[PW] ? "Bird Sings" Quote (Quotation Query #729)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 09:06:19 PDT 2015

Great work, Karen Stewart, Jay Dillon, and Donna Burton. Below are
some of the citations I posted to another mailing list back on April
10th. Perhaps they will suggest search query ideas for other W0mbats.
Some instances have a two part structure that is similar to the target
quotation, and the theme is comparable, but none is a strong match.

Date: 1886 January 27
Newspaper: Biblical Recorder
Newspaper Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
Quote Page 1, Column 7
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
A fountain doesn't flow because of a sense of duty, but because it is
full; and of its fullness it overflows. A bird doesn't sing because it
has to, but because of the inward thrill that most find vent in the
outward trill.
[End excerpt]

Year: 1889
Book title: Christ and Our Country: Or, A Hopeful View of Christianity
in the Present Day
Author: Reverend John B. Robins (of the North Georgia Conferences)
Edition: Second Edition
Published by Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South
Quote Page: 133


[Begin excerpt]
A bird sings because it has a song and must sing it.
[End excerpt]

Date: 1902 January 6
Newspaper: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Newspaper location: Brooklyn, New York
Section: Progress the Keynote of Sermons in Many of the Churches
Article: Dr. P.S. Henson On Pressing Onward
Article author: P.S. Henson
Quote Page 12, Column 6
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
The spring does not pour forth because it is its duty, the little bird
does not sing because of duty, but because its little heart would
burst if it did not sing.
[End excerpt]

Year: 1949 Copyright
Book title: The Sage of the Hills: Life Story of the Reverend W. G. "Bill" Lucas
Book author: J. M. Gaskin (Jesse Marvin Gaskin)
Printer and Publisher: Oklahoma Baptist University Press, Shawnee, Oklahoma
Subject: William Gilbert Lucas (1874-1947)
Database: HathiTrust
Quote Page: 36

[Begin excerpt]
It should be remembered that the Nightingale does not sing just
because we listen; it sings because it has a song in its heart.
[End excerpt]

Date: 1950 December 17
Newspaper: Richmond Times Dispatch
Newspaper location: Richmond, Virginia
Article: Jenny Lind Sang Here 100 Years Ago and the Memory Is Still Prodigious
Quote Page A7, Column 5 and 6
Database: GenealogyBank

[Begin excerpt]
The import of it, is, simply this--the bird is asked why it sings and
replies, "I know not, I know not, my heart is so full of song I can't
help it!"

Jenny forgets herself, and becomes the bird, and sings as the bird
sings, because she can't help it.
[End excerpt]

The 1970 citation below appeared after the key 1967 book was
published; hence, the instance below may have been directly or
indirectly linked to Anglund's poem.

Date: 1970 February 9
Newspaper: The Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune
Newspaper location: Chillicothe, Missouri
Article: Letters From Two Girls--After Chillicothe, 'Up With People'
to Paris, White House
Quote Page 9
Database: Newspaper.com

[Being excerpt]
Thoughts from the "Up With People" friends included:
"The bird sings not because he has an answer, but because he has a song."
[End excerpt]

Date: 1970 February 22
Newspaper: Rome News-Tribune
Newspaper location: Rome, Georgia
Article: Mrs. Spencer speaks on birds at Laurel Garden Club meeting
Quote Page 6D, Column 3
Database: Google News Archive

[Begin excerpt]
Mrs. Riddle began her program by saying "A bird doesn't sing because
he has the answer, he sings because he has a song."
[End excerpt]

The 1974 citation below does cite Anglund.

Date: 1974 August 19, Newspaper: St. Petersburg Times
Newspaper location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Section: Pinellas Times
(Quotation was a filler item)
Quote Page 2, Column 2

[Begin excerpt]
"A bird does not sing
Because he lias an answer.
He sings
Because he has a song"

[End excerpt]

The 1984 cite below has not been verified on paper. This cite included
the claim that the saying was a "Chinese proverb". I find this
assertion implausible. Apparently, the statement appeared in an
astrology column. Nevertheless, more information on this topic would
be helpful. Verification on paper would be useful.

Year: 1984
Volume 91, Issues 1-3
Title: Mademoiselle
Publisher: Conde Nast, New York
Section: Astrology
Quote Page 144
Database: Google Books snippet; data is imprecise and may be inaccurate

[Begin extracted text]
Your year ahead can be summed up by a lovely Chinese proverb: "A bird
does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a
[End extracted text]

The 1988 cite below also claimed that the saying was a "Chinese
proverb". The text is visible in page scans in the Google News

Date: 1988 December 15
Newspaper: New Straits Times
Newspaper location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Section: MCCE Bulletin (Malaysian Council for Computers in Education)
Article: CALL Learning Environment -- the Present And Future
Quote Page 3, Column 4
Database: Google News Archive

[Begin excerpt]
Reminds one of the Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it
has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
[End excerpt]

Apparently, Maya Angelou employed the saying during an interview.

Website: Blues GR: Keep the Blues Alive: Blog,
Article title: Dr. Maya Angelou: A Muse In Our Midst
Article description: Interview of Dr. Maya Angelou by Michael Limnios
Date on website: June 1, 2013,
Website description: The online community of people that got the blues
in Greece.
(Accessed blues.gr on April 9, 2015)


[Begin excerpt]
I wrote the book because "Bird Sings Why The Caged I Know" is a song.
A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer it sings because it has a
[End excerpt]


On Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 11:39 AM, K. Stewart <kjostew at verizon.net> wrote:
> This quotation, in varying forms, is seen frequently with the simple attribution of "Chinese proverb."  I suspect that it may be connected with the book Wu Wei, a Phantasy Based on the Philosophy of Lao-Tse.  This book was published in 1911 by M.E. Reynolds, New York, and is translated from the Dutch of Henri Borel. It can be viewed on HathiTrust at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.32044060301603?urlappend=%3Bseq=42.  The quotation from the book reads:
> "Why does the bird sing? Do you know that, my son? "Because they cannot help it, Father, because they simply must give their nature vent in that way! It is Wu Wei!"
> However, I've also found a couple of other similar quotations.  One is from a story called "Eudora; or, the Haunted House." (A Fairy Tale for Young People.)  It was published in The Ladies' Companion, and Monthly Magazine, Ser. 2, v. 5, 1854, and may also be found on HathiTrust at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/chi.105227098?urlappend=%3Bseq=289.  The relevant excerpt (p. 263)  is:
> "That bird, again," said the fairy, gravely, "is the picture of yourself, Eudora! Such you have been at home--a vain, pert, conceited thing, dressed out in all the colours of the rainbow, parading in empty-headed vanity before your glass, indulging in all the airs and graces imaginable, regardless of all but a glittering outside; without one redeeming quality to set off against the loud, discordant voice, inflated by bad temper, loaded with abuse! That bird has no reason, and acts merely after its nature; but you are gifted with it; and which, think you, is the most disgusting peacock of the two? The beautiful feathers that adorn that bird are its own--the magnificent gift of Nature; and he may well be a little proud of them; but you, from whence come all your gaudy articles of attire, of which you are so vain? Do you know? You shall see!"
> The last similar quotation I found was post-1967 but again, purports to have its origins in international wisdom or proverbs, although the poem was written by Anthony de Mello.  It's called "The Song of the Bird" and was first published in 1982.  It reads:
> "Why does the bird sing?" said the Master.
> Not because he has a statement, but because he has a song.
> The words of the Scholar are to be understood. The words of the Master are not to be understood. They are to be listened to as one listens to the wind in the trees and the sound of the river and the song of the bird. They will awaken something within the heart that is beyond all knowledge."
> This can be viewed online on many sites; one is http://www.yin4men.com/blog-3/files/026bf408b6d31e7613351b51dbd93e74-9.html.
> I don't know if this will help, but it's all I've been able to find to this point.
> Karen Stewart
> On 04/24/15, Burton, Donna wrote:
> Would this qualify or is it too far off the mark:
> "The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that
> sang best" --Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)
> Donna Burton
> Reference Librarian
> Schaffer Library
> burtond at union.edu
> Union College
> Schenectady, NY 12308
> On Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 10:27 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>
> wrote:
>> Joan Walsh Anglund wrote ""A bird does not sing because he has an answer.
>> He sings because he has a song." in a 1967 book. Does anyone know of any
>> similar sayings that appeared before 1967?
>> Fred Shapiro
>> _______________________________________________
>> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat
>> list at project-wombat.org
>> http://www.project-wombat.org/
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-Wombat
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/

More information about the Project-Wombat-Open mailing list