brown! Mr. Brown! Do take that bird down,
Or you'll soon be the laughingstock all over town!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

studied owls, and other night-fowls,
And I tell you what I know to be true;
An owl cannot roost with his limbs so unloosed;
No owl in this world ever had his claws curled,
Ever had his legs slanted, ever had his bill canted,
Ever had his neck screwed into that attitude.
He cant
do it, because 'tis against all bird-laws.

Anatomy teaches, ornithology preaches,
An owl has a toe that
can't turn out so!
I've made the white owl my study for years,
And to see such a job almost moves me to tears!
Mr. Brown, I'm amazed you should be so gone crazed
As to put up a bird in that posture absurd!
look at that owl really brings on a dizziness;
The man who
stuffed him don't half know his business!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

"Examine those eyes; I'm filled with surprise
Taxidermists should pass off on you such poor glass;
So unnatural they seem they'd make Audubon scream,
And John Burroughs laugh to encounter such chaff.
Do take that bird down; have him stuffed again, Brown!"
And the barber kept on shaving!

"With some sawdust and bark I could stuff in the dark
An owl better than that. I could make an old hat
Look more like an owl than that horrid fowl,
Stuck up there so stiff, like a side of coarse leather.
In fact, about
him there's not one natural feather."

Just then, with a wink and a sly normal lurch,
The owl, very gravely, got down from his perch,
Walked around, and regarded his fault-finding critic
(Who thought he was stuffed) with a glance analytic,
And then fairly hooted, as if he should say:
"Your learning's at fault
this time, anyway:
Don't waste it again on a live bird, I pray.
I'm an owl; you're another. Sir Critic, good day!"
And the barber kept on shaving.

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