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.'


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