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The Kite and the Nightingale

(Recueil 2, Livre 9, Fable 18)



A noted thief, the kite,

Had set a neighbourhood in fright,

And raised the clamorous noise

Of all the village boys,

When, by misfortune, sad to say,

A nightingale fell in his way.

Spring's herald begged him not to eat

A bird for music not for meat.

"O spare!" cried she, "and I'll relate

"The crime of Tereus and his fate."

"What's Tereus? Is it food for kites?"

"No, but a king, of female rights

The villain spoiler, whom I taught

A lesson with repentance fraught;

And, should it please you not to kill,

My song about his fall

Your very heart shall thrill,

As it, indeed, does all."

Replied the kite, a "pretty thing!

When I am faint and famishing,

To let you go, and hear you sing?"

"Ah, but I entertain the king!"

"Well, when he takes you, let him hear

Your tale, full wonderful, no doubt;

For me, a kite, I'll go without."

An empty stomach has no ear.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 9, Fable 18



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