HomeJean de La FontaineTHE SWALLOW AND THE LITTLE BIRDS

THE SWALLOW AND THE LITTLE BIRDS. Jean de La Fontaine

A Swallow, in his travels o′er the earth,
Into the law of storms had gained a peep;
Could prophesy them long before their birth,
And warn in time the ploughmen of the deep.
Just as the month for sowing hemp came round,
The Swallow called the smaller birds together.
"Yon′ hand," said he, "which strews along the ground
That fatal grain, forbodes no friendly weather.
The day will come, and very soon, perhaps,
When yonder crop will help in your undoing—

When, in the shape of snares and cruel traps,
Will burst the tempest which to-day is brewing.
Be wise, and eat the hemp up now or never;
Take my advice." But no, the little birds,
Who thought themselves, no doubt, immensely clever,
Laughed loudly at the Swallow′s warning words.
Soon after, when the hemp grew green and tall,
He begged the Birds to tear it into tatters.
"Prophet of ill," they answered one and all,
"Cease chattering about such paltry matters."
The hemp at length was ripe, and then the Swallow,
Remarking that "ill weeds were never slow,"
Continued—"Though it′s now too late to follow
The good advice I gave you long ago,
You still may manage to preserve your lives
By giving credit to the voice of reason.
Remain at home, I beg you, with your wives,
And shun the perils of the coming season.
You cannot cross the desert or the seas,
To settle down in distant habitations;
Make nests, then, in the walls, and there, at ease,
Defy mankind and all its machinations."
They scorned his warnings, as in Troy of old
Men scorned the lessons that Cassandra taught.
And shortly, as the Swallow had foretold,
Great numbers of them in the traps were caught.

To instincts not our own we give no credit,
And till misfortune comes, we never dread it.

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