The Starling by Sterne

Letter T.

'Tis true, said I, correcting the proposition—the Bastile is not an evil to be despised; but strip it of its towers, fill the fosse, unbarricade the doors, call it simply a confinement, and suppose it is some tyrant of a distemper, and not a man which holds you in it, the evil vanishes, and you bear the other half without complaint. I was interrupted in the heyday of this soliloquy, with a voice which I took to be of a child, which complained "It could not get out." I looked up and down the passage, and seeing neither man, woman, or child, I went out without further attention. In my return back through the passage, I heard the same words repeated twice over; and looking up, I saw it was a starling, hung in a little cage; "I can't get out, I can't get out," said the starling. I stood looking at the bird; and to every person who came through the passage, it ran fluttering to the side towards which they approached it with the same lamentation of its captivity. "I can't get out," said the starling. "Then I will let you out," said I, "cost what it will;" so I turned about the cage to get at the door—it was twisted and double twisted so fast with wire there was no getting it open without pulling the cage to pieces; I took both hands to it. The bird flew to the place where I was attempting his deliverance, and thrusting his head through the trellis, pressed his breast against it, as if impatient. "I fear, poor creature," said I, "I cannot set thee at liberty." "No," said the starling; "I can't get out, I can't get out," said the starling.

Starling.

I vow, I never had my affections more tenderly awakened; nor do I remember an incident in my life, where the dissipated spirits to which my reason had been a bubble were so suddenly called home. Mechanical as the notes were, yet so true in tune to nature were they chaunted, that in one moment they overthrew all my systematic reasonings upon the Bastile, and I heavily walked up-stairs unsaying every word I had said in going down them.

Sterne.