“A Wise Old Bird” is an English language nursery rhyme, which in fact it does make references to the older traditional rhyme “There Was An Owl Lived In An Oak”. Which according to The Oxford Dictionary Of Nursery Rhymes, 2nd Ed. of 1997, page 394 is number 394
According to the English rhyme “A wise old owl”, there were some worms living in an oak tree. They went to sleep and waited for their mother to wake them up. Every time she came to wake them up, they yelled: “Go away! Don’t tickle us, don’t bubble us, go away! Shoot your old silver spoons over us and we will wake up.
This version was first published in Punch, April 10, 1875, and ran as follows.
There was an owl liv’d in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
O, if men were all like that wise bird.
One version was published upon bookmarks during the mid-1930s, and goes as follows:
A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard,
Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?
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The rhyme refers to the traditional image of owls as the symbol of wisdom. It was recorded as early as 1875 and is apparently older than that. It was quoted by John D. Rockefeller in 1909 and is frequently misattributed to Edward Hersey Richards and William R. Cubbage.
During World War II, the United States Army used the rhyme on a poster with the tweaked ending, “Soldier…. be like that old bird!” with the caption “Silence means security.”
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