Pythagoras and the Countryman

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Fable XXXVI

Pythag'ras rose at early dawn,
By soaring meditation drawn,
To breathe the fragrance of the day,
Through flowery fields he took his way.
In musing contemplation warm,
His steps misled him to a farm,
Where, on the ladder's topmost round,
A peasant stood; the hammer's sound
Shook the weak barn. 'Say, friend, what care
Calls for thy honest labour there?'

   The clown, with surly voice replies,
'Vengeance aloud for justice cries.
This kite, by daily rapine fed,
My hens' annoy, my turkeys' dread,
At length his forfeit life has paid;
See on the wall his wings displayed,
Here nailed, a terror to his kind,
My fowls shall future safety find;
My yard the thriving poultry feed,
And my barn's refuse fat the breed.'

   'Friend,' says the sage, 'the doom is wise;
For public good the murderer dies.
But if these tyrants of the air
Demand a sentence so severe,
Think how the glutton man devours;
What bloody feasts regale his hours!
O impudence of power and might,
Thus to condemn a hawk or kite,
When thou, perhaps, carniv'rous sinner,
Hadst pullets yesterday for dinner!'

   'Hold,' cried the clown, with passion heated,
'Shall kites and men alike be treated?
When Heaven the world with creatures stored,
Man was ordained their sovereign lord.'
   'Thus tyrants boast,' the sage replied,
'Whose murders spring from power and pride.
Own then this man-like kite is slain
Thy greater luxury to sustain;
For "Petty rogues submit to fate,
That great ones may enjoy their state."'



The Fables, Volume 1 (1727)
Introduction The Shepard and the Philosopher
Fable I The Lion, the Tiger, and the Traveller
Fable II The Spaniel and the Cameleon
Fable III The Mother, the Nurse, and the Fairy
Fable IV The Eagle, and the Assembly of Animals
Fable V The wild Boar and the Ram
Fable VI The Miser and Plutus
Fable VII The Lion, the Fox, and the Geese
Fable VIII The Lady and the Wasp
Fable IX The Bull and the Mastiff
Fable X The Elephant and the Bookseller
Fable XI The Peacock, the Turkey, and the Goose
Fable XII Cupid, Hymen, and Plutus
Fable XIII The Tame Stag
Fable XIV The Monkey who had seen the World
Fable XV The Philosopher and the Pheasants
Fable XVI The Pin and the Needle
Fable XVII The Shepherd's Dog and the Wolf
Fable XVIII The Painter who pleased Nobody and Everybody
Fable XIX The Lion and the Cub
Fable XX The Old Hen and the Cock
Fable XXI The Rat-catcher and Cats
Fable XXII The Goat without a Beard
Fable XXIII The Old Woman and her Cats
Fable XXIV The Butterfly and the Snail
Fable XXV The Scold and the Parrot
Fable XXVI The Cur and the Mastiff
Fable XXVII The Sick Man and the Angel
Fable XXVIII The Persian, the Sun, and the Cloud
Fable XXIX The Fox at the point of Death
Fable XXX The Setting-dog and the Partridge
Fable XXXI The Universal Apparition
Fable XXXII The Two Owls and the Sparrow
Fable XXXIII The Courtier and Proteus
Fable XXXIV The Mastiffs
Fable XXXV The Barley-mow and the Dunghill
Fable XXXVI Pythagoras and the Countryman
Fable XXXVII The Farmer's Wife and the Raven
Fable XXXVIII The Turkey and the Ant
Fable XXXIX The Father and Jupiter
Fable XL The Two Monkeys
Fable XLI The Owl and the Farmer
Fable XLII The Jugglers
Fable XLIII The Council of Horses
Fable XLIV The Hound and the Huntsman
Fable XLV The Poet and the Rose
Fable XLVI The Cur, the Horse, and the Shepherd's Dog
Fable XLVII The Court of Death
Fable XLVIII The Gardener and the Hog
Fable XLIX The Man and the Flea
Fable L The Hare and many Friends
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