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The Two Cocks

(Recueil 2, Livre 7, Fable 14)



Two cocks in peace were living, when

A war was kindled by a hen.

O love, you bane of Troy! It was thine

The blood of men and gods to shed

Enough to turn the Xanthus red

As old Port wine!

And long the battle doubtful stood:

(I mean the battle of the cocks;)

They gave each other fearful shocks:

The fame spread over the neighbourhood,

And gathered all the crested brood.

And Helens more than one, of plumage bright,

Led off the victor of that bloody fight.

The vanquished, drooping, fled,

Concealed his battered head,

And in a dark retreat

Bewailed his sad defeat.

His loss of glory and the prize

His rival now enjoyed before his eyes.

While this he every day beheld,

His hatred kindled, courage swelled:

He whet his beak, and flapped his wings,

And meditated dreadful things.

Waste rage! His rival flew on a roof

And crowed to give his victory proof.

A hawk this boasting heard:

Now perished all his pride,

As suddenly he died

Beneath that savage bird.

In consequence of this reverse,

The vanquished sallied from his hole,

And took the harem, master sole,

For moderate penance not the worse.

Imagine the congratulation,

The proud and stately leading,

Gallanting, coaxing, feeding,

Of wives almost a nation!

It's thus that Fortune loves to flee

The insolent by victory.

We should mistrust her when we beat,

Lest triumph lead us to defeat.

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 7, Fable 14



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