Son, to this second book thine ear incline.
Should it embitter thee far more than brine,
Yet afterward a sweeter taste I leave
Than honey. Yet not me, I pray, receive
As him that spake these fables. The belong
To Sardian Æsop, whom most grievous wrong,
And god-abhorr’d, at Delphian hands befell,
So ill they treated one who sang so well.
Fools that they were, they forced him down a steep,
And left their sons a hateful name to keep.
Among old saws this also Æsop said:
’Ere other birds, ’ere e’en the earth was made,
A first existence had the tufted lark;
Whose darling child reach’d life’s allotted mark,
And death, it chanced, by some disorder met.
Now, as the earth was not in being yet,
She knew not were, (how should she?) to inter
Her dead. Five days ’twas left expos’d by her:
Then, sore perplex’t, for grave she lent her head.
’Tis holy, gather hence, t’ entomb the dead:
And filial love is a time-honour’d thing,
Of laws the best; and nature’s ordering.
At leisure to indulge in seeing sights,
The gaze of Æsop on a dockyard lights.
He chanced on shipwrights there, with nought to do,
Who at the sage their gibes full rudely threw,
And by their mocking challenged his reply.
His words in this not pointless fable lie.
“Chaos and Water from the first had been;
But Jove desired that Earth, till then unseen,
Above the mass of waters should arise:
Then did he her ‘to swallow thrice’ advise
‘The waterfloods.’ At the first draught she made,
Behold the mountains in their height display’d.
When now the earth her second gulp had ta’en,
Naked to view stood many a grassy plain.
And should she soon to take a third see fit
Your craft, methinks, will straight her craftsmen quit.”
Who use to betters silly words and light,
Alway against themselves the laugh invite.
An eagle once was netted by a hind;
Who, having clipp’d its wings, no more confined
Its freedom midst the birds about his cot.
A fowler soon this bird by purchase got,
Let its wings grow, that late had been cut short,
And kept it thus for purposes of sport.
Soon it essay’d a flight, and seized a hare,
A gift ’twas glad to its new lord to bear.
A fox looked on, and to the eagle said:
“To thy first lord, not this, be honour paid,
Lest he again should catch thee in his toil,
And thee, by clipping, of thy wings despoil.”
These words the sacred eagle’s answer are:
“Good men I must respect, from bad keep far.”