In Mattimeo, Chapter 29, the rescuers' party encounters Sir Harry, an owl who speaks in poetry for much of his dialogue. For one example, this is how he introduces himself:

"Why, pray, do you suppose?
I'm master of poetry and prose,
No equal have I in field or wood,
No creature a smidgeon, a fraction as good.
And if you need a poet, why, here's one to choose,
This Owl. . . . Sir Harry the Muse."

Both Matthias and Basil Stag Hare try to impress Sir Harry. Here is Matthias's attempt:

"Business for goodness sake,
Perhaps we can find some cake.
Maybe, my friend, we will bring to you
A shrewcake baked by a shrew."

At first Sir Harry looked undecided, then he stamped his talons and clacked his hooded beak in approval.

"Not bad, not bad at all.
At least it made me smile.
For a Warrior, I'd say quite good,
You have a certain style."

It appears that Sir Harry approves of Matthias's poem. However, the owl's opinion of Basil's poetry is just about the opposite.

"I beg you to listen to me,
I'm a fellow spirit, you see.
I was once considered a champion poet.
I just thought you'd like to know it. . . ."

Cheek tittered and avoided Basil's paw in the same instant.
Sir Harry turned his back and delivered a cutting line:

"I beg, I implore you, sir,
Stick to being a hare!"

Why is there such a difference in Sir Harry's reaction to these two poems? Note that I have tagged this ; I'm not looking for just an analysis of the poems, but an analysis of how Sir Harry would have analyzed the poems, and the reasoning behind his opinions of them.

  • 1
    One possibility: Basil's poem claims that Basil is a champion poet, setting him up as a rival to Sir Harry. And of course, this offends Sir Harry's ego. I haven't read the book, so I don't know whether this is in accord with how Sir Harry is depicted, but it seems possible from the short quotes in your question.
    – Peter Shor
    Apr 16 '21 at 17:29

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