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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.'
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