The Owl and the Farmer

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Fable XLI

An owl of grave deport and mien,
Who (like the Turk) was seldom seen,
Within a barn had chose his station,
As fit for prey and contemplation.
Upon a beam aloft he sits,
And nods, and seems to think by fits.
So have I seen a man of news,
Or Post-boy_, or _Gazette_ peruse;
Smoke, nod, and talk with voice profound,
And fix the fate of Europe round.

Sheaves piled on sheaves, hid all the floor;
At dawn of morn, to view his store
The farmer came. The hooting guest
His self-importance thus express'd:
   'Reason in man is mere pretence:
How weak, how shallow is his sense!
To treat with scorn the bird of night,
Declares his folly, or his spite.
Then too, how partial is his praise!
The lark's, the linnet's chirping lays

To his ill-judging ears are fine;
And nightingales are all divine.
But the more knowing feathered race
See wisdom stamped upon my face.
Whene'er to visit light I deign,
What flocks of fowl compose my train!
Like slaves they crowd my flight behind,
And own me of superior kind.'
   The farmer laughed, and thus replied:
'Thou dull important lump of pride,

Dar'st thou with that harsh grating tongue,
Depreciate birds of warbling song?
Indulge thy spleen. Know, men and fowl
Regard thee, as thou art an owl.
Besides, proud blockhead, be not vain,
Of what thou call'st thy slaves and train.
Few follow wisdom or her rules;
Fools in derision follow fools.'



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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