The Vultures And The Pigeons.

A poem by Jean de La Fontaine

[1]

Mars once made havoc in the air:
Some cause aroused a quarrel there
Among the birds; - not those that sing,
The courtiers of the merry Spring,
And by their talk, in leafy bowers,
Of loves they feel, enkindle ours;
Nor those which Cupid's mother yokes
To whirl on high her golden spokes;
But naughty hawk and vulture folks,
Of hooked beak and talons keen.
The carcass of a dog, 'tis said,
Had to this civil carnage led.
Blood rain'd upon the swarded green,
And valiant deeds were done, I ween.
But time and breath would surely fail
To give the fight in full detail;
Suffice to say, that chiefs were slain,
And heroes strow'd the sanguine plain,
Till old Prometheus, in his chains,
Began to hope an end of pains.
'Twas sport to see the battle rage,
And valiant hawk with hawk engage;
'Twas pitiful to see them fall, -
Torn, bleeding, weltering, gasping, all.
Force, courage, cunning, all were plied;
Intrepid troops on either side
No effort spared to populate
The dusky realms of hungry Fate.
This woful strife awoke compassion
Within another feather'd nation,
Of iris neck and tender heart.
They tried their hand at mediation -
To reconcile the foes, or part.
The pigeon people duly chose
Ambassadors, who work'd so well
As soon the murderous rage to quell,
And stanch the source of countless woes.
A truce took place, and peace ensued.
Alas! the people dearly paid
Who such pacification made!
Those cursed hawks at once pursued
The harmless pigeons, slew and ate,
Till towns and fields were desolate.
Small prudence had the friends of peace
To pacify such foes as these!

The safety of the rest requires
The bad should flesh each other's spears:
Whoever peace with them desires
Had better set them by the ears.

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