Sparrows in culture


This page is a subjective selection of how sparrows influenced various arts and even our everyday objects (see an example at the bottom of the page :-). Since the Roman times, the sparrows have been popular birds, once treated as holy animals of Venus, Goddess of Love. By the 20th century however, this idillic picture has dramatically changed. See a memorial about the extermination of millions of sparrows in China, and the almost world-wide decline of house sparrow populations in our days.

The following sections show how sparrows influenced our culture (mainly poems about sparrows: hungarian translations and some additional hungarian poems can be found here). In several cases in the text below, "science links" show research topics related to the given item.


Sparrow, my girl's little lover,
the playmate she cradles in her breasts
and cruelly teases with her fingertips
to provoke another shrill attack-
when my desire shines too bright,
laughing about something precious
offers a little solace for her pain,
and thinking that such a deep fire
might subside, I want to play with you
as she does and forget my problems.

/Catullus: Carmina/


Alma-Tadema: Lesbia weeping over a sparrowAll you Loves and Cupids cry
and all you men of feeling
my girl's sparrow is dead,
my girl's beloved sparrow.
She loved him more than herself.
He was sweeter than honey, and he
knew her, as she knows her mother.
He never flew out of her lap,
but, hopping about here and there,
just chirped to his lady, alone.
Now he is flying the dark
no one ever returns from.
Evil to you, evil Shades
of Orcus, destroyers of beauty.
You have stolen the beautiful sparrow from me.
Oh sad day! Oh poor little sparrow! Because of you my sweet girl's eyes
are red with weeping, and swollen.

/Catullus: Carmina/


Sure my sparrows are my own,
Let ye then my birds alone,
Come poor birds from foes severe
Fearless come, you're welcome here,
My heart yearns at fate like yours,
A sparrow's life's as sweet as ours.

/John Clare/


Here you can read a nice modern tale about "One year in the Life of a House Sparrow" by Jim Conrad.

Comolera: Two fighting sparrows Moigniez: Fighting of two sparrows

The aggressiveness of sparrows is a main characteristic of their behaviour. This striking behaviour inspired P. Comolera, who produced the bronz sculpture on the left (Fight of two sparrows). Apparently, the subject was a popular one, as the pupil of Comoléra (A. J. Moigniez) made another version, and some other artists did their own as well.


And finally, another level of art ;-)