O’er a mansion’s stately portals
Only passed by ducal mortals
I observed the Parrot perching,
And a coronet he wore; 1
He’d an air of resignation, 2
And with sad disapprobation
He suggested to the public
That “Your food will cost you more.”

Then a Premier, looking harried, 3
For an instant came and tarried,
Tarried in a gloomy manner,
Just before the ducal door.
“Bird,” he said, “you vowed together
We should face the stormy weather,” 4
But the Parrot only muttered
That “Your food will cost you more.”

“Bird,” he cried, “I have not faltered
For three weeks, and nothing altered
Was my little speech at Sheffield 5
From my pamphlet writ before. 6
As you rather liked the latter,
What on earth can be the matter
With the former?” But the Parrot
Said “Your food will cost you more.”

“Bird,” he said, “you did deceive me;
In this crisis now you leave me; 7
You I held as quite converted!”
But the bird began to snore. 8
While the Premier sadly plodded
On his way, the Parrot nodded,
Nodded, croaking in his slumbers
That “Your (snore) will (snore) you more.”


All peers in the United Kingdom are entitled to a coronet, the precise style of which varies according to rank. The coronet is only ever worn as part of the peer’s ceremonial dress at the coronation of the monarch, its main use being as part of the peer’s heraldic achievement, where it appears immediately above the shield of arms. A dukes’s coronet consists of a circlet surrounded by eight strawberry leaves: in two-dimensional representations (eg on armorial bearings), three leaves are fully visible and two (one on each side) are partially visible.


The Duke of Devonshire submitted his letter of resignation to the Prime Minister on 2 October. The official announcement that the King had accepted his resignation was published on 5 October.


Balfour, the Prime Minister, had only just succeeded in filling five government vacancies created by the resignations of Joseph Chamberlain and four of his free trade opponents some three weeks earlier; the announcement of the new appointments appeared on the same day as that of the Duke’s resignation.


Balfour’s response to Devonshire’s letter of resignation was written in tones of surprise and indignation. He reminded the Duke that,

It was on Wednesday, September 16, [the day after two of the free traders has submitted their letters of resignation] that you informed me of your resolve to remain in the government.

And he went on,

This decision was preceded by much confidential correspondence, much intimate conversation. [. . .] A decision arrived at after these preliminaries I had a right to consider final; and final I certainly considered it.


This was Balfour’s speech to the conference of the National Union of Conservative Associations on 1 October 1903. In his resignation letter, Devonshire stated that it was this speech which

made it necessary for me finally and definitely to decide whether I am so far in agreement with yourself on the question of fiscal policy as to make it possible for me [. . .] to remain a member of your Government.


On 15 September, Balfour had published a pamphlet, “Economic Notes on Insular Free Trade”, which was a reprint of notes circulated to Cabinet in early August. This, he reminded Devonshire,

you had in your possession (before the generality of the Cabinet) at the end of July.

And, he asserted,

there was no doctrine contained in that speech [in Sheffield] which was not equally contained in my “Notes on Insular Free Trade”


Balfour’s indignation is clearly expressed in his response to the Duke:

[. . .] if any other man in the world but yourself had expended so much inquisitorial subtlety in detecting imaginary heresies, [ie discrepancies between the speech and the pamphlet] I should have surmised that he was more anxious to pick a quarrel than particular as to the sufficiency of its occasion.

He was particularly indignant about the effect the timing of the resignation would have on his efforts to heal the divisions within the Conservative party created by the opposing attitudes to tariff reform:

[. . .] am I unreasonable in thinking that your resignation gives me some just occasion of complaint [. . .] Had you resigned on the 15th or had you not resigned at all this healing effect would have suffered no interruptions. To resign now and to resign on the speech is to take the course most calculated to make yet harder the hard task of the peacemaker.


Once again—see poem 01 fn 09—Devonshire is represented as having a tendency to doze off at inappropriate moments.

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