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THE CORMORANT AND THE FISHES. Jean de La Fontaine

Through all the country far and wide,
In pools and rivers incessantly diving,
A Cormorant greedy his table supplied,
On their finny inhabitants so daintily thriving.
But at length there came a day
When his strength gave way,
And the Cormorant, having to fish for himself,
Unskilled to use nets which we mortals employ,
The fish for our own selfish use to decoy,
Began soon to starve; with no crumb on the shelf,
What could he do now?—Necessity, mother,
Who teaches us more than we learn when at school,
Advised the poor bird to go down to a pool,
And addressing a Cray-fish, to say to him—"Brother,
Go tell your friends a tale of coming sorrow:
Your master drains this pool a week to-morrow!"
The Cray-fish hurried off without delay,
And soon the pool was quivering with dismay:
Much trouble, much debate. At length was sent
A deputation to the Cormorant.
"Most lordly web-foot! are you sure th′ event
Will be as you have stated? If so, grant
Your kind advice in this our present need!"
The sly bird answered—"Change your home with speed."
"But how do that?" "Oh! that shall be my care;
For one by one I′ll take you to my home,
A most impenetrable, secret lair,
Where never foe of finny tribe has come;
A deep, wide pool, of nature′s best,
In which your race may safely rest."
The fish believed this friendly speech,
And soon were borne, each after each,
Down to a little shallow, cribbed, confined,
In which the greedy bird could choose them to his mind.

And there they learnt, although too late,
To trust no bills insatiate.
But, after all, it don′t much matter—
A Cormorant′s throat or human platter—
Whether a wolf or man digest me,
Doesn′t seem really to molest me;
And whether one′s eaten to-day or to-morrow
Should scarcely be any occasion for sorrow.

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