John Gay

Part I. Fable 37. The Farmer's Wife and the Raven

  'Why are those tears? why droops your head?
  Is then your other husband dead?
  Or does a worse disgrace betide?
  Hath no one since his death applied?'
     'Alas! you know the cause too well:
  The salt is spilt, to me it fell.
  Then, to contribute to my loss,
  My knife and fork were laid across;
  On Friday too! the day I dread!
  Would I were safe at home in bed!

  Last night (I vow to heaven 'tis true)
  Bounce from the fire a coffin flew.
  Next post some fatal news shall tell,
  God send my Cornish friends be well!'
     'Unhappy widow, cease thy tears,
  Nor feel affliction in thy fears,
  Let not thy stomach be suspended;
  Eat now, and weep when dinner's ended;
  And when the butler clears the table,
  For thy desert, I'll read my fable.'

     Betwixt her swagging panniers' load
  A farmer's wife to market rode,
  And, jogging on, with thoughtful care
  Summed up the profits of her ware;
  When, starting from her silver dream,
  Thus far and wide was heard her scream:
     'That raven on yon left-hand oak
  (Curse on his ill-betiding croak)
  Bodes me no good.' No more she said,
  When poor blind Ball, with stumbling tread,

  Fell prone; o'erturned the pannier lay,
  And her mashed eggs bestrewed the way.
     She, sprawling in the yellow road,
  Railed, swore and cursed: 'Thou croaking toad,
  A murrain take thy whoreson throat!
  I knew misfortune in the note.'
     'Dame,' quoth the raven, 'spare your oaths,
  Unclench your fist, and wipe your clothes.
  But why on me those curses thrown?
  Goody, the fault was all your own;

  For had you laid this brittle ware,
  On Dun, the old sure-footed mare,
  Though all the ravens of the hundred,
  With croaking had your tongue out-thundered,
  Sure-footed Dun had kept his legs,
  And you, good woman, saved your eggs.'

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