An argosy of fables/English fables/The Crow's Children


A HUNTSMAN, bearing his gun a-field,
Went whistling merrily,
When he heard the blackest of black crows
Call out from a withered tree:—

"You are going to kill the thievish birds,
And I would, if I were you;
But you must not touch my family.
Whatever else you do."

"I'm only going to kill the birds
That are eating up my crop;
And if your young ones do such things,
Be sure they'll have to stop."

"O," said the crow, "my children
Are the best ones ever born
There isn't one among them all
Would steal a grain of corn."

"But how shall I know which ones they are?
Do they resemble you?"
"O, no," said the crow, "they're the prettiest birds,
And the whitest, ever flew."

So off went the sportsman whistling,
And off, too, went his gun;
And its startling echoes never ceased
Again till the day was done.

And the old crow sat untroubled.
Cawing away in her nook.
For she said; "He'll never kill my birds,
Since I told him how they look.

"Now there's the hawk, my neighbour,
She'll see what'll come to pass soon,
And that saucy, whistling black-bird
May have to change his tune."

When, lo! she saw the hunter
Taking his homeward track.
With a string of crows as long as his gun,
Hanging down his back.

"Alack, alack!" said the mother,
"What in the world have you done?
You promised to spare my pretty birds,
And you've killed them, every one."

"Your birds," said the puzzled hunter;
"Why, I found them in my corn;
And, besides, they are black and ugly
As any that ever were born."

"Get out of my sight, you stupid!"
Said the angriest of crows;
"How good and fair the children are,
There's none but a parent knows."

"Ah! I see, I see," said the hunter,
"But not as you do, quite;
It takes a mother to be so blind
She can't tell black from white."