The Nightingale And The Sparrow

A Nightingale was listening to a Shepherd play in order to learn the notes. A Sparrow chided it. Nightingale replied that nobody should stop learning.

You are never too old to learn something new.


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Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: G.W. Bonner (1828)

The Nightingale one day was listening to a Shepherd’s skilful notes on his flageolet, and following them with his voice; the Sparrow who had been watching them for some time, at last broke out, saying, “How provoked I am to see a bird so learned as you are take lessons as if you were a novice, when you must know that the song of the Nightingale was heard with pleasure and admiration long before any instrument of music bad existence, and that it is yourself who are the teacher!”—” However that may be,” said the Nightingale, “if this Shepherd has learnt from me, I may now learn from him—he tries to imitate the capricious variations of my voice, and I may gain much if I can copy his scientific manner of arranging them; and I hope you know that even the voice of a Nightingale might be improved by rule.”


When the man of genius disdains to study, let him remember with the Nightingale in the Fable, that the greatest talents are those most capable of being improved by studious application.

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