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Poem by John Gay

Part I. Fable 32. The Two Owls and the Sparrow

  Two formal owls together sat,
  Conferring thus in solemn chat:
  'How is the modern taste decayed!
  Where's the respect to wisdom paid?
  Our worth the Grecian sages knew;
  They gave our sires the honour due;
  They weighed the dignity of fowls,
  And pried into the depth of owls.
  Athens, the seat of learned fame,
  With general voice revered our name;

  On merit, title was conferred,
  And all adored the Athenian bird.'
    'Brother, you reason well,' replies
  The solemn mate, with half-shut eyes;
  'Right. Athens was the seat of learning,
  And truly wisdom is discerning.
  Besides, on Pallas' helm we sit,
  The type and ornament of wit:
  But now, alas! we're quite neglected,
  And a pert sparrow's more respected.'

     A sparrow, who was lodged beside,
  O'erhears them soothe each other's pride,
  And thus he nimbly vents his heat:
     'Who meets a fool must find conceit.
  I grant, you were at Athens graced,
  And on Minerva's helm were placed;
  But every bird that wings the sky,
  Except an owl, can tell you why.
  From hence they taught their schools to know
  How false we judge by outward show;

  That we should never looks esteem,
  Since fools as wise as you might seem.
  Would ye contempt and scorn avoid,
  Let your vain-glory be destroyed:
  Humble your arrogance of thought,
  Pursue the ways by Nature taught;
  So shall you find delicious fare,
  And grateful farmers praise your care:
  So shall sleek mice your chase reward,
  And no keen cat find more regard.'

John Gay

John Gay's other poems:
  1. Prediction
  2. The Quidnunckis
  3. An Epistle to Her Grace, Henrietta, Duchess of Marlborough
  4. An Elegy on a Lap-dog
  5. A Ballad

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