The questions are in a paragraph in the famous story about Passenger Pigeon



The Passenger Pigeon was once probably the most numerous bird on Earth.

In the 19th Century, there were between 1 and 4 billion Passenger pigeons in North America.

It occupied the millions of acres of forest across North America east of the Rockies, overwintering in the southern US.

When a flock migrated, it could be up to a mile wide and up to 300 miles long.

These flocks were so dense that they darkened the sky for hours or days.

According to an early settler in Virginia:

"There are wild pigeons in winter beyond number or imagination, <mark>myself</mark> have seen <mark>three or four hours together flocks</mark> in the air, so thick that even <mark>have they</mark> shadowed the sky from us."

These flocks were so densely packed that a single shot could bring down 30-40 birds.


<mark>myself</mark> have seen <mark>three or four hours together flocks</mark> in the air

Does this mean,

・I myself have seen (for three or four hours together)(adv) flocks(n) in the air

or else

・I have also(like other people) seen flocks in the air for 3 to 4 hours together

so thick that even <mark>have they</mark> shadowed the sky from us.

・What is the subject of the verb 'have'?

・Should 'they' be 'them' because the position of 'they' is objective of the verb 'have'?

2 Answers 2


First, an early settler in Virginia may have been writing in English that is as much as 400 years distant from modern English. "Even have they" is an odd locution to modern ears.

Second, an early settler in Virginia may have been semi-literate or may have spoken one of the many regional variants of English that were common in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Thus, without a great deal more information than just that the writer was "an early settler in Virginia," it is impossible to be sure what was intended by the writer.

But it looks as though what was intended by "myself have seen," is simply

I myself have seen

where the reflexive is used as an intensifier like

I personally have seen

Moreover, there are dialects of English where reflexives are used as substitutes for the regular pronouns when referring to someone clearly understood

Himself is drunk again

If the writer learned such a regional flavor of English, the writer may simply have used "myself" as a general synonym for "I" and "me." (I do not know anything about the history of English dialects so I cannot say whether such a usage would have been probable in Virginia before 1750, but, in my childhood, I certainly heard people speak like that in the local dialect, which had been heavily influenced by the Scotch-Irish and Irish.)

The inversion of word order found in "Even have they" is not something where personal familiarity with such a usage lets me give guidance. I have an impression from reading a limited amount of sixteenth and seventeenth English that inversions of subject-verb order were considerably more common in early modern English than today. According to a scholarly work that I found with not much effort via Google, https://www.deepdyve.com/lp/linguistic-society-of-america/word-order-patterns-in-early-modern-english-by-bj-rg-b-kken-review-UfNhogrmGE, the current ubiquity of subject-verb in declarative sentences developed over the period 1680-1750, which is actually late in the settlement of Virginia. So, again probably, "even have they" merely means

They have even

  • I am very thankful for your detailed information. The quoted part is the original, probably 1600s' old-fashioned discourse by a settler from somewhere in Britain. So, we may imagine what he/she wanted to say in that sentence from the context.
    – Kumas
    Jul 17, 2021 at 6:35
  • It probably means “I have seen with my own eyes” and “they have even shadowed us from the sun.” Jul 17, 2021 at 12:07

In "...myself have seen three or four hours together flocks in the air, so thick that even have they shadowed the sky from us.", myself is a subject, whereas they is also a subject and not an object. Because its not being an object they can not stand in the objective case, i.e. them. It's just an inversion.

  • Thank you Julia. "Myself(S) have seen (three or four hours together flocks)(O) or (three or four hours together)(M) flocks(O) (in the air)(M) , (so thick that even have they shadowed the sky from us.)(M)" ////////// (three or four hours together flocks)(O) -> (three-or-four-hours-together-length of flocks)(O) or (three or four hours together)(M) -> (for three or four hours continuously)(M) //// , so thick... -> , the flocks being so thick... (absolute participial construction) //// even have they shadowed... (inversion) -> even the flocks have shadowed...
    – Kumas
    Oct 2, 2021 at 5:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .