The Bee and The Cuckoo

A Bee asked a chanting Cuckoo to cease repetition. The Cuckoo said everything the Bee does is the same. Bee responded that in art monotony must be avoided.

In works of taste and amusement, monotony is to be avoided.

JBR CollectionJBR Collection

A Bee, flying out of his hive, said to a Cuckoo, who was chanting on a bush hard by, “Peace! why do you not leave off your monotonous pipe? There never was a bird who had such a tiresome unvaried song as you have, ‘Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo,’ and ‘Cuckoo,’ again and again.” “Oh,” cries the Cuckoo, “I wonder you find fault with my note, which is as much varied as your labours, for if you had a hundred hives to fill, you would make them all exactly alike; if I invent nothing new, surely everything you do is as old as the creation of the world.” To which the Bee replied, “I allow it, but in useful arts the want of variety is never an objection. But in works of taste and amusement, monotony is of all things to be avoided.”


[Note: The Northcote fable is the same fable as in the JBR Collection above. Only the illustrations and Application associated with the fable in the Northcote book are displayed here.]


The Cuckoo in the Fable is a good representation of our pretended connoisseurs, who not having the capacity to judge of works of art or taste; expose themselves to ridicule when they assume the critic, and appear equally impertinent both in their censure and their praise.
From the Spanish.

JN Fable 065

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: J. Jackson (1828)

JN Fable 065a

Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: J. Jackson (1828)