The Old Hen and the Cock

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Fable XX

Restrain your child; you'll soon believe
The text which says, we sprung from Eve.
   As an old hen led forth her train,
And seemed to peck to shew the grain;
She raked the chaff, she scratched the ground,
And gleaned the spacious yard around.
A giddy chick, to try her wings,
On the well's narrow margin springs,
And prone she drops. The mother's breast
All day with sorrow was possess'd.

   A cock she met; her son she knew;
And in her heart affection grew.
   'My son,' says she, 'I grant your years
Have reached beyond a mother's cares;
I see you vig'rous, strong, and bold;
I hear with joy your triumphs told.
Tis not from cocks thy fate I dread;
But let thy ever-wary tread
Avoid yon well; that fatal place
Is sure perdition to our race.

Print this my counsel on thy breast;
To the just gods I leave the rest.'
   He thanked her care; yet day by day
His bosom burned to disobey;
And every time the well he saw,
Scorned in his heart the foolish law:
Near and more near each day he drew,
And longed to try the dangerous view.
   'Why was this idle charge?' he cries;
'Let courage female fears despise.

Or did she doubt my heart was brave,
And therefore this injunction gave?
Or does her harvest store the place,
A treasure for her younger race?
And would she thus my search prevent?
I stand resolved, and dare the event.'
   Thus said. He mounts the margin's round,
And pries into the depth profound.
He stretched his neck; and from below
With stretching neck advanced a foe:

With wrath his ruffled plumes he rears,
The foe with ruffled plumes appears:
Threat answered threat, his fury grew,
Headlong to meet the war he flew,
But when the watery death he found,
He thus lamented as he drowned:
   'I ne'er had been in this condition,
But for my mother's prohibition.'


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