The Lark and Her Young Ones with the Owner of a Field

Original Text: 

The Fables of La Fontaine, trans. Elizur Wright, Jr. (London: William Smith, 1842): 27. Internet Archive

1"Depend upon yourself alone,"
2    Has to a common proverb grown.
3'Tis thus confirm'd in Æsop's way: -
4The larks to build their nests are seen
5Among the wheat-crops young and green;
6                That is to say,
7What time all things, dame Nature heeding,
8Betake themselves to love and breeding --
9        The monstrous whales and sharks
10            Beneath the briny flood.
11            The tigers in the wood,
12        And in the fields, the larks.
13One she, however, of these last,
14Found more than half the spring-time past
15Without the taste of spring-time pleasures;
16    When firmly she set up her will
17    That she would be a mother still,
18    And resolutely took her measures; --
19    First, got herself by Hymen match'd;
20    Then built her nest, laid, sat, and hatch'd.
21        All went as well as such things could.
22        The wheat-crop ripening ere the brood
23    Were strong enough to take their flight,
24    Aware how perilous their plight,
25    The lark went out to search for food,
26    And told her young to listen well,
27    And keep a constant sentinel.
28    The owner of this field, said she,
29    Will come, I know, his grain to see.
30    Hear all he says; we little birds
31    Must shape our conduct by his words.
32        No sooner was the lark away,
33    Than came the owner with his son.
34    This wheat is ripe, said he: now run
35            And give our friends a call
36            To bring their sickles all,
37            And help us, great and small,
38        To-morrow, at the break of day.
39    The lark, returning, found no harm,
40    Except her nest in wild alarm.
41    Says one. We heard the owner say,
42        Go, give our friends a call
43    To help, to-morrow, break of day.
44        Replied the lark, If that is all,
45    We need not be in any fear,
46    But only keep an open ear.
47    As gay as larks, now eat your victuals. --
48    They ate and slept -- the great and littles.
49    The dawn arrives, but not the friends;
50    The lark soars up, the owner wends
51    His usual round to view his land.
52    This grain, says he, ought not to stand.
53    Our friends do wrong; and so does he
54    Who trusts that friends will friendly be.
55    My son, go call our kith and kin
56    To help us get our harvest in.
57            This second order made
58    The little larks still more afraid.
59    He sent for kindred, mother, by his son;
60    The work will now, indeed, be done.
61            No, darlings; go to sleep;
62            Our lowly nest we'll keep.
63With reason said, for kindred there came none.
64    Thus, tired of expectation vain,
65    Once more the owner view'd his grain.
66    My son, said he, we're surely fools
67    To wait for other people's tools;
68    As if one might, for love or pelf.
69    Have friends more faithful than himself!
70    Engrave this lesson deep, my son.
71    And know you now what must be done?
72    We must ourselves our sickles bring,
73    And, while the larks their matins sing,
74    Begin the work; and, on this plan,
75    Get in our harvest as we can.
76    This plan the lark no sooner knew,
77    Than, Now's the time, she said, my chicks;
78    And, taking little time to fix.
79            Away they flew;
80    All fluttering, soaring, often grounding,
81    Decamp'd without a trumpet sounding.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: 
2012