The Fables of Florian (tr. Phelps)/The Linnet and the Turtle-Dove

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FABLE XXV.
THE LINNET AND THE TURTLE DOVE.

A little linnet all day long
Found constant happiness in song,
The while her friend, a turtle dove,
Nor thought nor car'd for aught but love.
"You're very wrong," the turtle said,

"To waste your time in such a way;
The greatest pleasure for a maid
Is to have lovers ev'ry day:
What song can e'er impart the bliss
The lover feels from one sweet kiss?"
To this the linnet warbl'd low:—
"I could not venture to compare
One with the other; but I know
How great the charms of music are:
             If these I have,
No other pleasure do I crave."
At this discourse, the dove in spite
Bade her adieu, and took to flight.

Years pass'd, ten long and weary years,
With all their checker'd hopes and fears,
When one fine day in spring the twain
Met in the same old grove again.
Great was the change they'd undergone,
       And long they stood and gaz'd,
             As if amaz'd
At looks so alter'd and forlorn.

At length the linnet silence broke,
And thus politely spoke:—
"Good morning, friend! How do you do?
And how are all those lovers too?"
"Ah! never mention them, my dear:
For I have lost them all, I fear:
Friends, lovers, youth, and pleasures—yea,
Everything has pass'd away.

To love and please was all my thought;
But what delusion it has brought!
I still love on, just as before,
But then I'm lov'd in turn no more."

"I'm not so badly off as you,"
The linnet said; "for though 'tis true
I'm growing old, with loss of voice,
Yet still in music I rejoice,
And when with her wild magic trills
The nightingale the forest fills,
Beguiling all the weary night,
Her sweet song fills me with delight."

Though beauty is a gift divine,
Yet its possession may not bless;
Its charms with merit must combine
To prove a source of happiness:
             It fades away,
             While talents stay
And please e'en when our own decay.