A Wise Old Owl

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"A Wise Old Owl"
Roud #7734
WiseOldOwlWartime.jpg
The US wartime poster using the rhyme
Written by Traditional
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

'A Wise Old Owl' is an English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7734.

Lyrics[edit]

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?[1]


See Spanish version

History[edit]

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.[2] It was quoted by John D. Rockefeller in 1915[1] and is frequently misattributed to Edward Hersey Richards.[3][4][5]

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."[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 340-1.
  2. ^ Punch Vol. LXVIII. 10 April 1875. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  3. ^ "Edward Hersey Richards". PoemHunter.com. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "A Wise Old Owl". LibertyandLife. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Quotes By Edward Hersey Richards". QuotePixel. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  6. ^ "World War II Poster: Wise Old Owl Sat in an Oak". About, Inc. Retrieved 2007-04-11.