Bird in a cage

Bird in a Cage.

There’s been a new addition to the Hellfire menagerie of late.

A pretty little parakeet, or budgerigar is chirruping and

singing sweet songs to me as I type. Alas, while these happy sounds cheer me,

they also fill me with a sadness. Yes, the ol’ Reverend’s heart is torn

by a dilemma he cannot solve, but can only seek to ameliorate.

That another stray has been taken in to join the household

is in itself not an unusual occurance. I’ve always been known

for taking in waifs,both human and otherwise,

so I was not taken aback when one of my parishioners

asked me to look after her dead friends budgie. Alas, she told me,

 she felt unable to care for the little creature herself, as the bird brought

too many sad memories of her late friend. But perhaps I…?

Well.. what could I say? Besides, my friend, a poor pensioner,

lived in a tiny bedsit on a busy road. It was noisy and dusty,

 you couldn’t open the was no place for a human being,

let alone a delicate bird.

The problem is I am firmly in the camp of Mr William Blake,

who succinctly expressed his moral outrage on the subject

about two hundred years ago in a pithy little couplet;

“To see a song-bird in a cage

Puts all of Heaven in a Rage.”


Call me a Sentimentalist or a Romantic or whatever you want,

but this I know.

To put a flying creature like the bird in a cage for our own amusement

and self-gratification is just WRONG.

The only birds I’ve ever kept are those that have been injured,

or fallen fledglings too young to fly. If they’ve been fit to fly

the door (and window) is open,

but they’re always welcome to hang around if they want.

(Must tell you sometime about this crow I had once)

On the other hand, “Realism” nudged, this bird has been in captivity

since birth. Not only is it unfamiliar with the “wild”,

but its wings had been clipped

anyway so it couldn’t fly properly.

It wouldn’t last five minutes outside of the cage.

So I took the damn bird home and when I did straightaway

I was kind of glad, because my house is surrounded by trees

and many birds including parrots flock and wheel above.

Bird was so excited when she heard the other parrots.

All she heard back at the bedsit was traffic.

Now she flapped around excitedly,

clinging to the bars, calling to the birds in the trees.

Surely this was better than where she had been, I told myself.

I was glad that now she had other birds to talk to at least,

but it broke my heart also cos it seemed to me she wanted to join them.

But I couldn’t let her out.

The butcher-birds had already noted her presence,

and kept a greedy watch on her whenever her cage was on the verandha.

But yes, she seemed lonely talking to her mirror,

maybe I should get her a companion for company? But then

I’d be compounding the sin by imprisoning another Fellow Creature.

With a lot of time and patience I could train her to sit on my shoulder

and hop around the place outside of the cage, but then

I’d have to clip her wings. Somehow I couldn’t imagine myself

holding down a terrified bird and cutting its feathers,

even if it was for it’s own “good”.


All this moral disquiet made me glad that I wasn’t a Jain.

Not that I don’t admire the Jainist philosophy. Even more so

than the Buddhists, the Jains have a deep repugnance for the taking

of a Life. Their priests are renowned for carrying brooms

with which to sweep the path in front of them as they walk,

lest any insect be trodden on.

Meticulously, they have worked out a complicated system

of   degree’s of blood guilt. For example, to kill an animal

is a great crime, but to take the leather from that slaughtered beast

and make a coat is to commit nearly as great an offence.

A merchant buying then selling the coat on is a slightly lesser offence,

then you have the customer wearing it and so on down the line.

Naturally a lot of professions are forbidden to Jains.

Farming is not a safe profession because it involves

the taking of other lives, bugs, feral animals, etc.

Interestingly, it seems the Jains have come to the conclusion

that the most guilt-free trade to follow is the buying

and selling of precious stones, and as a result many of them

are very wealthy indeed.

Yet, it is not unusual for a wealthy Jainist  Jeweler, after a long

and lucrative career, to give up all of their worldly possessions and retire

to living the Life of a wandering beggar-monk, with only a sarong

and a begging bowl to their name. Oh, and that broom of course.

Sometimes a whole family, a rich and powerful dynasty,

will renounce even their names

and adopt en-masse the mendicants life.


But what of my disquiet at becoming the unwilling keeper

of a creature born to fly in flocks in the skies.

What is the best course for me to pursue, I wondered?

Clipped wings and a limited “freedom”? Open the cage door

and hope for the best? Get her a friend and compound my guilt?

“What if she doesn’t get on with the new bird?” frets my daughter. 

“Why do you assume she won’t” I snap back grumpily,

I already have enough variables to consider.

I’ll probably just get as large a cage as practicable

and bumble along and hope for the best. In the meantime

a little white budgerigar with grey spots is singing and gurgling,

chittering and chattering,

whistling and clicking as I go about my chores

and as I write these words. I must admit it’s a pretty sound,

and we chat nonsense back and forth to each other

as I bustle around the kitchen and she hops around her cage.

“Ah well Fellow Creature,” I addressed the bird consolingly,

” I suppose we’re all prisoners in this World, in the end.”

Bird in a cage


song & dance



The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, an ordained Minister

of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe

and President-elect of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.

No refunds.



~ by reverendhellfire on June 9, 2013.

One Response to “BIRD IN A CAGE”

  1. Touching and compassionate about the little bird…

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