The Famous Artificial Bird

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I recall they offered me a woman in a Parisian hotel
Or maybe it was brothel or a boy it's hard to tell
And I, who had once trembled at sight of an artist's model
Now I stumbled for excuses and retreated to the moral

The morphine takes a swift effect and eases the pain
And soon I will be sleeping
Dreaming again

In that dream I take the songs that I have long locked away
And send them to the huckster who put Jenny on display

The mechanical wings flutter as it sings
No expense shall be spared
Cheer loud and long
For such a shrill, hard-hearted song
"You haven't lived until you've heard
The Famous Artificial Bird"

The showman and the automaton make a murderous pair
One spouts false claims
The other imitates the airs
That stole from the throat of a songbird
The very one that I hold dear
But by my notes the fraud and fake appear to be sincere

Children send me money from their American pockets
Believing that I live in genteel poverty
Women care to wear my likeness in their delicate lockets
Men whisper that my tales lack any gravity
In the court they sense the mildew on the ermine and the valvet
Tarnished orders hanging from a sash of satin
Veneers and vain vendettas weary on like operettas
And erase the marble letters of the lost and Latin

The grains are in the glass
A nightmare troubles my slumber
As the waves crash over the bow
And flood precious cargo
Buried in the hull
Addressed to the damn contraiption
That calls like the cries of scavenging gulls
Mocking the broken backs of ships and poor drowned sailors souls

On the eve of his hanging, John Brown read "By The Outermost Sea"
While the ship went down with all hands and secret melodies
They lie just off the union with the Massachusetts shore
And the muffled drums of slow approaching war

The Famous Artificial Bird (unreleased song)
Written byElvis Costello
Performed byElvis Costello

Background:
 Written for Elvis' unfinished chamber opera The Secret Songs.
Known performances:
October 8, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark
October 9, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark
October 10, 2005, Aarhus, Denmark
     (3 known performances)


Category:Unreleased songs1999-00-00 live.jpg


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