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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Two Doves

By Jean de La Fontaine (1621–1695)

Translation of Elizur Wright

TWO doves once cherished for each other

The love that brother hath for brother.

But one, of scenes domestic tiring,

To see the foreign world aspiring,

Was fool enough to undertake

A journey long, o’er land and lake.

“What plan is this?” the other cried;

“Wouldst quit so soon thy brother’s side?

This absence is the worst of ills;

Thy heart may bear, but me it kills.

Pray let the dangers, toil, and care,

Of which all travelers tell,

Your courage somewhat quell.

Still, if the season later were—

Oh, wait the zephyrs!—hasten not—”

Just now the raven, on his oak,

In hoarser tones than usual spoke.

“My heart forebodes the saddest lot,—

The falcons’ nets— Alas, it rains!

My brother, are thy wants supplied—

Provisions, shelter, pocket-guide,

And all that unto health pertains?”

These words occasioned some demur

In our imprudent traveler.

But restless curiosity

Prevailed at last; and so said he:—

“The matter is not worth a sigh:

Three days at most will satisfy;

And then returning, I shall tell

You all the wonders that befell,—

With scenes enchanting and sublime

Shall sweeten all our coming time.

Who seeth naught, hath naught to say.

My travel’s course, from day to day,

Will be the source of great delight.

A store of tales I shall relate:

Say, There I lodged at such a date,

And saw there such and such a sight.

You’ll think it all occurred to you.”

On this, both, weeping, bade adieu.

Away the lonely wanderer flew.—

A thunder-cloud began to lower;

He sought, as shelter from the shower,

The only tree that graced the plain,

Whose leaves ill turned the pelting rain.

The sky once more serene above,

On flew our drenched and dripping dove,

And dried his plumage as he could.

Next, on the borders of a wood,

He spied some scattered grains of wheat,

Which one, he thought, might safely eat;

For there another dove he saw.—

He felt the snare around him draw!

This wheat was but a treacherous bait

To lure poor pigeons to their fate.

The snare had been so long in use,

With beak and wings he struggled loose:

Some feathers perished while it stuck;

But what was worst in point of luck,

A hawk, the crudest of foes,

Perceived him clearly as he rose,

Off dragging, like a runaway,

A piece of string. The bird of prey

Had bound him, in a moment more,

Much faster than he was before;

But from the clouds an eagle came,

And made the hawk himself his game.

By war of robbers profiting,

The dove for safety plied the wing,

And lighting on a ruined wall,

Believed his dangers ended all.

A roguish boy had there a sling,

(Age pitiless,

We must confess,)

And by a most unlucky fling,

Half killed our hapless dove;

Who now, no more in love

With foreign traveling,

And lame in leg and wing,

Straight homeward urged his crippled flight;

Fatigued, but glad, arrived at night,

In truly sad and piteous plight.

The doves re-joined: I leave you all to say,

What pleasure might their pains repay.

Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?

Pray, let it not be far from home.

To each the other ought to be

A world of beauty ever new;

In each the other ought to see

The whole of what is good and true.

Myself have loved; nor would I then,

For all the wealth of crownèd men,

Or arch celestial, paved with gold,

The presence of those woods have sold,

And fields and banks and hillock which

Were by the joyful steps made rich,

And smiled beneath the charming eyes

Of her who made my heart a prize,—

To whom I pledged it, nothing loath,

And sealed the pledge with virgin oath.

Ah, when will time such moments bring again?

To me are sweet and charming objects vain—

My soul forsaking to its restless mood?

Oh, did my withered heart but dare

To kindle for the bright and good,

Should not I find the charms still there?

Is love, to me, with things that were?