The Farmer's Wife and the Raven

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Fable XXXVII

'Why are those tears? why droops your head?
Is then your other husband dead?
Or does a worse disgrace betide?
Hath no one since his death applied?'
   'Alas! you know the cause too well:
The salt is spilt, to me it fell.
Then, to contribute to my loss,
My knife and fork were laid across;
On Friday too! the day I dread!
Would I were safe at home in bed!

Last night (I vow to heaven 'tis true)
Bounce from the fire a coffin flew.
Next post some fatal news shall tell,
God send my Cornish friends be well!'
   'Unhappy widow, cease thy tears,
Nor feel affliction in thy fears,
Let not thy stomach be suspended;
Eat now, and weep when dinner's ended;
And when the butler clears the table,
For thy desert, I'll read my fable.'

   Betwixt her swagging panniers' load
A farmer's wife to market rode,
And, jogging on, with thoughtful care
Summed up the profits of her ware;
When, starting from her silver dream,
Thus far and wide was heard her scream:
   'That raven on yon left-hand oak
(Curse on his ill-betiding croak)
Bodes me no good.' No more she said,
When poor blind Ball, with stumbling tread,

Fell prone; o'erturned the pannier lay,
And her mashed eggs bestrewed the way.
   She, sprawling in the yellow road,
Railed, swore and cursed: 'Thou croaking toad,
A murrain take thy whoreson throat!
I knew misfortune in the note.'
   'Dame,' quoth the raven, 'spare your oaths,
Unclench your fist, and wipe your clothes.
But why on me those curses thrown?
Goody, the fault was all your own;

For had you laid this brittle ware,
On Dun, the old sure-footed mare,
Though all the ravens of the hundred,
With croaking had your tongue out-thundered,
Sure-footed Dun had kept his legs,
And you, good woman, saved your eggs.'



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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