R.E.M. Lyric Annotations FAQ
R.E.M.: Document: King of Birds



King of Birds
The title refers to Aesop's Fable; perhaps also to Dr. Seuss's "Yertle the Turtle". [Ron Henry] * The most likely source of inspiration for King of Birds, however, is William Wharton's book Birdy, which Michael had read on the UK leg of the Reconstruction tour in 1985. [ICFTS]

"A thumbnail sketch, a jeweler's stone"
A thumbnail sketch, in art, is a small preliminary sketch. A jeweler's stone is used in cutting of precious gems. [Ron Henry]

"A mean idea to call my own"
See also Heron House. [Ron Henry]

"Standing on the shoulders of giants leaves me cold"
Though usually attributed to Newton, [this quote] is not his originally. The following appeared in "The Decline and Fall of Footnotes" by Bruce Anderson, in Stanford: "As Sir Isaac Newton modestly noted in a letter to Robert Hooks. 'If I have seen further [than you and Descartes] it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants.' [Footnote:] Not only did Newton's work build on that of others, his comment to Hooke did, too. This aphorism was apparently a commonplace in the 17th century. It has been used for almost 2,000 years, by writers ranging from Lucan to George Herbert, from Bernard of Chartes to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Robert K. Merton explored it fully in his short book, On The Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (Free Press, 1965)." [calbear]

"Singer sing me a given"
See Little America.

"I am king of all I see, my kingdom for a voice"
[From Thoreau's Walden]: "I am the monarch of all I survey..." In the essay that I read ("Where I lived and What I Lived For") Thoreau discusses birds at great length, their connection to nature, etc. [schuster, exact text found by Colin McMillen] * See also Shakespeare's King Richard III, V.iv:7, "A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" [Chris Piuma]

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