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THE VULTURES AND THE PIGEONS. Jean de La Fontaine

Mars one day set the sky on fire:
A quarrel roused the wild birds′ ire—
Not those sweet subjects of the spring,
Who in the branches play and sing;
Not those whom Venus to her car
Harnesses; but the Vulture race,
With crooked beak and villain face.
′Twas for a dog deceased—that′s all.
The blood in torrents ′gins to fall;
I only tell the sober truth,
They fought it out with nail and tooth.

I should want breath for the detail,
If I told how with tooth and nail
They battled. Many chiefs fell dead,
Many a dauntless hero bled;
Prometheus on his mountain sighed,
And hoped Jove nearly satisfied.
′Twas pleasure to observe their pains—
′Twas sad to see the corpse-strewn plains.
Valour, address, and stratagem,
By turns were tried by all of them;
By folks so brave no means were lost
To fill each spare place on the coast
Of Styx. Each varied element
Ghosts to the distant realm had sent.
This fury roused, at last, deep pity,
Within the pigeons′ quiet city;
They—of the neck of changing hue,
The heart so tender and so true—
Resolved, as well became their nation,
To end the war by mediation.
Ambassadors they chose and sent,
Who worked with such a good intent,
The Vultures cried, "A truce," at last,
And wars red horrors from them cast.
Alas! the Pigeons paid for it;
Their heart was better than their wit;
The cursed race upon them fell,
And made a carnage terrible;
Dispeopled every farm and town,
And struck the unwise people down.

In this, then, always be decided:
Keep wicked people still divided;
The safety of the world depends
On that—sow war among their friends;
Contract no peace with such, I say,
But this is merely by the way.


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