Weekend Fun: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Blackbirds feature prominently not only in local parks and yards but also in arts and entertainment. There are nearly a dozen films that have Blackbird (or some form of it) as a title. There is the well-known song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. And there are restaurants called Blackbird in several parts of our country – even a pie shop in Brooklyn called Four and Twenty Blackbirds!
The popular rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence probably originated in the 1500s. Shakespeare referenced it in his play Twelfth Night (c. 1602). In this rhyme, the four and twenty blackbirds fly out of a pie, like a surprise, when the king sits down to eat it. Perhaps it’s a reference to the wedding of King Henry IV of France from that period. At his wedding feast, birds were wrapped in napkins and flew up and away when the guests opened their napkins to begin the meal.
Nursery Rhyme: Sing a Song of Sixpence
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing.
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king?
The king was in the counting house
Counting out his money.
The queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden
Hanging up the clothes
Along came a blackbird,
And pecked off her nose.
Make a blackbird collage!
What you need:
- background paper (any color or size)
- assorted paper scraps
- blackbird image (see below)
- glue or gluestick
- optional: twigs, stamp pads, small sponge or cosmetic sponge, objects to stamp, e.g. bottle caps, pencil top, words and numbers cut from magazines or scrapbook paper etc.
What you do:
- Make a collage background by cutting or tearing the assorted paper scraps and adhering them to the background. Include junk mail, pages from damaged books, old envelopes, postage stamps, pages from old magazines – anything you like! Don’t worry if the papers extend over the edge of the background because you can trim them when you have finished the collage. You may want to leave some empty spaces so that the background shows through.
- Optional: When the collage covers about half of the paper, take the ink pad (one or two colors) and stamp randomly over the page with the top of a pencil, a bottle cap, the gluestick cap, a plastic fork – whatever you find. Stamp on the empty space and also over the collage.
- Continue building your collage, leaving some of the stamped patterns showing through.
- Print the blackbird image below. To print: Right click and copy the image, paste it into Google Docs or a word processing program, and print as many as you want for the collage. If you don’t have access to a printer, draw your own blackbird: Use half of an oval shape for the body, a rounded triangle for the wing and tail, and smaller triangles for the beak.
- Add the blackbird(s) to the collage. Optional: Use words, letters, or numbers as a focal point with the birds. In the sample, we used the numbers four and twenty and added four of the bird images. It’s okay if part of the birds are cut off. Artists do this so that it looks like the birds are coming into the page from somewhere else.
- When your art is done, turn over the page and trim anything that sticks out beyond the background paper.
- Optional: Frame your piece by inking the edges using a small sponge and an ink pad.