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THE TWO PIGEONS. Jean de La Fontaine

THE TWO PIGEONS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

THE TWO PIGEONS. Fable by Jean de La Fontaine. Illustration by Grandville

Two Pigeons once, as brother [brother],
With true affection loved each other;
But one of them, foolishly, tired of home,
Resolved to distant lands to roam.
Then the other one said, with piteous tear,
"What! brother, and would you then leave me here?
Of all the ills that on earth we share,
Absence from loved ones is bitterest woe!
And if to your heart this feeling′s strange,
Let the dangers of travel your purpose change,
And, oh, at least for the spring-tide wait!
I heard a crow, on a neighbouring tree,

Just now, predicting an awful fate
For some wretched bird; and I foresee
Falcons and snares awaiting thee.
What more can you want than what you′ve got—
A friend, a good dwelling, and wholesome cot?"
The other, by these pleadings shaken,
Almost had his whim forsaken;
But still, by restless ardour swayed,
Soon, in soothing tones, he said—
"Weep not, brother, I′ll not stay
But for three short days away;
And then, quite satisfied, returning,
Impart to you my travelled learning.
Who stays at home has nought to say;
But I will have such things to tell,—
′Twas there I went,′—′It thus befel,′—
That you will think that you have been
In every action, every scene."
Thus having said, he bade adieu,
And forth on eager pinion flew;
But ere a dozen miles were past,
The skies with clouds grew overcast;
All drenched with rain, the Pigeon sought
A tree, whose shelter was but nought;
And when, at length, the rain was o′er,
His draggled wings could scarcely soar.
Soon after this, a field espying,
Whereon some grains of corn were lying,
He saw another Pigeon there,
And straight resolved to have his share.
So down he flies, and finds, too late,
The treacherous corn is only there
To tempt poor birds to hapless fate.
As the net was torn and old, however,
With beak, and claw, and fluttering wing,
And by despairs supreme endeavour,
He quickly broke string after string;
And, with the loss of half his plumes,
Joyous, his flight once more resumes.
But cruel fate had yet in store
A sadder evil than before;
For, as our Pigeon slowly flew,
And bits of net behind him drew,
Like felon, just from prison ′scaped,
A hawk his course towards him shaped.
And now the Pigeon′s life were ended,
But that, just then, with wings extended,
An eagle on the hawk descended.
Leaving the thieves to fight it out,
With beak and talon, helter-skelter,
The Pigeon ′neath a wall takes shelter;
And now believes, without a doubt,
That for the present time released,
The series of his woes has ceased.
But, lo! a cruel boy of ten
(That age knows not compassion′s name),
Whirling his sling, with deadly aim,
Half kills the hapless bird, who then,
With splintered wing, half dead, and lame,
His zeal for travel deeply cursing,
Goes home to seek his brother′s nursing.
By hook or by crook he hobbled along,
And arrived at home without further wrong.
Then, united once more, and safe from blows,
The brothers forgot their recent woes.

Oh, lover, happy lovers! never separate, I say,
But by the nearest rivulet your wandering footsteps stay.
Let each unto the other be a world that′s ever fair,
Ever varied in its aspects, ever young and debonair.
Let each be dear to each, and as nothing count the rest.
I myself have sometimes been by a lover′s ardour blest,
And then I′d not have changed for any palace here below,
Or for all that in the heavens in lustrous splendour glow,
The woods, and lanes, and fields, which were lightened by
the eyes,
Which were gladdened by the feet of that shepherdess so
So sweet, and good, and young, to whom, bound by Cupid′s
Fast bound, I thought, for ever, I first breathed my oaths
in air.
Alas! shall such sweet moments be never more for me?
Shall my restless soul no more on earth such tender objects
Oh, if I dared to venture on the lover′s path again,
Should I still find sweet contentment in Cupid′s broad domain?
Or is my heart grown torpid?—are my aspirations vain?

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