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The Two Doves

(Recueil 2, Livre 9, Fable 2)



Two doves once cherished for each other

The love that brother has for brother.

But one, of scenes domestic tiring,

To see the foreign world aspiring,

Was fool enough to undertake

A journey long, over land and lake.

"What plan is this?" the other cried;

"Would quit so soon your brother's side?

This absence is the worst of ills;

Your heart may bear, but me it kills.

Pray, let the dangers, toil, and care,

Of which all travellers tell,

Your courage somewhat quell.

Still, if the season later were

O wait the zephyrs! hasten not

Just now the raven, on his oak,

In hoarser tones than usual spoke.

My heart forebodes the saddest lot,

The falcons, nets Alas, it rains!

My brother, are your wants supplied

Provisions, shelter, pocket guide,

And all that to health pertains?"

These words occasioned some demur

In our imprudent traveller.

But restless curiosity

Prevailed at last; and so said he,

"The matter is not worth a sigh;

Three days, at most, will satisfy,

And then, returning, I shall tell

You all the wonders that befell,

With scenes enchanting and sublime

Shall sweeten all our coming time.

Who sees nothing, has nothing to say.

My travel's course, from day to day,

Will be the source of great delight.

A store of tales I shall relate,

Say there I lodged at such a date,

And saw there such and such a sight.

You'll think it all occurred to you."

On this, both, weeping, bade adieu.

Away the lonely wanderer flew.

A thunder cloud began to lower;

He sought, as shelter from the shower,

The only tree that graced the plain,

Whose leaves ill turned the pelting rain.

The sky once more serene above,

On flew our drenched and dripping dove,

And dried his plumage as he could.

Next, on the borders of a wood,

He spied some scattered grains of wheat,

Which one, he thought, might safely eat;

For there another dove he saw.

He felt the snare around him draw!

This wheat was but a treacherous bait

To lure poor pigeons to their fate.

The snare had been so long in use,

With beak and wings he struggled loose:

Some feathers perished while it stuck;

But, what was worst in point of luck,

A hawk, the cruellest of foes,

Perceived him clearly as he rose,

Off dragging, like a runaway,

A piece of string. The bird of prey

Had bound him, in a moment more,

Much faster than he was before,

But from the clouds an eagle came,

And made the hawk himself his game.

By war of robbers profiting,

The dove for safety plied the wing,

And, lighting on a ruined wall,

Believed his dangers ended all.

A roguish boy had there a sling,

(Age pitiless!

We must confess,)

And, by a most unlucky fling,

Half killed our hapless dove;

Who now, no more in love

With foreign travelling,

And lame in leg and wing,

Straight homeward urged his crippled flight,

Fatigued, but glad, arrived at night,

In truly sad and piteous plight.

The doves rejoined, I leave you all to say,

What pleasure might their pains repay.

Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?

Pray, let it not be far from home.

To each the other ought to be

A world of beauty ever new;

In each the other ought to see

The whole of what is good and true.

Myself have loved; nor would I then,

For all the wealth of crowned men,

Or arch celestial, paved with gold,

The presence of those woods have sold,

And fields, and banks, and hillocks, which

Were by the joyful steps made rich,

And smiled beneath the charming eyes

Of her who made my heart a prize

To whom I pledged it, nothing loath,

And sealed the pledge with virgin oath.

Ah, when will time such moments bring again?

To me are sweet and charming objects vain

My soul forsaking to its restless mood?

O, did my withered heart but dare

To kindle for the bright and good,

Should not I find the charm still there?

Is love, to me, with things that were?

Jean de La Fontaine

Book 9, Fable 2



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