John Gay

Part I. Fable 36. Pythagoras and the Countryman

  Pythag'ras rose at early dawn,
  By soaring meditation drawn,
  To breathe the fragrance of the day,
  Through flowery fields he took his way.
  In musing contemplation warm,
  His steps misled him to a farm,
  Where, on the ladder's topmost round,
  A peasant stood; the hammer's sound
  Shook the weak barn. 'Say, friend, what care
  Calls for thy honest labour there?'

     The clown, with surly voice replies,
  'Vengeance aloud for justice cries.
  This kite, by daily rapine fed,
  My hens' annoy, my turkeys' dread,
  At length his forfeit life has paid;
  See on the wall his wings displayed,
  Here nailed, a terror to his kind,
  My fowls shall future safety find;
  My yard the thriving poultry feed,
  And my barn's refuse fat the breed.'

     'Friend,' says the sage, 'the doom is wise;
  For public good the murderer dies.
  But if these tyrants of the air
  Demand a sentence so severe,
  Think how the glutton man devours;
  What bloody feasts regale his hours!
  O impudence of power and might,
  Thus to condemn a hawk or kite,
  When thou, perhaps, carniv'rous sinner,
  Hadst pullets yesterday for dinner!'

     'Hold,' cried the clown, with passion heated,
  'Shall kites and men alike be treated?
  When Heaven the world with creatures stored,
  Man was ordained their sovereign lord.'
     'Thus tyrants boast,' the sage replied,
  'Whose murders spring from power and pride.
  Own then this man-like kite is slain
  Thy greater luxury to sustain;
  For "Petty rogues submit to fate,
  That great ones may enjoy their state."'

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