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Singing in Tribulation

Confessing when put to the torture. Such a person is termed in goal slang a “canary bird.”

“ `This man, sir, is condemned to the galleys for being a canary-bird.' `A canary-bird!' exclaimed the knight. `Yes, sir,' added the arch-thief; `I mean that he is very famous for his singing,' `What!' said Don Quixote: `are people to be sent to the galleys for singing?' `Marry, that they are,' answered the slave; `for there is nothing more dangerous than singing in tribulation.' ” —Cervantes: Don Quixote, iii. 8.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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