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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Birds
By Edmondo De Amicis (1846–1908)
 
From ‘Constantinople’

CONSTANTINOPLE has one grace and gayety peculiar to itself, that comes from an infinite number of birds of every kind, for which the Turks nourish a warm sentiment and regard. Mosques, groves, old walls, gardens, palaces, all resound with song, the whistling and twittering of birds; everywhere wings are fluttering, and life and harmony abound. The sparrows enter the houses boldly, and eat out of women’s and children’s hands; swallows nest over the café doors, and under the arches of the bazaars; pigeons in innumerable swarms, maintained by legacies from sultans and private individuals, form garlands of black and white along the cornices of the cupolas and around the terraces of the minarets; sea-gulls dart and play over the water; thousands of turtle-doves coo amorously among the cypresses in the cemeteries; crows croak about the Castle of the Seven Towers; halcyons come and go in long files between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmora; and storks sit upon the cupolas of the mausoleums. For the Turk, each one of these birds has a gentle meaning, or a benignant virtue: turtle-doves are favorable to lovers, swallows keep away fire from the roofs where they build their nests, storks make yearly pilgrimages to Mecca, halcyons carry the souls of the faithful to Paradise. Thus he protects and feeds them, through a sentiment of gratitude and piety; and they enliven the house, the sea, and the sepulchre. Every quarter of Stamboul is full of the noise of them, bringing to the city a sense of the pleasures of country life, and continually refreshing the soul with a reminder of nature.  1
 
 
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