"Depend upon yourself alone,"
Is a sound proverb worthy credit.
In Æsop′s time it was well known,
And there (to tell the truth) I read it.
The larks to build their nests began,
When wheat was in the green blade still—
That is to say, when Nature′s plan
Had ordered Love, with conquering will,
To rule the earth, the sea, and air,
Tigers in woods, sea monsters in the deep;
Nor yet refuse a share
To larks that in the cornfields keep.
One bird, however, of these last,
Found that one half the spring was past,
Yet brought no mate, such as the season sent
To others. Then with firm intent
Plighting her troth, and fairly matched,
She built her nest and gravely hatched.
All went on well, the corn waved red
Above each little fledgling′s head,
Before they′d strength enough to fly,
And mount into the April sky.
A hundred cares the mother Lark compel
To seek with patient care the daily food;
But first she warns her restless brood
To watch, and peep, and listen well,
And keep a constant sentinel;
"And if the owner comes his corn to see,
His son, too, as ′twill likely be,
Take heed, for when we′re sure of it,
And reapers come, why, we must flit."
No sooner was the Lark away,
Than came the owner with his son.
"The wheat is ripe," he said, "so run,
And bring our friends at peep of day,
Each with his sickle sharp and ready."
The Lark returns: alarm already
Had seized the covey. One commences—
"He said himself, at early morn,
His friends he′d call to reap the corn."
The old Lark said—"If that is all,
My worthy children, keep your senses;
No hurry till the first rows fall.
We′ll not go yet, dismiss all fear,
To-morrow keep an open ear;
Here′s dinner ready, now be gay."
They ate and slept the time away.
The morn arrives to wake the sleepers,
Aurora comes, but not the reapers.
The Lark soars up: and on his round
The farmer comes to view his ground.
"This wheat," he said, "ought not to stand;
Our friends are wrong no helping hand
To give, and we are wrong to trust
Such lazy fools for half a crust,
Much less for labour. Sons," he cried,
"Go, call our kinsmen on each side,
We′ll go to work." The little Lark
Grew more afraid. "Now, mother, mark,
The work within an hour′s begun."
The mother answered—"Sleep, my son;
We will not leave our house to-night."
Well, no one came; the bird was right.
The third time came the master by:
"Our error′s great," he said, repentantly:
"No friend is better than oneself;
Remember that, my boy, it′s worth some pelf.
Now what to do?
Why, I and you
Must whet our sickles and begin;
That is the shortest way, I see;
I know at last the surest plan:
We′ll make our harvest as we can."
No sooner had the Lark o′erheard—
"′Tis time to flit, my children; come,"
Cried out the very prudent bird.
Little and big went fluttering, rising,
Soaring in a way surprising,
And left without a beat of drum.