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The Vultures and the Pigeons

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 9)



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, it's said,

Had to this civil carnage led.

Blood rained on the swarded green,

And valiant deeds were done, I hope.

But time and breath would surely fail

To give the fight in full detail;

Suffice to say, that chiefs were slain,

And heroes strowed the sanguine plain,

Till old Prometheus, in his chains,

Began to hope an end of pains.

It was sport to see the battle rage,

And valiant hawk with hawk engage;

It was 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 feathered 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 worked 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.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 9



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