RHET: Eagles and parrots (was Re: The Conscious Mind)

Michael Butler (mbutler@ocv1.ocv.com)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 21:58:19 PST

>><"When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber." --Winston

It means that while the parrots are sitting around squawking, the birds of
prey are silently watching from above.

Obviously, Churchill did know "how rarely eagles speak when away from their
highly-situated nests." That's the point.
I'm not sure that's actually Churchill's point. Consider...

A very basic rhetorical rewording of the actual quote might be:
"Unless the eagles
(in conventional mythology, they're high-status symbols of freedom;
symbolically akin to ideal citizens of a free state)
(which they, proud birds that they mythologically are, rarely do),
the parrots
(mythically comical, stupid, non-raptorial, non-high status, given to
mere raucousness and mimicry--symbolically akin to monkeys)

No soaring or predation needed. So what did Churchill mean?

Without more context, I would only be guessing--I could guess that he
meant the eagles to be Allied statesmen or military staff, and the parrots
to be the press, or perhaps just the yellow journalists. That sounds like the
kind of thing Churchill would let himself be quoted as having said.
:) :)

MMB, at but not for On Command