The Philosopher and the Pheasants

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Fable XV

The sage, awaked at early day,
Through the deep forest took his way;
Drawn by the music of the groves,
Along the winding gloom he roves:
From tree to tree, the warbling throats
Prolong the sweet alternate notes.
But where he pass'd, he terror threw,
The song broke short, the warblers flew;
The thrushes chattered with affright,
And nightingales abhorred his sight;

All animals before him ran,
To shun the hateful sight of man.
   'Whence is this dread of every creature?
Fly they our figure or our nature?'
   As thus he walked in musing thought,
His ear imperfect accents caught;
With cautious step he nearer drew,
By the thick shade concealed from view.
High on the branch a pheasant stood,
Around her all her listening brood;

Proud of the blessings of her nest,
She thus a mother's care expressed:
'No dangers here shall circumvent,
Within the woods enjoy content.
Sooner the hawk or vulture trust,
Than man; of animals the worst:
In him ingratitude you find,
A vice peculiar to the kind.
The sheep whose annual fleece is dyed,
To guard his health, and serve his pride,

Forced from his fold and native plain,
Is in the cruel shambles slain.
The swarms, who, with industrious skill,
His hives with wax and honey fill,
In vain whole summer days employed,
Their stores are sold, their race destroyed.
What tribute from the goose is paid!
Does not her wing all science aid!
Does it not lovers' hearts explain,
And drudge to raise the merchant's gain?

What now rewards this general use?
He takes the quills, and eats the goose.
Man then avoid, detest his ways;
So safety shall prolong your days.
When services are thus acquitted,
Be sure we pheasants must be spitted.'



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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