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The Magpie And Her Brood Post by :chili Category :Poems Author :John Gay Date :May 2011 Read :4110

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The Magpie And Her Brood

From the Tales of Bonaventura des Periers, Servant to Marguerite of Valois, Queen of Navarre. By HORACE LORD ORFORD.


How anxious is the pensive parents' thought,
How blest the lot of fondlings, early taught;
Joy strings her hours on pleasure's golden twine,
And fancy forms it to an endless line.
But ah! the charm must cease, or soon or late,
When chicks and misses rise to woman's state;
The little tyrant grows in turn a slave,
And feels the soft anxiety she gave.
This truth, my pretty friend, an ancient sage,
Who wrote in tale and legend many a page,
Couch'd in that age's unaffected guise,
When fables were the wisdom of the wise.
To careless notes I've tuned his Gothic style,
Content, if you approve, and LAURA smile.

Once on a time a magpie led
Her little family from home,
To teach them how to win their bread,
When she afar would roam:
She pointed to each worm and fly,
Inhabitants of earth and sky,
Or where the beetle buzzed, she called;
But indications all were vain,--
They would not budge--the urchin train,
But cawed, and cried, and squalled;
They wanted to return to nest,
To nestle to mamma's warm breast,
And thought that she should seek the meat
Which they were only born to eat--
But Madge knew better things:
"My loves," said she, "behold the plains,
Where stores of food, where plenty reigns;
I was not half so big as you,
When me my honoured mother drew
Forth to the groves and springs--
She flew away, before aright
I knew to read or knew to write,
Yet I made shift to live:
So must you too--come, hop away--
Get what you can--steal what you may,
For industry will thrive."
"But, bless us!" cried the peevish chits,
"Can babes like us live by our wits?
With perils compassed round, can we
Preserve our lives and liberty?
Ah! how escape the fowler's snare,
And gard'ner with his gun in air,
Who, if we pilfer plums or pears,
Will scatter lead about our ears?
And you would drop a mournful head
To see your little pies lie dead!"
"My dears," she said, and kissed their bills,
"The wise by foresight baffle ills,
A wise descent you claim;
To bang a gun off takes some time,--
A man must load, a man must prime,
A man must take an aim--
He lifts the tube, he shuts one eye,--
'Twill then be time enough to fly;
You, out of reach, may laugh and chatter:
To cheat a man is no great matter."
"Ay, but"--"But what?" "Why, if the clown
Should take a stone to knock us down?"
"Why, if he do--you flats!
Must he not stoop to raise the stone?
The stooping warns you to be gone;
Birds are not killed like cats."
"But, dear mamma, we yet are scared,
The rogue, you know, may come prepared
A big stone in his fist!"
"Indeed, my darlings," Madge replies,
"If you already are so wise:
Go, cater where you list."


(The end)
John Gay's poem: Magpie And Her Brood

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