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Poem by John Gay
Part I. Fable 20. The Old Hen and the Cock
Restrain your child; you'll soon believe The text which says, we sprung from Eve. As an old hen led forth her train, And seemed to peck to shew the grain; She raked the chaff, she scratched the ground, And gleaned the spacious yard around. A giddy chick, to try her wings, On the well's narrow margin springs, And prone she drops. The mother's breast All day with sorrow was possess'd. A cock she met; her son she knew; And in her heart affection grew. 'My son,' says she, 'I grant your years Have reached beyond a mother's cares; I see you vig'rous, strong, and bold; I hear with joy your triumphs told. Tis not from cocks thy fate I dread; But let thy ever-wary tread Avoid yon well; that fatal place Is sure perdition to our race. Print this my counsel on thy breast; To the just gods I leave the rest.' He thanked her care; yet day by day His bosom burned to disobey; And every time the well he saw, Scorned in his heart the foolish law: Near and more near each day he drew, And longed to try the dangerous view. 'Why was this idle charge?' he cries; 'Let courage female fears despise. Or did she doubt my heart was brave, And therefore this injunction gave? Or does her harvest store the place, A treasure for her younger race? And would she thus my search prevent? I stand resolved, and dare the event.' Thus said. He mounts the margin's round, And pries into the depth profound. He stretched his neck; and from below With stretching neck advanced a foe: With wrath his ruffled plumes he rears, The foe with ruffled plumes appears: Threat answered threat, his fury grew, Headlong to meet the war he flew, But when the watery death he found, He thus lamented as he drowned: 'I ne'er had been in this condition, But for my mother's prohibition.'
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