The Two Doves

Original Text: 

The Fables of La Fontaine, trans. Elizur Wright, Jr. (London: William Smith, 1842): 61-62. Internet Archive

1 Two doves once cherish'd for each other
2    The love that brother hath for brother.
3    But one, of scenes domestic tiring,
4    To see the foreign world aspiring,
5        Was fool enough to undertake
6        A journey long, o'er land and lake.
7        What plan is this?' the other cried;
8        Wouldst quit so soon thy brother's side?
9        This absence is the worst of ills;
10        Thy heart may bear, but me it kills.
11        Pray, let the dangers, toil, and care,
12            Of which all travellers tell,
13            Your courage somewhat quell.
14        Still, if the season later were--
15        O wait the zephyrs!--hasten not--
16            Just now the raven, on his oak,
17            In hoarser tones than usual spoke.
18        My heart forebodes the saddest lot,--
19        The falcons, nets--Alas, it rains!
20            My brother, are thy wants supplied--
21            Provisions, shelter, pocket-guide,
22        And all that unto health pertains?'
23        These words occasion'd some demur
24        In our imprudent traveller.
25        But restless curiosity
26        Prevail'd at last; and so said he,--
27        The matter is not worth a sigh;
28        Three days, at most, will satisfy,
29        And then, returning, I shall tell
30        You all the wonders that befell,--
31        With scenes enchanting and sublime
32        Shall sweeten all our coming time.
33        Who seeth nought, hath nought to say.
34        My travel's course, from day to day,
35        Will be the source of great delight.
36            A store of tales I shall relate,--
37            Say there I lodged at such a date,
38        And saw there such and such a sight.
39        You'll think it all occurr'd to you.--'
40        On this, both, weeping, bade adieu.
41        Away the lonely wanderer flew.--
42        A thunder-cloud began to lower;
43        He sought, as shelter from the shower,
44        The only tree that graced the plain,
45        Whose leaves ill turn'd the pelting rain.
46        The sky once more serene above,
47        On flew our drench'd and dripping dove,
48        And dried his plumage as he could.
49        Next, on the borders of a wood,
50        He spied some scatter'd grains of wheat,
51        Which one, he thought, might safely eat;
52        For there another dove he saw.--
53        He felt the snare around him draw!
54        This wheat was but a treacherous bait
55        To lure poor pigeons to their fate.
56        The snare had been so long in use,
57        With beak and wings he struggled loose:
58        Some feathers perish'd while it stuck;
59        But, what was worst in point of luck,
60        A hawk, the cruellest of foes,
61        Perceived him clearly as he rose,
62        Off dragging, like a runaway,
63        A piece of string. The bird of prey
64        Had bound him, in a moment more,
65        Much faster than he was before,
66        But from the clouds an eagle came,
67        And made the hawk himself his game.
68        By war of robbers profiting,
69        The dove for safety plied the wing,
70        And, lighting on a ruin'd wall,
71        Believed his dangers ended all.
72        A roguish boy had there a sling,
73                  (Age pitiless!
74                  We must confess,)
75        And, by a most unlucky fling,
76        Half kill'd our hapless dove;
77        Who now, no more in love
78            With foreign travelling,
79            And lame in leg and wing,
80    Straight homeward urged his crippled flight,
81    Fatigued, but glad, arrived at night,
82    In truly sad and piteous plight.
83The doves rejoin'd, I leave you all to say,
84    What pleasure might their pains repay.
85    Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?--
86    Pray, let it not be far from home.
87    To each the other ought to be
88        A world of beauty ever new;
89    In each the other ought to see
90        The whole of what is good and true.
91    Myself have loved; nor would I then,
92    For all the wealth of crowned men,
93    Or arch celestial, paved with gold,
94    The presence of those woods have sold,
95    And fields, and banks, and hillocks, which
96    Were by the joyful steps made rich,
97    And smiled beneath the charming eyes
98    Of her who made my heart a prize--
99    To whom I pledged it, nothing loath,
100    And seal'd the pledge with virgin oath.
101Ah, when will time such moments bring again?
102To me are sweet and charming objects vain--
103My soul forsaking to its restless mood?
104    O, did my wither'd heart but dare
105        To kindle for the bright and good,
106    Should not I find the charm still there?
107    Is love, to me, with things that were?
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
Data entry: Sharine Leung
RPO Edition: